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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 6, 2003

6 November 2003
Tatarstan Celebrates Constitution Day
Tatarstan's State Council chairman, Farid Mukhametshin, said in his official Constitution Day statement on 6 November that the 11th anniversary since the referendum on the Tatar Constitution is an important holiday in the republic's life, since that document expresses the will of its people and the basis of further democratic reforms. He added that the constitution offered a revolutionary approach to relations with Moscow, promoting the "federalist experience" to the world. The latest edition of Tatarstan's fundamental law was adopted on 19 April 2002 and, despite protests by the federal Prosecutor's Office, declares the republic to have "sovereignty expressed in [its] possession of a full scope of state legislative, executive, and judicial powers in the areas beyond the Russian Federation's jurisdiction." According to the document, Tatarstan is a democratic, legal state "united with the Russian Federation" through Russia's Constitution, Tatarstan's Constitution, and the power-sharing treaty. The 6th of November is an official holiday in Tatarstan.

Bashkir Opposition Leader Congratulates Tatarstan On Constitution Day
Bashkir presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko, the former top manager of St.-Petersburg-based Mezhprombank and current head of the Fund for Assistance to Regional Development, was among the first public figures to congratulate the people of Tatarstan on Tatar Constitution Day on 6 November, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. In a letter dated 5 November, the Bashkir opposition leader said that "Tatarstan's prosperity and level of development were the major results of the adoption of the republican constitution. For many years Tatarstan has been an economic innovator, attracting investment, creating innovative social polices, and maintaining interethnic peace and accord. Tatarstan is open to friends and partners and is dedicated to the main task of increasing people's welfare." He also paid tribute to Shaimiev who, he said, should serve "as an example to many regional leaders" because he is capable of "ensuring the balance between the interests of the federal center and the region."

Ukrtatnafta Wants To Take Over Ukrainian Oil Company
The joint Tatar-Ukrainian Ukrtatnafta venture based on the Kremenchug oil refinery intends to take a 51-percent controlling interest in Ukraine's Ukrnafta oil-extracting company, Intertat reported on 5 November. The takeover is expected to boost oil deliveries for processing in Kremenchug, which specializes in engine lubricants and gasoline production. In 2003, Ukratatnafta processed some 7 million tons of oil, most of which was supplied from Tatarstan, while Ukrnafta's annual output is reported at some 3 million tons.

Tatneft To Build Sea Terminal In The North
Tatneft will construct a terminal for loading oil goods onto tankers in the White Sea city of Severodvinsk, reported on 5 November. The loading facility will have the transit capacity of 2-2.5 million tons per year, while the total cost to build it is estimated to be $20 million.

Tatarstan Said To Maintain A Vast Illegal Arsenal
Through October of this year residents in Tatarstan have voluntarily handed in to police more than 7,000 firearms, including machine guns, assault rifles, handguns, grenades, and even antitank guns, Efir TV reported on 5 November. Those who turn in guns are free from prosecution and given a cash payment between 500 ($16.7) and 2,000 rubles ($66.7). Nevertheless, Tatarstan police say that large amounts of guns are still in private hands, partially because of the close proximity of the Izhevsk gun factory in neighboring Udmurtiya Republic. The Izhevsk plant is the source of stolen parts used to make illegal guns.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Russia's Chief Ethnologist Discusses Growth Of Bashkir Population
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 5 November, director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valerii Tishkov said that the Bashkir population in Russia had grown by 26 percent. Tishkov said that the growth of 330,000 people, documented in the 2002 Russia-wide census, exceeded the natural increase that could result from higher birth and lower mortality rates among Bashkirs. Tishkov said that such a sharp growth could be explained by people's changing perceptions of their ethnicity, especially in Bashkortostan's western and northwestern raions. He suggested that residents of those territories should be better permitted to identify themselves as Tatar-Bashkirs. Ethnologist Damir Iskhaqov, head of the Center for Ethnological Monitoring, writing for on 5 November, said that the increase of Bashkirs in Bashkortostan by only 87,500 was caused by the natural increase of the population and migration, while the remainder appeared in the republic "from nowhere." Before and during the 2002 census, representatives of the republic's ethnic Bashkir elite repeatedly said publicly that Tatars living in Bashkortostan's western and northwestern raions are in fact Bashkirs.

Ufa Protest Calling For Free And Fair Elections Broken Up By Police
The Ufa police broke up on 5 November a meeting that gathered to support free and fair elections, RosBalt reported the same day. Some 70 people gathered near the Bashkir State Assembly building for 10 minutes when police dispersed participants. A high-ranking police officer told the news agency that the protest was not sanctioned by the raion administration. The news agency reported that it was organized by the local branch of Yabloko and supported by the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center, the Rus movement, and the Communist Party. Rus leader Anatolii Dubovskii said the Kirov Raion administration had been informed about the protest.

Mechel Takes Over Beloretsk Metallurgy Company
The Moscow-based steel group Mechel has taken over a controlling interest in the Beloretsk metallurgy group of enterprises (BMK), Bashinform and RosBalt reported on 5 November. At an auction held on 2 November, Mechel purchased 29 percent of BMK for 95 million rubles ($3.2 million). The stake belonged to the Bashkir government. Mechel's stake in BMK is now 50.5 percent. BMK's capital totals 8 billion rubles. The heads of Mechel, BMK, and the Orenburg-based Yuzhuralnikel said in 2002 that they planned to merge the companies into a single holding.

Passport With Local-Language Pages Proves Popular
Eighty-five percent of Bashkortostan's residents have obtained passports with pages in the Bashkir language featuring the republic's state emblem, RosBalt reported on 4 November, citing the Bashkir authorities. During the recent passport reform, 3.3 million passports were distributed. New passports were issued three years later in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan than in the rest of Russia as the republic demanded that the document contain pages in the local languages.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova