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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 18, 2002

18 January 2002
Parliament Elects Second Federation Council Senator...
The State Council on 17 January elected its deputy chairwoman, Irina Larochkina, as its second senator to the Federation Council, reported. Larochkina, a doctor of geological and mineralogical sciences, has supervised parliamentary commissions on state-building, local self-governance, and foreign relations; on budget and finance issues; on economic development and reforms; and on the environment, land reform, and natural resources.

...And Appeals To Federal Authorities Over 2002 Census
The State Council on 17 January adopted an appeal to the Russian president, prime minister, Duma speaker, and Tatars to protest efforts to divide Tatars in the 2002 census, reported. Deputies sharply criticized a nationalities list and a dictionary of nationalities and languages composed by the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology for the census, in which Tatars "artificially and without scientific grounds" were divided into several groups. Deputies said those documents infringe on Tatars' right to objective statistical data in the census and, if implemented, will result in a loss by Tatars of their potential to develop a national identity. Lawmakers urged authorities "not to put the Tatar people on trial for maintaining unity." "The authors of those documents are trying to bring a united and consolidated Tatar nation back to the epoch of tribal relations," the parliament said. The State Council stressed that such a move is dangerous not only for Tatars but as well for interethnic stability in Russia, as it could evoke ethnic conflicts.

Russian Minister Insists Tatars Will Be Counted Together...
Russia's minister without portfolio for nationality issues, Vladimir Zorin, met on 16 January in Moscow with the heads of national-cultural autonomies to discuss amendments to the federal law on national-cultural autonomies, RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported the next day. Leaders of Russia's Tatar, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Karelian, German, Gypsy, and Jewish national-cultural autonomies in attendance criticized the absence of any national policy in Russia. The also said the consultative council under the Russian government meets very rarely and charged that the law on national-cultural autonomies has not been implemented.

Speaking at the same meeting, Rimzil Valeev, leader of the Tatar national-cultural autonomy and the deputy head of the Tatar World Congress, said Moscow appears to be using the forthcoming census as a political instrument.

At his meeting last week with national-cultural autonomies leaders in Tyumen, Zorin called attempts by some national groups to find a new ethnic identity "a good trend." Enes Geitov, the head of the Siberian-Tatar national-cultural autonomy, appealed to Zorin at that meeting to demand ethnic minority status for Siberian Tatars.

Valeev asked if the federal authority plans to meet the cultural needs of the growing number of national groups it is promoting and provide national schools and universities, textbooks, national art, cultural centers, academies of sciences, radio and TV, and press for all of Russia's 191 national groups. Zorin said a list of nationalities that evoked sharp criticism by Tatars will not be presented to residents during the census -- adding that people will not choose their nationality from a list but will name it themselves. Zorin said "all groups of Tatar people will be counted together," adding that Tatar national groups will be shown as parts of the same Tatar nation.

...While Chief Ethnologist Says Christian Tatars To Be Counted Separately
In an interview with on 18 January, Valerii Tishkov, the director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, called criticism against his institute by the Tatarstan State Council "unfounded." Tishkov said ethnologists, on the contrary, are trying to unite the "swiftly disintegrating [into ethnographic groups] Tatar people." He said the title "Tatars" will unite all geographic groups of Tatars, many of whom "categorically oppose" being associated with 'Kazan Tatars' -- including Mishers, Nagaibaks, Astrakhan, and Siberian Tatars. Tishkov stressed, however, that Crimean Tatars and "Kreshens," or Christian Tatars, will remain separate nations. Crimean Tatars do not have anything in common with Kazan Tatars, including language or origin, he said. As for Christian Tatars, Tishkov said, their separation from other Tatars is a result of long-term discussions and research. Tishkov added that he is ready to agree on treating Kreshens as a subgroup of Tatars, but, "Kreshens themselves are categorically against it. They will nevertheless be registered as Kreshens."

Tishkov assumed that the nationalities list could be changed under pressure from Kazan but argued that, "To forcibly change the nationality of thousands of people is to use violence against a portion of the populace. Kreshens remember that they numbered over 100,000 under the 1926 census. Of course, their number will be smaller this time. But they have their cultural centers and the Kreshens Council association," he added.

Tishkov said the Tatar leadership, rather than ethnologists, is guilty for Tatars' lack of unity. He said Tatarstan's authorities -- despite the threat of destabilization and ethnic conflicts in the republic -- protested at removing a "nationality" entry from new passports, thus preventing Tatarstan's people from becoming a part of a united Russian nation. They counteracted the alleged threat of assimilation, Tishkov said, adding that, at the same time, they oppose efforts by small ethnic cultural groups to counteract their assimilation with Tatars.

President Shaimiev Meets Rakhimov, Leaves For Vacation
President Mintimer Shaimiev on 17 January met with Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov in Ufa, the Tatarstan presidential press service reported. The two discussed "a wide range of issues regarding the two republics' mutual cooperation." Shaimiev departed for holiday in the southern Urals on 18 January, the service said. Shaimiev celebrates his 65th birthday on 20 January.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Former Senior Federal Official: Challenge Against Bashkortostan Constitution Unfounded...
Sergei Shakhrai, a professor at Moscow International Relations Institute (MGIMO), told reporters on 17 January in Ufa that some controversies between Bashkortostan bodies, on one side, and federal ministries as well as federal district officials, on the other, still continue despite good relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov. Shakhrai said he expected Bashkortostan's amended constitution to become a good sample for other federation entities and could not even imagine any possible conflict with it. Shakhrai said he was deeply amazed at the prosecutor's protest against 50 paragraphs of the Bashkir Constitution, which, he said, complies with the Russian Constitution 99.9 percent. He said he "was ashamed" after reading the text of that protest, and called efforts to challenge the republican constitution "unfounded."

Shakhrai predicted that the conflict between Bashkortostan and the Russian Constitutional Court on the republican constitution will end favorably for the republic, noting that the closer come the next Duma and presidential elections, the more likely Moscow will agree to a compromise.

...As Tatarstan Uses Bashkortostan's Experience In Its Constitution
Shakhrai said the draft new version of the Tatar Constitution that has been agreed by the Russian and Tatar presidents uses to a great extent formulas from the Bashkir Constitution. Shakhrai stressed that if Tatarstan passes those formulas while Bashkortostan abolishes them, then controversies between the two republics will arise. Shakhrai said Tatarstan and Bashkortostan can adopt similar constitutions as they exist in similar legal conditions despite the fact that Tatarstan did not sign the federative treaty and passed its constitution before the federal one.

Dutch Company Increases Beer Production In Bashkortostan
President Rakhimov and Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov attended a ceremony launching the second production line at the Amstar beer company, Bashinform reported on 17 January. The plant, owned by the Netherlands' Amsterdam Brevern Investment, currently produces 15 million deciliters of beer a year and sells in 27 Russian regions as well as in Ukraine, Belarus, and Latvia. Jean Devingardt, an official with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which financed the project, said, "We were looking for a long time for a beer plant in Russia to make investments and were attracted by the stable political situation in Bashkortostan."

Sverdlovsk Bashkirs Visit Ufa
A delegation of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Bashkir Congress visited Ufa to boost cultural ties with the republic, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 16 January. Visitors took part in a roundtable on national-cultural issues, where it was reported that Bashkir children in the oblast have begun studying Bashkir. The congress leaders established close relations with the oblast Muslim Board, they said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova