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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 1, 2002

1 March 2002
Deputy Says Citizenship Restriction Makes For 'Empty' Statehood
Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin told "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 28 February that after a rejection of republican citizenship in federal law, a declaration of Tatarstan's statehood in the constitution amounts to empty words. The Duma decision contradicts the Russian Constitution, which defines republics within Russia as states, Safiullin said, adding that a state without citizenship is meaningless. Safiullin argued that even Josef Stalin's 1936 constitution provided citizenship for autonomous republics. Tatarstan's 1937 constitution included a paragraph declaring that "every citizen of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is a citizen of the RSFSR." The refusal of republican citizenship is a step backward from Stalin's constitution, he said. Safiullin added, "We will insist on the Tatarstan citizenship that proceeds from the Russian Constitution...and appeal to international courts and organizations." The denial of Tatarstan citizenship marks an annulment of Tatarstan as a state and a gross violation and improper amendment of the Russian Constitution by the Duma, he added.

In other comments, Safiullin called "discriminatory" the requirement that Russian residents currently living in former Soviet republics know the Russian language to obtain Russian citizenship through a simplified procedure.

Russian Paper Says Moscow Concessions Wrought Tatarstan's Draft Constitution
"Vek" on 22 February reported that the rejection by Tatarstan of associated status, its own judicial system and prosecutors' bodies, and the right to conclude international treaties in the republic's draft constitution is a result of economic and political concessions by Moscow. The federal budget earmarked some 12.8 billion rubles ($420 million) for Tatarstan's social-economic development in 2002, while a development program for southern Russia was given only 600 million rubles ($20 million), the paper noted.

A 21 January ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court that left Tatarstan's current State Council in place while striking down the procedures that created it was Moscow's main political concession, the weekly said. A compromise on the "sovereignty" issue includes the recognition of Tatarstan as a sovereign state in the republican constitution while genuine features of sovereignty are paid little attention.

Kazan considers the 1994 power-sharing treaty with Moscow a legal guarantee of sovereignty, the paper said. Meanwhile, power-sharing treaties will "die" by the summer of 2002 under federal legislation on the principles and order of power sharing between Russia and federation members. Moreover, on 21 July the six-month deadline given to Tatarstan by the Russian Constitutional Court to harmonize its electoral laws will expire. Thus, by mid-July the harmonization process is to be completed, the paper said.

Moscow Promotes National-Cultural Autonomies Rather Than National-Territorial Entities
"Vek" on 22 February published an article promoting the separation of a resolution to the national issue from territorial problems. It said some Russian peoples have their own quasi-states but others do not, and it is difficult to provide ethnic and cultural development without evoking territorial problems. The weekly cited experts' prognoses that Moscow will pass issues of national policy to regions and non-profit organizations. The federal law on national-cultural autonomies gives peoples sweeping rights to develop their language, culture, mass media, and educational institutions but deprives them of the right to national-territorial self-determination -- an "extremely important" point, the weekly stressed.

"Vek" said the majority of Tatars live outside Tatarstan, but the development of ethnic and cultural consciousness is possible only in the republic because "other representatives of the people are excluded from the discussions on issues of principle, as the attempt to switch to the Tatar Latin script has shown." The weekly claimed that "republican leaders [in Tatarstan] are not very much interested in the opinion of Tatars living outside Tatarstan."

The weekly noted that the establishment of national-cultural autonomies is aimed at fighting separatist trends, adding that the separation of national and regional components will minimize the centrifugal potential of many federation members. The minister without portfolio in charge of national policy, Vladimir Zorin, plans to hold a meeting of the National-Cultural Autonomies Council in early March to discuss the issue.

Russian Movement Leader Says Russians' Self-Awareness On Rise
Sociologist and the leader of the Russian Culture Society, Aleksandr Salagaev, told "Vostochnyi ekspress" on 22 February that ethnic self-awareness of Russians in Tatarstan has grown and reached the level that characterized Tatars in 1991. Salagaev said that if tension arises, Russians "will also express their point of view." He said his society promotes the revival of the Russian culture and Orthodoxy, opening Russian gymnasiums, national centers, theaters, arranging national holidays, and exhibitions. He criticized a lack of transmissions on Russian culture on local radio and television.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan Accepts Merger Of Centrist Parties
The Bashkortostan branches of Unity and Fatherland-All Russia parties held a merger meeting following the December 2001 decision of their central leadership and elected a common leadership on 28 February. According to the coordinator of Fatherland-All Russia in Brand rector of the State Service Academy under the president of Bashkortostan Republic, Mansur Ayupov, the merger will establish its 69 organizations in all regions of Bashkortostan in less than a year.

Expert in political science, deputy rector of the mentioned academy Sergei Lavrentyev told the governmental meeting on 27 February that the new United Russia party, "was not burdened by any of the ideological dogmas of Marxism or any other streams." Referring to the term "party of power" used by some of the media in respect of the merger, he said, "in this case there are two [such] parties existing in America."

Top officials of the Fatherland-All Russia party in Bashkortostan told the local media before the merger meeting that they were ready to offer their experience gathered during the last Duma elections to the new political organization.

Tadjuddin's Holiday Greeting Praises Putin's 'Firm Will'
In his Kurban Bayram holiday greeting to the believers, Russian Central Muslim Religious Board Chairman Talgat Tadjuddin welcomed the "firm will of the Russian president and our country's efficient contribution to the struggle against terrorism and establishment of peaceful relations with all countries of the Earth," Interfax reported.

World Bashkir Congress To Include Religious Issues In Agenda
Delegates of the World Bashkir Congress to be held in June 2002 will discuss the issues of Islamic revival in Bashkir communities in areas where they reside and problems connected with opening new mosques and teaching Muslim priests, reported on 22 February.

Newly Introduced Income Tax Brings More Revenues To Tax Bodies
the new system of individual income taxation introduced in 2001 allowed the tax bodies of Bashkortostan to collect 5.3 billion rubles ($177 million), which is 2.4 times more than in 2000, Bashinform reported on 25 February. The 35 richest residents of Bashkortostan reported from 1 to 10 million rubles ($33,000 to $330,000) in annual income in 2001, as none of them managed to earn more than $330,000.

Republic's Anticorruption Law Proves Effective
State Control Committee head Petr Bobilev told the Bashkir parliament on 28 February that the number of corruption cases detected by his committee "was not decreasing." Bobilev's report said that 44 such cases were investigated in 2001 and were tried according the republican anticorruption law.

Over 30 Percent Of Bashkortostan's Arable Lands Exhausted
A scientific conference devoted to the problem and perspectives of Russian agricultural-industry complex development in Ufa discussed the slumping fertility of Bashkortostan's arable lands on 27 February.

Violations of agricultural standards and extensive destruction of forests reportedly brought about the erosion and acidification of 34.7 percent of the republic's arable lands.

Unemployed Lawyers To Be Offered Jobs In Bashkortostan's Schools
Bashkir Human Rights Commissioner Chingiz Gazizov told the meeting of the State Assembly on 27 February that many unemployed people with a legal education had serious difficulties finding new jobs and 326 such specialists of 739 applying to Ufa labor fairs in 2001 managed to find new jobs, while the schools of Bashkortostan "demonstrate a low level of knowledge of the law."

Therefore, Gazizov suggested that parliament should work on ways for attracting the unemployed lawyers to teaching human rights in schools.

Private Farming Gains Over Collective Farms Output
Private farming in rural regions of Bashkortostan contributed 54.2 percent of the republic's total agricultural production in 2001, the Agriculture Ministry announced on 1 March.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chavash President Urges Chechen Solution, Says Conflict Taking A Toll On Other Regions...
In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 February, Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov called for the withdrawal of the Russian army from Chechnya, adding that only Chechens can establish order in the republic. To prevent destabilization in Russia, the administrative border with Chechnya could be closed, he said. In Chechnya, there is a contradiction between the threat to the internal constitutional system and the threat of annihilation of the entire people, he said, adding, "We do not need to keep territorial integrity at the cost of the annihilation of thousands and thousands of people."

Fedorov suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin talk to private servicemen and officers in Chechnya without the press, ministers, or generals present; he will receive completely different information than what officials and state television report. Fedorov stressed that control of information about long-running military operations without any solution to the whole problem is "an ill turn done the Russian president by his advisers."

Fedorov believes that federal authorities should bring in independent mediators such as Ruslan Aushev, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, or Fedorov himself to settle the Chechen conflict. Fedorov noted that negative potential is being accumulated in Russia's regions because of the Chechen problem, as all federation members send servicemen to Chechnya, maintain those forces from their own budgets, and, most importantly, receive the bodies of those killed in action. He said if the economic and social situation worsens, the growing number of victims in Chechnya can become a serious problem.

...And Questions Orthodox Crosses On State Emblem
In the same "Nezavisimaya gazeta" interview on 26 February, Nikolai Fedorov also expressed concern about the appropriateness of a Russian state emblem decorated with Orthodox crosses. He suggested such an image might not be appropriate in a multi-faith state. Fedorov said experts and politicians might have done a disservice to the Russian president in promoting such an emblem. However, Fedorov said the Russian Constitution does not provide grounds for republics to insist on special passports or republican citizenship. Those who cling to citizenship harbor secessionist hopes, he said, adding that the presence of pro-independence elements in federation members is incomprehensible.

In other comments, Fedorov sharply criticized proposals to remove a moratorium on capital punishment, calling them "a recurrence of the Soviet isolationist policy."

Opposition Says Marii Culture Under Pressure In Marii El Republic
Representatives of the Marii political opposition took part in a press conference by the Tatar Public Center, Liberal Russia in Tatarstan, and the public political movement Idel-Ural in Kazan, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 22 February.

Viktor Nikolaev -- who is the chairman of All-Marii Council, the former Marii El culture minister, and the head of the Marii Shketan Drama Theater -- said Marii opposition movements are preparing a protest against pressure being exerted on the Marii language and culture in the republic. They are appealing to Tatars and related Finno-Ugric peoples for support.

Nikolaev said that since Leonid Markelov -- who was brought up by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- took over as president of the republic, a government body in charge of ethnic issues has been abolished and a major discussion on the necessity of teaching the Marii language has been initiated. The appointment of Muscovites to represent Marii El in the Federation Council was another action that insulted the republic's peoples, Nikolaev said. The Education Ministry's National Education Department has also been closed, while its employees were accused of "spreading the Marii language," he said. Publishing House director and poet Aptullina was sacked and the publication of Marii literature has slowed, he added. The opposition newspaper "Kudo-Kodu" is printed outside the republic with the support of George Soros' Open Society Fund.

Tatarstan's public Council of Elders chairman, Akhmet Galiev, said Marii El's example shows what Tatarstan will face in the future and called the events in the neighboring republics "the beginning of the annulment of national republics in Russia."

Mordovia Avoids Recognition Of Repression Victims
More than 4,000 Mordovian residents repressed in 1930s cannot get that status acknowledged, reported on 24 February. The head of the Mordovian Human Rights Center, Vasilii Guslyannikov, said republican officials refuse to recognize thousands of elderly people dispossessed in order to exempt them from paying an additional 1,000 rubles to their pensions. Such acknowledgement would require 4 million rubles in subsidies from the republican budget every month. Guslyannikov cited a case in which authorities refused a resident politically repressed status, arguing that the decision to dispossess him as a "kulak" was taken by a collective farm meeting rather than by a court.

Nizhnii Legislature Seeks Annulment Of Bilateral Treaty With Moscow
The Nizhnii Novgorod Legislative Assembly on 28 February appealed to the Russian president to annul the agreement between Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast and the Russian Federation fixed in the 31 March 1992 Federative Treaty, reported. Deputies said the Federative Treaty has made a great contribution to the development of the Russian statehood and constitutional legality but lost sense after the adoption of the Russian Constitution. Legislative Assembly Chairman Dmitrii Bednyakov said the number of federation members that appeal to the federative treaty is excessive and must fall.

Orthodox Church In Yekaterinburg Protests Presentation Of 'Ivan Chonkin'
The Yekaterinburg Eparchy protested against the staging of Vladimir Voinovich's "Ivan Chonkin" during a tour of the Moscow Drama and Comedy Theater in Taganka to Yekaterinburg, calling it a mockery of the Russian army, a lampooning of Russian soldiers, and an outrage to Russian history, "Novyi region" reported on 20 February. The agency quoted the eparchy's newspaper, "Pravoslavnaya gazeta," writing that the "presentation of the an insult to our army, which, due to the efforts of numerous 'Voinoviches,' has been experiencing less than the best of times over the past decade."

Meanwhile, Vladimir Voinovich on 22 February told Russkoe Radio in Yekaterinburg that he was revolted by the campaign against him mounted by the Orthodox Church in Yekaterinburg. He countered that it was atheists and communists that spoiled the army for 70 years, not him.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova