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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 28, 2002

28 March 2002
Parliamentary Speaker Says New Constitution To Be Thoroughly Scrutinized
State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin told Tatarstan state radio on 28 March that the majority of work in considering the amendments offered to the new draft constitution is still to be done, "because deputies will discuss each amendment proposed" as a result of public discussions. Mukhametshin added that while the federal government demands that former constitutional provisions allowing Tatarstan to take part in international relations be abolished, republican legislators will work to preserve them by rephrasing the articles challenged by Moscow. For example, in the case of "international relations" joined by Tatarstan, this term will be converted into "international ties." The parliamentary speaker emphasized that "there are some imperfect articles in our first constitution, adopted as the transition period began, but it is the federal authorities who unfortunately demand the urgent revision of the entire document." He added: "Unlike Kalmykia Republic, we won't bring our constitution into full conformity with federal laws during a two hour-long parliamentary session." Tatarstan's State Council is to consider the draft constitution and the proposed amendments for passage in its second reading on 29 March.

Trade Unions, Other Groups Seek Right Of Legislative Initiative
Tatyana Vodopyanova, chairwoman of the Tatarstan Trade Union Federation, on 27 March proposed that the State Council consider a constitutional amendment enabling trade unions to propose draft laws. The latest edit approved by the presidential Constitutional Commission and passed by legislators in a first reading on 28 February did not preserve that right, which was included in the first Tatarstan constitution. If the amendment is passed in the 29 March State Council session, it will join a list of contradictions between the federal and Tatarstan constitutions and may leave room for protest by federal prosecutors in the future. Aside from trade unions, two other public institutions -- the Women of Tatarstan organization and the World Tatars Congress -- have appealed to deputies for the power of legislative initiative.

President Returns From Sweden
President Mintimer Shaimiev spent the final day of his visit to Sweden on 27 March in the province of Scone, which maintains agricultural, pharmaceutical, and construction industries, similar to the Tatarstan Republic. The same day, the president, accompanied by Scone Governor Persi Lidkholm and the Swedish prime minister's spouse, Anike Persson, joined a presentation of the Tatarstan Republic organized by its Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation. According to the presidential press service, Swedish media and state officials expressed great interest in Tatarstan's economic potential during the entire visit.

Dulkin FM Radio To Be Replaced By New Station
The Tatar-language Dulkyn FM radio station of Kazan lost a bid for its frequency held by the Russian Media Ministry on 27 March, RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported. The station, which attracted the interest of Tatars living around the world by maintaining 24-hour re-broadcasts via the Internet, previously failed to pay the ministry million rubles ($32,000) to prolong its license. A newly TVT radio representing the influential Tatar-American Investments and Finance (TAIF) group won the bidding, pledging to preserve Dulkin's audience by offering listeners a wide range of entertainment and news programs in both Tatar and Russian languages.

Tatar Theater Bids Farewell To Marsel Salimjan
The chief stage director of the Galiasker Kamal Drama Theater in Kazan and a winner of Tatarstan and Russian prizes for his contribution to the arts, Marsel Salimjan was pronounced dead in Moscow's Botkin Clinic on 26 March. His death marks the loss of one of the republic's most outstanding stage directors -- valued for his talent in staging varios genres including comedy, drama, and tragedy. The official memorial ceremony is to be held on 28 March.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

President Touts Recipe For Preventing Religious Extremism...
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 23 March that fighting poverty and resolving social problems are the main ways to prevent the spread of religious extremism and interfaith conflict. Rakhimov said "a center for concord" will be constructed in Ufa to unite representatives of all Russia's traditional faiths. Rakhimov stressed that terrorism should be deprived of financial gears, adding the Russia's special services do not have all the necessary means to wage a financial war against international terrorism. He said the law on fighting terrorism should be properly amended.

In other comments, Rakhimov said the World Bank called the Republic of Bashkortostan a favorable entity for investment and included it in a project called "A Corruption-Free Island" it is developing in Russia.

...And Reportedly Expresses Disapproval To Court
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 27 March quoted an unnamed source saying President Rakhimov has met with Bashkortostan Supreme Court justices to rebuke them for a verdict they recently passed annulling numerous paragraphs in the republican constitution to harmonize it with Russian law.

Meanwhile, members of the Bashkortostan State Assembly commission due to study the issue weighed in against the court's ruling, arguing that it contradicts federal legislation. Commission members argued the verdict violates constitutional principles permitting republics to have their own constitutions and laws, specifying republics' status, granting them responsibility for exclusive powers, and the possibility of adopting legislation to regulate such powers.

Official Calls On Moscow To Defend Minorities' Interests
The head of the presidential administration's civic and political development department, Emir Yuldashbaev, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service on 27 March that the controversy between Moscow and Ufa concerning the republican constitution is a battle of intellect rather than of force. Yuldashbaev said federal authorities trying to preserve Russian integrity often do not realize all the consequences of overly drastic efforts. He stressed that if those efforts result in the disappearance of any ethnic minorities, forces from outside Russia might use the defense of such peoples "to promote their strategic interests." Moscow itself should the strongest promoter of minorities' interests.

Communist Leader Satisfied With Court Position On Constitution
The Dumas National Affairs Committee head and the leader of Bashkortostan's Communists, Valentin Nikitin, praised the verdict by Bashkortostan's Supreme Court annulling clauses of the republic's constitution at a meeting with Russian and Tatar public leaders in Ufa, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 27 March. Nikitin expressed his belief that in the near future all local laws will be brought into line with federal legislation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova