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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 17, 2002

17 June 2002
Prosecutor Challenges Amended Tatarstan Constitution
Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev filed an appeal with the Tatar State Council against the amended Tatar Constitution, which, he claimed, contradicts the Russian Constitution, "Vechernyaya Kazan" daily reported on 15 June. Zvyagintsev said that constitutional provisions on the republic's sovereignty, citizenship, the requirement that the president of the republic speak both Russian and Tatar, and treaty-based relations all violate the federal constitution and need to be harmonized with Russia's fundamental law at the next session of the Tatar legislature.

The paper commented that when Russian President Vladimir Putin recently praised Tatarstan's leadership for amendments made to the constitution, republican politicians hoped that Moscow was taking a new stance on Tatarstan's attempt to maintain "symbols of its sovereign past" in the new text of the constitution. It seems that this is not the case, however, as the next round of harmonization may begin without the blessing of the Kremlin, the paper said.

The paper said, however, that Tatar leaders have neither the will nor the strength to strain relations with Moscow.

Shaimiev Takes Part In World Bashkir Congress
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev headed Tatarstan's delegation at the second World Bashkir Congress in Ufa on 14-15 June, various news agencies reported. In his speech at the forum, Shaimiev said, "Though we now often criticize the Soviet period, it was during this period that Bashkirs obtained their statehood and Tatars restored their lost statehood." Shaimiev said that there have always been forces that have tried to drive a wedge between the two peoples, but they are too closely connected to separate. "We should not be afraid of the proximity of our languages, which signifies unity and a bridge of friendship between two independent peoples," Shaimiev said. He noted that Bashkirs and Tatars can maintain their identities only if they do not infringe upon each other's rights and do not resolve their problems at each other's expense, but, on the contrary, they need to help each other. Shaimiev said that it is important for the peoples and their respective leaders to be united.

Shaimiev said the upcoming October national census is a "very important political issue." He criticized historians who have tried zealously to prove that "their peoples are great." "Historians, both Tatar and Bashkir, like to state that we have been a great people," he said, adding that, "history should not be turned into a fairy tale." Though there are Mishers, Tipters, and Christian Tatars, they are only historical names, he stressed. "If the famous Bashkir poet Mustai Karim and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev are historical Tipters, we are not ashamed of it, as this is the fate [we have inherited from] our ancestors. But today, we are known as [representatives of] the Tatar and Bashkir peoples," Shaimiev said. He said that how one chooses to register in the census is a personal issue for every individual to decide and that any interference in such decisions would be a violation of human rights.

In closing, Shaimiev called on congress participants to preserve the relationship between the two peoples as a legacy for future generations.

Tatneft Signs Contract With China
Tatneft signed a contract with Szechwan oil, a subsidiary of the Chinese National Oil Company, on the delivery and installation of equipment for strengthening oil wells, Shamil Akhmadiev, deputy director of Tatneft's subsidiary in charge of foreign economic relations, told Solid-info on 14 June. Work will be carried out on three wells over a period of four to six months. The technology that will be used was developed by Tatneft and was previously used in Vietnam in 2001 and in Iran this year, as well as by several Russian companies. Akhmadiev said representatives of Szechwan oil also expressed interest in long-term cooperation with Tatneft.

KAPO Manager Denies Media Reports About Airlines' Refusal To Buy Kazan-Produced Aircraft
"Vremya i dengi" on 14 June cited Ildar Mingaleev, deputy general director of the Kazanskoe Aviatsionnoe Proizvodstvennoe Obedinenie KAPO (Kazan Aviation Plant), as denying previous reports by that several Russian airlines have decided not to purchase Kazan-produced Tu-214 aircraft (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 June 2002). Mingaleev said the reports are incorrect and are "an attempt to discredit the plant." He said that all agreements with Uralskie Avialinii (Ural Airlines) remain in force, while a contract on the purchase of two or three Tu-214s is currently under discussion. As for Krasnoyarskie Avialinii (Krasnoyarsk Airlines), Mingaleev said that KAPO has never even negotiated any projects with that airline.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Addresses World Bashkir Congress
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov delivered a report at the second World Bashkir Congress in Ufa on 14 June in which he said the formation of statehood in Bashkortostan is of special importance to Russian federalism, Bashinform reported the same day. Rakhimov criticized as "unfounded, harmful, and dangerous for the future of the Russian state the attempts of some politicians to wipe out the achievements of Russia's peoples, as well as the far-fetched projects of 'gubernization' and the arbitrary changing of the borders of existing regions, and equalizing their status without taking into account their specificity and historic peculiarities." He said that republics, including Bashkortostan, need to have special relations with Moscow.

Rakhimov said the interethnic concord that exists in Bashkortostan is the result of the republican leadership's establishing a proper nationalities policy. He called on scholars, writers, journalists, and politicians in Moscow and the regions to be more responsible, balanced, and tactful when covering nationalities issues. He added that there is no place for provocative statements or publications that misrepresent the history of Russia's peoples and wound national and religious feelings. He noted that acts of vandalism in Moscow and several Russian regions that have provoked racial, national, and religious enmity and hatred are "a call for vigilance." He called on the citizens of Russia to avoid displays of chauvinism and extremism that he said are alien to Russian traditions.

Rakhimov added that the upcoming October national census has an important political and socioeconomic importance and should be treated with care since a third of all marriages in the republic are interethnic and some people are having trouble determining their ethnic identity.

Congress Attracts Little Attention From Outside Republic
The World Bashkir Congress began and ended with the playing of the Russian national anthem and the major speeches given at the event, including those by President Rakhimov and congress leader Niyaz Majitov, were delivered in Russian, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 16 June. Moscow sent only a small delegation headed by Deputy Federation Council Chairman Mikhail Odintsov who delivered greetings from Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov. Besides Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev who headed Tatar delegation, not a single head from any other region took part in the forum. Volga Federal District officials ignored the event.

Police Break Up Small Tatar Protest
Five Tatars staged a demonstration on 14 June in front of the Ufa Neftyanik Palace of Culture just prior to the start of the World Bashkir Congress, which was being held in that building, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 16 June. The protesters carried placards saying, "Equality," "Shaimiev, don't forget that there are Tatars in Bashkortostan!" and "Russian laws are to be implemented in Bashkortostan as well." Police officers tore up the protesters' signs and forced them to leave.

Meanwhile, the issue of Tatar-Bashkir relations in the republic was not raised at the congress, the correspondent said.

Congress Leader Discusses Problems Facing Bashkirs
Niyaz Majitov, chairman of the World Bashkir Congress Executive Committee, told the World Bashkir Congress on 14 June that alcoholism, drug addiction, crime, and an unfavorable demographic situation are among the biggest problems facing the Bashkir people, Bashinform reported the same day. Majitov called for the teaching of Bashkir children in Bashkir in secondary schools and he also criticized the slow progress in implementing the Russian law on state languages.

The congress head also said that the future of federalism in the Russian Federation is the most important issue for Bashkirs and other peoples in Russia. In that light, he criticized efforts to alter the principles of federalism in Russia and to deprive republics of their powers for managing their own economies. He said the establishment of federal districts violated traditions in existence for centuries and aroused concern among the Bashkir people. He added that the Ural region is the historical motherland of Bashkirs, and that they cannot even imagine themselves separated from the area. With the creation of federal districts, however, some 400,000 Bashkirs now live in the Ural Federal District, while Bashkortostan was included in the Volga Federal District, Majitov noted. He said that the move is likely aimed at the creation of administrative borders among Bashkirs within and outside Bashkortostan and may result in weakening cultural ties among them.

Majitov also called for a prohibition of land sales in the republic and said Bashkirs should be given priority in obtaining land, a proposal that aroused enthusiasm among congress participants.

Statistics Show Decrease In Bashkir Population In Republic
Salavat Kadyrov, a department head at the Bashkir State Statistics Committee, said at the World Bashkir Congress on 14 June that the percentage of Bashkirs in the republic has decreased from 24.3 percent of the population in 1979 to 21.9 percent in 1989, Bashinform reported the same day. Outward migration was given as the main cause of this decrease. Kadyrov added that Bashkirs are also being assimilated in the republic. He said that only 42 percent of children in mixed Bashkir-Russian and Bashkir-Tatar families identify themselves as Bashkirs. Kadyrov added that Bashkirs tend to live in economically backward areas with low standards of living.

Batyr Khismatullin, head of the Bashkir administration of the Russian Ministry of Federation Affairs, National and Migration Policy, echoed Kadyrov, saying that the percentage of Bashkirs in the republic has decreased as a result of migration. He said that 433,619 people migrated to the republic over the past decade, 18 percent of whom were Bashkirs, 40-60 percent Tatars, and 20-27 percent Russians.

Khismatullin proposed measures to maintain and increase the number of Bashkirs in the republic, including creating conditions for economic development in the regions of the republic where Bashkirs live, making appeals to Bashkirs living in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States to return to Bashkortostan, and adopting a republican program on providing state support to Bashkirs who return to the republic.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova