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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 18, 2002

18 October 2002
Tatar President Bewildered By Rakhimov's Proposal On Government Reform...
President Mintimer Shaimiev stated his bewilderment regarding the statement by Bashkortostan's Murtaza Rakhimov promoting the abolishment of the presidential post in his republic and establishing a parliamentary republic there, Interfax reported on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 October 2002). Shaimiev said, "Murtaza Gubaidullovich's proposals on changing the structure of government in the republic produces more questions from me than answers." He assessed the arguments brought up the Bashkir president as "contradictory," adding, "Nevertheless, whatever the motives are for such statements, in this case I can say only one thing [for sure]: it's good that these statements are not coming from Tatarstan's president."

...As Is Prime Minister...
Speaking to reporters during his visit to Chally on 17 October, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov commented on the same issue by saying that the "existing system of government, provided for by the Russian Constitution, is effective enough and there is no sense in changing it," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Similar to Shaimiev, Minnikhanov noted that he was "surprised by the actions of the Bashkir government" and asserted that "there is no [such] need to alter the existing situation of the state system in Tatarstan."

...And Presidential Advisor...
Kazan's Efir TV on 17 October broadcast an interview with Tatar presidential advisor on political issues Rafail Khekimov who said that he personally supported the institution of a parliamentary republic, however emphasizing that it was vital only when a multiparty system is present. He said, "Now that the federal laws prohibit regional parties, one cannot speak" of a parliamentary republic as a model for Russia's regions.

...While Other Public Figures Use Sharper Words
Midkhet Kormanov, chairman of the Tatar parliamentary commission on legislation, legal order, and ethics issues, told Efir TV on 17 October that he "hardly believed the reports about the Bashkir president's proposal to change the system of government and considered them to be a joke." Kormanov said that that Russian Constitution "clearly set the regulations concerning how the regions should be governed and it's absolutely unclear how the region's state system will operate when the parliament is put on top of it." In conclusion, he slammed Rakhimov's proposal, describing it as a "raw and unprepared" idea.

Also speaking for Efir TV, Lev Ovrutskii, political observer of the "Moskovskii Komsomolets v Tatarstane" weekly and the author of critical books devoted to the republic's policies, said, "Being an absolutely undemocratic leader who doesn't catch the moods of the public, Rakhimov fails to understand that what he personally considers a very smart move is absolutely transparent to the people." Ovrutskii stated that Rakhimov "comes out with his initiative hoping that no one will understand that it's merely his attempt to stay in power if Moscow restricts him from a third term in office."

Trade Unions Join Nationwide Action For Workers' Rights
Some 2,000 people gathered for a meeting of Tatarstan's Trade Union Federation as part of a nationwide protest over wages and social guarantees on 17 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. According to Trade Unions Federation Chairwoman Tatyana Vodopyanova, speaking at the event, "slavery and serfdom are prospering in the republic." To back up her statement, Vodopyanova said that "for several years already the government and the employers have been failing to pay wages arrears, raise the minimum wage, stop the rise in housing tariffs," and revive the pre-perestroika system of social insurance, which regularly provided the workers and their children with sanatorium and spa treatment.

Vodopyanova said that by October 2002, Tatarstan's companies owed their employees more than 958 million rubles ($30.1million) in back wages, half of it in the agricultural sector. She told reporters after the meeting that protests like this one were necessary "because we want to at least be heard by the government. Otherwise we will have to undertake other measures than just demonstrations."

Census Takers Get Symbolic Compensation For Work-Related Injuries
Nine census takers had applied for insurance payments after being injured while doing their jobs in Tatarstan by the end of the nationwide census on 16 October, reported on 17 October. Two of them who were bitten by dogs and one who received an accidental leg injury have already received a total of 600 rubles ($18.9) in compensation. According to the Military Insurance Company running the census, maximum insurance payment enabled for the census takers is 5,000 rubles ($157.2) per person and many more appeals are expected in the days to come.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Paper Reports Census Violations In Bashkortostan...
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 October that the coordinating council of Tatar public groups gave the newspaper a list of incidents that took place during the census in Bashkortostan. Violations were registered in Ufa, Birsk, Belebei, Neftekamsk, and numerous rural raions. In particular, a census taker, who refused to fill in the 'nationality' entry, had to run from angry residents of the village of Sharanbash, the daily reported. The paper said Bashkortostan's opposition predicted violations, aiming to falsely increase the number of Bashkirs and understate that of "competitors," meaning Tatars and Russians, but "no one expected that it would be done in such a harsh manner and so widely."

...While Federal Official Enthusiastic About Census...
Meanwhile, at a meeting with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov on 17 October in Ufa, Russian State Statistics Committee's official Viktor Uspenskii said the census in Bashkortostan made a favorable impression, Bashinform reported citing the presidential press service. Uspenskii, who heads the committee's board on state service, personnel, and territorial bodies, stressing the benevolent atmosphere and people's cooperate. He said that in 17 raions monitored, census-takers appeared well trained, city and raion officials were interested in the organization of the campaign, and Interior Ministry employees provided significant help to census registrars. Uspenskii said there were no reports of fraud in identifying residents.

...As Minister Says Census Results To Be Checked
Surveys will be carried out in several regions to check if the census was objective and conducted correctly, Vladimir Zorin, Russian minister without portfolio, told RIA-Novosti on 16 October. Zorin said such surveys will be taken in Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and some other regions, in which there have been reports that some "census-takers tried to pressure respondents when they filled in the 'nationality' entry." As a whole, Zorin said, Article 26 of the Russian Constitution on self-identification on ethnic and national signs was observed in the census. He said such categories that allowed Russians to register as Cossacks and Pomors (Russian inhabitants of coast of White Sea) were also included, "something that will take into account the ethnocultural peculiarities of those groups in the future." Zorin said reports about the registration of such identities as Scyphians, Polovtsians, and "non-Russians" were only a "few dozen or several persons and won't affect the country's entire picture."

Parliament Accepts Constitutional Amendments For Consideration
The Bashkir State Assembly's Legislative Chamber passed on 17 October a resolution to consider a draft law on amending the Bashkir Constitution and on adopting regulations to collect signatures supporting proposals on constitutional reform that were adopted by the Constitutional Assembly on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 October 2002), the presidential press service reported on 17 October.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova