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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 17, 2002

17 April 2002
Activist Promotes Role Of International Law In Defending Tatar Rights...
A veteran Tatar Public Center (TIU) activist, Ildus Sadikov, said in a report given at the TIU forum in Kazan on 15 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar/Bashkir Report," 16 April 2002) that the national interests of Tatars, including their right to self-determination, should be defended under international law and by addressing international organizations, such as the European Union and the United Nations, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 16 April.

In the early 1990s, Sadikov established contacts with a number of U.S. congressmen and leaders of the Tatar community in several Western countries. As a result, a number of international observers monitored, and positively assessed, the November 1992 referendum in which the majority of the residents of Tatarstan supported the republic's Sovereignty Declaration and the draft constitution, which stipulated that the republic is, in fact, a sovereign state.

...And Former TIU Leader Comments On Ethnic Policies In Russia...
Aidar Khalim, former chairman of the TIU, told the 15 April forum that Tatarstan State Council deputies have no right to amend the Constitution, which was adopted on the basis of the 1990 Sovereignty Declaration and later approved in a republic-wide referendum, "because we elected these deputies [and] haven't given them permission [to amend the Constitution]."

In his rather heated speech, Khalim said that, "together with Putin's government, an ethnically fascist state has come to Russia.... Tatars now face two types of ethnic fascism: Russian fascism, on the one hand, and Bashkir ethnic fascism, [on the other]." Forum delegates applauded the words of their former leader.

...As Forum Delegates Leave En Masse
Following the first recess at the TIU forum on 15 April, it became clear that many of the forum's participants, who had come from throughout the Russian Federation, lost interest in the event and departed, leaving nearly half the seats at the Galiasker Kama Drama Theater of Kazan empty as the forum resumed, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 16 April. For the second half of the forum, the delegates were moved to the small hall of the theater, which only has 200 seats, compared to the large hall, which has about 700 seats.

This could be explained by the fact that forum organizers did not planned to conduct open deliberations on the package of TIU resolutions (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 April 2002), copies of which had been distributed among TIU members beforehand. Instead, forum delegates were given the opportunity to vote on the package as a whole, which TIU leaders deemed to be most efficient. During previous TIU forums, the delegates often failed to discuss all of the draft resolutions, leaving extra work to be completed following the forum.

Before closing the forum, TIU Chairman Reshit Yagfarov was re-elected to his post. He later told RFE/RL that he was satisfied with the forum's results and added that the Tatar national movement is being revived and is doing more "in the current situation, when the right of Tatars to self-determination is in danger."

Deputy Says Duma Likely To Pass Draft Undermining Script Reform
The Russian State Duma is set to consider a draft amendment to the Law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation, which was proposed by Sergei Shashurin and Salimkhan Akhmetkhanov, both State Duma deputies from Tatarstan, Tatar-inform agency reported on 16 April. The amendment seeks to force national republics to use only Cyrillic script for their state languages.

Tatar-inform quoted another Duma deputy from Tatarstan, Fandas Safiullin, as saying that the Russian presidential administration "ordered the centrist factions in the State Duma to pass the draft in its first reading and to freeze it for an indefinite period, because of [the draft's] obvious absurdity."

Opposed to this draft, Safiullin had previously proposed his own amendment to the language law, stipulating the right of republics to use any script of their choice for their native languages.

Speaking to Tatar-inform, Safiullin said that if the Shashurin-Akhmetkhanov amendment passed in the first reading, it would serve as another "menacing warning to Tatarstan, which has been preparing for the transition of the Tatar language to Latin script" since 1997.

Tatarstan Police Officers Sent To Chechnya
One hundred police officers from Tatarstan were sent on 16 April to Stanitsa Grebenskaya in the Shelkovskoi region of Chechnya to serve a six-month term, "Vechernaya Kazan" daily reported today. According to the report, Russia's Interior Ministry will pay each police officer 200 rubles ($6.45) per day of service in the breakaway republic and, in addition, the Tatarstan government pledged to add a monthly wage of 4,000 rubles ($129) from its budget.

The average monthly salary of a police officer in Tatarstan is estimated to be 1,500-2,000 rubles ($48-$65).

"Vechernaya Kazan" also quoted several military doctors, who spoke under condition of anonymity, saying that the maximum term during which a person can remain healthy in combat conditions is three months, and after that, an individual's psychological defenses stop functioning, eliminating the fear of death.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Conference Focuses On Division Of Powers Between Moscow, Ufa
A conference called "The Future of Federalism in Russia: Russia and the Republic of Bashkortostan" began in Ufa on 16 April, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Organized within the framework of preparations for the third World Bashkir Congress, delegates at the conference included Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, State Council deputies, political-science experts, and Vladimir Zorin, the federal cabinet minister who oversees questions of nationalities policy, as well as members of the Russian Federation Council. In his opening speech, Bashkortostan parliamentary speaker Konstantin Tolkachev said that "federalism remained a topical issue for Russia." Tolkachev also said that the federal government has yet to outline the measures that the Bashkortostan government is to undertake in this area. He also asked rhetorically, "Why Moscow doesn't want to understand that the republic is eager to take on some responsibilities?"

Media Coverage Of Upcoming Census One-Sided
All of Bashkortostan's media, which are overwhelmingly state-owned, have, in their coverage of preparations for the October census, been promoting the need to register as many Bashkirs as possible, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 15 April. Reportedly, not a single media outlet has published any reports devoted to the more than 1 million ethnic Tatars living in the republic. As a result, the Bashkortostan branch of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) has begun distributing copies of publications from Tatarstan's press. One item of note appeared in the March 2002 issue of "Idel" magazine, which focused on members of the Tatar community in Bashkortostan. This issue of the magazine published an interview with ethnology professor Damir Iskhakov, who was quoted as saying that Tatarstan "now faces two alternatives, either to defend the interests of the Tatar nation [in Bashkortostan] or to ignore the situation of Tatars rights there and join forces with Bashkortostan in opposing pressure [on ethnic republics] from Moscow.

Bashkortostan Kreshens Consider Themselves Separate Ethnic Group
Yevgenii Artemev, leader of the Kreshens (baptized Christian Tatars) of Bashkortostan, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 15 April, "it's hard to say that we are a separate nation from Tatars but we really are.... Kreshens are not just forcibly baptized Tatars, but also baptized Bashkir, Chuvash, and other peoples, as well as those who willingly adopted Christianity." Artemev said the opportunity for Kreshens to register as a separate ethnic group in the October census (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 March, 15 April 2002) is a chance for the "rehabilitation of the Kreshen people." He also admitted that the Kreshens of Bashkortostan could possibly gather for a forum before the census. Although official population statistics say that 12,000 baptized Tatars live in Bashkortostan, Artemev claimed that there were 30,000 Kreshens in the republic.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi