Tallinn, 22 July 2005Tallinn, 07 July 2005
For immediate release


Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
phone/fax: +372 644 9270
e-mail: suri@suri.ee


Vasli Petrov, Chairman of the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples (MAFUN), was attacked and mercilessly beaten early on 27 August, the independent agency Mari Uver reported. Unknown persons attacked Petrov in Ismentsa village in the Republic of Mari El (administrative unit of the Russian Federation) where Petrov lives. Attacked from behind and beaten, he was taken to the local hospital with skull injuries, shattered jaw-bone and broken arm.

Vasli Petrov, formerly leader of the youth organisation U Vii (New Vigour) of the Mari ethnic minority nation in Russia, was elected Chairman of MAFUN in October 2003.

The MAFUN, founded in 1990 as the umbrella organisation of Finno-Ugric youth movements, has thirty-nine member organisations. They represent youth of seventeen Finno-Ugric peoples from the Russian Federation, Finland, Hungary, Estonia, Sweden and Norway.

The main objectives of MAFUN are to preserve and develop Finnio-Ugric cultures and languages, to disseminate information about them, to promote the education of Finno-Ugric youth in Russia and to advance the freedom of expression and free exchange of ideas for the welfare of their peoples (see home pages http://www.mafun.org/ and http://www.mafun.ru/).

It was already the third attack on Finno-Ugric activists in Mari El this year. On 4 February, Chairman of the Mari Council Vladimir Kozlov was brutally beaten and had to recover from skull injuries for months. On 27 May, a group of ethnic Maris walking home from a concert of traditional music was attacked by Russian skinheads. Among the victims were Oleg Tikhonov, Executive Manager of the recently held 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies, and other prominent cultural figures of Mari origin. On 7 July President of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies Yuri Anduganov was killed in a suspicious car collision. No persons responsible for the incidents have been found so far by the authorities.

Many international organisations, including the European Parliament, have urged on the authorities of Mari El to conduct an unbiased investigation into the violent incidents. Finnish ambassador to Russia Harry Helenius, in his recent interview to the Finnish broadcasting company Yleisradio, said that those guilty in cases of assault and battery of Mari activists must be found and brought to criminal court as fast as possible. The inertia of the authorities of Mari El may be caused either by their low efficiency or by other factors, Helenius added.


APPENDIX: Uninvestigated crimes against journalists and opposition leaders during the presidency in the autonomous Republic of Mari El of Leonid Markelov, a man openly contemptuous of democratic processes

November 21, 2001: Aleksandr Babaykin, assistant chief editor of the opposition newspaper The Good Neighbors, was brutally killed in the centre of Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of Mari El.

November 2001: Leonid Plotnikov, assistant chief of department of the publishing house Periodika Mari El, was killed.

November 2001: Aleksei Bakhtin, journalist of a regional newspaper, was killed.

March 12, 2002: Vladimir Maltsev, chief editor of the newspaper The Good Neighbors, was attacked in the evening and caused severe bodily injuries.

March 14, 2002: The door of the Vladimir Maltsev's apartment was poured over with fuel and put on fire by unknown persons.

April 16, 2002: Viktor Nikolayev, Member of Consultative Committee of Finno-Ugric Peoples and Chairman of the all-Russia movement Mer Kanash, was attacked and brutally beaten in front of his house. Nikolayev had just called the 6th extraordinary Mari Congress due to be held on 26 April.

August 14, 2004: a pogrom was made in the apartment of Valentin Matveyev, a public figure and author of critical articles in The Good Neighbors.

October 4, 2004: masked bandits, armed with weapons and acting in the name of the Department of Criminal Investigations, attacked the apartment of an employee of the human rights organization Citizen And Law.

October 2004: unknown persons attacked journalist Vitaliy Igitov. Earlier, in personal conversations, President of Mari El Leonid Markelov called Igitov the man who had insulted him most.

January 7, 2005: correspondent of the Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe Yelena Rogacheva was attacked.

February 7, 2005: Vladimir Kozlov, chief editor of the international Finno-Ugric newspaper Kudo+Kodu, Member of the Consultative Committee of the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples and leader of the all-Russian movement of Mari people Mer Kanash, was attacked and severely beaten.

May 27, 2005: ethnic Mari artists and musicians, among them prominent cultural figures, were attacked by a group of Russian skinheads after a concert in the Culture Hall in Yoshkar-Ola. No one responsible was found. In their conversations with local residents, skinheads said that the incident was arranged at the orders of the chief of the fascist group who was instructed by Dmitry Frolov, Head of the Presidential Administration of the Mari Republic. The latter had promised that a plot of land would be allotted to the group to build its base as an award for the action.

July 6, 2005: Yuri Anduganov, prominent Finno-Ugric scholar and President of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies, was killed in a car crash in the Republic of Marii-El. His widow described the circumstances of the collision as suspicious because the truck in front of the car braked extremely unexpectedly and rapidly.

August 27, 2005: Vasli Petrov, Chairman of the Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples, was attacked and beaten in Ismentsa village where he lives.