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Erzyan Activist Convicted of Extremism

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.




An activist of the Erzyan minority in Russia’s Ulyanovsk Oblast, Vasily Bokin, has been convicted of extremism due to an article criticising the region’s educational policies. In the article, which Mr Bokin published in his own newspaper, Nash Golos, in July 2009, he lambasted his village’s Erzyan language teachers for their “russificationist” educational methods and their unwillingness to defend their native language. The Erzya mostly reside in Mordovia, which borders on the Ulyanovsk region.

On the eve of the 1,000th anniversary of Mordovia’s annexation into Russia in June 2012, prosecutors and the FSB in the Ulyanovsk region asked a local court to declare that the article, entitled “Stop the Genocide!,” was extremist and that it incited to ethnic hatred and violence against the Russian people. The court duly complied and rejected Mr Bokin’s appeal. Mr Bokin assured that he was prepared to take his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mr Bokin pointed out that his article did not even discuss the national characteristics of the Russian people, but instead defended the constitutional rights of the Erzyan minority to tuition in its native language. “Everyone, especially journalists, have the right to think and analyse,” Mr Bokin stated. In the article, he analysed the causes for the emergence of armed national liberation movements, including in Russia’s North Caucasus region. The text did not, however, incite to violence, Mr Bokin insisted.



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