Tag Archive for 'Mari-El'

Soviet Russia interns dissidents in mental institutions

The Soviet era tactics in dealing with opposition leaders continue unabated in Russia.

The International Secretariat of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) is reporting that Russian authorities are holding Mr. Artyom Basyrov against his will in a mental institute and are medicating him heavily with drugs. His relatives were not informed of his imprisonment and they have been unable to visit Mr. Basyrov in the hospital.

Mr. Basyrov was kidnapped in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of Mari-El, on November 23rd 2007 late at night by two men in civilian clothes. He’s been imprisoned ever since.

If the “softening” of this man continues according to age old Soviet formula, he’ll be mysteriously beaten up in the hospital or soon after his release (if he is ever released) by assailants nobody will see or hear, he will then be charged with some bogus crime and sentenced to home arrest while all his belongings relating to his political activities will quite coincidentally be confiscated.

Let’s see how it goes.


Finnish Broadcasting Company program MOT covers Mari-El

Finnish Broadcasting Company’s MOT program covered Mari-El during their most recent show this Monday.

Unfortunately the transcript is only available in Finnish at the moment, but the program covered most aspects of Russian oppression of Mari-El culture brilliantly.

The unsolved murders and other violent acts towards Mari-El activists were thoroughly discussed. The journalists wanted to interview Mari-El President Leonid Markelov over the issue, but their interview request was never answered. The little dictator has a history of animosity towards Finnish media, so it’s not surprising at all. He put his propaganda machine at news12.ru in full swing though, and the questions sent along with the interview request somehow ended up on the pro Russian propaganda website with “commentary” from the morons running the site. Apparently asking about how violent acts towards Mari people never seem to result in arrests is “preparing for another Finnish provocation of Russia.” Well, you can’t really fault the logic of neo-nazis, simply because there is none.

Leonid Markelov is in good company for not commenting on the story. The Finnish President, Tarja Halonen, joined him in the club. It’s interesting to see Finnish Government staying silent on this issue. Apparently criticizing Russia is just as “delicate” as criticizing Soviet Union once was for Finnish Government officials.
The program also investigates some curious “public works” projects in the Republic. Mari-El is one of the poorest regions of Russia, but yet the President is proudly building a 2nd swimming hall (not a small one either) and a third hockey arena (the region’s best hockey teams do not play in any major league in Russia). Well, bread and circuses worked for Romans, why not for a small-time communist wannabe dictator in Russia.

The program covered the cultural oppression as well mentioning mari language school closures and firings of Mari activists from their jobs.

All in all, the show was one of the best, if not the best, coverage over the Mari-El issue in recent times. Kudos to MOT and the Finnish Broadcasting Company for showing it.


The European Parliament condemn attack on Mari-El activist

Couple of weeks ago a group of Members of the European Parliament comdemned the attack on Galina Kozlova.

Now the entire European Parliament has done the same. EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes had this to say about the attack:

The commission regrets the violent attack on Galina Kozlova, which took place on January 25 in the capital of Mari republic, and I express my sympathy to her, to her family, and my best wishes for a speedy recovery from her injuries.

Russia will probably answer by attacking the messenger rather than addressing the serious human rights problems they have in regards to ethnic minorities.


Members of the European Parliament condemn attack on Mari-El activist

A group of Members of the European Parliament has tabled a motion for a resolution strongly condemning an attack against Ms Galina Kozlova, board member of the Mari national organisation, Mari Ushem.

Read the rest of the story on the original article.

I’ve written about the attack on Galina Kozlova before:
Russian oppression of Mari-El activists still going strong


Russian oppression of Mari-El activists still going strong

Galina Kozlova, the wife of Vladimir Kozlov, was brutally beaten after being sprayed with some sort of pepper spray substance on January 25th in Joshkar Ola, the capital of Mari-El.

Mari-El seems to be quite the dangerous place for Mari people.

Let’s see if the Russian controlled police manages to conveniently not find the perpetrator like in all previous assaults against Mari-El activists. Not a single violent attack against Mari-El activists so far has lead to a conviction, or even an arrest of anyone. These unknown assailants continue their reign of terror against Mari people and they go unpunished year after year.


Russia’s “Third Way” Is A Road To Nowhere

[by Kerkko Paananen, originally published in Finnish]

The situation of NGOs has gone from bad to worse in Russia during President Vladimir Putin’s reign. The authorities are doing their utmost to eliminate the emergence of a free civil society. The government is trying to subjugate any signs of civil expression, subordinate public opinion to state interest, and incorporate civil society into the government’s statial strategy.

Many NGOs in Russia defend those most vulnerable, and it is exactly these organisations that suffer the most from government repression. Those at the receiving end of this repression are thus the weak and the helpless. If we close our eyes from this, and choose to cooperate with “front” organisations enjoying state blessing, we are not only wasting our financial support, but are doing real damage to the very people we wish to help.

Stating a few obvious facts: The Russian Federation is a state, which engages in an open war of terror against its own citizens. Authorities at both federal and local level attack, terrorise, and kill their own fellow citizens. Russia is no state governed by law.

Government pressure on NGOs does not depend on the NGOs themselves, but on the political and economic interests of the ruling elites. Authorities do not react to the actions of NGOs, but create themselves the conditions, in which NGOs are left with no way out; in which NGOs cannot avoid an open confrontation.

It is the moral duty of Finland and other free nations, especially in the EU, to help our partners in Russia to survive. We cannot let the authorities intimidate our friends, drive them into a corner, and destroy everything we have achieved together in the past ten years. It is vital to continue the work and support one another.

Finnish experts often highlight the “uniqueness” of Russia’s development; most likely, this is because we wish to monopolise the expertees on Russia. It seems that Finns have stressed Russia’s uniqueness for so long that we have begun to believe in it ourselves. The end result of this is that the average Finn has a very hazy knowledge of our eastern neighbour; even those who have visited Russia only see what they want to see.

Many are simply unable to regard Russia with common sense, according to the same human standards that we regard other states and cultures. Instead, many choose to spread all sorts of fictitious legends and metaphysical constructions about Russia. It often seems that economists have the clearest idea of what is going on in Russia, because they usually understand the value of money. And money is the only thing Russia’s ruling elite is ever interested in.

The uniqueness of Russia’s development, the so-called “Third Road”, is the artificial ideological construct that the notion of a “Sovereign Democracy” that Putin’s regime has declared is based on. This “Sovereign Democracy” is ruled by the “Power Vertical” — the authoritarian power apparatus of Putin’s presidential administration. By stressing Russia’s uniqueness, we are, in fact, lending support to the development of authoritarianism that lies behind the troubles Russia is facing today.

Finnish-Russian Citizen’s Forum established

I’m proud to report news about the birth of the Finnish-Russian Citizen’s Forum by a group of human rights activists from Finland and Russia. Founding members include, among others, a Finnish Member of Parliament and my brother.

The press release about forming the organization follows.



A group of persons worried about the development of democracy and the state of human rights in Russia has established a non-governmental organisation, Finnish-Russian Citizens’ Forum.

The organisation’s aim is to “promote cooperation between citizens and different peoples in Finland and the Russian Federation by supporting non-governmental organisations in their effort to strengthen democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech in Russia”.

The murder of the Russian journalist and civil rights activist, Ms Anna Politkovskaya, acted as a catalyst for establishing the Citizens’ Forum. This sad event served to consolidate cooperation between people concerned about Russia’s current development, prompting several appeals, public discussions, and demonstrations in autumn 2006.

The Citizens’ Forum supports Russian non-governmental organisations, which are now facing difficulties in their work due to Russia’s new draconian law on NGOs. The Citizens’ Forum will invite representatives of Russian organisations to Finland, organise visits to Russia, and distribute information about the situation in Russia.

The Citizens’ Forum will soon open its web site at www.finrosforum.fi.

The Chairperson of the Finnish-Russian Citizens’ Forum is Ms Heidi Hautala, MP (The Greens). The organisation’s Deputy Chairman is Mr Jukka Mallinen, Chairman of the Finnish PEN Club. The Citizens’ Forum has a nine-member Board. Mr Mikael Storsjö, entrepreneur, serves as the board’s Secretary, and Ms Iida Simes, producer, as the Board’s spokesperson.

The name of the new organisation translates into Swedish as “Finsk-ryska medborgarforumet”, and its domicile is in Helsinki. The Citizens’ Forum carries an unofficial name in Russian: “Finsko-rossiyskiy grazhdanskiy forum”.

The founding members of the Finnish-Russian Citizens’ Forum are:

Rolf Büchi, Nils-Erik Friis, Anu Harju, Heidi Hautala, Frank Johansson, Pekka Koponen, Henrik Lax, Laura Lodenius, Anna-Stiina Lundqvist, Jukka Mallinen, Elisabeth Nordgren, Theresa Norrmén, Kerkko Paananen, Marja Pulkkinen, Elina Rahimova, Ville Ropponen, Iida Simes, Anni Sinnemäki, Mikael Storsjö.

More information:

Ms Heidi Hautala, Chairperson
+358 50 511 3129

Mr Jukka Mallinen, Deputy Chairman
+358 9 135 2791

Ms Iida Simes, spokesperson
+358 40 720 5985

Mr Mikael Storsjö, Secretary
+358 41 524 2373

How to stop the press from interviewing your citizens – Soviet style

A reporter for Helsingin Sanomat, the most important Finnish newspaper, visited Mari-El in October 2005 and tried interviewing local Mari-El activists. The interviews of the most prominent activists weren’t exactly successful due to the active harrassment from President Leonid Markelov’s goons.

The article describes how three of the interviews the reporter was able to secure were interrupted Gestapo style by the local (Russian) officials. From fabricated criminal charges to eviction procedures that just had to be scheduled at the same time with the interview.

If you want to oppress your people, couldn’t you find something slightly less transparent than harrassing them when a foreign reporter is visiting? I mean, you can’t possibly harrass the foreign reporter when he’s back in his home country to stop him from writing about it.

How about paying neo nazis to beat the living daylights out of whoever you want beaten? Oh, wait, Markelov’s been there and done that, too.

The Russians clamoring for old the Soviet era must truly be happy these days. At least the authoritarian dictatorship is well established again.


Vladimir Kozlov, a Mari-El activist, illegally held inside Russia

The news article on the Information Center of Finno-Ugric Peoples website continues to document the persecution of Mari-El activists in Russia.

The latest trouble leaves Vladimir Kozlov unable to leave Russia. The Russian authorities have purposely delayed issuing a new passport for Mr. Kozlov to replace the one that was torn by Russian border officials the last time he tried leaving the country. This is unconstitutional in the new “democratic” Russia.

I’ve written about Vladimir Kozlov’s troubles with the Russian dictatorship before:
Mari-El activists still persecuted in Russia

English translation of the Estonian language news article appended.


Mari opposition leader barred exit from Russia

Russian authorities are refusing to issue a new passport to Mr Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the Mari Congress (“Mari Ushem”) — principal opposition force in the Republic of Mari-El, — thus preventing him from attending an international conference on minority rights in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, over the weekend.

Mr Kozlov’s problems with his passport began in May 2006, when Russian border guards in Vyborg removed him from a train bound for Helsinki, Finland, where he was to attend a summer course for museum workers. The official reason for the move was that Mr Kozlov’s passport was torn. Russian border officials had ripped two pages off Mr Kozlov’s passport, thus rendering the document invalid.

After this incident, Mr Kozlov has failed to obtain a new passport, despite several attempts. Under Russian law, the maximum period for issuing passports is one month. Russia retains a two-passport system, in which an “internal passport” is required in dealings with officials within Russia and a “foreign passport” for travel outside Russia. Refusing foreign passports was a common practice in the Soviet Union for preventing undesired individuals from establishing contacts abroad.

Mari national leader barred from taking part in minority rights seminar Finno-Ugric Peoples’ Information Centre/ Tallinn, 06 Sep 2006

Fabricated criminal charges Russia’s latest weapon against Mari-El activists

The Russian Federation and its little dictator wannabe, Leonid Markelov, are once again persecuting Mari-El activists. As if directly from the Oppression 101 text book by Stalin and Hitler, the oppression proceeds in a truly predictable way.

Last year it was near fatal beat downs, and today it’s using the judicial system with fabricated criminal charges. I wonder when (if) the trial starts, if Markelov decides to dress the guilty, um, defendants in oversized clothing. It’s also in the same Oppression 101 text book.

Vitaly Tanakov and Nina Maksimova are both charged with “incitement to ethnic, racial or religious enmity”. Apparently promoting Mari-El culture and cultural events is streng verboten. Human rights organization are all saying there is no justification in bringing up charges against Mr. Tanakov and Ms. Maksimova.

The Markelov dictatorship is also stepping up the garden variety kind of harassment of Mari-El activists. Anonymous phone calls, interrogations and harassing relatives and children of Mari-El activists have been common place in recent times.

I guess one should be “happy” the recent terror campaign hasn’t involved the use of violence towards Mari-El activists, but that’s just a matter of time, again.

Putin is all talk when it comes to human rights. The two-faced lieing bastard lets his henchmen crack down on ethnic minorities in lesser states like Mari-El while he can prance around in Moscow introducing smoke and mirror PR statements pretending to be the patron saint of human rights in Russia making friends with western countries.

I hope the western countries are not so easily deceived.

Update: The news made it to USInfo as well: usinfo.state.gov

I’ve written about Russia’s human rights violations against Mari-El activists before:
The IHF issues a stinging report on human rights situation in the Republic of Mari El
Mari-El activists still persecuted in Russia
The people of Mari being systematically persecuted by Russians