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Russia Report: January 10, 2001

10 January 2001, Volume 3, Number 2
In the Federation Council's last session in 2000 on 20 December, senators refused to confirm two proposed representatives to that chamber. Igor Glukhovskii, who was nominated by Jewish Autonomous Oblast Governor Nikolai Volkov to represent his region, was rejected. Some senators were riled when they learned that Glukhovskii, the general manager of the Energomash-kompleks, is a resident of a posh suburb of Moscow, and one even asked, "Does he even know where Birobizhan is?" "Vremya novostei" reported on 21 December. Samara Governor Konstantin Titov said, "They changed his propiska. Tomorrow he will buy an apartment in Samara, Saratov and Yerevan." To which, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev responded, "I'm afraid that it's not apartments being bought but seats in the Federation Council," "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Also rejected that day was another Moscow resident, Magadan Oblast's nominee, General Vladimir Kulakov, a military commander in the first Chechen war. For some reason, Ramazan Abdulatipov, a former federal nationalities minister and deputy speaker of the Federation Council, was confirmed as Saratov Oblast's representative, although the question was raised why he should be a representative for a place where he has never lived, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 5 January. Other new senators confirmed were Yefim Kerpelman, representative from the State Duma of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Nikolai Tulaev, representative from Kaliningrad Oblast's duma, Valerii Ustyugov, representative from Kaliningrad Oblast's administration, and Akhmad Zavgaev, representative from the Chechen Republic, the daily reported. After being re-elected governor of Khakasiya on 24 December, Aleksei Lebed told reporters on 26 December that he will remain a member of the upper legislative house until his term expires on 1 January 2002. On 5 January, newly-elected governor of Krasnodar Krai Aleksandr Tkachev announced at his inauguration that he will appoint his predecessor Nikolai Kondratenko as his representative to the upper legislative chamber, "Segodnya" reported on 6 January. Kondratenko tapped Tkachev as his successor after unexpectedly announcing his plans not to seek re-election. JAC

Governors from six regions in the Far Eastern federal district, Primorskii and Khabarovsk Krais, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and Magadan Oblasts, and Koryak Autonomous Okrug sent an appeal to President Putin protesting against the proposed sale of fishing quotas at auctions, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. The governors warned that the quotas will wind up being too expensive even for thriving fish enterprises, not to mention the poorer residents of fishing villages along the country's Pacific coast. As a result, they warn that hundreds of thousands of fishermen could lose their jobs. The governors instead recommend that the use of marine resources be regulated by a federal law on fishing which is currrently under consideration at the Federation Council. According to "Segodnya," the appeal to President Putin is only the governors' latest lobbying effort and follows similar appeals to member of the State Duma, Federation Council and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. The State Duma and government are preparing a bill that would introduce the auctions for all fish and marine life quotas, the daily reported, thus usurping a traditional areas of responsibility of local administrations, who now distribute fishing quotas. JAC

In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta" in its issue number 52, deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak reported that about 80 percent of the regional laws checked by the administration have either been brought into compliance with federal law, or are being considered by the courts. According to Kozak, it turned out that only some 2,500 laws had to be amended. However, he revealed that the "it was more difficult to establish order in [those] ethnic republics, which signed power-sharing agreements with Moscow." He continued, "we faced major difficulties in Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, [Sakha (Yakutia)]...We have to hold a referendum in Tuva, because the republic's constitution must be amended...There are many regional leaders who want to delay things, but we have not faced any direct insubordination to federal law and the Constitution." Bashkortostan presidential analytic department head Amir Yuldashbaev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 8 January that Ufa will not fully satisfy Russian complaints about the republic's constitution because if it did, "nothing would remain not only of the Bashkortostan Constitution but even of the Russian Constitution." He said that Moscow officials who made the complaints do not consider Russia to be a federation, and he called their comments an example of "professional idiocy." JAC

After denying that any plans were afoot to eliminate Russia's autonomous okrugs and oblast (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 January 2001), Federation, Nationalities and Migration Policy Minister Aleksandr Blokhin told "Segodnya" on 4 January that his ministry is preparing legislation on changing the status of subjects in the Russian federation at the request of the government. He said that the legislation is currently awaiting approval from a presidential commission, after which the bill will be submitted to the State Duma. According to Blokhin, the legislation will address the problem of the dual nature of autonomous okrugs, which are administratively subordinate to the krais of which they are part but are also constitutionally equal to them. Blokhin explained that the bill calls "not for their merger or assimilation but sets out a legal basis for interactions between different federation subjects." Blokhin also noted that "if a federation subject wants to join another federation subject and delegate to it parts of its responsibilities, it should have that right." He said that so far Russia does not have a law on the books or procedure which subjects wanting to do this could follow. Also on 4 January, Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev that he is certain President Putin "is now preparing the necessary changes to the Constitution" to reduce the number of federation subjects to no more than 50. He explained that "this follows logically from [Putin's] activities." JAC

The head of Irkutsk Oblast's administration, Boris Govorin, has suggested bringing forward the date for the oblast's next gubernatorial elections from July 2001 to April 2001, "Vremya novostei" reported on 10 January. Govorin is arguing that March 1994 was when the first gubernatorial election was held, and the date for the next election managed to slip to July only because of the early resignation of the oblast's first Governor Yurii Nozhikov. In addition, the Irkutsk incumbent claims that elections held during the summer are not successful because they coincide with summer vacations. The chairman of the oblast's election commission and several deputies in the oblast's legislature have expressed doubts about Govorin's plan. They note that the region's new law on gubernatorial elections has not yet been adopted and the old one does not correspond with federal legislation. Govorin believes that the legislature should simply amend the old law, and on 17 January legislators will decide which course to take, which will then determine when elections might be held. JAC

Administration officials in the city of Kemerovo are appealing to local residents to pay for communal services such as housing, water, and electricity via a song being played daily on local radio and TV, "Vremya novostei" reported on 29 December. City officials argue that in 2000, the economic situation in the oblast improved and local industries were able to eliminate the backlog of unpaid salaries to local workers. Therefore, Kemerovo officials believe these workers in turn should be better able to pay for city services, so that municipal workers who work in these spheres may also be paid on time this year. One line of the song goes, "Sitting at the table drinking with your friends, empty is your glass. He who does not pay for his apartment is the last hooligan." JAC

Former convict and mayor of Nizhnii Novogord Andrei Klimentev has announced on local television that he will participate in gubernatorial elections in Nizhnii Novgorod this summer, "Vremya novostei" reported on 10 January. Klimentev is a notorious figure in the oblast: After having been convicted of swindling in 1982 and embezzlement in 1997, he was elected mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod in March 1998. However, soon after the election a local election commission annulled the ballot's results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). According to the daily, political observers in the city are taking Klimentev's announcement seriously. One unidentified official in the oblast's administration noted that Klimentev "has not lost his strong charisma." Explaining his decision to reenter politics, Klimentev, who has been living most recently in a village in Mordovia, said that he is "fed up with collective farmers." JAC

Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told Interfax on 29 December that last year his region went from being a recipient region to a donor region, that is, a region that sends more tax revenues to the federal center than it receives back in the form of transfers from the federal budget. Ayatskov did not explain how it was possible for the region to make this transition. Ayatskov also noted that one of the main events during the past year was the election of President Putin, since it represented the first time in Russia that "a peaceful transition from power from one president to another" had taken place. Ayatskov praised Putin's efforts to strengthen "vertical power" in Russia, noting that in 2001, Putin "would be well advised to pay maximum attention to raising the social level of citizens of Russia and strengthening the national economy." JAC

In an interview with "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 4 January, the chairman of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug's legislative assembly, Viktor Sitnov, described the situation in the region as it faces gubernatorial elections on 28 January 2001. According to Sitnov, Taimyr has "significantly more opportunities to reform its economy than its neighbors," because it has natural resources, such as natural gas, light metals and gold, and powerful enterprises such as Norilsk Nickel and Norilskgazprom. The presence of these companies, according to Sitnov, guarantees a stable tax base for the local budget. Sitnov believes it is even possible in the future that the okrug could become a donor region. Despite these "riches," the region is plagued by social problems such as poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, and drug addiction, Sitnov admits. The newspaper concludes that Taimyr has been asleep during the past few years and "is ready for a change." It enthuses that one of the candidates for governor, Norilsk Nickel head Aleksandr Khloponin, is an "experienced manager," with strong ties to the North, and notes that Norilsk Nickel led a list of Russian organizations with "high social effectiveness." Khloponin will compete against the incumbent Governor Gennadii Nedelin and a deputy from the okrug's duma, Mikhail Steklov, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 3 January. JAC

As of 1 January, the snow leopard, a historical symbol of the Tatar people, was removed from the republic's Supreme Court building in Kazan and replaced by the new Russian coat of arms, the two-headed eagle, RFE/RL's bureau there reported on 3 January. The replacement of the symbols signifies the resubordination of the republic's Supreme Court to the Russian federal Supreme Court. In addition, the court's 35 justices were given new identification cards signed by President Putin, replacing those signed by Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farit Mukhatmetshin. JAC

The Tatar-Inform agency reported on 5 January that the federal Ministry for Federation and Nationalities Affairs has begun looking into Tatarstan's plans to switch back to the Latin script, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. Kim Minnullin, the Tatarstan official in charge of language promotion, said that some deputies in the State Duma want to thwart Tatarstan's plans without any discussion or debate. He said his department is preparing documents for Moscow in favor of the shift. A Duma delegation is due in Kazan this week to study the issue. JAC

Prosecutors in Gorno-Altaisk have arrested Viktor Shapin, the republic's deputy justice minister, on suspicion of abuse of office, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 29 December....KORYAK. The Interior Ministry in Moscow announced on 28 December that it has launched criminal proceedings against the former deputy governor of Koryak Autonomous Okrug, Boris Levchuk, who is suspected of misusing federal and local budget money, causing 2 million rubles ($72,000) worth of damage, ITAR-TASS. He also is suspected of organizing a criminal group engaged in stealing property....STAVROPOL. Four police officers and an industrial engineer have been detained in Stavropol Krai on suspicion of stealing weapons, including two machines guns, more than 100 pistols, 34 rifles and 100 hand grenades, seized earlier from criminals, AP reported. JAC


Evenk Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Bokovikov in an interview with "Novaya gazeta," 28 December 2000:

Question: What do people who live in Evenk [Autonomous Okrug] do for a living?
Answer: They live off the forest and river. Mushrooms, berries, fish, hunting. What they catch, they eat. If they catch more than they eat, then they exchange that for clothes and whatever else is necessary. The meat of wild northern deer is very tasty -- better than lamb. It's kind of like the meat of roe deer. But, work, there is none at all.

Q: The Evenk live mostly as hunters?
A: No, absolutely not. Seventy percent of the population of the okrug, these are families who have lived here generation after generation. Evenk, Yakuts, Russians, Kets. Many Angarians, that is Russians who arrived in Evenk from Angara. There are still Russians from Katanga. But I am in the category of 'Shvai.' The Shvai came here with their families from northern Irkutsk Oblast in search of a better life -- when the country was beginning to get bigger and in our villages it was becoming impossible to live. But in Evenk, the opposite was happening, geologists were arriving and there appeared to be work.

Q: You are Russian?
A: By blood everything -- Evenk, Russian, Ukrainian and Jewish. But you can, of course, call me Russian. But mainly in my blood there is something else -- a desire to go into the woods and hunt. All of my ancestors hunted. My father is 70 years old and he still hunts for sable. In the spring I catch bears in their lair...

Q: After experiencing this simple life of hunting, what do you think of Moscow?
A: On the one hand, it is difficult and complicated. On the other hand, I feel proud of the fact that in my country there is such a city as Moscow. Especially as the city is now -- clean and bustling. But it is troubling to me that if in Moscow there is everything that anyone could want, why then in Evenk there is nothing? Why do we live so poorly?

Q: Why indeed? How did that happen, where there is fish, forests, gold, oil and gas, that people are so impoverished?
A: When the Soviet Union fell apart, the entire North was cast adrift. Evenk is no industrial giant, which could endure, such as Alrosa in Yakutiya, or Norilsk Nickel in Taimyr. For 95 percent [of our budget money] we rely on Moscow. But Moscow gives us a maximum of 30 to 40 percent of the necessary funds. There is not enough medicine or food products...

Q: What does it mean today to be the "master"(khozyain) of Evenk?
A: To be the master in general that means to have the right to own and dispose of property. When I started to work as governor, I thought, what will I get? Nothing, apparently. The property of the okrug is not much, beside the brick, four-floor administration building. There is not much else. The oil products belong to Krasnoyarsk. The airplanes to Moscow. What's in the earth is federal property...

The figures below are the share of the subsistence-level consumer goods basket that the average per capita income in a particular region could buy in the third quarter of 2000, according to V. Bobkov, director of the All-Russian Center for Living Standards in "Trud" on 23 December. Bobkov said that while living standards are rising in a number of regions, there remains "almost a quarter of federation subjects who are lagging behind average Russian rates." Calling the situation alarming, Bobkov noted that "If in the current relatively favorable economic conditions, many Federation members cannot adjust themselves to the general rhythm of onward movement, what is in store for them if the world market situation worsens?" Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January that the State Duma's Committee for Federal Affairs and Regional Policy plans to submit a bill intended to address the needs of Russia's economically depressed territories during the State Duma's spring session. Committee member and deputy (Russian Regions) Andrei Klimov said that some 20 regions are incapable of overcoming their economic crisis without state support. Klimov was elected from a single mandate district in Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, one of Russia's poorest regions. JAC

Russia's Poorest Regions (3rd quarter, 2000)

Region__________% of goods basket able to purchase

Jewish Auto. Oblast____97

Chuvash _____________93

Altai Republic_________90






Marii El_______________83








Source: "Trud," 23 December 2000