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FSB detained Erzya leaders, opened criminal proceedings

The FSB has opened a criminal case against what it calls an extremist organisation founded by ethnic nationalists.

Erzya activist Vitaly Romashkin has been living in exile for twenty years. Photo:

In the course of brutal searches of suspects’ homes carried out by the security services in Mordovia, as well as in other Russian regions on 17 October, it was established that in 2020, the co-founder of the Free Idel-Ural movement (whose activities have been declared undesirable in Russia), Alexander Bolkin, together with citizens of Ukraine, the USA and Russia, formed an institution of national representative organisations of the Erzya people, Kirdiyur. According to the indictment, they denounced the national policy of the Russian Federation and sought to create an independent state of the Erzya, Erzyan Mastor, which would leave Russia.

During the searches, communications equipment was seized, as well as electronic and paper recorders. Investigations are ongoing to identify accomplices and followers.

After interrogations, most of the suspects have been released. The fate of two prominent elderly Erzya national leaders, Grigory Musalyov (Kshumantsyan Pirguzh, 83) and Yevgeny Chetvergov (Nuyan Vidyaz, 89), remains unknown. They are reportedly accused of ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’. Grigory Musalyov is a long-standing elder of the Erzya, editor-in-chief of the newspaper ‘Erzyan Mastor’, who was awarded the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Order of Merit, V class, in 2014. Yevgeny Chetvergov is a researcher and writer. They face a 10-year prison sentence if convicted.

On 19 October, it was decided to convene an extraordinary assembly of the Erzya elders, who consider that the actions of the Russian Federation authorities are intended to intimidate.

Earlier in September, the Saransk City Court had fined Vitaly Romashkin 13,000 roubles for taking part in the activities of the Free Idel-Ural organisation. Vitali Romashkin lives in the USA and is currently active in anti-war demonstrations.