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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 13, 2002

13 May 2002
Amended Tatarstan Constitution Comes Into Force
Tatarstan's amended constitution entered into legal force on 11 May, 10 days after President Mintimer Shaimiev signed it into law, reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29, 30 April, 2 May 2002). Shaimiev told the news agency he believes the constitution meets the interests of the republic's multinational people. Concepts such as "sovereignty," "treaty," and "two state languages" reflect the ideology of the citizens of Tatarstan, he stressed.

At the same time, Shaimiev argued against radical nationalists who claim that, with the amended constitution, Tatarstan has lost its bargaining position against the central authorities.

Shaimiev said, however, that Tatarstan's position within the Russian Federation has now been fixed constitutionally.

State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said the adopted constitutional amendments will unlikely be the final ones since the transition period in the Russian Federation has not yet finished. He said he believes the federal constitution will soon also be amended and all the federation subjects will have to revise again the issues of federalism, relations with Moscow, and power sharing. And those issues cannot be resolved in a unilateral way, Mukhametshin stressed.

Presidential Standard Hoisted In Kazan Kremlin
The Tatarstan presidential standard was hoisted on the presidential residence in the Kazan Kremlin on 12 May, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The decree on the presidential standard came into force immediately after President Shaimiev signed a corresponding decree on 11 May. According to the decree, the original standard is to be kept in the president's office until a copy of it is placed on top of his residence.

The flag features three stripes -- green, white, and red, like the state flag of Tatarstan -- with the republic's state emblem in the middle. The name of the republic's president and the dates of his tenure of office are engraved on a gilded clamp fastened to the flagstaff.

Siberian Tatars Seek New Status
The majority of guests on the talk show "Siberian Tatars: Who Are We?" on Region-Tyumen television supported the idea of registering as Siberian Tatars, not simply as Tatars, in Russia's October census, in order to obtain the status of an indigenous people, reported on 11 May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 May 2002).

The show's guests included Ekhtem Qayumov, public adviser to the Tyumen Oblast governor, Feizulla Kamalov; Fatyikh Sharipov, professor at Tyumen Construction Academy and chairman of the Tatar National Cultural Autonomy of the Tyumen Oblast; Khenise Alishina, professor at Tyumen State University; and Enes Gaetov, chairman of the Milli Mejlis (National Parliament) in Siberia -- all Siberian Tatars -- as well as Fatyikh Nizamov, a representative of the Volga-Ural, or Kazan Tatars, and a professor at the Tyumen Medical Academy.

The guests said they believe the move will help them elect their representatives to the local parliament and become owners of the land, which is the heritage of their ancestors.

At the same time, Qayumov expressed anxiety about attempts to divide Tatars into several ethnic groups in the upcoming census, a policy that aims to weaken Tatars, he said.

Guests also said they do not intend to separate from local Volga-Ural Tatars with whom they have lived together for centuries.

The news agency also said, however, that the fate of the Tatar language in the region is undecided. The show's guests could not say for certain whether it will continue to be used in educational institutions or whether it will be replaced by Siberian Tatar.

Temples Under Construction In Chally
The foundations of the new temple of St. Georgii Pobedonosets have been laid in Chally, reported on 11 May. The temple will also house a rehabilitation center for war veterans.

The future head of the temple, Father Innokentii, told the news agency that the rehabilitation center will accept all people regardless of their faith.

Three existing Russian Orthodox churches in Chally suffer from overcrowding during services and holidays, the agency said. One more church, a temple of St. Seraphim Sarovskii, is also under construction.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

More Information Comes To Light About Arrested Scientists
Two chemists arrested by Bashkortostan police on 5 April for the illegal production of explosives and psychotropic substances may have actually discovered a powerful new explosive, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 12 May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Report," 10 May 2002). Oleg Kuznetsov and Iskender Teregulov, senior researchers at the Ufa Scientific Center's Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences, were arrested after 24 kilograms of explosives and 1 kilogram of a psychotropic substance, which had previously been reported to be psychotron, as well as several tens of thousands of U.S. dollars, were found during a search of their laboratory.

ITAR-TASS's Bashkortostan correspondent cited experts as saying the explosive that was discovered is 10 times more powerful than plastic explosives and said it is unclear what the researchers deserve: to be imprisoned or to be granted the Noble Prize.

RFE/RL cited the head of the Ufa police's Criminal Investigation Department, Vitalii Martynov, as saying that consuming a milligram of the psychotropic substance would force anyone to answer truthfully to any question asked.

Bashkortostan's Tatar Leaders Discuss Pre-Census Campaign
The coordination council of Bashkortostan's Tatar national organizations discussed preparations for the October Russian census at a recent meeting, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 10 May. Participants reported increasing aggressiveness of Bashkir civic leaders and organizations toward Tatars in the republic. They also claimed Bashkir-language newspapers and magazines are campaigning against Tatars by claiming that areas populated by Tatars are actually Bashkir areas. In particular, reports were cited that claim the Baltach Raion is 90 percent Bashkir, whereas the population has always been at least 80 percent Tatar, the Tatar leaders claim.

During the meeting, Tatar leaders stressed the necessity of starting a counterpropaganda campaign among Tatars, especially in Tatar-populated rural areas and villages. Participants stressed that the republic's Tatar-language media outlets are unable to contribute to this work since they are financed by the Bashkortostan government and are prohibited from issuing publications promoting the interests of Tatars. The possibility of printing special leaflets to distribute among Tatars was discussed as an alternative.

Bashkir Historian Accuses Tatars Of Genocide
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 10 May that the republic's Bashkir population continues to use state-owned, Bashkir-language media outlets to spread anti-Tatar propaganda. As an example, "Bashkortostan" daily published on 10 May an article by historian Marat Kulsharipov titled "Tragic Demography," in which he claimed the low number of Bashkirs and their slow growth rate, as well as the high degree of the assimilation of Bashkirs by Tatars, are the result of the evil intent of Tatars. Kulsharipov said that, "In the 1920s, Bashkirs living in Bashkortostan's western and northwestern regions, and especially those living in Tatarstan, were assimilated [by Tatars]. It is obvious that western Bashkirs' becoming Tatars is a result of a policy of genocide against Bashkirs." The correspondent said that previously, Tatars had never been accused of genocide against Bashkirs in Bashkortostan's official press.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova