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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 18, 2002

18 April 2002
Draft Constitution Returned To Second Reading
Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told the parliament presidium on 17 April that the legislature will have to return to the second reading of the draft constitution of the republic at its 19 April session, reported on 17 April. During the session, legislators will discuss substantive amendments to 39 articles of the draft document. Mukhametshin said the amendments were proposed as a response to critical comments by Tatarstan's chief prosecutor, Kafil Amirov.

On 16 April, the State Council Commission on Issues of State Structure, Local Self-Government, and Foreign Relations backed 128 amendments proposed by lawyers from the presidential and State Council legal boards and by republican prosecutors. In particular, commission members supported an amendment to the preamble of the draft constitution that says the constitution expresses the will of not only the multinational people of the republic but of the Tatar people as well.

One amendment suggested that the phrase "Tatarstan is a full-fledged subject of the federation" has no legal meaning. If accepted by parliament, Tatarstan's status will be reduced to that of an "ordinary" federation subject, commented on 17 April.

The commission also recommended the removal of an article saying that Tatarstan rejects violence and war as a means for resolving disputes between states and peoples and that war propaganda is forbidden. The Russian Supreme Court annulled a similar provision in the current Tatarstan Constitution.

Rumors Continue To Circulate About Dismissal Of KamAZ General Director reported on 17 April, citing unidentified sources, that the rumors about the dismissal of Ivan Kostin, the general director of the KamAZ automobile concern, could become a reality. According to the report, the dismissal of Kostin was discussed during a visit of Russian Industry, Science, and Technology Ministry Ilya Klebanov to Kazan on 12 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 April 2002). During his visit, Klebanov said that, "new paths must be found for more dynamic development" of the company.

Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev has also been critical of Kostin's work recently, in particular, for his inability to increase production of the Oka-model car. Other reasons for Kostin's possible dismissal include the dissatisfaction of KamAZ board members with the implementation of the company's 2001 business plan and the tempo of reforms at the company.

Kostin's contract expired in March, and, as reported, the company has not been hurrying to conclude a new one with him.

As a possible replacement for Kostin, the report names Tatarstan's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Industry Sergei Kogogin. If given the nod to take over at KamAZ, Kogogin's current portfolio could be passed to First Deputy Prime Ministry Ravil Muratov, who now oversees small business in the republic, the agency said.

Tatarstan Minister Backs Russia's WTO Bid
Tatarstan's minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation, Khafiz Salikhov, said on 16 April that Russia's entering the World Trade Organization will have more advantages than drawbacks, reported the same day. Tatarstan currently has trade relations with more than 100 countries, and exports total about 30 percent of its gross regional product.

Salikhov said domestic manufacturers need state support, which is currently provided "only on a symbolic or moral level." He stressed that some 153 restrictive trade sanctions are in force against Russia, as a result of which the country loses some $2 billion a year. Joining the WTO could possibly result in the removal of a number of those sanctions.

Tatarstan, Moscow Oblast Sign Cooperation Agreement
A delegation from Tatarstan headed by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov was in the Moscow Oblast on 17 April, where a cooperation protocol was signed with the oblast, reported the same day, quoting Aleksei Panteleev, the first deputy chairman of the Moscow Oblast government.

The sides agreed to open three or four KamAZ service centers in the Moscow Oblast and to establish a joint transport venture using KamAZ trucks.

Panteleev said Tatarstan's experience in urban development will be put to good use in the Moscow Oblast. He said a delegation from the oblast plans to visit Tatarstan in mid-May to sign a long-term cooperation agreement.

Study: Tatars More Tolerant Than Russians
Speaking at a roundtable on Islamic movements in Russia held in Nizhnii Novgorod on 16 April, Zinaida Sikevich, a sociology professor from St. Petersburg State University, presented the results of a survey among St. Petersburg Tatars, according to which Tatars are more tolerant toward Russians than Russians are toward Muslims, Rosbalt reported the same day.

According to the report, Tatars have a much stronger ethnic identity in comparison to their religious identity. Sikevich also said that a "sense of great-power status" is the main consolidating factor among ethnic Russians, while representatives of other peoples consider their history, language, culture, and traditions to be principal uniting factors.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Federal Official Downplays Role Of Federation Treaty...
Aleksandr Kazakov, the chairman of Russia's Federation Council Regional-Policy Committee, took part in a conference titled "The Future of Federalism in Russia: Russia and the Republic of Bashkortostan" in Ufa on 16-17 April. On the second day of the conference, Kazakov told reporters that the Federation Treaty, which Moscow and all subjects of the Russian Federation, excluding Tatarstan and Chechnya, signed in the early 1990s, "became a platform uniting the Russian Federation, which was fraying, and saved it from the fate of the USSR," RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Kazakov emphasized that, "nowadays, the issue regarding this treaty is closed. As a document, it was included in the Russian Constitution and [thus] lost its independent value." He added that the perspectives for the development of federalism in Russia are "now connected with improving our fundamental law."

...And Promotes Mergers Of Existing Regions
At the 17 April federalism conference, Kazakov also said that, "the enormous economic gap remaining between the Russian Federation's entities doesn't allow us to talk about their actual equal rights," RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. Kazakov added that, "formally declared equality, which is not backed by economic resources, doesn't allow [that equality] to be realized. Even given an average annual economic growth of 6 percent, it will take many of the subsidy-dependent regions 80 more years to catch up to average economic level in Russia."

Kazakov proposed mergers among groups of Russia's regions as "one efficient measure" for equalizing the economic development in different regions.

World Tatar Congress Leader Comes To Ufa
Professor Indus Tahirov, head of the World Tatar Congress and a member of the Tatarstan State Council Committee on Culture, Education, and Ethnic Issues, visited Ufa on 16-17 April to take part in the Russia-Bashkortostan federalism conference and to meet with the leaders of the Tatar-rights movement in the republic, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 17 April.

Commenting on the upcoming national census in October, Tahirov said, "it's no secret that Russia nowadays is aiming at putting an end to nationalities and ethnic republics.... During my meeting with World Bashkir Congress leader Niyaz Majitov, I told him that the census is just a campaign and [that Tatars and Bashkirs] will have to live following it; it is essential that we can look into each other's eyes when it is over."

Referring to frequent complaints from Tatar organizations that Tatarstan leaders are ignoring their problems, Tahirov replied: "This is not right. They are doing their jobs...and you can't blame them for ignoring you just because they don't shout it out on the street. They know your problems."

Muslim Leader Speaks Out About Census, Changes In Russia
The chairman of the Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board, Talgat Tajuddin, urged Muslims of Russia on 16 April to "take a very active part in the upcoming national census from 9 to 16 October 2002," Bashinform reported the same day. He added that the census "had enormous importance" for the lives of believers. Tajuddin said, "everyone has a duty to his family, society, and the fatherland. The census is essential to find out how many people live in our country: how many men, how many women, and of what age."

He praised the changes that have taken place in Russia since the last census in 1989 and said: "one cannot complain about these change. It's our destiny to live in a transition period. Our troubles cannot be compared with those suffered by people in times of [Russia's] civil war or the Great Patriotic War [World War II]. That's why we should patiently endure everything and contribute to the moral revival of our fatherland and its coming prosperity."

World Bashkir Congress Hits Fundraising Trail
A fundraising effort for the second World Bashkir Congress has collected as much as 316,000 rubles ($10,193) during the last two weeks, Bashkortostan state radio reported on 17 April. The fund has reportedly been receiving new funds every day, especially since Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov personally promoted the campaign by donating his March salary to the fund on 9 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 April 2002). Since the president's donation, Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov and deputy prime ministers Nikolai Sigakov and Engels Kulmukhametov have followed suit by donating 1,000 rubles ($32) each to the fund.

Several government ministries have also helped out with fundraising, with the Construction Ministry chipping in some 13,000 rubles ($419), while the Ministry of Property Relations and the Ministry of Culture and National Policies have raised 11,500 ($370) each. The presidential staff managed to collect 39,000 rubles ($1,258) and Nikolai Kurapov, the general director of the Bashkirenergo, personally donated 5,000 rubles ($161) in support of the congress.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi