Daily Archive for September 22nd, 2005

The people of Mari being systematically persecuted by Russians

The Finnish belong to an ethnic group of FinnoUgrian people. All the FinnoUgrian people have a similar language and share the same ethnic origins. The cultures are more common than different as well.

The largest groups of FinnoUgrian people live in Hungary, Finland and Estonia, but there are smaller groups of people with their own languages and cultures living in various parts of Eastern Europe. A lot of these ethnic groups have already dissappeared as younger generations adopt Russian language and culture instead of maintaining their own cultural identity.

The Mari people are among the largest of these smaller groups and live in a region in central Russia called Mari El at a bend of the Volga river. There’s about 700K people living in Mari El. 43% are Mari, 47% Russian.

In 2000 a national populist pro-Russian Leonid Markelov became the president of Mari El with the backing of Moscow. In 2004 he was re-elected in elections widely considered to have been rigged.

Since his election Markelov has systematically tried to undermine the human rights of the Mari people in Mari El. Teachers teaching Mari language or voting for Mari candidates have been fired from their jobs, Mari people are economically oppressed, Mari activists and journalists are routinely beaten, severely, by people who somehow never get convicted, people are getting arrested for no cause and they sometimes do not come back, FSB (the Federal Security Service, roughly equivalent to the FBI) is following foreign journalists writing about the situation. It’s basically just like in Soviet Union, straight out of Stalin’s playbook of oppressing minorities.

One would expect some two-bit wannabe communist tyrant in a remote area of Russia to behave in this manner, but what’s really surprising is that Markelov appears to have a full backing of Vladimir Putin and his government. They’ve released statements accusing the ethnic Maris of plotting, with the Finns, Hungarians and Estonians, to form a new FinnoUgrian state and actively undermining the economic development of Russia to achieve this goal.

They’re stopping one step short of accusing the Maris (and Finns assisting them) of being terrorists. Everyone knows what happens to terrorists these days. The Maris are not terrorists. They’re being systematically eradicated by a Russian ethnic majority.

An “interesting” timeline of brutality against prominent Mari people was published by Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples. None of the murders or assaults have resulted in convictions or even arrests:

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.

More information about the situation in various languages at: