Estonian Website Says Russia Blocking Its Content About Mari, Finno-Ugric Peoples

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

An Estonian-based website about the Mari and Finno-Ugric peoples says it has been blocked by Russia's telecommunications watchdog for its content on a scholar who lit himself on fire to protest a government move to cancel mandatory Udmurt language classes.

MariUver said on its Facebook page on July 7 that Roskomnadzor had blocked its website because Mari activists "honored" Albert Razin, saying postings contained information about how to commit suicide.

"Why doesn't Roskomnadzor block others as well?" the website asked, noting that reports on some media websites publish information on people who have self-immolated.

The website Idel Realities (Idel.Realii), a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, has also been blocked at times because of stories on Razin, MariUver said.

In September 2019, Razin, a 79-year-old scholar and activist who was a longtime vocal advocate for his native Udmurt language, staged a protest on the main square outside the regional legislature in Izhevsk. He held two placards reading: "If my language dies tomorrow, then I'm ready to die today," and, "Do I have a fatherland?"

After standing there for hours, he doused himself with a flammable liquid and lit himself on fire. He died shortly after.

Last month, the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, approved the final reading of controversial legislation allowing the government to regulate the basic pillars of minority languages in the country, including indigenous ethnic groups from Siberia and the Far East.

Lawmakers say the bill, approved on June 1, will help save some languages from extinction by speeding up the process for approving orthography norms. But many groups promoting indigenous languages, culture, and history in the Russian Federation see it as part of move to increase control over the teaching of such subjects in Russia's many ethnic republics and regions.

The new bill must still be approved by parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, and endorsed into law by Putin.