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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 2, 2002

2 December 2002
Tatar Parliament Asks Putin To Veto Cyrillic-Only Bill...
The Tatar State Council passed on 29 November a resolution asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to veto a federal law requiring all state languages in the Russian Federation to use the Cyrillic alphabet (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 and 27 November 2002), reported the same day. Deputies said the law contradicts articles 15, 73, and 76 of the Russian Constitution, adding that, "Issues regarding the native languages of the titular peoples of the republics of the Russian Federation, which are fixed in their constitutions as state languages, and their alphabets come under the jurisdiction of the republics [themselves]." The Tatar parliament added that the law does not conform to international legal acts recognized by Russia, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Charter on Regional and Minorities Languages.

...And To Reconsider Mandatory Teaching Of Orthodox Culture In Secondary Schools
The State Council also issued an appeal during its 29 November plenary session to President Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov with regard to the planned introduction of a new subject, Orthodox culture, in schools throughout the country (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 and 20 November 2002), reported the same day. In its appeal, the Tatar parliament requested that the subject be taught on an elective basis, as opposed to making it mandatory. The chairman of the State Council's Committee on Science, Education, Culture, and Nationalities Issues, Razil Weliev, said the committee considers the Russian Education Ministry's decision to introduce Orthodox culture in secondary schools to be "forcible baptism."

Deputies claimed in their appeal that the introduction of the teaching of Orthodox culture contradicts the federal law on education, which says that public schools are to be secular. The deputies added that Russia is a multiethnic and multiconfessional country and that, therefore, all cultures cannot be linked to a single religion or national culture. They also said that this initiative could cause interethnic conflicts in the country.

President Mintimer Shaimiev called on deputies not to discuss the issue in great detail, saying "to discuss such a foolish act [the introduction of the teaching of Orthodox culture] would show a lack of self-respect."

Tatar Congress Says Cyrillic-Only Amendment Threatens Russian Statehood
The World Tatar Congress Executive Committee has issued an appeal to President Putin regarding amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation that would make the Cyrillic script mandatory for all state languages in the country, reported on 30 November. The authors of the appeal said that by passing the law, the State Duma has created a new situation in which the ethnic majority is violating the ethnic and cultural rights of national minorities, among them Tatars. The congress said the amendment has caused serious harm to federative relations in the country and has shaken the foundations of Russian statehood.

Government Takes Control Of Tatarstan-New Century
The Tatar government has once again taken over a controlling interest in the Tatarstan-New Century (TNV) television and radio company, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 29 November. Several days earlier, the government purchased a 5 percent stake in the company, which was intended to be divided among the station's managers, giving it control over 51 percent of TNV's shares, the weekly reported. The remaining shares in TNV belong to the Tatar-American Investments and Finances company. According to the paper, the republican budget plans to allocate $4 million for the development of TNV in 2003.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Parliamentary Speaker Says New Constitution To Contain More General Provisions...
Bashkir parliamentary speaker Konstantin Tolkachev told a 29 November press conference that before the public discussion of the new republican constitutional draft he "did not even expect how politicized our people have become," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 1 December. He claimed that Bashkortostan's citizens, public organizations, parties, and ethnic communities demonstrated "an outburst of activity when suggesting their amendments to the draft."

Speaking of the new constitution, which was passed by the Legislative Chamber in its first reading on 28 November, Tolkachev noted that "the more concrete the constitution is the more often you have to alter its provisions." He admitted that Bashkir legislators looked into the example of the U.S. Constitution "containing only seven articles of a very abstract character," and made the Bashkir document "contain less specifics."

"Although," Tolkachev added, "the power-sharing treaty [between Ufa and Moscow] is now separated from the body of the constitution, it doesn't mean that we reject treaty-based relations [with Russia]."

...And Resumes Rhetoric Advocating Recent U-Turn From Political Reform
According to an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 1 December, Tolkachev told the same press conference, "it was strange for me to hear Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev [on NTV yesterday] expressing regret that Bashkortostan's State Assembly rejected the idea of a parliamentary republic [see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 November 2002]. We didn't give up this idea. The problem is that modern Russian legislation does not allow us to implement the idea of a parliamentary republic, which was stated by Bashkortostan's president and supported by the majority of the population."

He emphasized the importance of bringing up the idea of a parliamentary republic, "awakening public opinion and the opinion of all Russian politicians, urging the return to the issue of perfecting the way the Russian state is governed. We showed that the parliamentary republic and territorial entities with the parliamentary method of government are effective or at least have a right to exist." Tolkachev also said that the parliamentary system of government "is Russia's future."

Daily: Parliamentary Vote On Draft Constitution Was 'Formality'...
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" wrote on 29 November that the previous day's Bashkir parliamentary vote (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report", 29 November 2002) endorsing the draft constitution that preserved the institution of the presidency "obviously meant that [Tatar President] Murtaza Rakhimov received [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's blessing for his further rule in the republic during their meeting" on 25 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report", 26 November 2002).

"The State Assembly, where Rakhimov holds a guaranteed majority, had nothing left but to formally implement the rejection of the republican constitutional reform. On the other hand, after such a vivid declaration of structural reform in Bashkortostan's governmental bodies, Rakhimov's move looks quite strange. However, the idea of [a parliamentary] republic reform didn't appear to be less odd.... Rakhimov was sincerely planning reform but after discovering that he is more popular than he thought, he decided not to put his fate to the test."

...While Another Paper Says Moscow Halted Reform
In its 28 November issue, "Vremya MN" commented on the 28 November vote in the Bashkir parliament by writing, "an unsuccessful experiment with the introduction of a parliamentary rule is finished in Bashkortostan. Apparently, Murtaza Rakhimov and his entourage failed to gain the permission for a 'super-parliamentary republic' in Moscow with the State Assembly speaker possessing exclusive powers and formal powers at the head of the executive branch.

"After the new constitution is finally adopted, Rakhimov will obviously have only one way to retain power -- to take part in presidential elections. It's evident that the entire republican elite has no other choice. It evidently is unable to propose any successors to Rakhimov, having lost its independence long ago."

Bashkortostan's Budget Revenue Forecast Reduced By 4.5 Percent
The Legislative Chamber passed the draft budget for 2003 in its second reading on 28 November, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The document estimates the consolidated budget revenues at 53.670 billion rubles ($1.688 billion), which is 4.5 percent lower than in 2002. The federal budget will reportedly take 42.1 percent of that sum, while the rest is to be divided between the republican and local self-government bodies.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi