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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 6, 2002

6 May 2002
State Council Official Says Some Articles Of Amended Constitution Are Progress Comparing To Previous One...
In an interview published in "Medeni jomga" weekly on 3 May, Razil Valiev, the head of the State Council Commission on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues, said he is enthusiastic about Article 13 of the amended Tatarstan Constitution, which states that Tatarstan helps Tatars living outside Tatarstan develop national culture and language and preserve their identity. VAliyev said that article, which was not even in the previous version of the constitution, was passed despite it causing sharp controversies. He said it provides legal grounds for distributing quotas for Tatars living outside the republic to enter Tatarstan's higher educational institutions.

VAliyev said Tatarstan maintained provisions concerning restricted sovereignty and republican citizenship in spite of the fact that Moscow warned against this and the State Duma adopted a law saying that federation subjects cannot have their own citizenship.

...And Says Russia Can Survive Only As Confederation
Answering a question on whether Russia's disintegration is possible, VAliyev said the state cannot be maintained only by force, adding that in the case that non-Russian peoples are not given freedom, Russia's future will be in doubt. VAliyev said nationalities were given some degree of freedom during Boris Yeltsin's rule, but then Vladimir Putin's strong hand began gathering Russia to prevent its disintegration. VAliyev said not a single document aimed at secession from Russia was ever adopted in Tatarstan, and this is impossible, as Tatarstan cannot leave Tatars living in Bashkortostan or in the Chelyabinsk Oblast. He said Russia could survive only through becoming a confederation and Tatarstan, due to its efforts on maintaining its constitution and sovereignty, contributes to this.

Enlistment Officials Criticize Press For Promoting Alternative Civil Service
Some 2,000 draftees are skipping military service, some half the number of those being called up during each campaign, RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent reported on 3 May citing the republic's enlistment officials. In 2001, 38 young men were convicted of evading military service. This year, enlistment offices have registered so far only half of the 26,000 draftees due to be registered. In 2001, there were 734 drug addicts and 171 HIV-infected among those called up for military service. Tatarstan Military Commissioner Rim Mustaev criticized journalists who, he said, do not pay attention to the patriotic education of the youth but rather discuss ways of avoiding military service or alternative civil service.

Chingis Khan Memorial To Be Erected In Mongolia
The first stone was laid to the foundation of the Chingis Khan memorial in Mongolia's capital Ulan-Bator on 3 May, the "Respublika Tatarstan" daily reported the next day. The event marked the 840th birthday of the founder of the Tatar-Mongol state Golden Horde. The memorial will include a 20-meter-high monument to Chingis Khan encircled with monuments of his nine military commanders and seven jurts. The memorial will cost $19 million.

Tatarstan's Communists Promote Tatars' Integrity
Tatarstan's Communists during their 1 May meeting appealed to all Tatars living in Russia, saying that Moscow is preparing a provocation against Tatars, who are the second largest nationality in Russia, in order to divide them into several ethnic groups, RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent reported on 3 May. They said Tatars in Bashkortostan are in especially hard conditions as local leadership is committing genocide of Tatars. Bashkirization of Tatars, long under way in the republic, is being promoted more actively before the October 2002 Russian census. Bashkortostan's radio, television, and press claim that Tatars living in the western raions of the republic are Bashkirs. Propaganda tries to prove that the majority of the population are Bashkirs even in raions in which there is not a single Bashkir village.

Municipal Services Prices Up
The Kazan city administration reported that prices of municipal services will be raised by 5 to 30 percent beginning in May, RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent reported on 3 May.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Harmonization Commission To Be Formed To Deal With Legal Controversies Between Moscow, Ufa
At a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 29 April, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov informed him about agricultural works, the situation with payment of salaries, activities of law enforcement bodies and educational and health care institutions, as well as call-up to military service, the Bashkir presidential press service reported on 1 May. The two men discussed the development of the oil-production, oil-processing, and petrochemical sectors, interbudget relations, and financing the four-year program of the social and economic development of Bashkortostan.

Rakhimov informed the Russian president that according to the latter's 20 May 2000 letter to the Bashkortostan State Assembly, a majority of the republic's legislation was in harmony with federal law. However, Rakhimov said, numerous federal laws are also to be amended and changed as they contradict the Russian Constitution. The Bashkir president said treaty-based relations between Bashkortostan and Russia have a multicentury history and constitute a fundamental principle of republic's ideology.

The Russian president charged Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration, with overseeing issues of harmonizing Bashkortostan's legislation. It was noted that the process should be held in strict line with Article 85 of the Russian Constitution that provides for the possibility of forming harmonization commissions in such cases. Thus, it was agreed to establish a bilateral commission that may propose adoption of additional protocol to the existing power-sharing treaty. A special constitutional harmonization committee will also be formed to deal with harmonization of the Bashkir Constitution that will likely finish by the fall, the presidential press service said.

Journalists, Residents Less Optimistic Than Authorities About Freedom Of Press in Bashkortostan
Minister of Information and Press Zufar Timerbulatov held a news conference with representatives of outlets published by nonprofit organizations devoted to the day of press freedom, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 3 May. Publications issued by nonprofit organizations, which amount to some 3,000 in the republic, are addressed to the needy part of the population. The correspondent cited participants in the conference as saying that it was held only "for appearances." Timerbulatov said good conditions were provided for freedom of the press in the past years in Bashkortostan, adding that journalists in the republic can express their opinion without fear. However, his statements caused skeptical smiles from journalists in attendance.

A majority of Ufa residents, both young and old, questioned by the correspondent on 3 May in a city recreation area said there is no freedom of speech in Bashkortostan. Many of the respondents said almost all mass media in the republic are financed by the authorities and they try to suit their sponsors. People referred to a campaign launched recently in the republican state-controlled mass media against the head of the Bashkortostan Supreme Court, Marat Vakilov. Our correspondent said respondents spoke fearfully and refused to have their voices recorded.

One Of Russian Taliban Fighters Worked In Interior Bodies
One of the Russian citizens who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan and is being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, who gave his name as Almaz Sharipov, turned out to be Shamil Khazhiev, resident of Bashkortostan's city of Uchaly, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 2 May. Khazhiev was born in Uzbekistan in 1971. When he served in the army, his military unit in Tolyatti bestowed a letter of thanks upon his parents. After he returned from the army, Khazhiev studied at a college of commerce from which he graduated with a "red diploma." In 1995-97, he worked in the anti-economic crimes department at the Uchaly interior bodies and graduated with excellent marks from the Interior Ministry's school in Ufa. In 1997, he left his work in the police and moved to Chelyabinsk, where later he became interested in Islam. In 1998, he left for Chechnya where he fought under the command of Shamil Basaev. In 2000, he flew by helicopter to Afghanistan. In early April 2002, Khazhiev sent a letter to his mother and two elder sisters from the United States.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova