ESTONIA - Seventeen Estonian Art Academy students were expelled from the Russian Republic of Mari El after having arrived to study local Finno-Ugric culture.
Local authorities said the Mari El Culture Ministry had not been informed of the Estonians' visit in advance and therefore could not guarantee its security, the Information Center of Finno-Ugric Peoples (SURI) said.
"On the background of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies to take place in the Mari capital of Yoshkar-Ola from August 15 to 21 the incident leaves an extremely negative stamp on the whole Finno-Ugric peoples' movement," SURI said.
The expedition arrived in the Republic of Chuvashia on July 11, from where it was to continue to Mari El. The aim of the expedition was to record the folk culture of the Chuvash, an ethnic community close to the Mari, and to compare it with the folk culture of the Mari.
Riin Alatalu, head of the Estonian Board of Antiquities surveillance department, who was together with the students in the Mari Republic, said they had directly been told at the police station station that the students would be banished from the country for fear of terrorism.
"The local administration and the militia ordered a bus with an escort at lightning speed, and we were quickly taken out of Mari El," Alatalu said.