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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 3, 2002

3 October 2002
Parliament Responds To Prosecutor's Protest With Questions Of Its Own
At its plenary session on 2 October, the Tatar State Council announced that it was launching two appeals to the Russian Constitutional Court in response to the protest lodged by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev against the amended Tatar Constitution (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 July and 6, 11, and 27 September 2002).

A commission was formed at the parliament's 6 September session to work out proposals regarding Zvyagintsev's appeal. The head of the commission, State Council Deputy Chairman Marat Mehdiev, said on 2 October that the issue is to be resolved by the Russian Constitutional Court, adding that until that court reaches a decision regarding the issue, the commission cannot propose any solutions to the debate.

At the same time, however, the commission said that it is going to ask the Russian Constitutional Court to rule on whether certain articles of the Judicial Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, which is still in force, and articles of the current law on the Prosecutor-General's Office of the Russian Federation are in violation of the Russian Constitution. In particular, the commission is contesting the provision of the law that allows prosecutors to challenge articles of constitutions of federation subjects in courts of general jurisdiction, as opposed to only in constitutional courts. In an another appeal, the State Council is asking the court to verify whether Article 27 of the law on the judicial system of the Russian Federation conforms to the Russian Constitution. The Tatar parliament is also asking the court to outline a full list of powers of the constitutional courts of federation subjects.

World Writers Group Opposes Amendments To Law On State Languages
At its 68th world congress in Ohrid, Macedonia, from 17-24 September, International Pen, the world association of writers, passed a resolution condemning efforts by the Russian State Duma aimed at the unification of the writing of state languages in Russia, i.e., allowing state languages to be written using only the Cyrillic alphabet, Tatar-inform reported on 2 October. The resolution was initiated by the Tatar PEN Center and was supported by the Russian, Belarusian, and Finnish delegations. The congress said that if the draft law on the unification of state languages in Russia comes into force, it will hinder the legal introduction of the Latin script for Tatar in Tatarstan and will restrict the rights of peoples to preserve and develop their language systems without outside interference (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6, 7 June 2002).

Defense Official Claims KamAZ Vehicles 'Satisfactory'
The head of the Russian Defense Ministry's Main Administration for Armored Vehicles, Colonel General Sergei Maev, has said that vehicles produced at KamAZ are satisfactory for the civilian economy as well as for the defense sector, reported on 2 October.

Maev, who headed an interdepartmental commission on coordinating the defense industry's cooperation with KamAZ in Chally late last month, said that "the high technical quality of KamAZ-produced vehicles guarantees the efficient mobility of weapons and vehicles in extreme road and battle conditions."

KamAZ has developed more than 40 different vehicles for Russia's armed forces over the past two years.

Chally Activists Attack Orthodox Church
Members of the Tatar Public Center (TIU), most of them elderly, attacked the chapel of St. Tatyana's Russian Orthodox Church being built near Victory Park in Chally on 2 October and did damage to its foundation, reported on the same day. The head of the chapel, Father Oleg Bogdanov, said the damage totaled 40,000 rubles.

TIU activists have protested the building of the chapel for more than a year, suggesting instead that a Tatar puppet theater be built on the same location, despite the fact that such a theater already exists in the city and that the construction has been authorized by the city administration.

One of the TIU members involved in the attack, who did not identify herself, said that, "Despite the fact that the land has been legally provided for the construction of the church, we will continue, all the same, to violate this every time they begin building it up again." The woman added that by building a Russian Orthodox chapel near the park, the park itself would "become Orthodox," thus "leaving no room for Muslims."

Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church said they would seek protection from Russian rights organizations and federal law-enforcement bodies, adding that local law-enforcement agencies have not been able to protect them from such attacks by TIU members.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir President Meets Head Of Ethnology And Anthropology Institute
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met with Valerii Tishkov, head of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, on 30 September in Ufa, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. Tishkov told the Bashkir president that he "highly values the social and political stability and interconfessional harmony in Bashkortostan," emphasizing that the republic "created a special atmosphere of tolerance and equal conditions for all nationalities living there and it could serve as an example for many of the regions and all of Russia."

It was reportedly agreed that Tishkov's institute would publish a book called "Bashkirs" within a series of books dedicated to Russian ethnic groups. In addition, on 2 October an unnamed governmental source said that the meeting also focused on the upcoming national census, which is to be held on 9-16 October, and current Tatar-Bashkir relations.

Local Media Boost Census-Related Programming...
Bashkir state TV and radio is increasing its programming devoted to the ethnic identity of residents in the northwest of the republic on 2 October. The programs usually feature stories focusing on the "Bashkir ethnic roots" of the locals. However, according to the 1989 national census, the northwest area of Bashkortostan is predominantly populated by Tatars.

...And Raises The Baptized Tatars Issue
Meanwhile Bashkortostan's State Radio on 2 October presented an interview with the prominent Baptized Tatar (Kereshen) playwrite Necib Asanbaev, who said that in his opinion Kereshens "are not related to the Tatar nation," also claiming that "they are closer to Bashkirs than to Tatars."

Earlier this year, Alsanbaev told an RFE/RL correspondent that he was against the division of Tatars into subethnic groups and the separation of Baptized Tatars from the Tatar nation in the nationalities list compiled for the census by the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He also added that he would register as a Tatar during the census.

The last 24 September issue of the Bashkir weekly "Yeshlek" published an interview with Alsanbaev in which he made statements similar to what he said on state radio.

Alsanbaev's name also appeared recently among the signatories of the Bashkir elite's "message of concern" about current Bashkir-Tatar tensions that was sent to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 October 2002).

Government Resumes Work On Reshaping Its Constitution
Bashkortostan's Constitutional Conference gathered on 2 October to discus draft amendments to the republic's constitution, the presidential press service reported. The fundamental law was strongly revised in November 2000, but nevertheless was criticized by federal prosecutors for contradicting Russian laws. The conference considered future changes to be made to the parts of the constitution regulating the basics of the constitutional system and organization of governmental bodies. Konstantin Tolkachev, Bashkir parliamentary speaker and co-chairman of the conference, reportedly praised its work on "entering concrete and constructive proposals of changes and additions to our fundamental law."

Academy of Sciences Expert Outlines Census Perspectives For Bashkortostan
Ildar Gabrdafikov announced on 2 October that the ethnic Bashkir and Tatar populations in Bashkortostan have increased, while the percentage of Russians has decreased since the 1989 census. According to Gabrdafikov, an expert at Ufa's Ethnology and Anthropology Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, republican organizations have been collecting the migration, birth and death rates of Bashkortostan's population since the last census. The data shows that the present ethnic Bashkir population has risen 1.5 percent, increasing their projected population to 23.4 percent of the republic. The Tatar population has gained 1.4 percent and is projected to make up 29.9 percent of the population, while the Russian population has decreased 2.3 percent and is projected to represent 33 percent of the total.

Gabrdafikov noted that "these figures do not reflect ethnic assimilation in Bashkortostan, such as when the Tatar villages are given new Bashkir names by the local authorities and their residents are officially 'converted' into Bashkirs."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi