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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 13, 2001

13 December 2001
Ukrainian Ex-President Says 1991 Treaty Could Not Have Afforded Tatarstan Greater Independence
Ukrainian ex-President Leonid Kravchuk told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 12 December that he considers it impossible for Tatarstan, an enclave within Russia, to become a "classic" independent state. Kravchuk said the example of Chechnya shows the result of demands for greater independence. He said Tatarstan should rather demand more rights, freedoms, and broader national autonomy in order to maintain its people's culture, faith, language, and traditions.

Kravchuk said former Russian President Boris Yeltsin would not have agreed to independence for autonomous republics if a new Soviet treaty had been signed in 1991. Kravchuk recalled negotiations on a draft for a new union, saying that Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev had a "more progressive, more democratic" point of view than the leaders of other autonomous republics. He called for new relations, increased rights, and democratic freedoms for all people to develop their national cultures, Kravchuk said. Shaimiev was more independent as a politician and supported more radical changes in the Soviet state, while the majority sought to maintain the Soviet Union, Kravchuk added.

Parliament Promotes Sanctions For Violating Languages Law
Razil Valeev, the head of the State Council's commission on science, education, culture, and national issues, said the parliament plans to amend a republican law on languages next year to introduce sanctions for violating the legislation, reported on 11 December. His comments came at a joint meeting of parliamentary and Kazan city officials devoted to the implementation of the languages law and the corresponding state program.

The Kazan official in charge of nationalities issues, Irek Arslanov, said existing regulations oblige city administration officials to speak both state languages, and courses were arrange to teach Tatar. Arslanov added, however, that some officials and businessmen "passively resist" requirements on the equal use of Tatar and Russian in signs and advertisements. The meeting's participants said they were unhappy with the state of Tatar teaching in the Kazan schools they have inspected, especially the lack of computers. At the same time, they cited the results of a poll showing that parents did not object to their children learning Tatar.

YelAZ Seeks To Establish New Joint Venture
YelAZ plans to establish a new joint venture to produce cars to replace YelAZ-General Motors, which assembled Chevrolet Blazers from 1996 and Opel Vectras from 1999, Trade and Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov told reporters on 11 December. Salikhov said YelAZ is negotiating possible cooperation with several foreign companies, adding that a new car's price should not exceed $7,000 to $8,000.

Set up in 1995, YelAZ-GM stopped assembly in late-2000 because of low demand and GM recently said it had sold its stake in the venture (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report, 26 October 2001).

Government Seeks To Issue Short-Term Bonds
"Vechernyaya Kazan" reported that the Tatarstan Finance Ministry plans to issue 1.3 billion rubles ($43 million) worth of short-term bonds (RKO) next year. The sum represents half of the planned budget deficit for 2002.

Kazan, Krasnoyarsk To Boost Ties
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov, his Krasnoyarsk counterpart Petr Pimashkov, and Krasnoyarsk City Council Chairman Vladimir Chashchin have signed a partnership and cooperation accord, reported on 10 December. Pimashkov said the document promotes direct ties between the two cities, including relations between the Krasnoyarsk metallurgy plant and Kazan's helicopter and aircraft plants, and cooperation in transport construction and culture. The sides agreed that "Days of Kazan" will be held in Krasnoyarsk in June 2000 during the Tatar holiday of Sabantui, while Krasnoyarsk representatives will take part in celebrations of the Kazan millennium.

Novosibirsk Tatar Community Holds Forum
A delegation of Tatar cultural workers left Kazan for Novosibirsk to take part in a forum of the local Tatar community, RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent reported on 12 December.

Foreign Investment Rises
Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov told a news conference on 11 December that foreign investment into the republic's economy grew fivefold to $294 million in 2001. The republic's trade turnover totaled $2.3 billion. Salikhov said Switzerland, Germany, Finland, and Poland are Tatarstan's main trade partners, providing 60 percent of its total trade turnover.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan Marks Federal, Republican Constitution Days...
Together with Russian Constitution Day on 12 December, Bashkortostan marked the anniversary of its own constitution, adopted in 1993. President Murtaza Rakhimov received messages from Russian President Vladimir Putin and his envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko. Putin's telegram contained urgings to "safeguard the values declared in the constitution." Kirienko's message included a statement telling Rakhimov that "your region's history involved a struggle for the right to live according to the customs and traditions of your forefathers, and the Russian Constitution fully acknowledges this right."

State-controlled Bashkir press praised the Russian Constitution, saying that "unlike the former Soviet constitutions, it devoted special attention to human rights and represented a significant step toward making Russia a legal and democratic state."

...And Anniversary Of First Democratic Elections
12 December was also the eighth anniversary of Murtaza Rakhimov's victory in the republic's first presidential elections ever with 64 percent of the vote. RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent quoted Constitution Court Chairman Ildus Adihamov as saying, "It was a first free vote for the republic's leader, while previously it was only possible to call Bashkortostan a parliament-governed republic."

Arinin Tells Opposition Forces To Prepare For Early Elections
The head of the Russian Federalism Institute, a former candidate for Bashkortostan's presidency, and its former representative in the Russian State Duma, Aleksandr Arinin, told civic leaders that the republic is "likely to hold early presidential elections in 2002," RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 12 December. Arinin was in Ufa recently and met with the leaders from the local chapters of the Tatar Public Center and the Russian Equality and Rus movements. Arinin talked with those groups about proposing a rival candidate to oppose President Rakhimov.

State Agency Issued Misleading Casualty Figures From Chechnya
Eight servicemen from Bashkortostan were seriously injured during three months of service in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, RFE/RL reported on 11 December. That contradicts assertions by state-controlled news agency Bashinform that the Bashkortostan contingent did not suffer any "losses." The group returned home on 11 December.

Subscription Figures Fall By Half
According to subscription campaign statistics in early December 2001, Bashkortostan's print-media outlets lost roughly 50 percent of their subscribers compared to the previous year.

Tatar Professor Argues Against Dividing Tatars In Census
Professor Reif Amirov, culture commission chairman in the executive committee of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress, told RFE/RL on 12 December that, "Since Tatar nation is being split into different subgroups in the...upcoming census, why is such an opportunity not being given to Russian people? There are many ethnic Russian groups," he added.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi