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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 1, 2002

1 March 2002
Draft Constitution Passes First Reading In State Council
The State Council passed in its first reading a draft Tatarstan Constitution in its plenary session on 28 February, republican media reported. Of 118 deputies, one voted against and another abstained while all others voted for the document. The most heated disputes were devoted to the issues of Tatarstan citizenship and the 1994 power-sharing treaty between Russia and Tatarstan. Both features were maintained in the draft. The document is expected to be published in republican media for wider discussion. State Council commissions can discuss amendments until 26 March. A second reading is slated for late March or early April.

President Promotes Equal Status For Tatar, Russian Languages...
President Mintimer Shaimiev on 28 February backed the use of the Tatar language alongside the Russian language in Tatarstan, reported. Shaimiev was delivering his annual message to the Tatarstan parliament at a State Council session. Shaimiev said fixing the functions of state languages �- Tatar and Russian �- in the constitution is an "extremely important" point of principle. No single language is restricted in Tatarstan, he said, and the republic is a model one regarding the observance of peoples' rights to develop their cultures and languages. The Tatar language alongside the Russian one is to develop in all sectors of life, including in the state sector, Shaimiev stressed. The draft version of a new republican constitution currently under debate provides equal status for both Tatar and Russian.

...And Republican Citizenship...
In his annual message to the legislature, President Shaimiev said cultural pluralism backed by political integrity is the formula of Russia's development. He said the cultural development of Russia's peoples is provided firstly by republics, which perform a special mission. Attempts to present republics as non-state entities deprived of sovereignty are thus bewildering, Shaimiev said. Some federal laws violate the Russian Constitution and should be changed, he asserted. Shaimiev stressed that the new version of the Tatarstan Constitution defines the republic as a "full-fledged" federation member united with Russia on the basis of the constitutions of Russia and Tatarstan and power-sharing treaty.

Shaimiev said he realizes that "a united institution of citizenship exists within the framework of the united federative state." However, he added that "there is not a big necessity to exclude from the Russian Constitution the existing form of republican citizenship," as the measure can weaken the federative nature of the Russian state.

...And Says Tatars Cannot Be Divided By Faith
President Shaimiev also urged his audience not to politicize the division of Tatars in the upcoming census. He said religion cannot be considered a grounds for dividing Tatars into different ethnic groups. Tatars currently speak one written language, and have a united and developed culture and common cultural institutions. Tatars have went through a period of secularization in the late-19th century, and it would be unwise to bring a religious aspect into ethnic life, Shaimiev added.

He stated that the events of 11 September have divided the world into Muslims and non-Muslims and stressed the necessity to separate terrorism from Islam. "Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion," he said, adding that it is necessary to save the world from "Islamophobia." Shaimiev stressed the progressive role of Jadidism, a modernized Islam developed among Tatars.

Tatarstan Public Movement Protests Construction Of Bashkir Nuclear Station
In an article published in "Vremya i dengi" on 7 February, the chairman of Tatarstan's Antinuclear Society, Albert Garapov, called on Tatarstan's public forces to "jointly act against the construction of the Bashkir Nuclear Station, which infringes on the interests of the Tatar people and threatens to annihilate our children." He said a resolution to renew construction of the station contradicts and ignores decisions by numerous expert commissions, a 1990 resolution by Bashkortostan's Supreme Council to halt the project, and public opinion in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan.

Garapov said Tatarstan will be hostage to the station and, if anything occurs, mankind will lose the entire Tatar people and culture. He said thousands of signatures protesting the import of spent nuclear fuel and construction of the nuclear facility were collected last summer by Tatarstan's Antinuclear Society together with the Tatar Public Center, students, communists, and other public forces.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan, Poland To Boost Ties
Bashkir Foreign Relations and Trade Minister Rafil Garifullin and the visiting marshal of Poland's Lyublin Province, Edward Khunek, signed a protocol on intentions to develop bilateral economic and cultural cooperation, Volgainform reported on 28 February. Khunek said his country seeks cooperation with Russia's regions and considers Bashkortostan one of the most interesting partners. He said Bashkortostan is one of very few regions where the Polish diaspora is not oppressed but rather enjoys support from the Bashkir government. The sides agreed that the Ufa raion and the Lyublin province will become sister regions.

Ufa Delegation Visits Saxony
A delegation of the Ufa administration is visiting Dresden from 26 February to 3 March to discuss new housing construction technologies, preparations for the presentation of Ufa in Saxony scheduled for May, participation of Ufa-based companies in the Leipzig fair, and bilateral development of tourism, Bashinform reported on 27 February.

Public, Residents Defend Dismissed Tatar Official
Bashkir public organizations and residents have sent numerous telegrams and messages to the Russian presidential administration, the prosecutor-general, and Bashkir authorities to protest the dismissal of Salavat administration head Asgat Galiev, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 27 February. Authors called the measure illegal and said it is the result of political ethnic ambitions. In Salavat, more than 50,000 signatures have been collected to support Galiev. An unidentified representative of the Salavat Tatar movement told RFE/RL that GAliyev enjoyed the great respect of Salavat residents and called his dismissal an event arranged "from above" and the "display of an ethnic totalitarian regime." He said GAliyev was one of those leaders who would be unlikely to promote increasing the number of Bashkirs in the forthcoming census. Many of Bashkortostan's mass media joined an anti-GAliyev campaign, the Ufa correspondent said.

Tatar Movement Leader Says Rus 'Pocket' Opposition
The opposition "Otechestvo" in its February issue wrote that the myth about Bashkortostan being an independent, democratic, and legal state has died. According to the newspaper, Bashkortostan's economy is destroyed, the republic's large companies are on the threshold of bankruptcy, while the state authorities are completely corrupt.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Tatar Public Center in Dyurtoile raion, Vener Fattakhov, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 27 February that Rus movement leaders are not a real but a "pocket" opposition of the republic's leadership. Fattakhov said they do not distribute all circulation of the 200,000 copies of the "Otechestvo" newspaper among people but rather burn a major part of them. "Otechestvo" is published outside Bashkortostan.

Young Residents Unaware Of Russian Anthem's Words
Some 63 percent of youth questioned in Ufa said they do not know the lyrics of the Russian national anthem, while a half even did not know that such lyrics exist at all, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 27 February. Forty percent think the words of the anthem should be taught in primary schools.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova