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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 14, 2000

14 December 2000
Tatarstan's Budget To Face Deficit But Maintain Social Orientation
8 December

Tatarstan's State Council passed the draft republican budget for 2001 in the first reading on 8 December, RFE\RL Kazan Bureau reported the same day. According to the Tatarinform agency the same day, although budget's income is expected to make up approximately 18,300 billion rubles, its planned expenses are planned at some 19,900 billion. While the independent media discussed ways of covering the budget deficit, governmental sources stated the social orientation of the budget. 31% of the budget are reportedly to be spent on healthcare and medical insurance, 11% on state housing maintenance, 9% on agriculture, 8% on implementing the republic's social policy, 3% on paying the state debts and 3% on cultural development.

Official statistics say that every 100 rubles spent by Tatarstan's budget allots 2,42 rubles for maintaining the republican government; 0,13 rubles for supporting the judicial system; 2,51 rubles for law enforcement bodies; 9,71 rubles for agriculture; 5,65 rubles for healthcare, etc. The cheapest state activity for the republic's taxpayers is governmental policy for supporting youth � 0,08 rubles from each 100.

Shaimiev Comments On Duma Deputy's Initiative And Russian State Symbols Issue
9 December

President Mintimer Shaimiev was interviewed by the national news service [] on 9 December. He commented on the recent initiative of Russian State Duma deputy, member of the pro-Kremlin "Yedinstvo" [Unity] faction Vitaly Lednik who proposed direct appointment of governors in regions by the Russian president. From 5 December this amendment was officially offered for consideration in Duma factions and committees. Tatarstan's president said that his attitude to this initiative was "negative", because "such initiatives represent the path of simple solutions." He said, "I have numerously stated my principal stand on this issue. Building the democratic society, especially in the federal state will be difficult. If we begin changing the rules on every controversial stage [of development], we will face the dead end. The authorities must be strong � this is an axiom. It seems that almost everybody in Russia understands it now. But unfortunately not everyone understood that authorities would be strong when they were reasonable. What does this governor's appointment by the presidential decree mean? This means that he will be 'free' from the will of his region's population. And how the Russian president can rely on such a person, which doesn't have any support among the masses?"

Shaimiev brought the example of his republic where he appointed the regional administration heads, "with the consent of proper local councils, they [administration heads] are obliged to pass the tests in different elections for council of varying levels in their cities and regions. I will never appoint anyone who was refused trust by the people, because such person of no account will not be capable of anything."

Tatarstan's president admitted that the proportion of "vertical" controllability by the superiors and "horizontal" responsibility before the electorate was the key problem of regional leader's status solved by all democratic systems. "But,"- he added, "if we speak particularly about the ways of developing the state governing system in Russian Federation, it is necessary to regard this problem in the meaning of clear, detailed division of powers and areas of region's and center's authority. I as a member of Russian State Council run a working group which is now elaborating this concept, we are convinced that when this concept is adopted the issue of appointing the heads in Russian Federation's territorial entities will loose its topicality. You know, sometimes we make the reality too complicated by incriminating some hidden strategy of deep meaning in any action. If we follow this path, one can presume that the initiative that we are talking about is backed by [federal] center's desire to anchor itself in such regions as Kaliningrad Oblast, Primorsky Kray meaning periphery lands, which under the effect of some external factors can turn out to be under the authority of, to put it mildly, non-patriots of Russia� In my opinion this situation is much simpler than it seems to be, there are always people who are ready to show their supple feelings. But they cannot think one or two steps in advance and turn our to be making a 'bear service' [Russian expression for ill service or shoot in the eye]." However Shaimiev noted that by this he didn't mean the Medved [Bear] movement, which is a second name for Yedinstvo party. Nevertheless he criticized the party's unclear stand regarding Lednik's initiative, which wasn't approved by the Yedinstvo leadership.

President Shaimiev said that he supported Vladimir Putin's offer to use the music of Soviet Union's anthem in the new Russian national anthem and accept the red flag as an official flag of Russian armed forces. He explained his statement by that these symbols accompanied by the Russian state blazon with the double headed eagle dating back to late 15th century and tricolor flag introduced by Peter the First, would revive the joint of time, unity of the country's history. "Hard history",- he commented, "even tragic, to some extend contradictive, but the way it really is." Shaimiev spoke for taking the Soviet anthem's melody as for the new national anthem, because it was composed after the victory in World War 2 and enjoyed the approval of the majority of population.

Mintimer Shaimiev rebutted suppositions saying that the Russian blazon featuring Georgy the Victorious defeating the dragon symbolized the oppression of oriental peoples including Tatars. In his words, "this blazon dates back to Byzantine times" and was adopted in Russia before the fall of Kazan Khanate, defeated by Ivan the Terrible in 1552.

Federal Center To Contribute To Kama Bridge Contruction
13 December

Tatarstan's PM Rustem Minnikhanov told the reporters on 13 December that 500 million rubles would be allotted by the federal budget for bridge construction at Sayeskan Tau-Murzikha in 2001. The transfer is to be made within the federal investment program for road construction. Before the federal tax reform, which reduced the funds at republic's disposal, Tatarstan was a sole constructor of the bridge. It is expected to connect the South-Eastern and North-Western parts of the republic and relieve the Kazan-Chally road, notorious for claiming some 50-80 deaths in car accidents every year.

According to the intergovernmental protocol signed by Moscow and Kazan, federal budget is to give Tatarstan 167 million rubles in 2001 for maintaining the roads of federal importance. Some of the republic's roads such as Kazan-Orenburg route are currently being re-attributed to federal authorities.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan Speaker Comments On Legislative Issues
8 December�

The Bashkortostan State Assembly chairman, Konstantin Tolkachev, commented in an interview with the Russian daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 December on the course of changing the republican legislation and relations with Moscow. In his opinion, harmonizing legislation should be a bilateral process. "But we still don�t see," he said, "particular wish of federal authorities to correct their laws." Tolkachev informed that permanent constructive contact has been established with the presidential representative Sergei Kirienko. Speaking on the issue of amending the Russian Constitution, Tolkachev said that changing of only separate principles of the Russian Constitution which haven�t stood the test of time may be talked. "First of all," he continued, "common responsibilities should be refused, the constitutional status of the Russian Federation territorial entities should be defined, legal acts should be subordinated. If the Constitution will not be changed soon, I consider it is necessary to adopt a bill on realization of common responsibilities." He said that all common responsibilities should be passed to territorial entities. Being asked about extremist trends of Islam in the republic, Tolkachev said that a decree prohibiting them was issued by the Bashkortostan president. He said that display of extremist Islam doesn�t exist in the republic but there are radical, ultra-radical religious and pseudoreligious sects which attract needy people, though they don�t have any real prospects in the republic. He reported that in the town Oktyabrski, believers themselves drove Wahhab groups out. Answering the question on whether juridical definition to Wahhabism will be given by the State Assembly, Tolkachev said that it is not planned, and added that leaders of all religious denominations in the republic including Islam sharply convicted Wahhabism.

Tolkachev said that state languages issues will not be discussed in near future. He said that disputes took place about a status of Tatar language and restrictions of the Tatar population rights. But since Tatar was adopted as a state language in Tatarstan, we consider incorrect to give it the same status in Bashkortostan, he added.

Tolkachev made comments on the stopping transmission of the Russian ORT and RTR TV channels which took place last year in the republic saying that the decision was taken by the Bashkortostan President on the recommendation of the parliament. He said that many public organizations and residents appealed then asking to shield them from immoral behavior of these channels journalists, Sergei Dorenko and Nikolai Svanidze. Tolkachev said that Muslim population dominates in Bashkortostan, and its moral canons refuse content and shape of Dorenko and Svanidze telecasts. Tolkachev added that in general, central media don�t always create correct image of Bashkortostan.

Yabloko Asks Justice Ministry To Value Bashkortostan Constitution
12 December

The deputy leader of the Duma Yabloko faction, Sergei Ivanenko, appealed to the Russian Justice Minister Yuri Chaika asking to hold expertise to clear if the Bashkortostan Constitution new edition adopted on 2 November corresponds to the Russian main law, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 December referring to the Yabloko press service. Ivanenko noted that even superficial analysis shows that the statements on bringing the republican Constitution into conformity with the federal one don�t correspond to reality. It is said in the inquiry that there are doubts about legitimacy of the inclusion in the Constitution�s new edition of the power-sharing treaty between Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation which has already become a subject of the Russian Constitutional Court ruling. Under this ruling, principles on sovereignty, relations based on the bilateral treaty between Ufa and Moscow are recognized not corresponding to the Russian main law. Ivanenko paid attention to the fact that the Constitutional Court ruling was sharply criticized by Bashkortostan leaders. Moreover, he continued, the Bashkortostan Constitutional Court took his own decision on the issues which have already been solved by the Russian Court. Ivanenko required to present him results of an expertise due to be held on his inquiry.

Bashkortostan Deputies Protest Draft Russian Labor Code
8 December

Raisa Orenburkina, the deputy chairwoman of the social issues committee of Bashkortostan�s State Assembly Legislative Chamber, said that adoption of the new draft Russian Labor Code will cross out the whole work of the parliament�s lower chamber on developing draft laws on pregnant women and motherhood protection. Orenburkina made her comments in an interview with Bashinform on 8 December. She said that according to the draft, pregnant women will have to work at night shifts like other people, what is prohibited by the republican legislation. Orenburkina continued that the committee expressed a protest against the draft Labor Code and sent an appeal to Russian State Duma. She added that if the draft Code is adopted, Bashkortostan deputies will strive for its abrogation.

Kursk Life-Savers Interested In Tuimazy Devices
8 December

Heads of Tuimazy plant of geophysical equipment and representatives of the U.S.-Norwegian company Haliburton hold negotiations on cooperation, Bashinform reported on 8 December. Foreign businessmen are going to purchase drills investigating laboratory in Bashkortostan. Haliburton participated in rescue works at the Russian atom submarine "Kursk" which went down in Barents sea in August.

KamAZ and NefAZ Produce New Joint Bus
7 December

Presentation of the first sample of urban passenger bus assembled by Bashkortostan automobile manufacturers on the basis of KamAZ produced chassis was held at the KamAZ Neftekamsk branch NefAZ, MFD-InfoCenter reported referring to the KamAZ press service on 7 December. New joint product of the Tatarstan truck concern and Neftekamsk plant assembling dump-trucks, buses, trailers, and tankers was highly evaluated by Bashkortostan heads and experts on automobile production that attended the ceremony. The KamAZ general manager Ivan Kostin said that this bus which can seat 114 people has already become the best similar model in Russia. He expressed his satisfaction with quality of the machine. He said "we hope to squeeze our competitors out by high quality, reliability, and long guarantee period for service." The bus is reportedly twofold cheaper than its foreign analogues. Apart from KamAZ chassis, production of the Kazan synthetic leather industrial association, Salavat glass-works, Sterlitamak Lenin plant was used during assembling the new bus. Serial production is scheduled to start in a half a year, and in two year, its annual volume is expected to reach 1000.

Bashkortostan Tatars Unhappy With Republican Peoples Assembly
8 December

Bashkortostan Tatar Public Center chairman, Airat Guiniatullin, commented in an interview with RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir service on 8 December on the Bashkortostan Peoples Assembly Congress scheduled to be held in Ufa on 22 December. Guiniatullin said that the measure is organized at the initiative of the republican authorities, but the Assembly, which is a public organization, shouldn�t be formed by a presidential decree. He said that only high-ranked officials like ministers, general managers, rectors gather to the Congress, and workers, teachers, doctors miss the forum that violates democratic principles. Guiniaullin said that conditions of Tatar people is critical in Bashkortostan. He said that from over 400 nursery-school teachers graduating annually in the republic, only 15 are prepared for Tatars while Tatars make about 30 percent of the Bashkorostan population. He continued that no newspaper or magazine is issued for Tatar children in the republic. Less than 1 percent of TV broadcasting is given to Tatars. In educational and cultural spheres, admission to the higher educational institutions, and personnel policy Tatars rights are restricted, he added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chuvash Constitution Comes Into Effect
9 December

Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov on 9 December has signed a decree putting the republic's new constitution into effect, ITAR-TASS reported. The constitution itself was approved by the parliament on 30 October. At the signing ceremony, Fedorov noted that "firm foundations were laid for more purposeful, dynamical work on creation of modern Chuvashia in its social, spiritual, and cultural development."

Chuvashia had been the only republic where a 25-year-old Soviet-era constitution remained in effect. The new basic law includes guarantees of free education and medical service, as well as allowing for private ownership of land.

Marii El President Accuses Kirienko of Making Trouble
14 December

Marii El President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn on 14 December accused the Volga Federal District representative Sergei Kirienko of creating trouble in the region, "Izvestiya" reported. Kislitsyn said that Kirienko and his colleagues had ordered the distribution of anti-Kislitsyn publications during the current election campaign. Kislitsyn reportedly believes that Kirienko's approach does not reflect that of Moscow. And he asserted that he Kislitsyn will be reelected regardless of what Kirienko does. Meanwhile, Russia's Yedinstvo party intends to support deputy general manager of the Rosgosstrakh insurance company Leonid Markelov during the second voting of the Marii El presidential elections, Rosbizneskonsalting reported on 9 December. But Valentin Kuptsov, KPRF deputy leader and State Duma deputy, appealed to the Marii El people calling to vote for the republic's President Vyacheslav Kistlitsyn during the second voting of presidential elections on 17 December, reported. He said that it is better not to experiment with new people who don't have experience of managing the republic or at least large company. Meanwhile, the Marii El regional branch of SPS political movement at its conference on 13 December called its followers to vote against both presidential candidates during the elections second voting, Regions.Ru reported. It was noted that no one of the pretenders introduced an anti-crisis program for the republic which would face principles of free business development and human rights defense.

Marii El Bus Drivers On Strike
14 December

Bus drivers in Marii El declared a strike over unpaid back wages, reported on 14 December. Most have not received any salary since September. And the strikers pledged to remain off the job until their demands are met.

Kislitsyn Meets Yoshkar-Ola New Mayor
11 December

Marii El President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn met on 11 December with the newly elected Yoshkar-Ola Mayor Vladimir Tarkov, reported. The two discussed finding additional money for wages, capital spending and schools.

Mordovia Head Against Forming Parliamentary Yedinstvo Faction
10 December

Mordovia leader Nikolai Merkushkin opposes forming a Yedinstvo faction in the republican parliament, reported on 10 December. He said that such a group would isolate the politicize the republic's State Assembly. The Yedinstvo republican political council is headed by the government chairman Vladimir Volkov.

Demographic Situation Critical In Mordovia
9 December

Mordovia is suffering through a potentially fatal demographic crisis, Mordovian University researchers have told on 9 December. In the course of the last eight years, the republic's population has declined by 7.5 percent, with mortality exceeding fertility in some regions by a factor of four. The data were released in advance of a 15-16 December conference in Saransk that is sponsored by the United Nations and will focus on what can be done to reverse the situation.

Saransk Plant To Cooperate With Italian Company
8 December

The Saransk mechanical works signed a $100,000 contract to purchase equipment delivery with the Italian company Moneta, Regions.Ru reported on 8 December referring to the Mordovian deputy Industry Minister Vladimir Shcherbakov. The news agency cited the Saransk works general manager Viktor Murashkin as saying that the Italian-manufactured equipment will allow the company to increase its production over the next two years.

Udmurt Congress Held In Izhevsk
6 December

Valentin Tubylov, the Udmurtia State Council presidium member and former Supreme Council speaker, was reelected as president of the Udmurt Association "Udmurt kenesh" at the eighth Udmurt Congress held in Izhevsk on 6 December, Bashinform reported. About 400 delegates from Udmurt Republic, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Marii El, Kirov Oblast participated in the forum. Dmitri Musin, the federal inspector to the Udmurt Republic, addressed the congress saying that the federal authority is ready for dialogue with the political and national movements and organizations. Two representatives to the consultative committee of the Third World Congress of Finno-Ugrian peoples which was held in Helsinki on 11-13 December were elected.

End Note: Communities Linguistic and Political
By Paul Goble

The third World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples held in Helsinki last week called attention to the significance and vitality of linguistic communities and the difficulties of translating such communities into something more political.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen on 11 December welcomed representatives of 21 nations which speak languages in the Finno-Ugric group. Only the three largest of these nations -- the 14 million ethnic Hungarians, the five million ethnic Finns, and the one million ethnic Estonians -- have their own states. They were represented by their presidents: Halonen of Finland, Ferenc Madl of Hungary and Lennart Meri of Estonia.

Most Finno-Ugric groups are small minorities spread across northern Russia. Indeed, the largest delegation at the three-day session was from Russia. More than 300 people arrived in the Finnish capital to represent 17 groups. In addition, the delegation from Russia delegation included Ethnic Affairs Minister Aleksandr Blokhin and representatives of both houses of the Russian parliament.

At her joint conference with Madl and Meri, Finland's Halonen said that the sessions had been "like a family meeting," although in an indication that these languages are not in every case so close as to be mutually intelligible, the three presidents spoke English among themselves.

Halonen said that "it's very important to feel an identity, your own background and cultural family." And she expressed the hope that "the presence of three presidents of three independent Finno-Ugric states will also give encouragement to those groups which are minorities."

Her two colleagues echoed these themes. Hungary's Madl stressed that "we must do more in legislation internally and internationally for the real protection of minorities." Estonia's Meri said the Finno-Ugric groups were all "like small islands." He said all of them face "the possibility of their languages becoming dead," something he urged the international community to try to prevent.

Perhaps significant in light of these calls was the presence at this meeting of representatives from the United Nations human rights commission, the Europarliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

This is the third such conference of the Finno-Ugric peoples since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union made it possible for these communities to interact on an official level. The first was held in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic in the Russian Federation, in 1992, and the second took place in Budapest, Hungary, in 1996.

The Finno-Ugric groups emerged out of the migration of peoples from the Baikal region many centuries ago. For most of their subsequent history, they have lived separate existences and their languages and cultures have increasingly diverged. Sometimes this divergence has been the result of natural processes and sometimes it has reflected the policies of the governments of the countries in which they found themselves.

But in the last decade, these groups increasingly have sought one another out, with those which have achieved independent statehood now able to talk to those who seek greater protection of their linguistic and cultural rights or even political independence.

On the one hand, the three independent Finno-Ugric countries have sought to provide educational and publishing opportunities for their linguistic relatives. And on the other, the Finno-Ugric minorities in Russia and elsewhere have sought to revive and promote their own cultures, drawing on both this assistance and their own internal resources.

So far, these newly reasserted linguistic ties have become a source of pride. But they have not acquired a political coloration that might point to greater activism or a drive for some kind of broader political unity. That may be a source of strength in that these linguistic ties will continue to exist below the radar screen of those who might fear the resurgence of these cultures.

But it also means that organizations like the Finno-Ugric conference may become political battlegrounds in yet another way. Indeed, the presence of the large delegation from Russia in Helsinki this week recalls a Soviet-era practice in which Moscow attempted to exploit such nominally non-political groups to advance its agenda.

But in the post-Cold War era, such efforts could easily have the unintended consequence of generating a countervailing political force among peoples who have been separated for a very long time but who increasingly feel that they belong together.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova