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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 24, 2004

24 May 2004
Federation Council Official Promotes Project On Region Mergers
Federation Council Committee on Federation Affairs and Federal Policies Chairman Aleksandr Kazakov backed on 20 May the idea of dividing Russia into 28 governorates, "Kommersant" reported on 22 May. In the proposal developed by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's Council on Studying Production Forces, Tatarstan would merge with Ulyanovsk Oblast, with the administrative center in Kazan. Several Federation Council members have supported the idea. Kazakov commented that national-cultural peculiarities "need to be taken into account but not at all in the first instance."

Tatar Constitutional Court Chairman Saifikhan Nefiev told the daily that "the ideas of Russia's reorganization can be seen as an attack on the constitutional norms of Russia's basic law." Nefiev said the Russian Constitution clearly describes the order of the founding and merger of subjects that can only be changed through referendums. He added that the existing constitutional norms are most suitable and there is no need to conduct unification of the state.

Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko believes that only federation subjects with other subjects within them can be merged, like the recent merger of Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug and Perm Oblast into Perm Krai, the daily reported.

Trial Against Organized Crime Group Zhilka Begins
The Tatar Supreme Court has begun hearing a criminal case against 16 members of the organized criminal group Zhilka, RosBalt reported on 22 May. Zhilka was established in Kazan in the mid-1980s, and in the mid-1990s it had taken over several large companies in Tatarstan, Perm Oblast, and St. Petersburg. Twenty-six criminal cases filed against group members between 1995 and 2001 were united into a single case. The suspects are accused of 19 murders as well as kidnappings, robberies, blackmail, theft, and illegal arms possession. The case will be heard by a jury trial.

Crimean Tatars Mark 60th Anniversary Of Deportation
Some 30,000 Crimean Tatars gathered on 18 May in Simferopol to mark the 60th anniversary of their deportation from Crimea, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 May, citing Crimean Tatar Mejlis spokesperson Lilya Muslimova. Participants appealed to the Ukrainian and Crimean authorities to pass a law on the status of the Crimean Tatar people granting them the right to self-determination and a law on restoring the rights of those deported and members of their families to return to the places where they previously lived and providing compensation for confiscated property.

Crimean Tatar Mejlis Chairman Mustafa Jemilev said at the meeting that it is necessary to ensure that "the Crimean Tatar language, as the language of peninsula's indigenous people, is one of the [Crimean] autonomy's official languages. It is necessary that Crimean Tatars are represented in all elected, executive, and judicial bodies proportionate to their number." The meeting participants also demanded that education and TV broadcasting in Crimean Tatar be increased.

The same day, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada discussed but failed to pass the draft laws promoted by the Crimean Tatars. Jemilev commented that the authorities chose "methods of political provocation for the sake of keeping their power." "So-called Cossack detachments, which are illegal paramilitary units, that constantly provoke conflicts with Crimean Tatars are formed with the silent agreement and approval of the authorities and often under their patronage," Jemilev added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Conference Discusses Interethnic Issues In Bashkortostan
Speaking at a 21 May conference focusing on the "Cooperation and Friendship of Bashkortostan's Peoples -- Past, Present, and Perspectives," sociology Professor Cewdet Gilecetdinov said that from the early ages the area of Bashkortostan was populated by numerous Finnish-Ugric, Turkic, and Slavic ethnic groups. According to Gilecetdinov, one of the organizers of the conference, this makes it impossible to define one group as the predominant one, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. As for the modern period, Gilecetdinov said that "in last several years, Bashkortostan has been attributing much importance to learning the history of the Bashkir people, while the same importance is to be attributed to the history of other nationalities as well." Later during the same conference, Bashkortostan's First Deputy Culture Minister Tamara Pushkareva stunned representatives of Tatar rights movements when she said Bashkortostan's education policies regarding ethnic groups is an example to others. Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress executive committee member Rushan Gallyamov said in his report that the Bashkir authorities paint the republic's 1 million-strong Tatars as enemies of the Bashkir people. On the behalf of the Bashkir community, Professor Reshit Irnazarov said it is not true to say that Bashkirs receive favoritism in the social or political sphere. History Professor Ildar Gebdrefiqov told the conference that practices of the Bashkir authorities during the 2002 national census negatively affected Tatar-Bashkir relations by using the Tatar population to boost Bashkir population figures. The head of the pro-governmental Bashkir Peoples Assembly, former chief executive of the World Bashkir Congress Niyaz Mejitov, refuted Gebdrefiqov's argument, saying that the current promotion of Bashkir people's rights is because they "previously lived in an oppressed situation."

Arbitration Court Chairman Faces Prosecutors' Charges
Bashkortostan's chief prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin told reporters on 21 May that he is seeking to have his investigators question the chairman of the republic's Arbitration Court, Fanil Safin, RosBalt reported. Zelepukin confirmed that Safin's office was recently sealed under an investigation of a fraud case being considered by the prosecutor's office. Meanwhile, Safin has appealed to the prosecutor questioning the legality of the prosecutor's warrant to search his office. Also on 21 May, Bashkortostan's deputy prosecutor Ramil Iskujin addressed a coordinating conference on bankruptcy procedures held at the chief prosecutor's office. He said that in 93 percent of the cases considered by the republican Arbitration Court, bankrupt enterprises were sold off instead of undergoing restructuring. He said that by pushing bankrupt companies to sell out, the court is acting in the interest of criminal groups.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi