Thursday, September 07, 2006

Russia Moves to Ban Religious Rites of Indigenous Finno-Ugric People Mari

A pagan priest is on trial in Russian Volga region for allegedly inciting religious, national, social and linguistic hatred.

Vitaly Tanakov, a descendant of the ancient priests family, has written a book dedicated to the traditions and religion of Mari, a Finno-Ugric people numerous in the region. He distributed the book, entitled “The Priest Speaks”, at ethnic gatherings and celebrations.

However the authorities saw the book as violating the constitution, and charged Tanakov with inciting hatred and hostility as well as humiliating the dignity of a group of people for their nationality, language and religion.

Experts analyzing the book reported nothing criminal about its contents, and said the charges were totally groundless.

Moreover, human rights activists said that if Tanakov is sentenced for describing the Mari national characteristics in his book, the trial will actually outlaw thousands of the people in the republic for speaking their own language, practicing their own religion and performing their rites.

The Mari people have often voiced concern about discrimination they suffer from the Slavic population.

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