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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 30, 2004

30 March 2004
Tatarstan's Prosecutor: Republican Symbols Have Nothing To Do With Sovereignty
Republics within Russia do not enjoy sovereign status and cannot carve out such privileges -- not even with reservations noted in their constitutions -- Tatar Prosecutor-General Kafil Emirov told the Tatar Supreme Court during a 29 March hearing on an appeal of the Tatar Constitution by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev. Emirov said the Russian Constitution "does not permit any other bearer of sovereignty than Russia's multinational people." Republican symbols, including emblems and flags, express historical and other values as well as peoples' traditions but do not embody republican sovereignty. "They have a mission of self-identification of regions within Russia and nothing else," Emirov said. Arguing against the requirement for presidential candidates to speak both of Tatarstan's official state languages, Emirov referred to the Russian Constitution's guarantee of equal rights and freedoms to all citizens. "Restrictions of rights and freedoms may only be introduced by a federal law to the extent necessary for the defense of the principles of the constitutional system, moral, health, rights, and the legal interests of other people, and securing the defense of the country and security of the state and should be proportional to those aims," Emirov asserted. The prosecutor's appeal also contests the procedure for recalling a state council deputy. The hearing was postponed until 31 March.

Bread, Dairy Prices To Rise, Say Sector's Producers
Tatarstan's bakeries and dairy producers will raise prices on 1 April to increase the profitability of production, senior representatives from within the sector told a news conference on 29 March. Bread prices should rise by 10-20 percent, while dairy produces are expected to increase by 15 percent. United Bread Company General Director Telget Jamaliev said bread prices have increased in Kazan over the past 12 months by 16 percent, while bread prices in Ufa rose by 45 percent, in Nizhnii Novgorod by 69 percent, and in Ulyanovsk by 85 percent during the same period. "Bread has become unreasonably cheap in Tatarstan," Jamaliev said. He added that companies' average profits in the sector represent 7 percent of sales, while the average wage is 2,900 rubles ($102). Tatarstan Sote Deputy General Director Zofer Reshidov said prices in the dairy sector were last raised in April 2003, adding that they remain 20-25 percent lower than prices in neighboring regions. As a result, his company faces 5 percent losses, he claimed.

Interethnic Situation In Crimea Worsens
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma sent senior law-enforcement and security officials to Simferopol due to continued concerns about the deteriorating state of interethnic relations in Crimea, "Vremya novostei" reported on 29 March. A 19-year-old ethnic Tatar was brutally beaten by a group of youths in Simferopol on 23 March, and a group of Crimean Tatars assaulted a bar frequented by skinheads hours later. Nine people were injured in the incident, with four of them requiring hospitalization. Some 2,000 ethnic Tatars demonstrated in Simferopol after criminal cases were opened in connection with the bar raid, demanding the release of the ethnic Tatar who is suspected of organizing the assault on the bar and who was subsequently put under arrest. Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Kunitsyn expressed concern about the possible appearance of skinheads in Crimea and said, "The top issue is to prevent [the incident] from growing into an interethnic conflict."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan Preparing Municipal Reform
Within the framework of local self-government reform, Bashkortostan may reduce the number of municipal bodies by merging smaller ones with larger entities, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 29 March, referring to the republican council on local self government headed by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov. As many as 1,032 municipalities are currently registered in Bashkortostan, those which will not be merged are expected to have their status downgraded to city districts. The reform will require instituting about 10 new republican laws redefining the legal status of municipalities and the powers of their leaders. Bashkortostan's legislators are to submit draft laws to the local self-government council by 1 September.

Bashkortostan's Tatar Community Complains About Oppression Of Its Native Language
An activist of the Tatar civic movement and the head of the Tatar philology chair at Bashkir State University, Radik Sibegetov, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 29 March that many of those hired as Tatar-language teachers in Bashkortostan schools were either trained as teachers of other subjects or are specialists in other fields who failed to find jobs in those fields. Sibegetov's chair specializes in preparing Tatar journalists or high-profile teachers in Tatar linguistics.

Meanwhile, a number of Tatar school principals in Bashkortostan complained to an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent the same day that their regional administrations have prevented their students from taking part in a republican contest to see who has the best knowledge of Tatar language and literature.

Bashkortostan To Look Into Canada's Housing Industry
A Bashkir governmental delegation led by Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov left for Canada on 29 March to meet with the managers of that country's major construction companies and to get acquainted with the latest construction technologies used there, the governmental press service reported yesterday.

According to official sources, Bashkortostan is one of the Volga-Ural area's leaders in housing, which is exemplified by a strong demand for private apartments. At the same time, the high prices of these new apartments has created a situation where some 30 percent of the residences built in 2003 remained unoccupied.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi