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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 24, 2002

24 July 2002
Court Postpones Constitutional Hearing Until Fall
On 23 July, the Tatar Supreme Court decided to postpone until 10 September its hearing of an appeal lodged by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, in which he claims that the Tatar State Council has not obeyed court rulings concerning the legal status of the republic, reported on 23 July. Zvyagintsev said "the new version of the Tatar Constitution prevents the Russian Federation from exercising its sovereignty on the territory of [Tatarstan] and is a threat to the territorial integrity and unity of the legal space of Russia."

Zvyagintsev insists that several provisions contained in the recently amended Tatar Constitution do not take into account rulings by the Russian Constitutional Court, the Russian Supreme Court, and the Tatar Supreme Court. He added that articles 1, 11, 13, and 121 of the Tatar Constitution proclaim that Tatarstan is a sovereign state united with the Russian Federation and has authority beyond the powers of the federation and the joint powers of Russia's federal and regional governments.

In accordance with the 7 June 2000 ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court, however, there can be no sovereign entity on the territory of the Russian Federation except for Russia's multinational people. Zvyagintsev argues that subjects of the federation cannot claim sovereignty in any form, even if they say their sovereignty is limited.

The Tatar Constitution also includes the requirement that candidates for Tatarstan's presidency speak both state languages of the republic, Tatar and Russian, though the Russian Constitutional Court ruled on 13 November regarding the Republic of Adygeia that this requirement contradicts the Russian Constitution.

Zvyagintsev lodged his appeal to point out that the Tatar State Council has been avoiding its duty to implement decisions passed by the supreme courts of the Russian Federation and of Tatarstan, as well as by the Russian Constitutional Court. If the court grants the prosecutor's claim, then the Russian president will warn the Tatar parliament about its possible dissolution. Following such a warning, the legislature will have three months to implement the court decisions in question, or the Russian president will ask the Russian State Duma to dissolve the Tatar parliament.

Prior to the planned hearing on 23 July, the State Council requested that it be postponed because the chairmen of all the republic's parliamentary committees are on vacation.

Moscow Government Prevents Sale Of Stake In Sibir Energy
A planned deal that would have seen the Tatneft-Korus alliance purchase a 33 percent stake in Sibir Energy has been stalled, "Vremya novostei" reported on 23 July. The report cited a source close to Sibir as saying that the deal was held up because the Moscow administration didn't want Tatneft to become a part owner of the Moskovskaya Neftegazovaya Kompaniya (Moscow Oil-and-Gas Company, MNGK), which is owned equally by Sibir and the Moscow administration.

MNGK includes the Moskovskaya Neftyanaya Kompaniya (Moscow Oil Company), which owns the Tsentralnaya Toplivnaya Kompaniya (Central Heating Company, TsTK), which, in its turn, owns half of the Moskovskii Neftepererabatyvayushchii Zavod (Moscow Oil-Processing Plant, MNPZ).

The establishment of MNGK was until recently hindered by a five-year credit valued at $166 million that was given by the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston to TsTK in 2000 to purchase gas stations. In order to repay the credit, it was decided to sell 33 percent of Sibir to Tatneft, which already owns 10 percent of the company.

Sibir Energy representatives have said that negotiations on selling a stake in the company have been postponed until the fall.

Suspects Arrested For Attack On TIU Office
Three suspects have been arrested in relation to the attack on members of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally on 29 May, reported on 23 July, citing the republic's Interior Ministry (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 and 31 May 2002). The three detainees are between the ages of 20 and 29, two of whom have previous convictions.

Police earlier arrested eight members of an organized-crime group in Minzele who were also suspected of having played a role in the attack. The group controlled several outlets at the Aq Qaen market; traders in a neighboring market controlled by TIU leader Rafis Kashapov, who was badly injured in the attack, had protested the opening of the Aq Qaen market.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Ethnologist Criticizes Refusal To Fix Native Language Status In October Census...
In his article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 July, doctor of ethnology Mikhail Guboglo wrote that Russian bureaucrats have deprived Russia's ethnic peoples of their right to correct their language identity in the Russian census, which he said could result in a misrepresentation of the true ethnic and linguistic makeup of the federation. He noted that in every census in the USSR since 1920, a person's ethnic identity was decided on the basis of two indices -- ethnicity and language identity. Guboglo stressed that the omission of the "native language" entry in the October census is a blow to the national identity of Russia's peoples and suggests a policy of ethnic and linguistic discrimination. He said that the "deprival of any people of the possibility to choose and openly determine its native language is the first step on the way toward ethnocide." He said the move violates Article 19 of the Russian Constitution, which prohibits any restrictions on a citizen's rights on the basis of national and linguistic identity, as well as the law on the Russian-wide census of the population.

...Says Will Result In Increase Of The Number Of Bashkirs, Decrease In Tatars
In the same article, Guboglo cited data from the 1989 census in which 5.4 percent of the population of the Soviet Union cited a language of another nationality as a native language, including 29 percent of the non-Russian population. Only 72.8 percent of Bashkirs selected Bashkir as their native language, while 10 percent named Russian, and 16.9 percent cited Tatar as their native language. Guboglo stressed that if the upcoming census does not take into account the native language of different peoples then the total numbers of some ethnicities, for example Bashkirs, will artificially increase while that of other groups, such as Tatars, will decrease. He suggested that such an occurrence could result in tensions between the two neighboring republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, and with Moscow. Guboglo said that "language revolutions" resulted in armed conflicts in former Soviet republics from 1988-1991 and asked, whether Russia needs 'language wars.'

Plane Tragedy Said To Be Reason For Sacking Of Senior Official In Bashkortostan
Observers were cited as saying that the dismissal of Bashkortostan's first deputy prime minister and industry, foreign relations, and trade minister, Nikolai Sigakov, is linked to the 1 July crash of a Bashkir Airlines Tu-154 jet, expert.ural reported on 22 July. The report said that Sigakov supervised all of the republic's industries, including the activity of Bashkir Airlines. Sigakov also was personally in charge of the preparations for the ill-fated Ufa to Barcelona charter flight. Meanwhile, Sigakov's 20-year-old daughter, who also was due to fly to Barcelona, was denied a visa by the Spanish embassy at the last moment and stayed behind in Moscow. Expert.ural commented that if Bashkortostan's officials sought to show resolute action in firing Sigakov, it does not exactly appear to be a demonstration in sharing responsibility for the accident. According to the official Russian position, "those [who are] guilty are to be looked for outside the country." It has also been reported that Sigakov asked to resign "for moral and psychological reasons."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova