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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 19, 2002

19 April 2002
Draft Constitution Enters Third Reading
Tatarstan's State Council began the third reading of the draft constitution of the republic on 19 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. During its work on harmonizing the draft with federal legislation, the State Council Commission on Issues of State Structure, Local Self-Government, and Foreign Relations, along with a specially formed working group involving officials from the legal administration of Tatarstan's presidential staff and the State Council, Tatarstan's chief prosecutor, Kafil Amirov, proposed 128 corrections to the draft. During the second reading, however, parliament had already made more than 120 amendments to the document, which had been proposed by President Mintimer Shaimiev's Constitution Commission.

Tatarstan Human-Rights Commissioner Rashit Vagizov, a member of the above-mentioned working group, told RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent on 19 April that the large number of proposed amendments is likely to cause the parliamentary session to be extended, so that deputies and legal experts will have to resume work on Saturday, 20 April.

According to Russia's "Izvestiya" daily on 19 April, it has been proposed that the Tatarstan State Council remove provisions regarding economic development, property relations, human rights, and citizenship in the republic, because these issues fall under federal jurisdiction. Among other articles recommended for removal, "Izvestiya" noted the declarative provision saying that Tatarstan "rejects violence and war as a means for resolving contentions between states and peoples and bans war propaganda" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 April 2002). The paper referred to a recent ruling of the Russian Supreme Court that annulled this article because matters of war and peace are to be resolved by the Russian state and not by any of its federative subjects.

Oil Continues To Dominate Republic's Exports
Tatarstan's minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation, Khafiz Salikhov, told a press conference on 16 April that exports from the republic in 2001 grew by 3 percent compared to the previous year and reached $600 million, while imports climbed 4 percent to $75 million, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported.

According to Salikhov, 60 percent of Tatarstan's exports are from oil sales, while one of the republic's major companies, the KamAZ automotive concern, increased its exports by 30 percent, selling some 3,300 trucks abroad. Salikhov added that the Kazan Helicopter Plant, which sells 90 percent of its production abroad, and the Elmet Pump Plant also stepped up their output and exports. As a result, the machine-building industry increased its share to 11 percent of Tatarstan's exports.

Salikhov also revealed "the secret" of Tatarstan's stable oil revenues in the wake of OPEC's freeze on oil exports, saying that, while limiting its exports to the West, the republic boosted its oil sales to CIS countries by 20 times, so that they accounted for more than 30 percent of Tatarstan's oil exports in 2002.

TIU Vows To Resume Struggle For Self-Determination Of Tatar People
During a press conference on 18 April, leaders of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) reacted to Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly aired the same day, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Following Putin's statement regarding the need to revise power-sharing treaties between Moscow and the regions, TIU Chairman Reshit Yagfarov said, "The Tatar national movement is now entering a new, second stage of its struggle for independence." Other TIU leaders took up Yagfarov's statement, explaining that the "second stage" means peaceful activities based on international laws on ethnic minorities.

Referring to the current process of harmonizing republic laws with federal legislation, TIU activist Yunis Kamaltdinov said that, "under the current circumstances, when our Constitution is being torn up and trampled upon, we will have to put out a call to the public for civil disobedience."

Another TIU leader, Rinat Nurgali, said the Tatar Public Center would inquire about opening an office in Tatarstan of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, similar to the one operating in Belarus, "so that the OSCE can prove that violations of the right of the Tatar people to self-determination are taking place."

Paper: Street Gangs To Oppose Skinheads
Commenting on possible violence by skinhead groups in Tatarstan's capital Kazan on 20 April, Adolf Hitler's birthday, the "Vremya i dengi" daily quoted unnamed police officers as saying that racist youths from throughout the republic are likely to mark that date by gathering near the Lenin monument in front of Kazan State University's main building. The paper also claimed to have interviewed street-gang leaders in different districts of Kazan, who reportedly confirmed that they would "fix" the skinheads if they became violent.

Moscow Institute Probes Press Freedom In Tatarstan
Representatives from the Press Development Institute (IRP) in Moscow visited Kazan on 18-19 April to investigate the condition of press freedom in the republic and to plan seminars for local journalists, Tatar-inform reported on 18 April. The first meeting involving the IRP delegation, heads of Tatarstan's Union of Journalists, and correspondents of several media outlets in the republic reportedly revealed gaps in knowledge about the law on the media, media management, and language among Tatarstan's journalists.

Republic's Oil-Rich Regions Facing Major Layoffs
Tatarstan's minister of labor, Nikolai Volkov, told a meeting of the Tatarstan State Council Commission on Social Issues on 18 April that Tatarstan companies will lay off some 9,000 people in 2002, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. He added that laid-off employees will require social assistance to the tune of 16 million rubles ($516,000).

Most of the layoffs are expected to occur in oil-producing regions, where some 6,000 workers will lose their jobs as the result of the closure of a number of unprofitable oil wells.

Tatarstan Establishes Ties With Nogai Tatar Community In Chechnya
Officials from the administration of the Shelkovskoi region of Chechnya met with Razil Valeev, head of Tatarstan's State Council Commission on Science, Education, and Ethnic Issues, on 16 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

Chechen officials told Valeev that the situation in their region was relatively peaceful compared to other areas in the breakaway republic. Officials also asked for Tatarstan's assistance in starting up schools in four Nogai Tatar villages there.

Tatarstan's National Library reportedly agreed to donate a significant number of schoolbooks on Tatar language and history, while the republic's State Ensemble of Song and Dance also donated Tatar national clothes to the schools.

SPS Launches Army-Reform Campaign In Tatarstan
A group of not more than 50 Kazan residents attended an event sponsored by the Tatarstan branch of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in Kazan on 15 April, RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent reported on 19 April. The event was organized to launch a campaign to urge reforms in the Russian Army.

Following a short rock concert -- intended to attract young people to the event -- SPS branch leader Fedor Fomushkin said that SPS planned to collect as many as 35,000 signatures among residents in the republic on a petition demanding that the term of obligatory army service in Russia be reduced to six months.

The move by SPS is backed by the Tatarstan Center of Peacemaking Initiatives, which promotes the right of citizens not to serve in the army.

Drug-Enforcement Official Reports Achievements
Oleg Krasilnikov, the chief drug-enforcement officer at Tatarstan's Interior Ministry, told a press conference on 17 April that so far in 2002 law-enforcement officers in the republic have seized 54 kilograms of narcotics, valued at approximately 25 million rubles ($806,000), RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported on 19 April. This amount is reportedly three times greater than what the police confiscated in the republic in all of 2001.

Krasilnikov added that his subordinates have shut down six drug-trafficking networks leading to Tatarstan already this year. Three of these networks originated in the Orenburg Oblast, while the others started in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Tatar Education Days Held In Cheboksary
Tatarstan's Minister of Education Faris Kharisov left for Cheboksary on 18 April to participate in the Days of Tatar Education being held in the Chuvash capital. The purpose of the festival is to help the local Tatar community maintain its native traditions and language, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day.

Farisov is expected to sign a cooperation agreement on culture and education with the Chuvash Education Ministry while in the republic.

A similar event is to be held in the Ulyanovsk Oblast from 23-25 April.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ideologists Indignant Over Annulment Of Parts Of Bashkortostan's Constitution�
Mansur Ayupov, the former deputy prime minister and secretary of state and currently the rector of the presidential Academy of State Service and Management, was quoted by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 14 April as saying that calls for an annulment of the power-sharing treaties between the Kremlin and Ufa would be a rejection of the modern history of Bashkortostan and Russia. He said such an annulment will take the republic back, politically, to the early 1990s. Ayupov was speaking at a roundtable of leading political analysts on Bashkortostan Television last week that was held in response to the 15 March republican Supreme Court verdict that annulled more than 40 articles of Bashkortostan's Constitution. Ayupov asserted that budget federalism will be replaced with unitarism. If before 2000, some 70 percent of budget revenues remained in the republican budget, currently that total is only some 40 percent and, in the future, Moscow's "appetite will likely furthermore grow," Ayupov said. Participants concluded that federalism is being eliminated in Russia and suggested that a solution be found only through a compromise with Moscow and bilateral harmonization procedures.

�As Are Bashkortostan's Lawyers
Republican newspapers on 11 April published a statement by the republic's Union of Lawyers on the issue of the annulment by the republican Supreme Court of more than 40 paragraphs of Bashkortostan's Constitution, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 14 April. Members of the union, which unites some 1,500 lawyers, recognize the necessity of strengthening vertical power in Russia as a whole, but criticize the fact that prosecutors' bodies and general -- not constitutional -- courts are charged with overseeing the harmonization of the constitutions of republics with federal laws. The lawyers called for a policy promoting civic concord and interethnic tolerance in the sphere of federal relations within Russia. Attempts to annul the "principles of life" of Russia's different ethnic peoples that have been forming for decades may undermine the development of Russia as a federative state, they said, adding that efforts aimed at the annulment of power-sharing treaties may threaten the stability of the country.

But Russian Ministry Promotes Cultural Autonomies, Sees Federalism Developing
The Russian minister without portfolio in charge of national policy, Vladimir Zorin, told a conference on federalism issues in Ufa that the development of national and cultural autonomies is an important opportunity for people to satisfy their national and cultural needs since all of the 176 nations living in Russia cannot have their own national administrative entities, Bashinform reported on 18 April. Zorin said 300 national-cultural autonomies have been established in Russia, 13 of which are Russia-wide, 70 are regional, and more than 180 are local. Tatars, Jews, and Germans are the most active among the representatives of 30 ethnic groups that established their national-cultural autonomy and are attending the 16-17 April conference. Zorin told reporters in Ufa on 18 April that a state that promotes liberal economic reforms and democratic principles cannot be ruled in a unitary way. Zorin stressed that Russia is in the process of the development of federalism.

Bashkir National Organization Elects New Leader�
The head of the Bashkir People's Center Ural, Akhtar Buskunov, was dismissed at the organization's eighth congress held on 11 April in Ufa, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the next day. Buskunov headed the organization for two terms. Buskunov was constantly criticized for inactivity by activists of the Bashkir national movement, among them professors Marat Kulsharipov, Damir Valiev, and Niyaz Mazhitov. They said at the congress that only the name has remained from the organization as it was before Buskunov became its head. The congress elected poet Kadym Aralbai as the new chairman. The election procedure was a formal one since only one candidacy was proposed. The correspondent cited unidentified congress participants as saying that under Aralbai�s leadership the center is likely to become tamer and in the "government's pocket." Aralbai, who is nearly 70, used to work on the Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

�As Previous One Criticizes Plans To Merge Territorial Entities�
Before the congress that dismissed him, Bashkir People's Center Ural leader Akhtar Buskunov told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 11 April that after President Vladimir Putin came to power efforts were made to change Russia's national-territorial structure through the establishment of federal districts. He opposed an idea under discussion about a merger of Krasnoyarsk Krai with the Khanty-Mansii and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous okrugs. In the future, Buskunov said, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan can also become subjects of similar rearrangements through a merger with oblasts and as a result, the republics may be eliminated.

�And Promotes Unity Of Bashkir, Tatar National Movements
In the same interview, Buskunov criticized the formal character of preparations for the second congress of the Bashkir World Congress and pointed out that many distinguished Bashkir representatives failed to be elected as delegates. He said Bashkirs living in oblasts outside of Bashkortostan face trouble in their cultural development, adding that his organization was even unable to receive data about the number of Bashkir schoolchildren in Orenburg Oblast from local authorities because they were told that children are not registered along ethnic lines there. Buskunov condemned attempts to embroil Bashkirs and Tatars on the issue of the upcoming census and stressed the necessity of strengthening unity between them when the fate of the republics within Russia hangs by a thread. He said that during a meeting with the leaders of the Tatar Public Center they agreed to unite their efforts in their fight to defend the sovereignty of their republics. He said the time has come for the two peoples to unite.

Trade, Industry Chamber Heads Accused Of Violations
The State Control Committee has finished an investigation into the activity of the Trade and Industry Chamber in 2000-2001 and found numerous violations, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 12 April. The committee passed documents on the case to the Prosecutors' Office and the Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry. Rustem Shayakhmetov, the former general manager of the chamber who took part in a committee board meeting devoted to the issue and disagreed with its results, ran away after the meeting in possession of the documents that were adopted at the meeting.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Mordovian Cultural Group Promotes Erzya Language
A conference devoted to the day of the Erzya language was organized in Nizhnii Novgorod by the Mordovian Cultural Center Yalgan and the city department on public relations on 16 April, "Nizhegorodskie novosti" reported the same day. Participants stressed that Erzya, one of two languages of the Mordovian people, has almost been lost. They warned that the elimination of ethnic particularities and ignorance of the native language could lead to the death of the Mordovian culture. It was reported that the number of Mordovian people fell significantly in the past century, and the majority of the 36,000 Mordovians living in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast do not speak their native language. An official from Mordovia's Culture Ministry said that even in Mordovia's educational institutions, titular languages are taught only as elective courses.

Incumbent Governor Re-elected In Penza Oblast
Incumbent Penza Oblast Governor Vasilii Bochkarev won re-election in the oblast with 45.45 percent of the vote on 14 April, RIA-Novosti reported on 15 April. His main competitor, State Duma Deputy (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) Viktor Ilyukhin received 40.96 percent. The other four candidates received together some 5 percent of the vote. Turnout totaled 53 percent.

Ilyukhin won in all urban electoral districts, including in the Zheleznodorozhnyi district, which Bochkarev headed before he became governor. In rural districts, however, Bochkarev received 10 percent more overall than Ilyukhin, while in several of them, "outbursts of love for the governor" took place, like in the Lopatinskii district where Bochkarev exceeded Ilyukhin by 51 percent. Central Election Commission member Vasilii Volkov told "Kommersant" daily that "voting results are convincing enough."

"Kommersant" reported that many participants of the campaign believe the key role in the victory of the incumbent belongs to presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko. The daily cited the envoy's press service as saying that the district authorities are satisfied with the victory of the governor and are proud that the opposition was defeated in "an honest struggle," without the withdrawal of Ilyukhin from the election.

Ilyukhin said he has a complaint on how votes were counted and will legally challenge the results. "Kommersant" quoted Valerii Bespalov, one of candidates for governor, as saying, "Ilyukhin won the elections while Bochkarev [won] the vote counting."

Municipal Services Go On Hunger Strike In Nizhnii Tagil
Fifteen municipal services employees in the Prigorodnyi district of Nizhnii Tagil, Sverdlovsk Oblast, began a hunger strike on 16 April to protest delays in receiving their salary, "Novyi Region" reported the same day. They have not been paid since September and each of them is owed from 5,000 to 10,000 rubles ($161-$322).

Governor-Led Bloc Wins Parliament Elections In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The electoral bloc For Native Urals (Za rodnoi Ural, ZRU) established by Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel gained a convincing victory in the oblast legislature elections on 14 April, "Kommersant" reported on 16 April. ZRU received 29 percent of the vote and seven Oblast Duma seats. Unity and Fatherland, the main competitor of ZRU which is headed by Nizhnii Tagil Metallurgy Facility General Manager Sergei Nosov, came second with 18 percent and four seats; the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) received 7 percent and two seats, and the Party of Pensioners 6 percent and one seat. The daily cited unidentified local political analysts as commenting that elections results significantly increase the chances for Governor Rossel's re-election for a third term in the fall of 2003, since Nosov is considered his main potential competitor. Russian Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told the "Vesti" program on RTR television on 15 April that all the facts of the numerous alleged attempts to bribe voters in Yekaterinburg in the 14 April elections will be investigated. He said stricter measures will be included in legislation to prosecute those who commit violations during elections.

Komi-Permyak Okrug Authorities Give Up On Merger With Perm Oblast
The press service of the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug administration issued a press release on 12 April claiming that the Perm Oblast administration is seeking to eliminate the okrug as a national and cultural autonomy, reported the same day. The press release reflects the results of a meeting of the Coordinating Council chaired by the okrug head devoted to the prospects of a merger of the okrug with Perm Oblast. The move was likely a reaction to interviews of Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev and State Duma Deputy Andrei Klimov with the local "Parma-Novosti" newspaper published the previous months. Specifically, Klimov said the merger will mean in fact the elimination of the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, which will be represented in the Perm parliament by two deputies. Trutnev proposed the idea of the merger a year ago and suggested that it be held in 2005. Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Kirienko said in February that he supports Trutnev's initiative, but added that the process should not be speeded up. Previously, okrug head Gennadii Savelyev backed the initiative of the Perm governor on the merger.

Audit Chamber Accuses Two LUKoil Subsidiaries Of Not Paying Excises
The Russian Audit Chamber accused two oil refineries of the Volga district, Nizhegorodnefteorgsintez and Permnefteorgsintez, of evading paying excises, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 15 April. The companies, which are branches of LUKoil, leased their facilities to companies registered in off-shore zones. The Audit Chamber estimated that the federal budget lost 2.95 billion rubles in 2000-01 due to the scheme.

Marii National Organization Leader Assaulted
The chairman of the Marii Council, Viktor Nikolaev, was severely beaten on 16 April near a the building where his apartment is located, reported citing the Information Center of Finno-Ugric Peoples in Estonia the next day. The local Federal Security Service department assumes the attack may have been politically motivated, the center said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova