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Russian Duma Ratifies Tatarstan Power-Sharing Pact --> (RFE/RL) February 9, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's lower house of parliament today ratified a 10-year power-sharing agreement between federal authorities and the Republic of Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported.

The treaty gives the predominantly Muslim Volga-region republic a degree of economic and political autonomy no other region enjoys.

After a heated debate, 306 lawmakers in the State Duma voted for the document, 110 voted against, and one abstained.

"There were almost no arguments from those who opposed the ratification of the treaty," Duma Deputy from Tatarstan Ildar Gilmutdinov told RFE/RL. "They couldn't justify why we shouldn't approve the treaty -- we didn't hear any of that. With the supporters, it was just the opposite. We could show that it was possible to grant special status based on Russian law itself, as we've done in the past for Magadan or Kaliningrad or Altai Krai. So today, more than 300 deputies voted to support the treaty with Tatarstan."

Deputy Duma speaker Oleg Morozov told RFE/RL that there will be similar agreements with other federation subjects in the future, most likely including Bashkortostan and Chechnya.

"I don't foresee a large number of agreements," Morozov said. "The count will be in the single digits."

The agreement, which Tatarstan ratified in 2005, was submitted to the Duma by President Vladimir Putin. It now heads to the Federation Council for a vote.

(with material from Interfax, ITAR-TASS)

Russia's Changing Face
A mosque in Baksan, in the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (RFE/RL)

THE COMING MUSLIM MAJORITY: On February 28, Russia expert PAUL GOBLE, vice dean of social sciences and humanities at Concordia-Audentes University in Tallinn, Estonia, gave a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office. Goble said ethographers predict Russia will have a Muslim majority "within our lifetime." Since 1989, Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40 percent, Goble said, rising to some 25 million self-declared Muslims. He said 2.5 million to 3.5 million Muslims now live in Moscow, gving Moscow the largest Muslim population of any city in Europe. Russia today has more than 8,000 mosques, up from just 300 in 1991. By 2010, experts predict, some 40 percent of Russian military conscripts will be Muslims.
Goble noted that these changes have been accompanied by a "rising tide" of anti-Muslim prejudice. Public-opinion surveys reveal that up to "70 percent of ethnic Russians" express sympathy with xenophobic slogans. Goble warned that heavy-handed state efforts to "contain Islam" could backfire and cause groups to move underground, "radicalizing people who are not yet radicalized."


Listen to the entire briefing (about 85 minutes):
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See also:

Muslims Oppose Bill To Add Chaplains To Army

Russia: Muslims Upset By State Symbols

Russia's Muslims Move Toward Greater Unity

Rights Groups Say Muslims Are Unfairly Targeted In Fight Against Terrorism

Fact Box: Muslims In Russia

THE COMPLETE PICTURE: To view an archive of all of RFE/RL's coverage of Russia's North Caucasus, click here.

A thematic webpage devoted to issues of religious tolerance in RFE/RL's broadcast region and around the globe.