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Newsline - October 24, 1997




YELTSIN DENIES MAKING CONCESSIONS TO OPPOSITION

President Boris Yeltsin says he and his government made no concessions in order to deter the State Duma from holding a no-confidence vote, Interfax reported on 23 October. Speaking to journalists in Chisinau, where he was attending the CIS summit, Yeltsin said he merely "resolved problems" and made clear which contentious issues can be settled through negotiations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 October 1997). In contrast, "Kommersant-Daily" alleged on 24 October that a secret agreement with the Communist opposition prompted Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to order the postponement of a 23 October cabinet meeting on pension reform. Citing unnamed government sources, the newspaper reported that consultations with Communist representatives will be held before the government adopts important policy decisions. The agreement is intended to limit the influence of the government's so-called "young reformers," especially First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, the newspaper claimed.

MINISTER SAYS NO AGREEMENT REACHED ON OLD SAVINGS DEPOSITS

Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev has denied that Yeltsin and opposition leaders reached agreement in recent negotiations to index savings deposits opened in Sberbank before 1992, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. Sysuev said that within two weeks, the cabinet will consider a plan on compensating citizens whose savings were rendered worthless by inflation between 1991 and 1996. The government's minimum estimate for the value of those savings is 300 trillion rubles ($51 billion). Sysuev argued that it will take at least 25 years to compensate citizens for the old savings accounts.

ZYUGANOV SAYS HE DOES NOT TRUST GOVERNMENT

Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 23 October said he does not believe promises made by the current government or executive branch, which he accused of pursuing policies that please "Western monopolies, its patrons and masters," Interfax reported. Speaking to workers at a Moscow factory, Zyuganov said that at upcoming roundtable negotiations, the opposition will again demand the formation of a "government of national trust." Meanwhile, Viktor Tyulkin, who leads the radical Russian Communist Workers' Party, slammed Zyuganov and the KPRF in an interview published in "Pravda-5" on 24 October. Tyulkin charged that the Communist Duma faction dropped plans to vote no confidence in the government without gaining any concrete concessions, such as the immediate payment of wage arrears or a freeze on energy prices. He denounced the KPRF as an "appeasing, social-democratic party" and predicted it will soon split.

DUMA COUNCIL TO DECIDE FATE OF TAX CODE

Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced on 23 October that the Duma Council will decide on 28 October how the proposed tax code will be revised, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. That council consists of Seleznev and deputy speakers from each of the seven registered Duma factions. Seleznev said the code need not be withdrawn from the Duma, as Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction has demanded. Instead, he argued, the trilateral commission currently working on the 1998 budget should revise the code, after which Duma and Federation Council deputies will discuss the changes before the document receives a second reading in the Duma. Yavlinskii believes that a recent presidential instruction compels the government to withdraw the code from the Duma, but his faction is likely to be outvoted on the Duma Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 October 1997).

DUMA REQUEST ON PASSPORTS SPARKS CONTROVERSY

Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 24 October sharply criticized Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev for asking the government to restore the line listing the holder's nationality on the new Russian passports, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In speeches to the Duma's plenary session, Lukin and Zhirinovsky said Seleznev had no right to send such a letter in the name of the Duma, since deputies have not voted on the issue. They also argued that "no civilized country" lists the nationalities of its citizens in passports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997). Anatolii Greshnevikov of the Communist-allied Popular Power faction retorted that "Russians need not be ashamed of their nationality," although "sons of lawyers" are understandably against listing their nationality. Zhirinovsky, whose father was Jewish, once said his mother was Russian and his father a lawyer.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT FIRES LEADING OFFICIALS

Aslan Maskhadov on 23 October issued decrees dismissing key government and state officials, Russian agencies reported. Those fired include Deputy Prime Minister Musa Doshukaev, Economics Minister Isa Astamirov, and Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, the president of YuNKO, the Chechen state oil company. Presidential press secretary Kazbek Khadzhiev told ITAR-TASS that the sackings were not political but intended solely to improve the government's efficiency. He added that the dismissed officials will remain part of Maskhadov's team and will be appointed to new positions soon. Yarikhanov noted his dismissal and the simultaneous reorganization of YuNKO into four separate entities was not unexpected. Also on 23 October, the Chechen parliament rejected Maskhadov's request to be endowed with special powers for a period of two years, AFP reported.

RUSSIA BROADENS COOPERATION WITH LIBYA

Building on cooperation in the development of nuclear power, the Russian Federation and Libya have signed an accord to cooperate in the areas of communications, transport, and oil and gas development, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov announced, according to Interfax on 23 October. Tarasov stressed that all aspects of Russian cooperation with Libya "have to do with civil spheres, to which the UN sanctions of 1992-93 do not refer."

DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES LEAVING RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCES IN GEORGIA

The Defense Ministry has denied that radio-active substances were abandoned at former Soviet military bases in Georgia, CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 23 October. A ministry spokesman said the cesium containers found on the territory of the former Russian military base in Lilo belonged to laboratory equipment used for measuring radiation levels. The previous day, a Georgian Health Ministry official said that six of the Georgian servicemen who contracted radiation sickness from exposure to the cesium capsules will be sent to France and Germany, for medical treatment, according to Interfax.

DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT SOROS, JORDAN

The Duma on 23 October asked the government to investigate the business activities in Russia of George Soros and Boris Jordan, who are both U.S. citizens, Interfax reported. In September, Jordan was named to head the MFK investment bank, which is part of the Oneksimbank empire. Jordan and Soros were both involved in the Oneksimbank-led consortium that won a July auction for a 25 percent stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. In a request sent to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, the Duma expressed concern that the activities of Soros and Jordan could harm Russian national security. Jordan was recently stripped of his multiple-entry visa and allowed to return to Russia on a single-entry visa, but ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October that he has been issued a new multiple-entry visa.

'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' SLAMS JORDAN, KOKH

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" charged on 24 October that a relative of Boris Jordan works for the Swiss firm Servina, which paid then State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh $100,000 earlier this year. Kokh is under criminal investigation for accepting the payment, which he declared as book royalties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 16 October 1997). He claims he had no knowledge of connections between Servina and the Oneksimbank empire when he signed a contract with the Swiss firm. Oneksimbank won two major privatization auctions in July and August, shortly before Yeltsin dismissed Kokh. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," partly financed by the LogoVAZ empire of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, has repeatedly criticized Kokh and Oneksimbank since July.

BEREZOVSKII'S LAWSUIT AGAINST 'FORBES' NOT TO BE HELD IN U.K.

The London High Court on 22 October refused to hear Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii's libel lawsuit against the U.S. magazine "Forbes," Interfax reported on 23 October. Berezovskii disputes charges made in the December 1996 "Forbes" article entitled "Godfather of the Kremlin?" That article suggested that Berezovskii became wealthy through illegal means and may have been involved in contract killings. Berezovskii claimed the article damaged his reputation in the UK, but the court recommended that he file suit either in the U.S. or in Russia. It is far easier for plaintiffs to win libel suits against journalists and publications under British law than under U.S. law.

NEW 'IZVESTIYA' PUBLISHES PILOT ISSUE

The pilot issue of the daily newspaper "Novye Izvestiya" appeared on newsstands on 24 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Chief editor Igor Golembiovskii launched the project after being forced out as editor of "Izvestiya" in the summer, and he took several of the newspaper's prominent journalists with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997). According to Golembiovskii, "Novye Izvestiya" is the first Russian daily to publish in color. It is being distributed in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-na-Donu, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Samara.

RUSSIAN MILITARY ENVOY MEETS NATO COUNTERPARTS

Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of the Russian armed forces General Staff, on 23 October introduced Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin to the permanent military delegates of the 16 NATO countries in Brussels, Reuters reported. According to a NATO spokesman, the delegates agreed to create a Permanent Joint Military Committee in November. Kvashnin also briefed the NATO officials on Russia's current military reform plans.

GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONTRACT FOR GAZPROM STAKE

The government has approved the text of a new contract that will allow Gazprom executives to continue to manage a 35 percent state-owned stake in the gas monopoly, Interfax reported on 23 October. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has instructed First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to sign the deal with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. The agreement marks a retreat for Nemtsov, who vowed earlier this year that the state would take a more active role in managing its shares in Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997). The state owns a total of 40 percent of Gazprom shares.

ACTING LENINSK-KUZNETSK MAYOR LEAVES TOWN

Mark Gustov, the acting mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, Kemerovo Oblast, has left town for fear of being arrested, and his current whereabouts are unknown, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 October. Gennadii Konyakhin appointed Guskov acting mayor in early October before leaving for Moscow. Konyakhin was subsequently arrested on charges of corruption and embezzlement. Sergei Belyak, the lawyer who is defending Konyakhin, told "Kommersant-Daily" that he advised Guskov to leave town after hearing from a "reliable source" in law enforcement agencies that the authorities plan to arrest Guskov and several others in Leninsk-Kuznetskii. However, officials in the Kemerovo Prosecutor's Office and the regional branch of the Federal Security Service have denied those rumors.



YELTSIN SAYS HE FIRED YEREVANGATE CULPRITS

Speaking at a press conference after the CIS summit in Chisinau, President Yeltsin said he has dismissed "many" Russian military officials responsible for the clandestine transfer to Armenia of arms worth $2 billion, Interfax reported. Yeltsin did not give the names of those fired. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev had earlier announced his intention of raising the issue at the summit, arguing that a trilateral intergovernmental commission created to investigate the arms shipments had failed to identify those responsible. At a session of the CIS foreign ministers in the Moldovan capital, Armenia's Alexander Arzoumanian angrily protested the demand by his Azerbaijani counterpart, Hasan Hasanov, that participants view the 29 August Russian-Armenian treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance as a "military pact."

U.S. PREDICTS KARABAKH SETTLEMENT IMMINENT...

U.S. Under-Secretary of State Stuart Eizenstat on 23 October said Washington believes a "first-phase" agreement on resolving the Karabakh conflict is possible before the end of 1997, Reuters reported. The previous day, the Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit as revealing details of the agreement on resolving the conflict that Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, reportedly reached in Strasbourg earlier in October, Asbarez-on-Line reported on 23 October, quoting the Turkish Armenian-language paper "Marmara." Under that plan, Armenian forces would be withdrawn from Kelbadjar and five other occupied Azerbaijani raions, whose displaced Azerbaijani populations would return to their homes. The Armenian forces would then withdraw from the Karabakh town of Shusha and the Lachin district between Karabakh and Armenia, where international peacekeepers under the OSCE aegis would be deployed.

...BUT ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER NON- CONCILIATORY

In an interview broadcast recently on Nagorno-Karabakh television, Vazgen Sargsian urged the Armenian people "to fight our last war to the finish," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 October. Sargsian endorses Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasyan's proposal that the unrecognized republic and Azerbaijan establish "horizontal relations" with the approval of the international community. Sargsian insisted, however, that the Karabakh Armenians will return neither Shusha nor the districts of Lachin and Kelbajar to Azerbaijani control because those districts are "vital for Karabakh's security." Sargsian, who is rumored to disagree with Ter-Petrossyan's 26 September endorsement of a phased solution to the conflict, affirmed that the "Armenian people from the president down...stand behind Karabakh's cause."

EBRD TO FUND INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN TURKMENISTAN

Following four days of talks in Ashgabat, a delegation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has reached agreement with the Turkmen leadership on providing credits to fund several projects, Interfax reported. The bank will allocate a $50 million credit to fund reconstruction of the 180 kilometer Tedjen-Mary highway, which forms part of the "New Silk Road," linking Central Asia with the Caucasus and Europe. A $30 million credit is earmarked for rebuilding the goods terminal at the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi. Further credits will fund railroad repairs and the construction of a road and rail bridge over the Amudarya River.




BELARUS HELSINKI COMMITTEE LEADER CHARGED

Belarusian authorities on 23 October briefly detained Tatyana Protska, the leader of the Belarus Helsinki Committee, and charged her with interfering with a police investigation, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Protska is due in court on 24 October and, if convicted, faces a possible jail term of 15 days. Protska was scheduled to go to Switzerland on 25-26 October to present a report on the human rights situation in Belarus to a UN conference, but she has been told that she cannot leave the country.

BRITAIN TO HELP UKRAINE CLOSE CHORNOBYL

The British and Ukrainian governments on 23 October agreed that London will send British experts to help Kyiv close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by the year 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. The memorandum of understanding, signed in Slavutich, also calls for Britain to supply some 200,000 pounds toward delinking the Chornobyl plant from the Ukrainian electric power grid.

LITHUANIA, RUSSIA TO SIGN BORDER DEMARCATION ACCORD

Presidents Algirdas Brazauskas and Boris Yeltsin are scheduled to sign a border demarcation agreement in Moscow on 24 October, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported. Currently on three-day visit to Russia, Brazauskas suggested the previous day that Vilnius is prepared to sell electricity to Kaliningrad, the Russian region located between Lithuania and Poland.

BLACK THURSDAY ON ESTONIAN STOCK MARKET

The Estonian exchange's TALSE index dropped a record 15.3 percent on 23 October, BNS reported. The managing director of Tallinn's Hoiupank Asset Management group Kristjan Hanni said he expected the decline to continue on 24 October and possibly to spread to the exchanges in neighboring Latvia and Lithuania. Triggered by the recent meltdown on the Hong Kong exchange, the decline reflects liquidity problems in the Estonian market and widespread investments on margins rather than an attack on the Estonian currency. Responding to suggestions that such an attack has occurred, the Bank of Estonia issued a statement declaring it will guarantee the stability of the kroon.

ESTONIA, LATVIA, RUSSIA NAMED AS TB "HOT ZONES"

A recent study by the World Health Organization lists Estonia, Latvia, and Russia's Ivanovo Oblast as "hot zones" of untreatable tuberculosis that could threaten a global crisis, BNS reported on 23 October, citing Western sources. India, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and the Ivory Coast are also named as countries where many people suffering from TB stop taking drugs as soon as they feel better or run out of money, allowing the disease still in their bodies to mutate so that one or more medicines no longer work. The incidence of drug-resistant TB in these "hot zones" is so high as to threaten to overwhelm local health systems. WHO stresses that "acquired drug resistance" is entirely preventable with proper care. The study was conducted among 50,000 patients in 35 nations.

WAS LANDSBERGIS UNDER KGB SURVEILLANCE IN 1980S?

Lithuanian Prosecutor-General Kazys Pednycia on 23 October announced he has found documents indicating that the Soviet KGB kept parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis under surveillance from the beginning of the 1980s on suspicion of "anti-Soviet and nationalist activities," according to Interfax. Pednycia said the documents were retrieved from KGB archives after Soviet secret service officers had testified to a Lithuanian screening committee that Landsbergis had collaborated with the KGB. That committee recently rejected the officers' testimony as "legally insignificant." Landsbergis categorically denies the collaboration charges.

"TOUGH" TALKS DELAY FORMATION OF POLISH GOVERNMENT

Prime Minister-designate Jerzy Buzek on 23 October said that "difficult and tough" talks between the two coalition parties, his Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union, have forced him to delay the announcement of the line-up of the new government until 28 October, PAP reported.

ZIELENIEC OUT, SEDIVY IN AS CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER

Following the surprise resignation of Josef Zieleniec on 23 October, Czech President Vaclav Havel moved quickly to prevent the departure from undermining the coalition government. The same day, Havel named Jaroslav Sedivy to replace Zieleniec, CTK reported. Zieleniec said he was leaving because of confusion within his own Civic Union Party. Sedivy, 67, is a former dissident who was jailed in 1970-1971. He has been the Czech ambassador to NATO and Belgium. Sedivy said he was taking the job "for the sake of stability" in the Czech Republic.

CZECHS TO REINTRODUCE VISA REGIME FOR CIS CITIZENS

Tomas Gajsman, the head of the Czech Interior Ministry's migration service, told ITAR-TASS on 23 October that Prague is reintroducing a visa requirement for citizens of countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States in order to protect the security of the Czech Republic. Gajsman said the government has been forced to do so because of a rising tide of criminal offenses committed by Russian-speaking visitors. Gajsman also said Prague will no longer grant asylum to Russians who seek asylum on economic grounds.

TURKEY, SLOVAKIA SIGN DEFENSE INDUSTRY, TRAINING ACCORDS

Slovak Defense Minister Jan Sitek and visiting Turkish Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Ismet Sezgin have signed defense industry cooperation and military training accords, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 23 October. At the signing ceremony, Sitek stressed the importance of this cooperation, while Sezgin reassured Bratislava that Turkey supports NATO and EU membership for Slovakia.

HUNGARIAN PREMIER UNDER FIRE

Addressing a gathering in Vecses, southeastern Hungary, marking the anniversary of the 1956 uprising, Jozsef Torgyan, the chairman of the Smallholders' Party, said it is unacceptable for the head of government to be someone who "helped crush the 1956 revolution." Democratic Forum leader Sandor Lezsa similarly told a gathering in Budapest that no reconciliation is possible as long as Gyula Horn remains prime minister. Meanwhile, President Arpad Goncz, Prime Minister Horn, and parliamentary chairman Zoltan Gal on 23 October attended a ceremony outside the parliament building in Budapest and at the near-by statue of executed Premier Imre Nagy.




BULATOVIC CALLS OFF PROTESTS IN MONTENEGRO

Outgoing President Momir Bulatovic appealed to his supporters in Podgorica on 23 October to end their daily demonstrations in favor of a new presidential vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997). He said he will seek to have Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's presidential victory overturned via institutional channels, not via demonstrations. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Serbian Television's reporting on Montenegro was more balanced that it has been for some time, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Earlier that day, Western diplomats had urged Serbian Information Minister Radmila Milentijevic to moderate the state-controlled media's pro-Bulatovic coverage of Montenegrin affairs.

MILOSEVIC'S PARTY NAMES SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic will represent President Slobodan Milosevic's United Left Coalition in the 7 December Serbian presidential elections, the coalition's leaders announced in Belgrade. Elsewhere in the Serbian capital, Radical Party leader and presidential candidate Vojislav Seselj appeared in court for questioning in conjunction with a July incident in which a prominent human rights lawyer claims he was beaten by Seselj and his bodyguard. The court must decide whether to bring formal charges against Seselj.

AIDE TO MILOSEVIC'S WIFE KILLED IN BELGRADE

Unidentified gunmen killed Zoran Todorovic, otherwise known as "Kundak," in the Serbian capital's Novi Beograd district on 24 October. Todorovic was the secretary-general of the United Yugoslav Left, a communist party headed by Mirjana Markovic, the wife of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He was also a prominent businessman and managing director of the Beopetrol company, which imports fuel. Police are investigating.

KARADZIC AIDE TO HEAD BOSNIAN SERB ELECTION SLATE

The Serbian Democratic Party leadership agreed in Pale on 23 October that party chief Aleksa Buha will head the SDS slate in the parliamentary vote set for 23 November. Buha represents the party's particularly hard-line faction around former party leader Radovan Karadzic. Also in Pale, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic sent congratulations to Montenegrin President-elect Milo Djukanovic. Observers said the message was a sign that Pale wants good relations with Podgorica despite the political enmity between Djukanovic and Milosevic, on whom Pale also depends for support.

U.S. NAMES NEW AMBASSADOR TO CROATIA

The White House on 23 October announced that William Dale Montgomery will soon replace Peter Galbraith as ambassador to Croatia. Montgomery was ambassador to Bulgaria from 1993 to 1996 and had served in the 1970s at the U.S. embassy in Belgrade. Many observers credit Galbraith with being largely responsible for negotiating an end to the Croat-Muslim war of 1993 and for subsequently establishing the Croatian-Muslim federation in Bosnia. Galbraith also helped cement close diplomatic and military links between Zagreb and Washington and for much of 1994 and 1995 was widely regarded as the second most influential man in Croatia, after President Franjo Tudjman. Meanwhile in Split, a local court issued an international arrest warrant on 23 October for Cedo Blaskovic, the owner of the Rijeka-Nafta shipping company. He is wanted in conjunction with charges stemming from the explosion of one of his tankers earlier in October.

CROATIA ASSESSES WAR LOSSES

A Croatian government spokesman on 23 October said that, according to an official commission, 2,197 people are still officially listed as missing in conjunction with the 1991 war. Observers said most of the missing are believed buried in mass graves in formerly Serb-held areas. As a result of cooperation with the Belgrade authorities, the cases of 350 individuals previously listed as missing have been cleared up. Also in Zagreb, a new book appeared that puts Croatia's total losses from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and from the following conflict at $45 billion.

FOUR ALBANIAN OPPOSITION DEPUTIES START HUNGER STRIKE

Four opposition parliamentary deputies began a hunger strike outside the Albanian Radio and Television building in Tirana on 23 October. They are protesting what they say are the state-controlled electronic media's failure to cover the Democratic Party's daily anti-government protests over the past month, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. The goal of those demonstrations is to force new elections. In other news, Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi told "Gazeta Shqiptare" that investigations into the Gjallica pyramid scheme show that the Democrats and the daily "Albania" received donations from the company. Rakipi gave no figures but added that the recipients will be questioned and may be asked to return the money.

ALBANIAN LEGISLATURE TO INVESTIGATE SPRING ANARCHY

The parliament on 23 October appointed a commission to investigate developments leading to the lawlessness in the country between January and April, in which more than 2,000 people died. The commission is headed by Spartak Ngjela, a member of the Monarchist Party who was justice minister in the interim government this year, "Shekulli" reported. The commission will be assisted by 12 experts from the Prosecutor-General's Office, who will provide professional advice but will not be empowered to indict suspects. The parliamentary commission will decide whether legal charges will be brought against individuals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997). Meanwhile, Deputy Defense Minister Perikli Teta said he will bring legal charges against all high-ranking army officers in connection with the disintegration of the army in the spring, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT GIVES ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT

Emil Constantinescu told a forum on youth problems in Sinaia on 23 October that the government must devote more attention to solving the country's economic problems and leave other issues to the parliament. He said the practice of ruling by "government ordinance," instead of passing regular parliamentary legislation, must be stopped, except when economic legislation is urgently needed. He also noted that ongoing debates such as those on the "revolutionaries'" hunger strike or on accessing the files of the communist-era secret services must be left to the legislature. Constantinescu added that Romania's politicians pay attention to young people only when youths stage "street protests." He added he has asked the government to present in November a report its first year in office, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

FINAL SPLIT IN ASSOCIATION OF FORMER POLITICAL PRISONERS

The Ticu Dumitrescu faction of the Association of Former Political Prisoners in Romania (AFPPR) re-elected Dumitrescu as its leader at a congress in Brasov on 23 October, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Addressing the gathering, Dumitrescu accused the leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) of indulging in "politics of intrigue" and of having enlisted the support of former members of the fascist Iron Guard in order to stage his ouster as AFPPR leader at a recent rival congress of the association (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1997). Cicerone Ioanitoiu, who was elected AFPPR leader by the rival congress, backed down from his announced intention to run for the position voted on in Brasov as well, declaring the gathering "illegal."

BULGARIAN LEADERS ADDRESS FOREIGN INVESTORS

Speaking at the opening of an investors' forum in Sofia on 23 October, Prime Minster Ivan Kostov promised to accelerate privatization and the liquidation of money-losing state enterprises in order to attract foreign investment, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Kostov said his government plans to eliminate 30 percent of loss-making enterprises by the end of 1998 and will have closed 90 percent of such companies by the year 2001. Also addressing the conference, President Petar Stoyanov said the Bulgarian reforms are an irreversible process that enjoy the support of the public and most political forces.

BULGARIAN MUSLIMS HAVE NEW LEADER

Bulgaria's Muslims have chosen a new spiritual leader, ending a long and bitter row between the country's two rival Muslim councils, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau and Reuters reported on 23 October. Mustafa Alish Hadzha, aged 35, was elected chief mufti at a conference that unified the two councils and approved the statues of a new High Muslim Council. Neither former rival Muslim leaders--Nedim Gendjev, appointed by the Communists in 1988, and Fikri Sali, elected by a rival council to replace Gendjev in 1995--ran for election. The unification conference also decided to launch court proceedings against Gendjev for alleged misappropriation of Muslim property.




LANGUAGE POLITICS HEATING UP IN CRIMEA


by Mubeyyin Batu Altan

The 15 October decision of the Crimean parliament to make Russian the official language of the region highlights the difficult position in which the Crimean Tatars find themselves. Because the Crimean Tatars form only a minority in the local parliament, they could not block the measure; instead, they simply abstained. And because of the complex political history of the area, the Crimean Tatars are likely to face a dismal linguistic future unless they take a series of actions soon.

For most of the post-World War II era, Russian has been the dominant language on the peninsula. The ethnic Russians there have always spoken Russian. Owing to Moscow's Russianization policies, even indigenous ethnic Ukrainians generally have gone to Russian-language schools and now speak Russian more often than Ukrainian in public, even if they learned their national language at home.

The situation of the Crimean Tatars with regard to language is even more serious. Deported to Central Asia by Stalin in 1944, the Crimean Tatars did not have access to schools in their own language there or even when they first began to return to the peninsula. The Soviet authorities in Stalin's time refused to recognize Crimean Tatar as a separate language and did not allow the publication of a newspaper in Crimean Tatar until 1957 or a journal in that language until 1980.

As a result, many Crimean Tatars now speak Russian far more often than they use their own language. Some younger Crimean Tatars do so because they have never been formally instructed in the language. At present, for example, there are only a handful of Crimean Tatar language schools in the Crimea, and there are none at all in Uzbekistan, where the majority of Crimean Tatars still live.

Many older Crimean Tatars who know the language well and speak it at home increasingly have found it either easier or even necessary to use Russian in the workplace and in other public functions.

Unless something is done soon, the situation may deteriorate beyond the point of no return for the Crimean Tatar language. Fortunately, there are three steps the Crimean Tatars can take to avoid the death of their language.

First, the leaders of the community should encourage all Crimean Tatars to speak their language. To that end, the leaders should always use Crimean Tatar themselves when they are acting in an official capacity.

Second, the Crimean Tatar leaders should insist that the Crimean parliament employ Crimean Tatar translators so that the Crimean Tatar members can use their language rather than being forced to speak Russian in order to be understood.

There are plenty of graduates of the Crimean Tatar literature and language department of Simferopol State University who could perform this function. Consequently, if the Russian-dominated parliament refuses to agree to this step, the Crimean Tatars can argue that the rejection of their proposal is politically motivated and they can then appeal to the European Union or other international bodies.

Third, the Crimean Tatars should insist that their national language rather than Russian or Ukrainian should be the exclusive language of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (assembly). Once they take that step, they should also make sure that they prepare news items in Russian so that the ethnic Russian population of the region will not decide that the Crimean Tatars are using their language in order to conceal some broader political agenda.

Obviously, the Crimean Tatars will find it hard to accomplish those goals. Resistance by local Russians and Ukrainians is certain to be great, and the Crimean Tatars themselves remain divided on this issue, with many of them viewing the language question as secondary to their political goals.

But in fact, the language question is central to the survival of the Crimean Tatars as a nation. Unless the Crimean Tatars are able to maintain their own language, they will find it difficult to maintain themselves as a people or to gain recognition by local authorities in Crimea or further afield.

The Russian decision to make Russian the official language in Crimea thus forces the Crimean Tatars to act or to concede defeat. Those Crimean Tatars who argue that it is more convenient to use Russian now and who oppose making the language issue a major one are sending the wrong message to everyone concerned.

Indeed, they are perhaps without recognizing it raising the white flag of surrender of their national cause. The author is editor of the "Crimean Review."


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