Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ethnic Rights Activist Severely Beaten in Russia's Mari Republic


Ethnic rights activist severely beaten in Russia’s Mari Republic


Galina Kozlova, a member of the board of the Mari Ushem (Mari Union) organisation was attacked and severely beaten in Yoshkar Ola, the capital of the Russian Mari El Republic.The Mari Republic is located about 860 kilometres east of Moscow, and is part of the Russian Federation. The ethnic Mari, whose language is in the same Finno-Ugric group of languages as Finnish, comprise a 40 per cent minority in the republic of 728,000 inhabitants.The Mari have complained of severe oppression by local officials.

According to the website, Kozlova was sprayed with a nerve gas and kicked in the head. She continues to suffer from head injuries and has problems with her eyesight. She is being cared for at the neurology ward of the Yoshkar Ola city hospital.The attacker tried to take Kozlova’s purse, which contained documents of Mari Ushem, as well as a manuscript by a Mari writer, and some money.

According to Mari Ushem, the attack could not have been a mere robbery attempt. The organisation is demanding that local officials investigate the crime.

The husband of Galina Kozlova, museum director Vladimir Kozlov, is the chairman of the Mari Council. He was assaulted in February 2005.In May last year Russian officials prevented Vladimir Kozlov from visiting Finland. Kozlov was taken off a train in Vyborg and his passport was confiscated.In October Kozlov was allowed to travel to Finland to take part in a seminar organised by the Student Union of the University of Helsinki on problems faced by non-governmental organisations. At that time he sounded an optimistic note, pointing out that no representatives of the Mari opposition have been the target of an assault for over a year.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

On the photo, taken from Valentin Kolumb museum, Galina Kozlova is second from the left.
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