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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 30, 2002

30 September 2002
Presidential Adviser Says Constitution's Article 1 Can Be Changed Only In Referendum
Tatar presidential adviser Rafael Khekimov told "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 27 September that Article 1 of the Tatar Constitution, which defines Tatarstan's status as "a democratic, legal, social state united with the Russian Federation by the Russian Constitution, the Tatar Constitution, and the power-sharing treaty between Russia and Tatarstan," can only be revised in a referendum. He said if the Russian Supreme Court rules that Article 1 is to be changed, "a referendum will be the only thing for us to do." If it were held, such a referendum would "give us a minimum of 80 percent of the votes for the existing variant of Article 1," Khekimov said. He added, however, that he believes it won't come to a referendum.

Khekimov also said that relations between Tatarstan's leadership and Russian President Vladimir Putin are "to some extent warmer" than they were with former President Boris Yeltsin. "Yeltsin never ventured to come to the Day of Tatarstan's Sovereignty. Putin came to Sabantui and to the Day of Sovereignty," Khekimov said. He noted that in two years, Putin has come to Tatarstan three times, while Yeltsin visited the republic twice in a decade. Khekimov also said that the fact that Putin himself heads the commission on the celebration of Kazan's millennium is a sign of his "good attitude toward Tatarstan." Putin "enhances Kazan within Russia" and "does this of his own accord," Khekimov added.

Federal Government Promotes Interests Of KamAZ
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a resolution prohibiting the registration of trucks and buses with engines that do not meet European "euro-1" standards as well as imports to Russia of second-hand trucks and buses with such engines as of 1 December, NTA-Privolzhye reported on 27 September. The measure, which was promoted by the Federal Economic Development Ministry, Industry and Science Ministry, and Transport Ministry, aims to give support to Russia's leading truck concern, KamAZ, the agency said. During his visit to KamAZ on 26 June, Kasyanov said the Russian government is developing protectionist measures against KamAZ's main competitor, Belarus's MAZ. Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov said the government will introduce in one year a similar prohibition for "euro-1" engines and called for making the requirements of automobile engines be at a "euro-4" standard by 2010, the agency reported.

Tatar Companies Expecting Trouble From Russia's Future Entry Into WTO
Only three of the 100 Tatar companies and organizations questioned by the Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ministry about Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- Tatneft, the Nizhnekamsk petrochemical plant, and Tatazot -- said they believe Russian membership in the WTO will positively affect their business, Tatar-inform reported on 27 September. Companies that sell their products on the domestic market, among them the Kazan synthetics factory, the Nizhnekamsk tire factory, and the Tatar pharmaceutical factory, said they won't be able to compete with foreign manufacturers when custom duties are reduced after Russia's WTO entry. All machine-building companies said they will face growing expenses as they try to stay competitive with the new international companies that will be on the market. Light industry firms believe their branch would be damaged the most with Moscow's entry into the WTO, but view as positive the easier access to better raw materials and equipment that they would obtain. Timber companies that export some 90 percent of their product said it is a positive development that modern equipment and spare parts will appear on the Russian market and added that they are sure their industry will remain competitive.

One In 20 Tatar Companies Gets Reregistered
Representatives from the Russian Tax Ministry's Tatar Board said only 3,000 companies, or 5 percent of the legal entities due to pass reregistration through the end of the year in Tatarstan, as federal law requires, have passed the procedure, reported on 27 September. Some 123, or 2.5 percent, from the total of 5,000 civic and religious organizations, political parties, and banks in the republic have appealed for reregistration, ministry officials said and warned that courts may rule to abolish the legal entities that are not reregistered.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Congress Still In The Dark About Planned Second Session
The Executive Committee of the Tatar Congress in Bashkortostan sent a letter to Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov on 23 September, asking whether the planned second part of the congress -- the first was held on 3 August -- will take place, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 29 September (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 August 2002). The committee reportedly still hasn't received a response. In the letter, the committee reminded Baidavletov, the chairman of the congress's Organizing Committee, that it had sent him a similar letter on 10 August.

During its planned October session, the congress expects to focus on preparations for that month's national census and also to elect a new Executive Committee chairperson.

During its October session, the Tatar Congress in Bashkortostan plans to focus on preparations for the national census and elect a new Executive Committee chairman. Eduard Khemitov, rector of the Bashkir State Pedagogical University, has been the congress's chairman since 1997.

Tatar Scholars Plan Conference In Bashkortostan
Tatar scholars in Bashkortostan, under the auspices of the Tatar National-Cultural Autonomy, are planning to hold a conference called Bashkortostan Against the Distortion of History on 5 October, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 29 September. Autonomy Chairman Zakhir Khekimov told the correspondent that the conference will adopt appeals to Russian President Vladimir Putin suggesting that a referendum be held on unifying the Bore and Belebei regions of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Khekimov added that a similar referendum had been suggested in 1920, but it was rejected by the Bolshevik government. Khekimov said the conference may also call on Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov to guarantee that the Bashkir government will implement the republican law on the languages of the peoples of Bashkortostan, adding that "the teaching of the Tatar language is still restricted in many heavily Tatar-populated areas of [Bashkortostan]."

President Responds To Criticism Over Yumaguzin
President Rakhimov responded on 27 September to criticism from environmental groups, saying that the construction of the Yumaguzin reservoir in Bashkortostan will not harm the environment but will, in fact, protect the republic from floods, damage from which costs the republic millions of rubles every year, RosBalt reported the same day. Rakhimov said the project will be completed in 2004. The republican government is covering 25 percent of the cost, while various companies are covering the remainder.

A number of environmentalists have claimed that by building the reservoir, the water level in the Agidel River will rise and submerge the Kapova Cave in a nearby nature reserve.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi