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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 22, 2002

22 April 2002
Legislature Passes Constitution In Third Reading...
The Tatarstan State Council passed a new version of the republic's constitution in its third reading on 19 April with 112 votes for and five against, Rosbalt reported the next day. The final version of Tatarstan's fundamental law includes 124 articles, reduced from the 131 it contained following the second reading.

State Council deputies discussed a total of 136 amendments, reported on 19 April. After a heated discussion, an amendment was passed under which the constitution expresses the will of not only Tatarstan's multiethnic people, but of the Tatar people as well. Deputies removed, however, an article defining Tatarstan as a "full-fledged subject of the Russian Federation."

Meanwhile, legislators maintained Article 14, which says that Tatarstan rejects violence and war and that war propaganda is forbidden, despite the fact that the Commission on State Structure, Local Self-Government, and Foreign Relations suggested the article be removed since it interferes with Russia's powers (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18, 19 April 2002).

...As Speaker Clarifies What New Constitution Means
Following the adoption of the republic's constitution on 19 April, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told reporters that parliament simply passed amendments to the current constitution, not a whole new constitution. "We succeeded in maintaining, as much as possible, a number of the republic's positions that were previously outlined and agreed by both sides. This constitution will contribute in the future to the consolidation of Tatarstan's multiethnic people, even if we are criticized for concessions on some issues," Mukhametshin said.

The State Council chairman said he believes the Russian Constitution will also be amended in the near future. In order to this, however, representatives of all the subjects of the Russian Federation will have to meet to discuss issues such as federalism, relations between the center and the regions, and power sharing, Mukhametshin added.

President Comments On Growing Russian Nationalism...
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said that while people were busy looking for nationalists in Russia's republics, the appearance of skinheads in Moscow caught everyone by surprise, reported on 20 April.

Shaimiev said that nationalists are most dangerous to their own nation, since the general attitude toward that nation worsens because of the existence of nationalism. He pointed out that, "In Tatarstan, we were able to create a situation of interethnic trust, and the Tatar people have been the first to gain from this."

For this reason, Tatars are respected both in Russia and abroad, Shaimiev said. He said Russian nationalism is the most dangerous, since Russia is a multiethnic state and a change in the attitude of other peoples toward Russians would be especially painful here. "We in Tatarstan are ready to reject in the most decisive way any displays of nationalism from any direction," he said.

...As Skinheads Raid Tatar School In Moscow
A group of 10-15 stick-wielding skinheads showed up at Moscow's Tatar Ethnic Cultural School No. 1186 on 11 April, RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent reported on 18 April. School director Lemma Gilfanova told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service that the teenagers, who were students from a neighboring school, chanted: "Moscow is for Russians," and said Tatars should not be living there.

"I tried to explain to them that Tatars and Russians have always lived together, but they didn't listen to me." When she said that Tatars lived here even before Grand Duke Yurii Dolgorukii [Long Arms] founded Moscow in 1147, they responded by saying they "will shorten the arms of your Dolgorukii."

Gilfanova described the skinheads as having scary eyes and acting like zombies. She called the police who came and spent a long time persuading the skinheads to leave.

After making an appeal to Moscow's Southeastern Raion administration, Gilfanova said Moscow education authorities met with the directors of ethnically based schools to discuss the threat from skinheads. It was also suggested that police provide special protection to those schools on 20-21 April when racist attacks were expected in honor of Hitler's birthday.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

President Denies Calling For Separation Of Kreshens...
The Bashkortostan presidential press service said on 19 April that President Murtaza Rakhimov has always stressed that defining one's ethnic identity is a private matter for each citizen to decide himself, reported the same day. The press service was commenting on's 17 April interview with Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, in which Kirienko said that Rakhimov insists that Kreshens (Christian Tatars) be registered as a separate ethnic group from Tatars in Russia's October census (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 16, 19 April 2002). The president's press service said Rakhimov never said anything of the kind, adding that the careless statements of senior officials could increase tensions in interethnic relations.

...Comments On Putin's Annual Address...
President Rakhimov commented on 20 April on the annual state-of-the-nation address by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 18 April, saying the address "did not disappoint as a whole, though regional problems were hardly mentioned." Rakhimov lauded the fact that Putin "officially confirmed the legitimate nature of treaty-based relations between central authorities and [Russia's] regions" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 April 2002). This proves that a constructive approach to the problems of federalism exists in Russia, Rakhimov said.

...And Delivers His Own Annual Address
President Rakhimov delivered his own annual address to the Bashkortostan State Assembly on 20 April, Bashinform reported the same day, citing the presidential press service. Rakhimov analyzed the republic's political, social, economic, and cultural development the previous year and outlined its prospects for the near future, the agency said.

Supreme Court Chairman Accused Of Embezzlement
At its plenary session on 20 April, the Bashkortostan legislature discussed accusations against the chairman of the Bashkortostan Supreme Court, Marat Vakilov, of embezzlement. Petr Bobylev, chairman of the Bashkortostan State Supervisory Committee, and Ildus Adigamov, chairman of the republic's Constitutional Court, informed deputies that Vakilov obtained several apartments in a dubious manner and that he embezzled some 200,000 rubles ($6,400) that had been allocated for construction work on the court. The parliament appealed to the Bashkortostan Council of Judges, Russian Supreme Court Chairman Vladimir Lebedev, and the High Qualification Board of Judges of Russia to remove Vakilov from his position.

From January to March of this year, the Supervisory Board of the Russian Finance Ministry in Bashkortostan and the Federal Treasury Board conducted an audit of the Bashkortostan Supreme Court's financial activities, which revealed numerous violations, including embezzlement. On 17 April, law-enforcement officials searched the court's offices and removed documents for further work in the investigation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova