28 December 2001
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM TATARSTANSmall LDPR Contingent Demands 'More Democratic Elections'
Twelve members of the Kazan branch of the ultranational Russian Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) gathered on Kazan's Freedom Square on 27 December to demand "more democratic elections" in the republic. LDPR's coordinator in Kazan, Aleksandr Dyomin, told reporters that residents of Tatarstan should be given the opportunity to vote for parties rather than individual candidates.
Some local media suggested the LDPR organized the event in case early elections are announced for the Tatar State Council after the Russian Constitutional Court recognized a challenge by the RiZ civic movement on 25 December. The Russian court declared that 56 representatives of Tatarstan's executive body had no right to sit on the State Council; the court said the Russian Civil Code article enabling their election "violated the [Russian] Constitution." The court's ruling did not mention dissolving Tatarstan's legislature, something that was requested by the plaintiffs. The present State Council was elected in 2000 and, according to republican laws, it is to continue its work until 2005.
Former Justice Minister Loses Reinstatement Court Battle
Tatarstan's Supreme Court on 24 December considered an appeal by former Justice Minister Albert Salabaev, who was challenging a recent district court verdict rejecting his wrongful dismissal claim against the federal Justice Ministry. Salabaev was suing the ministry for sacking him after a Russian federal body effectively replaced Tatarstan's Justice Ministry. According to court documents, Tatarstan's Justice Ministry was established in 1974 by the autonomous republic's Supreme Council, and the Russian Justice Ministry subsequently rubber-stamped ministerial candidates proposed by Tatarstan's legislative body. Only in 2001 did Moscow appoint its own representative to head a branch of the federal Justice Ministry in Tatarstan, not insisting on the abolishment of the republican body but handing over all its powers to the newly formed office. Salabaev told reporters after the trial that he will seek his reinstatement on the federal ministry's staff; ministry representatives meanwhile claimed that he was never actually "hired" because he did not submit any formal applications after his appointment by Tatarstan's Supreme Council nine years ago.
Kazan Administration Expects Additional Income To Steady Finances
Kazan City Council deputies have endorsed next year's municipal budget with a 10 percent deficit, Tatarstan's press reported on 28 December. The city government plans 4.7 billion rubles ($158 million) in revenues and spending of 5.3 billion rubles ($177 million). Electricity failed during the council session, which was chaired by Kazan Mayor Kamil Ikhakov and attended by Tatarstan Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, stunning attendees. Later reports suggested the power outage was a protest action by utility Tatenergo, which is demanding payment of Kazan National Culture Center bills, where the meeting was being held. The city blamed falling revenues in saying it would freeze construction of new hospitals and recreation centers for children, and avoid pay hikes for police housing-services employees and janitors, some of whom reportedly have not seen wages since June. Mayor Iskhakov insisted he was optimistic about 2002, "because there will be extra sources of income for Kazan, including a $9 million loan from the International Bank For Reconstruction and another 1 billion rubles ($33 million) to be transferred by the federal government for Kazan millennium anniversary preparations.
City Of Chally Adopts 'Survival Budget'
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Industry Sergei Kogogin, speaking at a 27 December Chally City Council session at which a 2.209 billion ruble ($74 million) budget was adopted for 2002, said the legislation was only a "survival budget, not a budget of development," noting that its expenses only covered the city's most basic needs.
Tatneft Reports Financial Stability...
Strana.ru information service reported on 20 December that Tatneft oil company will leave its annual investment level unchanged in 2002 despite the current slump in oil prices. General Director Shafagat Takhautdinov told the service that most (5 billion rubles, or $167 million) of the 17 billion ($567 million) in investment will be used for construction of the Tuben Kama Oil Processing Plant. Tatneft is also to maintain investments in its Tuben Kama Tire Company.
...While Russian Media Speculates About Bankruptcy
Website smi.ru quoted "Noviye Izvestia" newspaper on 27 December as claiming the Russian Tax Ministry is to "probe Tatneft's bookkeeping because of growing debts." Tatarstan's biggest oil producer was reported to have "serious problems" with foreign creditors demanding the repayment of large sums, something the paper speculates could lead to bankruptcy.
KamAZ Restructures Debt To Russian State And EBRD
KamAZ automotive concern finished the restructuring of 527 million rubles ($17.6 million) in debt to the Russian State Reserves Agency and the European Bank For Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) by converting bonds into shares and increasing its registered capital to 39.3 billion rubles ($1.31 billion). After this stage of debt-restructuring, the Russian Property Affairs Ministry (34.01 percent), Russian Vneshtorgbank (17.48 percent), Tatarstan's Ministry of Land and Property Affairs (10.68 percent) and the EBRD (6.79 percent) became the major owners of the company, which controls more than 40 percent of the Russian truck market.
Compiled by Iskender Nurmi
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTANLawyers Union Head Says Revamped Constitution Needs Protection
Bashkortostan's Union of Advocates Chairman Rafik Giybadetov, in "Qyzyl tang" on 22 December, commented on the anniversary of the republican constitution by saying the republic's revamped constitution needs to be protected. The independent newspaper "Otechestvo" on 17 December called the Bashkortostan Constitution "a document nationalists and separatists succeeded in passing [by] exploiting Moscow's weakness." The paper claimed the days of the new constitution are also numbered.
Constitutional Challenge Predicted For Bashkortostan
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent, citing to unnamed sources, reported on 23 December that the Bashkortostan Constitution will likely be challenged soon. The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has already protested against 50 paragraphs of the revamped constitution as contradicting Russian law. In response, Bashkortostan's leadership has appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court to specify some aspects of the court's ruling from 27 June 2000. Unofficial sources said the Constitutional Court has handed the appeal by Bashkir authorities to the Russian Supreme Court. The latter, in turn, sent the case to the Bashkortostan Supreme Court.
Bashkortostan Authorities Voice Concern Over Demographics...
President Murtaza Rakhimov expressed his disagreement with journalists from "Argumenty i fakty v Bashkortostane," RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 21 December. The 12 December issue of that newspaper published data presented by republican registry offices, according to which 41 percent of newborns in the republic are Bashkirs while Russians and Tatars total a combined 44 percent. Rakhimov criticized the publication of such statistics. The article also reported that the mortality rate exceeds the birth rate in the republic.
The Bashkir-language "Bashkortostan" and "Yeshlek" newspapers are proceeding with calls for increasing the Bashkir population. "Yeshlek" on 15 December called on Bashkir families to give birth to three babies in five years. The paper published a prediction that Bashkir will soon total 5 million. "Bashkortostan" on 20 December wrote that an improvement of living standards for Bashkir women is needed to increase the number of Bashkirs.
Bashkir national organizations alongside some state bodies consistently promote the idea that some of the "Tatars" living in Bashkortostan are actually Bashkirs on republican radio and TV.
�And Bashkir Language Lessons
A conference on teaching state languages held in Bashkir University largely promoted stepped-up Bashkir teaching, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 24 December, citing the "Bashkortostan" newspaper. Participants claimed that Bashkirs total up to 50 percent of residents in the Ilesh, Baltach, Borai, Asqyn, Dyurtoile, Kushnarenko, and Teteshle raions, but many consider themselves Tatars because they attend Tatar schools and subsequently refuse to study Bashkir. The paper reported that in the Ilesh Raion, only 699 of 1,824 Bashkir schoolchildren study Bashkir, while the rest are taught in Tatar. In the Borai Raion, only 55.3 percent of Bashkirs study their native language, the paper said. There are 37 Bashkir and two Tatar secondary schools in Bashkortostan.
WTC Leader Meets Tatar Activists
Rimzil Valeev, the deputy head of the World Tatars Congress (WTC) Executive Committee, met with representatives of Tatar national organizations in Ufa on 21 December, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. Participants criticized Tatarstan's leaders for what they considered an ignorance of violations of Tatar rights in Bashkortostan. Critics said that if Tatarstan's authorities and public forces do not provide support for Bashkortostan's Tatars, their number will likely be significantly reduced in the 2002 census.
Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress Executive Committee was also criticized for inactivity and characterized as being in the "pocket" of President Murtaza Rakhimov by Bashkortostan's Tatar Milli Mejlis chairman, Marat Ramazanov.
Bashkir Leader Promotes Forum To Defend Sovereignty
In his interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service on 24 December, the leader of the Bashkir People Center, Ehter Bosqynov, called the current period a "time of retreat" for national republics. Bosqynov suggested that a forum of representatives of all ethnic groups be held in the republic to develop a strategy for defending Bashkortostan's sovereignty and laws.
Tatar National-Cultural Autonomy Fails To Obtain Registration
Bashkortostan's Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge by the republican Tatar national-cultural autonomy in pursuit of registration, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 24 December. Republican legislation does not provide for establishing such autonomy, the court said. Autonomy leaders are preparing an appeal to the Russian Supreme Court.
Ulyanovsk Tatar-Bashkir Organization Calls On Bashkirs, Tatars To Unite
Tatarstan's "Medeni jomga" on 21 December published an appeal by the Ulyanovsk Tatar-Bashkir civic movement to Bashkir and Tatar peoples and public organizations to unite their efforts in combating "Russification." The leadership called on the two peoples to remember their common Turkic origin. The authors expressed their regret at Bashkortostan's refusal to name Tatar a state language, saying that a weakening of the Tatar language will speed up a death of the Bashkir language as well. They called for countering policies that aim to force Tatars in Bashkortostan to study Bashkir as their native language.
Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM IDEL-URAL REGIONChavash Parliament Prohibits Chemical Weapons Imports In Republic
The Chavash State Council on 24 December passed amendments to the law on environmental protection in the Chavash Republic to prohibit imports of chemical weapons and their destruction in the republic without the agreement of the State Council, VolgaInform reported.
Youth Parliament To Be Elected In Marii El
Marii El President Markelov backed the idea of establishing a youth parliament in the republic, regions.ru reported on 20 December. The youth parliament is intended to help train personnel for official bodies and aims to promote youth policy in the republic. It is supposed to become a consultative body of the State Assembly and to be elected next spring in single-mandate electoral districts.
Volga District Airlines Form United Air Company
A meeting of heads of airlines and airports of the Volga district on 20 December discussed prospects of the establishment of a united air company in the district, the Nizhnii Novgorod news service reported. Representatives of the companies from Chavash Republic's Cheboksary, Mordovia's Saransk, Ulyanovsk, Orenburg, Saratov, and Samara agreed to take part in the project. Aeroflot representatives also stated their readiness to participate "on definite conditions." Deputy presidential envoy to the Volga district Sergei Obozov said setting up the united air company will provide better conditions for local air traffic and avoid landing in Moscow during long-distance flights.
Discrimination Of Indigenous People In Marii El Reported
Finland's "Helsingin Sanomat" issued a series of critical publications about discrimination of the indigenous people in Marii El, regions.ru reported on 24 December citing the Information Center of Finno-Ugric Peoples. On 17 December, the paper criticized the national policy of Marii El President Leonid Markelov; the next day it expressed concern that promises made by President Vladimir Putin on the defense of languages and cultures of Russia's indigenous peoples will likely remain "empty words and good intentions." In the 21 December issue, the paper reported about violations of freedom of speech in Marii El.
Human Rights Newspaper To Be Issued In Mordovia
Vasilii Guslyannikov, the head of the Mordovian Human Rights Center and the first president of Mordovia, told regions.ru on 27 December that he will begin issuing a newspaper entitled "Mordovskii pravozashchitnik" in January.
Mordovenergo Pays Russia's EES With Shares
A Mordovenergo shareholders meeting on 20 December decided to pass 46 million rubles worth of the company's shares to Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES) in compensation for its several-million-ruble debt to EES, Rosbalt reported on 20 December. EES owns 52 percent of Mordovenergo shares.
Nizhnii May Be Declared Bankrupt
Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Gennadii Khodyrev said his oblast may be declared bankrupt if it does not receive subsidies from the federal budget to raise salaries to state employees, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported on 25 December. Khodyrev said in such case "we will waive the region's image" but will receive additional money. The oblast needs 2.5 billion rubles ($83 million) to implement the federal government's instruction on the raise of salaries.
Perm Oblast Legislature Re-Elects Speaker
The Perm Oblast Legislative Assembly on 25 December re-elected Nikolai Devyatkin its speaker, Region-Inform-Perm reported. The newly elected assembly is younger by 1 1/2 years on average in comparison to the previous one, but still all male.
Ayatskov Promotes Euro As Second National Currency In Russia
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov on 24 December told reporters that the euro should be accepted as a second national currency in Russia. Ayatskov said the measure will promote civilized relations in the Russian economy and will speed up integration with the World Trade Organization. But he criticized the process of Russia's entering the WTO.
Sverdlovsk Legislature Passes Amendment On Third Term For Rossel
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma on 21 December passed an amendment allowing Governor Eduard Rossel to be re-elected to a third term, regions.ru reported. Speaking at a congress of the political movement Transformation of Urals the next day, Rossel sharply criticized Moscow leaders of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) for their "impertinent and unprecedented pressure" on several deputies of the oblast duma to force them to oppose the amendment. Rossel stressed the event proves once more the necessity of regional parties promoting interests of regions rather than of central party bodies. On 27 December, the amendment was adopted by the Sverdlovsk Oblast Representatives Chamber and signed by Rossel.
Meanwhile, 69 percent of those questioned by the Yekaterinburg TV channel opposed permitting Rossel to run for a third term while 31 percent backed the idea.
Reporters Prohibited To Attend Court Hearings In Sverdlovsk Oblast
As of 1 January, journalists will be allowed to attend court hearings of the Sverdlovsk Oblast only after receiving permission from the court chairman, regions.ru reported on 27 December. Only media employees are subject to the measure; for ordinary residents, an identity card will be enough to enter court hearings.
Teachers In Sverdlovsk Oblast Continue Strike
Teachers of two schools in the Turinskaya Sloboda village of the Sverdlovsk Oblast continued their strike of two weeks despite their action being discussed with President Vladimir Putin during his 24 December nationwide telephone chat with Russian residents, regions.ru reported on 27 December. Some 1,000 students, or 30 percent of all schoolchildren of the Slobodourinskii raion, are not attending school as a result of the strike.
Meanwhile, Nizhnii Novgorod Duma deputy Igor Bogdanov told a press conference on 24 December that the teachers of Nizhnii Novgorod plan to hold a strike in January-February. The teachers are demanding a raise of their salaries up to 5,000 rubles, giving schools the status of a legal person, and allowing them to receive funding directly from the federal budget.
Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova