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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 12, 2002

12 April 2002
President Says Constitution Won't Face Major Changes
In an interview with Interfax on 11 April, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said he believes the Tatarstan Constitution will conform to a united legal and constitutional order in the Russian Federation following the current amendment process. Shaimiev said all amendments of principle were passed by legislators during a second reading.

The president said the draft version maintains a provision according to which the republic remains sovereign within the frameworks of its "exclusive powers," however. He predicted that this provision will meet with scrutiny by the federal judiciary. Nevertheless, he argued that he does not see any contradiction between that principle and the Russian Constitution, since the latter's Article 5 recognizes republics within the Russian Federation to be states. The Russian Constitution also includes the concept of "sovereign republics within the Russian Federation," Shaimiev stressed.

Shaimiev again rejected challenges asserting that the requirement for presidential candidates in Tatarstan to speak both state languages, Tatar and Russian, is a violation of human rights. He said that, on the contrary, the condition prevents a violation of the rights of millions of voters who speak the titular language of their republic.

The Tatarstan president also said the issue of republican citizenship remains controversial. He said the current federal Law on Citizenship recognizes citizenship within national republics, while a draft of a new law currently under discussion in the State Duma leaves room for doubt. If republics are recognized states in the Russian Constitution, he said, then they are entitled to provide citizenship. He suggested that the new law on citizenship allow for both federal and republican legal acts to regulate the issue.

Commenting on the issue of power-sharing treaties between Moscow and federation entities, Shaimiev referred to Article 11 of the Russian Constitution, which he said provides for such treaties. "Having maintained a principle of treaty-based relations in the constitution, we in no way violated the Russian basic law," he said.

Tatarstan Official Criticizes Putin Approach To Federation Issue
Rafail Khakimov, an adviser on political issues to Tatarstan's president, told a Tatar-American seminar on federative and interethnic relations in Kazan that any discussion of federative issues stopped after Vladimir Putin became president, "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 11 April. He accused federal political elites of behaving as if Russia were an ethnically homogeneous state. Khakimov's was speaking at a 4-5 April seminar under the auspices of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. Khakimov said Putin's policy has led to negative results, such wage arrears of as long as three months, a parallel authority structure, and growing bureaucracy and bureaucratic incompetence. Khakimov asserted that centralization of management bodies, financial structures, and the judicial system has not led to any improvement. The only body that is developing successfully is the Federal Security Service (FSB), Khakimov said. Foreign policy is chaotic, the health-care and education sectors are neglected, and the reform of municipal services has been unsuccessful, he charged. The Chechen problem cannot be resolved through military actions, he said, but a political solution is not even being considered. The establishment of federal districts was a political mistake, Khakimov added. A draft amendment to the federal Law on Languages aimed at prohibiting the introduction of Latin-script Tatar, which is coming up for discussion by the State Duma, contradicts to the Russian Constitution, he said -- but we are sure that the Russian Constitutional Court will not even hear on our challenge, Khakimov predicted.

Tatarstan Environment Group Protests Construction Of Bashkir Nuclear Station
Tatarstan's Antinuclear Society appealed to the people and governments of the Volga-Ural Region to prevent a planned rise in the water level of the Tuben Kama water reservoir and construction of the Bashkir Nuclear Station, reported on 10 April. The authors said raising the water level will provide little additional energy. The group cited a Russian government resolution issued on 29 December under which the federal government plans to construct a number of nuclear power facilities throughout Russia, including a four-blocks Tatar Nuclear Power Station, aside from the three blocks of the Bashkir Nuclear Station.

Chally Resident Files Legal Complaint Against Tatarstan Parliament
Chally resident Tauzikh Gilmanov on 5 April appealed to the Tatarstan Supreme Court in a challenge to the republican State Council, "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 11 April. Gilmanov believes the legislature exceeded its authority in amending the Tatarstan Constitution. He has cited an article of the republic's law on referendums which he says provides that "changing and annulling a decision adopted in a referendum can be done only through another referendum." Specifically, Gilmanov stressed that the State Council was not empowered to change Tatarstan's legal status.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan TPC Calls For Tatar Unity In Census
Following its congress in Ufa on 6 April, Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center (TPC) appealed to the republic's Tatar population, claiming that the Bashkortostan media had begun a large-scale campaign to destroy the integrity of the Tatar people, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 10 April. The appeal claimed that the press was trying to divide ethnic groups among the Tatar population in order to strengthen the Bashkir population of the republic. By convincing a sufficient number of Tatars to claim a different nationality in the upcoming republic census, the Bashkir population could thus overtake the Tatar population, becoming the second-most-populous ethnic group in the republic, behind Russians.

The appeal calls on Tatars to report their ethnic identity properly in the upcoming census and to do so with a pen, not a pencil, in order to prevent falsification.

Scholar Concerned About Weakness Of Bashkir Self-Identity
Damir Valiev, a professor of philosophy, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 9 April that Bashkirs have a low sense of ethnic self-identity, which is why only 74 percent of Bashkortostan's Bashkirs consider Bashkir their native language. In Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, and Kurgan oblasts, however, this rate is higher, he said.

VAliyev criticized the absence of a state program on nationalities in the republic. He pointed out that the Bashkir World Congress (BWC) adopted a draft program for such a purpose, but Bashkortostan state bodies did not accept it. Thus, national policy in the republic has no clear strategy and overlooks the issue of the Bashkir nation, VAliyev said.

VAliyev asserted that the identity of the Bashkir nation will be a central issue in the development of a national policy. He expressed doubt, however, that the second Bashkir World Congress in June will be able to contribute to the development of Bashkir self-identity, since the selection of delegates took place from above, while activists from the Bashkir national movement have been refused attendance.

VAliyev said that even the nomination of Ravil Bikbaev, the chairman of Bashkortostan's Writers Union and the bearer of the honorary title of people's writer of Bashkortostan, was refused. BWC leaders suggested that he be elected from Orenburg Oblast, where he was born. Meanwhile, numerous bureaucrats, including all of the heads of Bashkortostan's local administrations, as well as many Russian Federation officials, have been elected as delegates, VAliyev said.

German Reading Room Opened At Ufa National Library
A delegation from the German Embassy in Moscow took part in the opening ceremony of a German reading room at the Akhmet Zaki Validi Bashkortostan National Library (see "Tatar-Bashkir Report", 9 April 2002), Bashinform agency reported on 10 April. The reading room is the 15th in Russia opened by the Moscow-based Goethe Cultural Center. It is also the third foreign-language reading room at Bashkortostan's National Library, following the American and French rooms. This new room houses roughly 4,000 books in German on German history, culture, and philosophy.

Tamara Pushkareva, Bashkortostan's deputy culture and national policy minister, appealed to the German delegates to help with research on the former leader of the Bashkir national movement, Zaki Validi, who lived in Germany from 1935 to 1939.

Wolfgang Messinger, the deputy head of the Culture Department at the German Embassy in Moscow, promised his support in this project.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova