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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 19, 2002

19 April 2002
Putin Discusses Power-Sharing Treaties In Annual Address...
During his annual state-of-the-nation address to the Russian Federal Assembly in Moscow on 18 April, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "the imprecise character of power sharing between Moscow and the regions is to be eliminated at the legislative level." Putin stressed that local authorities are to develop their own budget resources. He also said that, though the Russian Constitution provides for the possibility of concluding such power-sharing treaties, they give rise to inequality among subjects of the federation, and subsequently, among citizens of the country.

Putin said power-sharing treaties did play a role in a certain period of the development of Russia. Often, however, they were concluded only "on paper," and 28 of 42 such treaties have already been annulled. Putin asserted that such treaties should not be signed "behind backs of other federation subjects, without agreeing [with them] and consulting them." Thus, in future, they are to be confirmed by Russia's Federal Assembly, Putin said.

...As Shaimiev Promotes Special Approach To National-Territorial Entities
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 18 April that a special law should be developed to regulate relations between federal authorities and national-territorial entities within the Russian Federation, reported the same day. Shaimiev was commenting on the statement by President Putin concerning power-sharing treaties between Moscow and federation subjects.

Shaimiev said that any approach that applies the same standards toward very different territories is unacceptable for multinational Russia. The Tatarstan president believes a framework law should be adopted to outline the general principles of such treaties. In accordance with such a law, special attention should be paid to relations with national republics, he said, adding that this is especially urgent "because of the absence of a chamber of nationalities in the system of legislative authority in Russia."

Shaimiev also said many federal bodies have followed a course that has strengthened vertical power in the wrong way, leading to the concentration of power in the hands of the central authorities. Shaimiev stressed that "bureaucratic barriers are growing" and the conditions for those who promote a market economy are getting worse.

Russian Official Dissatisfied With Republic's Draft Constitution
"Zvezda povolzhya" weekly reported on 18 April that the new draft version of the Tatarstan constitution was sent to Moscow following a second reading where it received an "unsatisfactory" evaluation. The weekly quoted unidentified sources as saying that Dmitrii Kozak, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, addressed a letter to Kazan in which he requested the revision of dozens of the draft's articles. The paper made the assumption that the Tatarstan State Council will be forced to pass amendments dictated by Moscow.

A third reading of constitutional amendments is being held today. Some 130 amendments have been proposed for discussion, while the legislature is to return to a second reading for some of them (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 April 2002).

Leader of Tatar World League Defends Tatar Journalist
Ali Aqysh, honorary president of the Tatar World League and a member of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service from 1966 to 1983, said on Radio of Turkey that Muslim journalist Talgat Bariev is being persecuted in Tatarstan, the twice-weekly "Tatarstan yeshlere" reported on 18 April. Aqysh said that Bariev, a pro-democracy activist, has constantly fought against "Moscow's ideological attacks" and has denounced activities that he claims are aimed at the destruction of the Turkic-Islamic world.

Two Kazan journalists from the weekly "Moskovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane" accused Bariev of libel, leveling insults, and rousing international hatred in response to his satirical publication "Polnyi klizmets" in "Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly in December. Though the charges of libel and rousing international hatred have led nowhere, a court case was recently opened on the charges of leveling insults. Bariev could face a fine if convicted.

Kreshen Leaders Call For Separation Of Kreshens
Several Kreshen (Christian Tatars) leaders are again calling for the identification of Kreshens as an ethnic group separate from other Tatars in the October Russian census, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 18 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 16 April 2002).

During a meeting between President Shaimiev and representatives of Tatarstan's Kreshens on 11 April, solutions were found to a significant number of the problems raised by Kreshens. The majority of the Kreshen leaders present then said they will call for the Kreshen community to prevent the division of Tatars. The Kreshen leaders did not, however, state their position on the census publicly, the paper reported.

The weekly also said that the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow plans to pay special attention to the Kreshen situation and to provide support for the separation of Kreshens from Tatars.

Kazan Preparing For Jewish Festival
Some 150 actors, theater troupes, and musical groups from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, and other parts of Russia, as well as from Ukraine and the Baltic states have been selected to take part in the annual Jewish Culture Festival to be held in Kazan from 22-25 April, Tatar-inform reported on 17 April. The festival is organized by Tatarstan's Yurii Pliner Jewish Charity Fund.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Russian Supreme Court To Decide Fate Of Bashkortostan Constitution
The 15 March decision of the Bashkortostan Supreme Court that annulled more than 40 articles of the Bashkortostan Constitution has not entered into legal force, Rosbalt reported on 16 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 March, 15 April 2002). The agency cited court officials as saying that both parties involved in the dispute -- the Bashkortostan Justice Ministry and the State Council, on the one hand, and Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, on the other, � have appealed the decision to the Russian Supreme Court.

The Justice Ministry and the State Council insist that the ordinary courts did not have jurisdiction to judge on the issue of the constitution. Zvyagintsev, on the other hand, argued that the Bashkortostan Supreme Court decision did not satisfy his protests against another 13 articles of the republic�s draft fundamental law.

Among the 40 articles annulled by the court are those that refer to the power-sharing treaty between the republic and the Russian Federation, provisions regarding republican sovereignty and citizenship, and the requirement that presidential candidates speak Bashkir.

Tatarstan To Buy 114 NefAZ Buses
Tatarstan�s Transport and Road-Construction Ministry plans to purchase 114 NefAZ buses produced by Neftekamsk, a Bashkortostan-based subsidiary of Tatarstan's KamAZ automotive concern, Bashinform reported on 18 April. In 2001, the ministry purchased 60 NefAZ vehicles and was satisfied with them, the agency said. The production of the NefAZ buses on KamAZ-produced chassis started in mid-2001 in Neftekamsk and is planned to reach 1,000 buses a year.

Bashtransgaz Gets New General Director
Aleksei Miller, chairman of Russia's natural-gas monopoly Gazprom, appointed Aleksandr Veremeenko as general director of Bashtransgaz on 11 April, Finmarket reported on 15 April. Veremeenko, 54, is the former executive director of Mezhdunarodnyi Promyshlennyi Bank in Bashkortostan; he headed the Ufa branch of the bank prior to his appointment at Bashtransgaz.

In its report earlier this week, Finmarket said that Veremeenko's predecessor, Mukhamatnur Valeev, resigned. Russia's "Nezavisimaya gazeta," however, reported on 19 January that Valeev was relieved of his duties as a result of numerous violations at the company.

Newspaper Claims Ufa Hopes To Register 500,000 Tatars As Bashkirs In Census
The Tatarstan weekly "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 18 April that the situation in the Bashkortostan city of Salavat has worsened following the dismissal of its mayor, ethnic Tatar Asgat Galiev, after he opposed the plan of Bashkortostan authorities to register a large number of Tatars as Bashkirs in the October census (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12, 15, 17 April 2002). Salavat residents then staged a protest and collected 30,000 signatures on a petition backing Galiev.

The weekly cited experts who claimed that the authorities plan to register at least 500,000 Tatars as Bashkirs in the census. As a result, the number of Tatars in Russia could be reduced by as much as 10 percent, the paper reported.

The administration of Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov has allocated a large amount of money to conduct "Bashkirization" in the republic, the paper said, adding that such a campaign would be impossible without the agreement of authorities of the Volga Federal District.

The weekly also wrote that Vladimir Zorin, the Russian minister in charge of nationalities policy, has shown no interest in the issue and that Bashkirization strikes a blow at Tatarstan and weakens both republics.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova