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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 9, 2002

9 September 2002
State Council To Fight Constitutional Protest...
At its plenary session on 6 September, the Tatar State Council discussed a protest lodged by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev against 36 provision of the newly adopted Tatar Constitution, reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 July 2002). The prosecutor challenged provisions on Tatarstan's sovereignty; republican citizenship; the requirement that presidential candidates in Tatarstan speak both of the republic's state languages, Russian and Tatar; and the provision on treaty-based relations between Tatarstan and the Russian Federation.

The State Council's legal department issued a resolution regarding the protest, saying that an agreement can be reached on six points, and in particular, that the power-sharing treaty between Tatarstan and Russia can be amended. The legal department noted that the requirement that presidential candidates speak both Russian and Tatar does not contradict the Russian Constitution. On the issue of sovereignty, the legal department cited the Russian Constitution, which, it claims, recognizes federation republics to be states and thus, that republics possess authority in all fields not explicitly under federal jurisdiction and can also have their own citizenship. Zvyagintsev pointed out, however, that only the people of Russia as a whole can have sovereignty under the Russian Constitution, and that the provision in the Tatar Constitution calling for Tatar citizenship thus violates Russia's fundamental law.

State Council Chairman Ferit Mukhametshin said at the session that a group of deputies suggested that the Tatar Constitutional Court provide an interpretation of several of the disputed provisions that they claim federal prosecutors are interpreting "in their own way." Mukhametshin added that, "It would be reasonable for us also to appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court to clarify Moscow's position on Tatarstan's powers as specified in several articles of the Russian Constitution."

The State Council formed a commission charged with carrying out a more detailed study of Zvyagintsev's protest and with developing proposals related thereto, including an appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court. The commission, headed by Deputy State Council Chairman Marat Mehdiev, is made up of seven deputies.

...Claims Amendments To Law On State Languages Violate International, Russian Norms
At its session on 6 September, the State Council adopted an appeal to the Russian State Duma in which it claimed that amendments to the federal law on languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation, passed in its first reading on 5 June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 June 2002), contradict international legislation on human rights, ethnic minorities, and regional languages, as well as several articles of the Russian Constitution, NTV television reported the same day.

In accordance with the amendments, all state languages in the Russian Federation are required to use the Cyrillic script. Tatarstan, however, passed a law on the use of the Latin alphabet for Tatar on 15 September 1999, providing for a 10-year transition period for the change to be incorporated. Tatar linguists have claimed that the major reason for the proposed switch to the Latin alphabet is that the Cyrillic alphabet does not have sufficient letters to represent certain Tatar sounds.

Tatar Minister To Head Greater Volga Committee
Tatar Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Khafiz Salikhov has been appointed chairman of the Committee on International and Foreign Economic Relations of the Greater Volga Association, reported on 6 September, citing the ministry's press service. The committee is charged with representing the interests of members of the Greater Volga region in their international economic activities and in relations with federal bodies, as well as with Russian and international organizations.

Republican Farmers Harvest 5 Million Tons Of Grain
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev sent his congratulations on the behalf of the Russian government to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 6 September to praise the republic's agriculture-sector workers for a good harvest. Farmers in Tatarstan have gathered a harvest of some 5 million tons, reported on 6 September. The average harvest throughout the republic was of more than 3,000 kilograms per hectare, while farms in Nurlat Raion harvested 6,200 kilograms per hectare. Twelve of 43 grain-growing regions in the republic gathered harvests of more than 4,000 kilograms per hectare. Tatarstan also sold grain abroad for the first time this year, sending 300,000 tons to Greece, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia, the agency reported.

Farmers face the problem of storing the harvest, as grain elevators in the republic still contain 800,000 tons from last year and can only hold an additional 1 million tons, or 20 percent of this year's harvest. Some 600,000 tons will be distributed among peasants in the republic in order to offset their low wages.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan Celebrates Oil-Extraction Anniversary
Speaking at an official celebration in honor of the 70th anniversary of oil extraction in the republic on 6 September, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said that Bashneft oil company was "the core of [Bashkortostan's] fuel- and-energy industry [and] the basis for its economic stability" by contributing 25 percent of the region's industrial output and one-sixth of its budget revenues, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day.

The celebration was attended by a number of federal officials, including Russian Deputy Energy Minister Valentin Shelepov; the Russian Energy Ministry's official in charge of oil extraction, Vladimir Solomin; representatives of the Russian Federation's Committee on Natural Monopolies; and managers from Transneft, LUKoil, Tatneft, and Udmurtneft oil companies.

Private Investments On The Rise At State Bank
Galiye Nebieva, head of the department of private deposits at Bashsberbank, the Bashkir Branch of Russia's state savings bank, Sberbank, said in a 9 September interview with "Respublika Bashkortostan" daily that despite the growing popularity of commercial banks among the population of the republic, Bashsberbank has managed to receive more than 2 billion rubles ($64.5 million) in private deposits so far in 2002, which is equal to the total amount of private deposits received in all of 2001. More than half the bank's private deposits are made in rubles, while many citizens have also been making hard-currency deposits in both U.S. dollars and euros since late summer.

Online Bashkir-Russian Dictionary Launched
The Bashkir company BIT-Masters recently launched an online Bashkir-Russian and Russian-Bashkir dictionary to ease the work of interpreters, students, teachers, and other individuals who deal with Bashkir-language documents online, Bashinform reported on 7 September. The dictionary can be found at

Government Concerned With Work-Related Injuries
Bashkir Minister of Labor and Social Security Lev Bakusov told a government meeting on 6 September that the agriculture sector is responsible for the most work-related injuries in the republic this year, having resulted in the deaths of 25 rural workers so far in 2002, while 20 people died because of work-related injuries suffered in this sector the previous year, Bashkir state radio reported the next day. So far this year, 37 farmers have been severely injured on the job, which is two more than in 2001. Bakusov said that the most injuries were suffered at collective farms in the Ilesh region and at the chicken farms operated by the state-owned Bashpritseprom company. More than 50 percent of reported accidents occurred while operating old machinery.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi