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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 15, 2002

15 February 2002
Tatarstan Media Comment On Draft Constitution
The draft version of a new Tatarstan Constitution includes a paragraph stating that "the Republic of Tatarstan promotes the development of culture, language, preservation of originality of Tatars living outside Tatarstan," "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 15 February. The document also declares that two state languages exist in the republic. The weekly listed "losses" in the new draft compared to the previous version, including the annulment of principles such as those declaring that Tatarstan is "associated" with Russia, that the republic is a subject of international law, and that the republic's legislation supercedes federal law. The paper commented that the introduction of a unicameral, professional parliament consisting of 60 deputies is an unhappy innovation, saying such legislature will likely promote the interests of large cities and parties.

Meanwhile, "Vechernyaya Kazan" on 15 February said a state "united" with Russia -- as defined in the new draft -- is the same as being "associated" with Russia. It added that the new formula contradicts the declaration that Tatarstan is a "member of the Russian Federation." The daily commented that maintaining a "sovereignty" concept in the document contradicts the June 1999 anti-sovereignty ruling of the Russian Constitutional Court. Specifically, it quoted the clause saying "a bearer of sovereignty and the only source of state power in Tatarstan is its multiethnic people." The draft said that "the Constitution of Tatarstan enjoys higher juridical force in Tatarsan's legal system" -- an assertion that contradicts superiority for the federal legislation within the limits of the latter's power, the paper noted. It stressed that the Russian Constitutional Court has already rejected higher status for Tatarstan's constitution and laws on republican territory.

The draft is slated for legislative debate in late February.

Moscow Reportedly Plans To Construct Nuclear Power Station In Tatarstan on 12 February cited "Severnyi kuryer" reporting a Russian government resolution according to which Moscow plans to construct nuclear power stations in Karelia, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Primorskii Krai. The paper cited Karelian government Chairman Sergei Katanandov sharply criticizing a plan to launch the Karelian nuclear station in 2007 and calling it "imperial manners." Katanandov said that until recently he knew nothing of the plan and no one discussed it with the republic's leaders, while previously, less significant issue could not be resolved without their agreement. Katanandov said if the Russian government does not annul its decision, he will initiate a referendum on the issue.

Supreme Mufti Critical Of 'Catholic Expansion'
The supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, Talgat Tadjuddin, said the reorganization of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia is the "pope's mean action," NTV reported on 12 February. The Vatican announced the previous day that four eparchies of the Rome-Catholic Church will be created in Moscow, Saratov, Novossibirsk, and Irkutsk in place of its apostolic administrative bodies. Tadjuddin said Russia's traditional faiths are Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The Russian Orthodox Church have also criticized Catholics' activities on its canonical territory.

Three-Thousand Victims Of Court Mistakes
Tatarstan Supreme Court Chairman Gennadii Baranov said republican courts handed down roughly 3,000 unwarranted sentences in 2001, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 15 February. Speaking at a conference of Tatarstan judges, Baranov cited a case in which a resident was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing a hen. According to the statistics quoted at the conference, the investigation of criminal cases has improved in the republic fivefold compared to Russia. The safety of judges appeared for the first time in the agenda, as court employees in the republic's two raions have been threatened, the paper said.

Scholar Calls Census Political Campaign
Sergei Abashin, a researcher from the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 February that a census is a "political tool in the struggle between Moscow and regions" and that the discussion about a list of nationalities proves the point. Abashin predicted that major "administrative resources" will likely be used to arrange a PR campaign to "count in a proper way." He said that, in the 1989 census, mysterious "control figures" were determined for each census district and employee that turned out to be higher than the number of individuals counted. As a result, Abashin said, the official figures of the 1989 census were at least several percent higher than the actual number of residents.

YelAZ Plans To Load Facilities Idle After Stopping Joint Venture With General Motors
Rashit Salikhov, the general manager of the YelAZ machine-tool plant, announced his company's plan to arrange joint assembly of Oka compact cars with KamAZ's ZMA plant, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 15 February. He said a framework agreement will likely be signed in the next few months, according to which YelAZ will assemble 5,000 small cars equipped with Ukraine's Melitopol-produced engines annually. Salikhov reported another two projects by the machine-tool plant being supervised by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov. Under one of them, assembly of 5,000 Belarusian MTZ tractors and production of corresponding spare parts are planned, while the other is aimed at the production of equipment for oil extraction.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Regional Leaders Gather For Conference In Capital...
A group of Bashkir community representatives from a number of regions in Russia gathered in Ufa on 12 February to discuss Bashkir rights and preparations for the second World Bashkir Congress (WBC), to be held in June.

Leaders of the Bashkir community in Magnitgosk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, told RFE/RL the same day that due to a lack of funds, the city administration decided to shut down the Bashkir Culture House, which has served local Bashkirs from the early 1990s. They reported no response to appeals for assistance from the Bashkir government, adding that Bashkir Congress officials "only came to lecture us about what to do." The community reportedly decided to join forces with the local Tatar diaspora -- thus allying 12 percent of the city's population.

...While Chairman Wants Census Strategy
Also on 12 February, the chairman of the WBC's Executive Committee, Niyaz Majitov, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent that one of the major goals of the upcoming congress will be to prepare Bashkirs for the national census of October 2002. Majitov stated his belief that all city and regional administrations of Bashkortostan "will thoroughly consider this task and propose the necessary measures." RFE/RL's correspondent also quoted deputy Prime Minister and Culture and Ethnic Policies Minister Khalyaf Ishmuratov as saying that "while Bashkortostan has created all the necessary conditions for meeting the interests of all ethnic communities living here, there is nothing being done in other regions to assist our fellow-countrymen residing there."

Constitutional Court Upholds The Claim Against Contradictions Between Bashkir Elections Code And The Constitution
Bashkortostan's Constitutional Court on 14 February sustained objections by Faliakhmet Galiakhmetov against a number of articles in the republic's Electoral Code, including ones that oblige citizens to personally complete their personal data sheets in balloting and require candidates to follow special procedures when establishing their campaign funds. Galiakhmetov said republican legislation infringed on his constitutional rights under the Bashkir Constitution. The court acknowledged that the code, adopted in 1997, was within the framework of the federal Electoral Law of 1994 but did not correspond to articles 22, 23 and 38 of the Bashkir Constitution with respect to personal data sheets. Republican legislators were reportedly required to enter the necessary changes to the code in order to enable other commissioned individuals than voters to enter their personal data. Regarding the claim against the legislative requirements on election campaign funds, the court ruled that the articles in question were no longer in force, since the federal Electoral Law of 1997 included articles regulating such cases.

Muslim Board Condemns Islamic Terrorism...
The Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, led by Supreme Mufti Talgat Tadjuddin, gathered for a forum on 13 February to adopt a statement condemning "frequent attempts to bring contention and distrust into relations between Orthodox Christianity and faithful Muslims and urgings for jihad [holy war]." Without naming individuals or organizations, the statement referred to "appeals from Caucasian emissaries of [an] international Islamic terrorist union" that sought to promote the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam and undermine Muslim unity in Russia.

...As Some Muslims Accuse Him Of Financial Abuse
Mahmut Hajihakiyev, head of the Chechen community in Bashkortostan, editor in chief of the Islamic "Nuri" newspaper, said Supreme Mufti Tadjuddin held the 13 February session of his board with the intent to present himself as a country-wide Muslim leader and justify his vast expenses racked up promoting himself in the Russian media.

Bashkortostan's Exports Decline As Oil Prices Fall
Last year's decline in world oil prices adversely affected Bashkortostan's exports in 2001 -- decreasing the figure by 14 percent -- the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced on 13 February. Imports reportedly gained 7 percent in year-on-year statistics to total $300 million. Exports are still dominated by oil and oil products (60 percent).

State Agency Pledges To Attract More Investment In 2002
The Foreign Investments Agency managed to attract $33 million in investment to Bashkortostan in 2001, while in 2002 it plans to attract $100 million, Bashkir State Radio reported on 13 February. Officials hope $40-50 million of that figure arrives in the form of direct investment with high potential for long-term cooperation.

Bashkir Government Faces Workforce Reorganization
According to a presidential decree cited by RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 14 February, an imminent 10 percent staff shuffle will leave Bashkortostan's government with about 1,100 officials. The staff in question reportedly will not be laid off but re-appointed to lower-level posts.

Republic Maintains Rehabilitation Program For Chechen War Veterans
Some 174 of 295 applicants -- as veterans of war in Chechnya and other regions of the Caucasus -- have obtained civil jobs in the republic. Ninety-one have entered retraining courses to acquire new professional skills, Bashkortostan media reported on 14 February.

Bashkortostan Athletes At The Olympic Games
Neither of Bashkortostan's athletes participating in this year's Olympic Games in Salt Lake City managed to earn medals in the ski-jumping competition on 13 February. Ildar Fatkhullin and Aleksandr Belov occupied the 35th and 50th positions, respectively, and thus did not participate in the finals. Ski-jumping was popularized in Bashkortostan several decades ago, and the republic's athletes have frequently been among the leaders in national championships ever since.

Bashkortostan Residents Talk About Valentine's Day
On 14 February, Bashinform agency interviewed some prominent politicians and public figures in Bashkortostan regarding their attitude to the observation of Saint Valentine's Day, which is gaining popularity among the youth in Russia. The executive chairman of the World Bashkir Congress, Niyaz Majitov, said he is ready to celebrate the holiday if it strengthens inter-ethnic harmony between ethnic groups. The secretary of the Ufa board of the Russian Orthodox Church, Gether Sergiy, called it an "alien holiday inculcated by the West, just like Halloween, which is a holiday of devildom. These holidays are absolutely unacceptable for our country."

Ufa residents polled by the agency said they regarded Valentine's Day as a day of love and gifts to loved ones.

Alcohol Industry Urged To Reduce Potency Of Spirits
Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov, speaking at a meeting of alcohol industry representatives on 13 February, said this year requires a "more delicate approach from alcohol and vodka producers" -- particularly since President Murtaza Rakhimov declared 2002 the "Year of Health." He urged the industry to increase the output of wines and lighter beverages.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chavashia Lauded For Development In Information Sector
Intel Corporation's manager for European countries praised Chavashia for its "unique" effort at high-tech connectivity and said it was the first region in Russia to create electronic government "in an absolutely correct way," Rosbalt reported on 8 February. Visiting representatives from the chip-maker praised the republic for providing a computer network uniting authorities at all levels.

...And The Volga Cossack Army.
Samara Oblast prosecutors appealed to a court to dissolve the Volga Cossack Army for violating federal legislation, including improper use of state symbols and embezzlement, Samara Information Portal reported on 11 February.

Railways Ordered To Compensate For Delays During Kim Jong Il Visit
The Perm Oblast Court has ordered Sverdlovsk Railways to pay a Perm family roughly 13,000 rubles in compensation in damages incurred during a visit to Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in August 2001, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 11 February. The Nazarov family, supported by lawyers from the Perm Human Rights Center, have argued in seven hearings that their rights were violated as a result of the postponement of train trips. Two other, similar challenges are still to be considered by the court.

China To Purchase Five Tu-201-120 In Ulyanovsk
Chinese civil aviation board members and airline managers confirmed their intention to purchase five Tu-204-120s in the near future and another 10 aircraft equipped with Rolls Royce engines, "Mozaika" reported on 12 February. The sides discussed the project during a visit to China by Aviastar-SP General Manager Viktor Mikhailov.

Ural District Leaders Promote Development Of Atomic Energy, Concern About Radiation Safety
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov on 12 February held a meeting in Chelyabinsk to discuss atomic energy and radiation safety in the Ural federal district, including the problems of residents who suffered radiation contamination in a 1957 accident at the Mayak group, "Novyi region" reported. The construction of a new BN-800 block at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Station as well as security measures at atomic facilities were also on the agenda.

India Asks To Speed Up Delivery Of Ural Tanks
The next consignment of 300 Ural T�90C tanks will be delivered to India by the end of March, Novyi region reported on 8 February, quoting Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes. Nizhnii Tagil Uralvagonzavod delivered the first 40 vehicles to India in December, and the Indian side appealed to its partners to step up implementation of the contract. Roughly half of 300 tanks will be delivered in spares and assembled in India.

Protesters Gather Over Construction Of Balakovo Nuclear Station
Between 300 and 500 residents staged a meeting to protest the construction of the fifth and sixth blocks of the Balakovo Nuclear Power Station, Saratovbusinessconsulting reported on 13 February. Participants appealed to Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, oblast and State Duma deputies, and President Putin to demand the reversal of a declaration of intent signed by Ayatskov, saying it flew in the face of local opinion.

Journalist Cleared Of Fomenting Anti-Semitism
A Samara Raion court has cleared Oleg Kitter, who was accused of rousing national and religious hatred in his newspaper "Aleks-Inform," Samara Information Portal reported on 8 February. The court said prosecutors failed to prove that Kitter made anti-Semitic statements. Kitter told reporters following the trial that he will continue defending "the honor of the Russian people."

Saratov Pardons Commission Approves Two Of 21 Appeals
At its first meeting on 13 February, the Saratov Oblast Pardons Commission voted to support 2 of 21 appeals for pardon, reported. Committee Chairman and Saratov Academy of Law Dean Fedor Grigoryev said the number of those granted mercy should not be too high, as "pardoning is an extreme measure."

Nizhnii Teachers Demand Higher Salaries
Teachers from Nizhnii Novgorod's secondary schools on 11 February appealed to the Russian president and government to bring teachers' salaries up to the average in industry -- as stipulated in legislation -- the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported. Igor Bogdanov, a Duma deputy representing Nizhnii Novgorod and an organizer of the action, said education employees will strike in early March if the demands are not met.

Prosecutors File Charges Against GTRK Samara Head...
The Samara Prosecutor-General's Office filed charges against the head of the state Television and Radio Company Samara (GTRK Samara), Aleksandr Knyazev, accusing him of fraud and a murder threat, the Samara information portal reported on 13 February. Knyazev has opposed the oblast leadership in the past year. Samara Oblast Governor Kinstantin Titov, in an interview with the Terra television company, denied his participation in the matter.

Udmurt Parliament To Amend Constitution
Udmurtia Republic's State Council on 12 February debated amendments to the constitution and laws on the president, on the government, and on the State Council, "Udmurtia" reported the following day. The republican prosecutor's office has protested several features in the legislation, including the right of the republican president to appoint the interior minister and the right of the president to head the republican government. The clause of the republican constitution specifying human rights and freedoms was also contested as repeating the federal constitution to an extent that is prohibited.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova