Accessibility links

Breaking News

(Un)Civil Societies Report: August 30, 2005

30 August 2005, Volume 6, Number 13
CLIMATE OF FEAR GRIPS ANDIJON. The outside world has received few accounts of life in Andijon since 12-13 May. In a series of reports broadcast on 10-12 August, RFE/RL provided a rare glimpse of the fear lurking behind the superficial normalcy that has settled over the city since the bloody events of May. Because of the fear of government reprisals, RFE/RL has concealed the identities of the people with whom it spoke.

"People are very afraid after the events on and before 13 May," one Andijon resident told RFE/RL. "Because many people were imprisoned after these events, no one can tell anyone else what they really think about government policies or the bad things that are happening. People are afraid of the government and afraid of their neighbors. The people who witnessed these events [on 13 May] were videotaped. Their houses have been searched and they've been called in for questioning. The soldiers wear masks over their faces. They treat even the women roughly."

A local woman confirmed that the fear has arisen in a climate of pervasive surveillance. "People are afraid to talk," she said. "While I was riding a bus..., a woman started talking about the Andijon events. She talked about how there were brains splattered on the ground in front of the administration building and how they paid people 1,000 soms [$1] an hour to clean them up. The woman got off when she reached her house. A young guy got off after her. She didn't make it 10 meters before he handcuffed her and then they led her off somewhere."

Another woman described a similar incident. "Now there are more people in civilian clothes listening in on what people are saying," she said. "Recently, a woman was drinking carbonated water at Yangibozor [New Market] with a young child. She was telling the water vendor that the government organized the disturbances. A guy who was standing off to the side came up to the woman and pulled the woman by the hand. She started screaming. The young man pulled out a tape recorder and played back a recording of everything she'd been saying to the vendor. Then he took her away. Everyone watched."

A third woman in Andijon told RFE/RL that despite the massive security presence, people refuse to surrender their private thoughts. "There are special procedures in place in Andijon, in Boghishamol, around the prison, in the Soy neighborhood, and in front of the administration building," she said. "There are always armed soldiers wandering around there. But no matter how much the soldiers roam around, no matter how hard they try to strike fear and terror into the population, people can't erase their heartfelt desires."

The same woman described the security forces' brutality, manifested in a random killing. "[A youth] vanished at that time [on 13 May]," she said. "He didn't go to the war [the demonstration], but he must have been scared. He only turned up four days later. Police officers brought him to Andijon. They killed him and brought him in four days later.... Everyone in the neighborhood saw them bring him."

Andijon residents told RFE/RL that torture is common, although the torturers make efforts to cover their tracks. "There's a videotape of the people who took part in the demonstration," one local said. "If the people they arrest are on the videotape, they bring them down to a cellar and beat them brutally. Even the ones who aren't on the tape get beaten. Afterward, they make them sign a statement saying that they didn't harm them before they let them go."

Another woman recounted one case of torture that ended in death of a teenager. "He went out to watch on [13 May] and got shot in the shoulder," she said. "They brought the child to a clinic. After he'd been lying there for three days, they brought him to the police. Despite his wound, they stuck him in a filthy room for three days. There were so many people there wasn't enough room to sit or lie down. They really made this poor kid suffer. Then they gave him an injection and sent him home. After that they called him in for interrogation every day. That shot they gave him must have been a lethal injection, since he died after about a month and a half. The wound never healed and his bones crumbled. The day before he died, he told how he'd been tortured. Even though it's shameful, I'll say it: They sodomized him with a piece of metal and a billy club. While the child was in the hospital, he'd told people that the soldiers shot him. When they tortured him, they said it was so that he wouldn't tell anyone else."

With information scarce, the slightest events give rise to rumors. On 6 August, soldiers and police blocked off Andijon's main street, where the administration building is located. "After Akram Yuldoshev [the purported leader of the Akramiya extremist movement, accused by the Uzbek authorities of fomenting the violence in Andijon on 12-13 May] made a statement on Uzbek television, some people called up official offices and made threats," one local said, explaining the police cordon. "In order to increase security, they called military vehicles and security forces out into the streets."

But an elderly man had a different explanation. "Apparently, they were shooting a film about military actions in the Soy neighborhood," he said. "Fine, let them show the soldiers. But they should also show how the soldiers and tanks shot at people."

Security forces have stepped up arrests in the wake of violence in Andijon on 12-13 May. A woman in a village near Andijon told RFE/RL: "After those events, they said on television that anyone who found weapons and brought them in would get a 100,000-som [$100] reward. One of my relatives found two weapons. He believed them and brought them in. They arrested him. In fact, he had just found the weapons along the side of the road."

Another person told RFE/RL that once someone is imprisoned, appeals are useless. "They arrested my son and took him away from the house," the local said. "At the police station, he was forced to confess. His wife is at home with three children. Even if I wanted to look after them, I still have children of my own who aren't married yet. You know what the economy's like. Who's going to listen to our appeal? Who's going to defend us? We encounter oppression at every turn. The women are fed up; I mean, the women of those who are in prison. All of the adults know why the economy's so bad. Everyone's smart enough to figure it out. These men who are making life hard for the women, I wonder how they square it with their conscience. We say that our ruler is just, but I can't figure out how that's so. He's only just to those who help him. He hasn't achieved any justice for Muslims. But if people talk about this, they disappear along with their children and grandparents." (Daniel Kimmage, in conjunction with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service)

WHO IS THE REAL TARGET OF THE RUSLAN BASHIRLI SCANDAL? The Azerbaijani authorities and supporters and associates of Ruslan Bashirli, leader of the opposition youth movement Yeni Fikir, have offered widely diverging accounts of, and explanations for, the events that culminated in Bashirli's arrest last week on charges of plotting to overthrow the Azerbaijani leadership.

According to a statement released on 4 August by the Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office, Bashirli traveled in late July to Tbilisi at the behest of his mentor, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) Chairman Ali Kerimli. On the sidelines of a conference, Bashirli is said to have met with three men, one ethnic Georgian and two Armenians, all of them Armenian intelligence agents, and told them he was working on instructions from the U.S. National Democratic Institute to prepare for a revolution in Azerbaijan. His interlocutors reportedly expressed approval, promised help, and presented him with an initial payment of $2,000 to help fund the revolution, promising to provide a further $20,000 within days.

One of the Armenians then informed Bashirli that the encounter had been filmed, including his acceptance of and signing a receipt for the $2,000. The Armenian reportedly told Bashirli that if he reneged on his promise to cooperate, the incriminating film footage would be handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities.

Bashirli was accompanied to Tbilisi by his deputy, Osman Alimuradov, who, according to on 4 August, was reluctant to collaborate with the Armenians and who denounced Bashirli to the authorities on his return to Baku. Bashirli was duly apprehended on 3 August.

In an interview with Azerbaijan's Lider TV on 6 August, a transcript of which was posted on on 8 August, Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Zakir Garalov quoted from what he said was a written statement by Alimuradov. Alimuradov said he spent the night after the meeting with the three Armenian agents brooding over the implications of the course of action Bashirli had agreed to, and came to the conclusion that it was morally wrong. He said he tried to persuade Bashirli after their return to Baku to abandon the entire undertaking, but Bashirli said they should wait to do so until he received the additional $20,000. Therefore, according to Alimuradov, he decided to hand over to the Azerbaijani authorities the video footage of the meeting he was given by the Armenian.

Bashirli's fellow oppositionists, however, have dismissed the prosecutor-general's account as a crude and clumsy fabrication intended to discredit the AHCP in the run-up to the 6 November parliamentary election, and Kerimli personally. Bashirli himself reportedly told his attorney, Elchin Garalov, on 8 August that he was being pressured to incriminate Kerimli, whom the website on 6 August identified as one of Azerbaijan's most popular and respected opposition politicians. The online daily on 6 August quoted pro-government political scientist Mubariz Akhmedoglu as saying Bashirli is clearly guilty of treason, and the links between him and the AHCP are adequate grounds for revoking that party's official registration.

Speaking at a press conference in Baku on 5 August, two deputy chairmen of Yeni Fikir, Said Nuriev and Fikret Faramazoglu, said that Bashirli was offered the $2,000 by representatives of Georgian and Armenian "democratic forces." They said he was drunk at the time, and hypothesized that his drink may have been spiked. They said that the following day, Bashirli returned the money.

Both the official charges against Bashirli and the opposition objections to those charges are based on the incriminating video materials, which show Bashirli sipping cognac in the company of three men and uttering incriminating statements. Specifically, he is said to have agreed to the proposal made by one of the Armenian agents to take advantage of the tense domestic political situation in Azerbaijan, and even open fire at an opposition demonstration.

But Bashirli's lawyer Gambarov told journalists in Baku on 8 August that the video footage was edited, and that Bashirli's words were "taken out of context," reported on 9 August. Moreover, as several Azerbaijani commentaries have pointed out, Bashirli's drunken pronouncements cannot be conflated with a statement of intent to overthrow the present leadership.

Even more problematic than the content of the videocassette is the way the Azerbaijani authorities allegedly acquired it. As Bashirli's lawyer Gambarov observed on 8 August, "No intelligence service in the world would hand over a videocassette with compromising footage to someone whom it was seeking to co-opt."

In an article titled "Armenian recruitment or planned operation?" the independent online daily on 6 August similarly asked why the Armenians should have given the cassette to Alimuradov. Are the Armenian special services really so stupid, the daily asked, that they would play into the hands of their Azerbaijani counterparts?

The daily further noted that the Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office acted unprofessionally in immediately making public the contents of the cassette, rather than handing it to the National Security Ministry to permit it to try to identify, and obtain more watertight evidence against, the purported Armenian agents. went to far as to suggest that the case against Bashirli was fabricated by the Azerbaijani authorities. But Akhmedoglu dismissed that possibility, telling on 6 August that "I do not think that the Azerbaijani authorities are powerful enough to try to manipulate the Armenian special services or certain Georgian circles."

Pending the emergence of new evidence, it is impossible at this juncture to determine with any certainty which of the above hypotheses is correct. But if, as Bashirli's supporters claim, the case against him was fabricated in Baku, then the question arises: by whom, and to what end? Was it simply a bid to discredit Kerimli and his party in the run-up to the 6 November ballot, or even to trigger widespread unrest that could be adduced for postponing that ballot?

Or could the real object of the exercise be totally different? Given the rumored existence of rival factions within the upper echelons of the Azerbaijani leadership, was the hapless Bashirli simply a pawn in a larger scheme either to embarrass President Ilham Aliyev and call into question his professed commitment to building a democratic society, or to reignite popular hostility towards Armenia at a point when Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mediators have expressed cautious optimism that a negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may be closer than ever before? (Liz Fuller)

POLLSTER MAPS OUT POSTREVOLUTIONARY MOODS. The Washington-based International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) recently published its conclusions from a survey of 1,265 Ukrainians in late February that was devoted to perceptions of the Orange Revolution and its consequences. Pollsters explored perceptions of last year's presidential election, attitudes toward the mass antigovernment demonstrations that followed the second round of voting on 21 November, and postelection expectations for Ukraine.

Three of the clear findings that emerge from the IFES survey are that the Orange Revolution marked a zenith in the public's attention to politics, that a partisan rift has emerged over the country's democratic credentials, and that the events of November and December boosted citizens' faith in the ballot box and its outlook for the future. But while the polling agency highlighted that the events of late 2004 mark a defining moment in Ukrainian history and public opinion, it also noted significant sociopolitical cleavages that persist in the country.

The survey was the IFES's 13th nationwide survey in Ukraine since 1994 and was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Simmering Distrust

It should be remembered that official results showed that opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko won 39.87 percent of the vote while his main rival, then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, received 39.32 percent in the first round on 31 October. After the second-round vote on 21 November, with nearly 100 percent of the vote counted, the Central Election Commission announced that Yanukovych had a nearly 3-percent lead over Yushchenko. Yushchenko appealed to Ukrainians to organize popular resistance to what he believed was blatant election fraud. A month of antigovernment protests in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities led to a political compromise, and a repeat second round took place on 26 December in which Yushchenko beat Yanukovych 51.99 percent to 44.19 percent.

IFES found that more Ukrainians believe the 31 October and 21 November votes were unfair than think they were mostly or completely fair (44 percent to 33 percent concerning the October vote and 54 percent to 26 percent for the November vote). Meanwhile, a majority of Ukrainians (57 percent) believe the repeat vote in late December was fair, according to IFES.

Nearly two of three respondents (62 percent) support the replacement of the Central Election Commission after the 21 November vote. Some 53 percent say the new commission performed better; 52 percent believe the commission that replaced it was nonpartisan, while 48 percent harbor doubts about that question. The overwhelming majority of Yushchenko supporters (82 percent) say the new commission was nonpartisan, while just 8 percent of those who report voting for Yanukovych express such an opinion -- unsurprising perhaps, given Yanukovych's subsequent failure in the vote.

According to the IFES poll, 70 percent of those who participated in demonstrations think their use was a legitimate exercise of democratic rights. However, 28 percent of Ukrainians believe the sole aim of demonstrations was to create chaos. Of those polled, 46 percent believe the government's response to the demonstrations was generally correct, while 33 percent disagree with the government's response.

The Figures

The IFES drew a number of broad conclusions from its survey that suggest Ukrainians are following political events more carefully in hopes of seizing on a more participatory system.

The IFES noted that the Orange Revolution marked a sea change in the public interest in politics in Ukraine. The survey found that after the elections, 72 percent of Ukrainians claim to possess at least a moderate level of interest in politics, while that level was 59 percent shortly prior to the presidential election.

But there is a partisan divide over whether Ukraine is a democracy, according to IFES. Those who live in oblasts where Yushchenko won an especially high number of votes are more likely to say that Ukraine is a democracy than those who live in regions with a strong preference for Yanukovych (77 percent versus 28 percent). Curiously, a pre-election survey showed the opposite results: In October, those living in areas that supported Yushchenko were much less likely to describe Ukraine as a democracy than oblasts with strong preferences for Yanukovych (14 percent versus 34 percent).

The Orange Revolution has also strengthened Ukrainians' faith in the power of the ballot box. A majority of Ukrainians (53 percent) now say that voting gives them a chance to influence decision-making in the country. In October 2004, the same proportion of people said voting can make a difference as disagreed with that view (47 percent each).

Regarding expectations for the future, IFES concluded that 43 percent of Ukrainians believe the 2004 presidential election placed Ukraine on a path toward stability and prosperity, while 12 percent believe that Ukraine is headed toward instability. Economically speaking, 57 percent of Ukrainians describe the situation as bad or very bad, while just 9 percent perceive it as good or very good. In the 2003 survey, 86 percent described the economy as bad.

The Orange Revolution also appears to have ushered in widespread optimism, IFES found. Majorities expect to see at least some improvements in relations with Western countries (70 percent), the economy (65 percent), the fight against corruption (63 percent), respect for human rights (59 percent), and political stability (54 percent) over the next two years.

Institutions that played key roles in the Orange Revolution have seen an improvement in their public standing since the Yushchenko victory. More Ukrainians now express positive impressions of the Verkhovna Rada, the judicial system, the media, and nongovernmental organizations than before the presidential election in October. Four in 10 Ukrainians now have a better impression of the media than they did at the start of the election process, versus 11 percent who view the media more negatively and 38 percent whose views have not changed substantially. Impressions of the legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, have improved among 42 percent of Ukrainians versus just 15 percent whose opinions have worsened and 33 percent who say their perceptions are unchanged.

IFES found in February that 65 percent of Ukrainians have confidence in President Yushchenko, while 25 percent say they have little or no confidence in him. (Among those who voted for Yanukovych, just 17 percent say they have confidence in the new president.) Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko enjoys the confidence of 57 percent of Ukrainians.

Among those for whom the Orange Revolution represented a setback -- at least in the short term -- 60 percent of the country has little or no confidence in former Prime Minister and failed candidate Yanukovych, according to IFES, while 27 percent express confidence in him. Confidence in former President Leonid Kuchma has plummeted from a woeful 22 percent in the IFES 2003 survey to 6 percent in February; 86 percent of Ukrainians say they have little or no confidence in Kuchma.

Societal Rifts

While the IFES concluded that the Orange Revolution marks a defining moment in Ukrainian history and Ukrainian public opinion through a major shift in social attitudes toward democracy and a more active participation of citizens in politics, the pollster also noted important sociopolitical cleavages in Ukraine's public opinion regarding the events of November-December 2004.

In its analysis of these cleavages, IFES chooses the self-explanatory terms "Revolutionary Enthusiasts" (48 percent of the population), "Revolutionary Opponents" (23 percent), and "Revolutionary Agnostics" (for those holding the middle ground between the previous two groups and characterized by a wait-and-see attitude; 29 percent of the population). According to IFES, there are no major differences based on gender or education among those three groups. In terms of ethnicity, the Revolutionary Enthusiasts tend to identify themselves as ethnic Ukrainians, while the majority of the country's ethnic Russians falls into the Revolutionary Opponents group. The Revolutionary Agnostics are an ethnically diverse group. Pensioners and the elderly are overrepresented among the Opponents, while a larger proportion of students falls into the group of Agnostics than is in the general population.

In terms of political geography, Revolutionary Enthusiasts live mainly in oblasts with moderate or strong support for Yushchenko and in the western portion of Ukraine. Revolutionary Agnostics tend to live in oblasts with moderate support for both candidates, fall nearly equally on the side of Yushchenko or Yanukovych, and a plurality lives in the eastern part of the country. Revolutionary Opponents tend to live nearly exclusively in the east, in oblasts with strong or moderate support for Yanukovych. (Jan Maksymiuk)

SLAVERY SURVIVES, DESPITE UNIVERSAL ABOLITION. UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, has proclaimed 23 August as International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The date commemorates a revolt in 1791 by slaves in what is now Haiti -- an event considered a decisive victory of slaves against their oppressors. But despite laws in all of the world's countries against slavery, the United Nations says the practice continues in illegal underground forms.

Nadeem has spent most of his life hunched over a carpet loom in Lahore, Pakistan, trying to pay off a loan given to his parents years ago.

His hands are scarred and callused from the repetition of tying thousands of knots every day. His eyesight is weakened from 14-hour work shifts in a dark room. Poor ventilation has left his lungs filled with wool fibers and dust.

"I'm 12 years old and I've been working since I was 4," Nadeem says. "To start with, I had [about $12 worth of Pakistani] rupees as a bonded debt to pay off. Now it has risen to [about $300], without my family getting any more money. The owner [of the carpet loom] increases our debt by [about $50] for each mistake."

Nadeem is one of thousands of children who work as bonded laborers in Pakistan's carpet industry. As in most countries, bonded child labor is illegal in Pakistan. But enforcement of that law is sporadic. Human rights activists complain that corrupt local police often accept bribes from business owners who use bonded child laborers in exchange for turning a blind eye to the practice. American filmmaker Robin Romano has documented similar stories from child laborers around the world during his five years of work as the co-producer of a documentary film called "Stolen Childhoods."

In one interview granted to the filmmaker on condition of anonymity, the owner of a carpet factory in Pakistan spoke frankly about how bonded children are disciplined and traded within the industry.

"It's common for us business owners to exchange children," the man said. "Children are more obedient and work harder that way. We tie the child up for three or four hours to teach it not to run away. But those children who are very disobedient -- of course such children have to be chained up and beaten."

Romano is convinced that bonded debts are a hidden way for children from poor families to be bought and sold as slaves.

His film asserts that there are today more than 240 million child laborers beneath the age of 14 in the world -- and that most work under conditions of slavery.

"One of the forms of modern slavery that exists in Afghanistan and in Pakistan is a form that they call bonded labor [or debt bondage]," Romano told RFE/RL. "People who have less than nothing are forced to take loans on their children to survive. That child is then locked into a never-ending cycle of slavery. The loan invariably is never repaid. The middle man and the slave owners keep finding ways to keep the child bonded."

Slavery By Any Other Name...

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat-Iowa) is a leading author of American legislation aimed at fighting international child labor. Like Romano, he says abusive child-labor practices today are a kind of modern slavery.

"Child labor is the last form of slavery in the world. I mean, what's a slave?" Harkin said. "A slave is someone that has no voice, no vote, no control over his own property. No control over his own livelihood. That's what these child laborers are. I think there's a recognition in the world community that this is just unacceptable practice -- that it really is akin to slavery. And a country that would practice slavery openly -- of course, it would be kicked out of the community of nations. Well, we have to make this same thing apply to child labor."

UNICEF, the UN children's agency, has made child labor a top concern. UNICEF spokesman Marc Vergara says UN officials usually are cautious about using the word "slavery." But he says bonded child labor is recognized as a form of slavery because the children usually become the victims of exploitation, abuse, and even sexual assault.

"The word 'slavery' has a strong stigma attached to it," Vergara said. "That's why we are careful when we use it. But there is no question [about] bonded labor. And we know [there are] millions of children who work under very difficult and horrific circumstances. And some of them are included in what we call virtual slavery."

Not Just Children

Human rights activists argue that modern-day slavery is not limited to extreme forms of child labor. They say it is a practice that also affects adults -- those who are forced by poverty to take low-paying jobs that leave them trapped in slave-like conditions.

Forced labor affects those people who are illegally recruited by individuals, criminal groups, and even governments or political parties. They are then made to work against their will, usually under threat of violence or other penalties.

Human trafficking is the transport or trade of people from one country to another -- often for the purpose of selling them against their will into the sex trade or forcing them into other degrading work.

"Slavery by descent" is a term used to describe those born into an economic class or from an ethnic group that is viewed by others as exploitable.

Some activists also argue that forced marriage is a form of slavery because women and young girls often are "sold" for a dowry and forced against their will into a life of servitude and physical abuse.

The UN, however, classifies forced marriage as a "harmful traditional practice" that often leads to violations of human rights.

Doctor Fahima Saadat provides medical care for Afghan children and their parents at the Khurasan refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. She says she has treated many poor Afghan workers who have been physically or sexually abused by employers who keep them in conditions of virtual slavery.

Saadat relates the story of a 20-year-old Afghan woman named Najeya. With her father debilitated by a kidney operation and her mother too old to work, Najeya took a job as a cleaner at the home of a wealthy man in Peshawar.

Najeya came to Saadat with complaints of pain and learned from medical tests that she was pregnant. She then broke down and confessed she was being sexually abused by her employer on a regular basis. She threatened to commit suicide to prevent her family and others from discovering her pregnancy -- saying she preferred death to shame.

Yet, Saddat says that after secretly receiving an abortion, Najeya returned to the same job -- saying she had no choice. "The one thing I can think of that is the cause of these stories is extreme poverty," Saddat said. "The desperation from living as a refugee in a foreign country. Although they are victims of sexual attacks, they still go back to the same job after treatment because they are obliged to do so."

Poverty Breeds Slavery

The London-based nongovernmental organization Anti-Slavery International says, despite its many variations, all forms of modern slavery share several common characteristics.

One is that slaves are usually forced to work through mental or physical threats, and are either owned or controlled by a so-called "employer."

Modern-day slaves also are dehumanized and treated as a commodity. They are sometimes even bought or sold as property, much like the 19th-century "chattel slaves" who were traded on the open market and used to breed future generations of slaves.

Anti-Slavery International says slaves are also often physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.

Robin Romano concludes that modern slavery will continue to exist as long as there are economically desperate people and a lack of political will by authorities to enforce existing laws.

"A slave is a slave," Romano said. "And to call it either 'chattel slavery' or 'bonded slavery' or any other type of slavery -- it still means slavery. And that is where people are coerced against their will to do work that is inhumane, is undignified and is absolutely killing." (Ron Synovitz)

LOSING WORDS, LOSING KNOWLEDGE. 9 August marked the beginning of the second decade of the UN's observation of the World's Indigenous Peoples -- an international day created to register concern for the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples.

One of these rights is to speak in one's native tongue. However, some linguists believe that the number of world languages could halve over the course of this century. Scholars estimate that more than 9,000 languages died in the past two centuries as the result of wars, epidemics, acts of genocide, and the process of assimilation, "Rossiya" reported on 11 November 2004. Of the almost 7,000 languages spoken today, half of them can be found in only eight countries of the world; one of these countries is Russia, according to "Rossiya."

Russia has more than 160 nationalities and 101 languages, according to the 2002 census and the recently released edition of "Ethnologue," a reference work cataloguing all of the world's languages. While federal and local policies to promote indigenous languages flourished in the first 10 years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the population of indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation, and consequently, speakers of its languages have kept declining. What's more, that trend is expected to continue. While it is hard to generalize about a country as large as Russia, the majority of the languages of the numerically small peoples share at least three common problems. First and foremost, their best speakers are in many cases elderly. The younger generation often speaks Russian better than the language of their ethnic group. Two, there is typically little prestige or economic incentive associated with mastering the indigenous languages. Three, federal and/or local programs designed to promote indigenous language use and instructions are often badly funded or nonexistent.

From 2003-04, only 47.5 percent of the children of the indigenous people of northern Siberia and the far east were actually studying their native language in schools, according to the social-science journal "Sotsis -- sotsiologizheskie issledovaniya" of 24 May 2005. In the southern Siberian republic of Buryatia, just 40 percent of local primary schools offer instruction in Buryatian; all teaching at upper levels is in the Russian language. In the republic of Khakassia in 2002, 35 percent of students in the republican capital of Abakan were studying Khakass, according to a paper delivered by Tamara Borgoiakova (sic) of Khakassia State University during an international conference in 2002. But offering indigenous languages in schools doesn't necessarily guarantee that students will use them outside of class. Of the percentage of students studying Khakass in Abakan schools, only 2 percent reported using the language with their parents, 22 percent with their grandparents, and no one reported using it with their friends.

There are any number of explanations for the failure of young people to embrace their ancestors' language. One is lack of prestige. The most fluent speakers of indigenous languages are often concentrated in the villages and rural areas, thus giving the language an association of "backwardness" among urbanites. Perhaps more significant are the greater economic opportunities associated with the dominant language, Russian. However, even the custodians of the Russian language have concerns that the use of their language is declining, particularly in the CIS countries. At a conference in Moscow last June, Deputy Education and Science Minister Andrei Svinarenko attributed the declining interest in studying Russian to Russia's political and economic situation. And if Russian is declining in popularity, we can only imagine how low the status of Khakass or Buryat has fallen.

Of course, Buryat -- with more than 300,000 speakers -- is in much better shape than dozens of other indigenous languages in Russia. Among the 11 languages identified by "Ethnologue" as "endangered" is Southern Yukaghir, a language spoken in northeastern Siberia. In 1859, there were more than 2,000 Yukaghirs, but over the next six decades the population declined rapidly due to epidemics and assimilation. And like so many other indigenous peoples of northern Siberia and Russia's far east, collectivization resulted in cultural discontinuity and further population declines.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Soviet government sent all Yukaghir children to boarding schools, where they were schooled in Russian. Today, speakers of Southern Yukaghir number only 30 to 150, all of whom are older adults, according to "Ethnologue." According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 24 December 2002, Russian ethnologists used to joke darkly that for every Yukaghir, there are three academic volumes about their people. The situation is even more dire for the Tundra Ents language of north-central Siberia. Only two or three of its speakers are still alive.

Of course, the poor physical health and dismal living conditions of many indigenous peoples tends to trump all other challenges facing a language's survival. The Tuva Republic has received high marks for its language program, but Tuva is one of the poorest regions in Russia. Tuvin is the language of instruction in 80 percent of elementary and high schools, according to Borgoiakova. In the majority of Tuva homes, Tuvin is the only language spoken. The strong position of the Tuvin language in the republic represents, according to Borgoiakova, "the most successful model of implementation of language law in Siberia." Of all of the numerically small peoples of northern Siberia and Russia's far east, the Tuvins-Todzhentsev had the highest increase in their mortality rate for the period from 1999-2003, according to "Sotsis." Their death rate rose by 150 percent.

In the face of such alarming statistics, concern about language use may seem esoteric. After all, many if not most members of indigenous populations in Russia can speak Russian, enabling them to function in their daily lives and participate in the local and national economy. But language may represent something more than just a means of communication and a window into a culture.

Some linguists are connecting linguistic diversity with efforts to preserve and understand the environment. Speaking at an international conference in 2002, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas of Denmark's Rotskilde University reported that Finnish biologists recently "discovered" that salmon can use extremely small rivulets leading to a local river as spawning ground, something scientists previously thought was impossible. But the Saami indigenous group has always known this and that the traditional Saami names of several of those rivulets often include the Saami word for "salmon-spawning bed." According to Skutnabb-Kangas, this kind of ecological knowledge is preserved in indigenous languages. (Julie A. Corwin)

OPPOSITIONIST POINTS OUT OMISSIONS IN PUBLISHED TEXT OF ELECTION LAW. Feliks Khachatrian, an opposition member of the Central Election Commission, said on 9 August that the printed version of the amended Election Code sent by the commission to its district subsidiaries omits certain key requirements, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Khachatrian specifically noted the absence from the printed version of one sentence in Article 7 stipulating that election bodies must make public final voter turnout figures by noon the day after the vote. He said that the commission has rejected his demand that the required corrections to the law be published in a separate brochure, and he suggested that the omissions from the printed version of the amended law could result in unintentional violations of the law in the next election. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

AUTHORITIES CONFISCATE ORANGE CLOTHING. Unidentified individuals systematically combed two Baku shopping centers on 10 August, demanding that shop owners voluntarily hand over all items of clothing and accessories colored orange or be required to report to local police, Turan reported. The confiscated goods were then burned on an adjacent lot. Customs officials are similarly demanding that importers hand over orange articles. In a mark of solidarity with the Orange Revolution in Ukraine last winter, numerous participants in recent opposition demonstrations in Azerbaijan have donned orange shirts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August)

OSCE DEPLORES ATTACKS ON OPPOSITION. Ambassador Maurizio Pavesi, who heads the Baku office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), released a statement on 9 August "strongly condemning" the recent acts of violence against the Baku and Nakhichevan offices of the AHCP, Turan reported. In actions that the AHCP believes were orchestrated by the Azerbaijani authorities, protesters hurled rocks and daubed insulting slogans at the buildings in question to demonstrate their anger at the party's alleged collusion with Yeni Fikir Chairman Bashirli (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2005). Pavesi said he hopes the Azerbaijani authorities "will take all necessary measures to prevent...violent and unauthorized public meetings, which would result in an unjustifiable deterioration" in the political situation in the run-up to the 6 November parliamentary elections. Also on 9 August, two parliamentary deputies representing the AHCP met with Interior Minister Ramil Usubov to discuss the picket by protesters of the AHCP headquarters in Baku, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

PRESIDENT TIGHTENS RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGN TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree prohibiting organizations and individuals from receiving and using foreign technical assistance for purposes deemed "unconstitutional," Belapan reported on 17 August, citing the presidential press service. In particular, the decree restricts providing such assistance for seminars, conferences, and public discussions. The organizers of such events are required to apply for official permission to the Cabinet of Ministers' Commission on International Technical Cooperation and the Economy Ministry. The measure drew criticism from the opposition. "It would be more logical to ban elections altogether," United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka commented on the decree. "Nongovernmental organizations and political parties will not be able to train observers and volunteers with assistance of trainers from Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine." However, Mikalay Astreyka, a coordinator of an election-observation network, said the decree will not affect so much election monitoring as internationally sponsored conferences. "Our election-monitoring system is based on volunteers who are not paid for their work," Astreyka said. "But the decree provides authorities with legislative tools against harmless seminars and conferences. In fact, it gives the authorities a free hand to take any action against civic society." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

PRISON SENTENCE FOR OPPOSITIONIST CUT BY ONE YEAR UNDER AMNESTY. Opposition politician Mikhail Marynich's prison sentence of 3 1/2 years has been reduced by one year under an amnesty law passed earlier this year on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, Belapan reported on 18 August, quoting the politician's son, Ihar Marynich. Mikhail Marynich, a former minister and diplomat in President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government, was sentenced to five years in prison in December 2004 on what is widely believed to be a politically motivated charge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005). In February, Marynich had his prison sentence reduced to 3 1/2 years for his "past services to the state" and "failing health." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August)

TWO OPPOSITION FORMATIONS ACCUSE AUTHORITIES OF HARASSMENT. Tina Khidasheli, a leading member of the opposition Republican party, told Caucasus Press on 15 August that the party is being subjected to political pressure from the government. She cited specifically the criminal case recently brought against Giorgi Usupashvili, the brother of her husband and fellow leading Republican David Usupashvili. Also on 15 August, Caucasus Press reported that the political movement Forward, Georgia! (TsS) has addressed an appeal to all diplomatic missions accredited in Tbilisi to protest what it termed ongoing violations of human rights and intimidation of the opposition. The statement referred to an incident in Zugdidi in early August when former National Guard commander Loti Kobalia sought to disrupt a TsS meeting with voters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2005). The statement alleged that Kobalia was acting at the behest of the present Georgian leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

IRAQIS AWAIT DRAFT CONSTITUTION... Iraqis are awaiting word of whether the National Assembly's committee in charge of drafting a constitution will meet its 22 August deadline, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported the same day. The committee failed to meet its original deadline of 15 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2005). Sunni leaders on 21 August called for a second extension, saying they had been cut out of last-minute negotiations between Shi'a and Kurds, reported on 22 August. An unnamed U.S. official told "The New York Times" on 21 August that "all the major issues have been resolved and we hope [that on 22 August] we will work out the remaining details," its website reported on 22 August. Meanwhile, government spokesman Laith Kubba told reporters on 21 August that a second extension may be sought, reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

...AS FEDERALISM REMAINS MAJOR STICKING POINT. Federalism remains one of the most disputed issues, particularly for Sunnis, who fear the establishment of a Shi'ite region in central and southern Iraq, according to international media on 21 August. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi told "The New York Times" on 21 August that Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders were discussing language that would limit the size of autonomous regions to three governorates each, reported on 22 August. "The idea is to satisfy the Sunnis so they don't go berserk," Chalabi said. Meanwhile, Iraqi women demonstrated in Baghdad on 21 August, calling for equality with men under the constitution, RFI reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

REPORT CITES INCREASING PRESSURE ON SUSPECTED SPONSORS OF OPPOSITION. Kazakh authorities have opened a criminal case against one of the presumed financial sponsors of the opposition in the lead-up to the presidential election tentatively expected in December 2005, Russia's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 August. On 5 August, the deputy head of the Agency for Fighting Economic Crime announced that embezzlement and tax-evasion charges have been filed against businessman Bolat Abilov, reported. Abilov is a former member of the pro-presidential Otan Party who subsequently joined the opposition and recently helped found the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan. Abilov, who owns a chain of stores and a number of other businesses in Kazakhstan, has often been cited as a likely financial sponsor of opposition activities, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. The newspaper also noted that the financial police have opened a criminal case against businessman Talgat Kozhakhmetov, the brother of opposition leader Asylbek Kozhakhmetov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August)

STUDENT LEADER CALLS FOR MORE PROTESTS. Albin Kurti, who is a former student leader and political prisoner seeking immediate independence for Kosova without negotiations, said in Klina on 15 August that he wants more protests to demand independence, the Prishtina daily "Epoka e Re" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 27 July and 1 August 2005). Kurti stressed that it is wrong for "2 million [Kosovars to] wait for the report of Kai Eide," who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Kosova and who will soon issue a paper on Kosova's readiness for final status talks. Kurti argued that "Eide has never lived in Kosova. Kosova's citizens should decide on their own fate." Kurti heads the pro-independence group called Self-Determination (Vetevendosja). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER URGES BISHKEK NOT TO DEPORT UZBEK DETAINEES. In a letter congratulating Kyrgyz President Bakiev on his inauguration on 14 August, British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed the hope that the issue of the 15 Uzbek citizens currently detained in Kyrgyzstan will "be decided...within the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees," Reuters reported on 15 August. The convention forbids the extradition of refugees to countries that employ torture, and UN Special Rapporteur Theo van Boven described torture in Uzbekistan as "systematic" after a 2002 visit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 2002). Blair lauded the Kyrgyz government for sending 439 Uzbek refugees to Romania, adding, "I hope that the fate of the remaining 15 refugees in Kyrgyzstan will be decided with similar feeling and care." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August)

PRESIDENT SIGNS AMNESTY. President Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed an amnesty bill into law, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 17 August. The law, which is intended to commemorate the 60th anniversary of World War II, will release 1,124 prisoners and reduce the sentences of 1,500, RIA-Novosti reported. A contributing factor in the amnesty is the critical state of the penitentiary system, where overcrowding has led to heightened incidences of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov had spoken out against the measure, warning that it could imperil ongoing corruption probes by extending amnesty to crimes for which former officials are under investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2005). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)

MARIS THREATENED WITH LEGAL PROCEEDINGS FOR STAGING PROTEST RALLY. The authorities of Marii-El Republic have threatened to bring charges against the leaders of the ethnic Marii organization Marii Ushem, who defied municipal authorities and staged a demonstration in Yoshkar-Ola on 14 August on the eve of the 10th International Congress of Finno-Ugric Studies, according to a 17 August press release from the Tallinn-based Information Center of Finno-Ugric Peoples (ICFUP). The Mariis are a Finno-Ugric people who at the time of the 1989 Soviet census numbered some 670,000, of whom some 43 percent lived in their titular republic. Demonstration participants reportedly bore placards proclaiming "Our President is Putin, not [Marii-El President Leonid] Markelov," and "1937 Again?" an allusion to the Stalin purges. They also protested alleged violations by the republic's leaders of their human and ethnic rights (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 2 June 2005). Numerous prominent international scholars from Finland, Hungary, and Estonia chose not to attend the Finno-Ugric congress as a gesture of solidarity with the Mari people, according to a 16 August ICFUP press release. Participants at the opening session of the congress on 15 August observed one minute's silence to honor congress President Yurii Anduganov, who was killed last month in a car accident in circumstances that remain unclear (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2005). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)

UDMURTS DEMAND NATIVE-LANGUAGE SCHOOLS FOR THEIR CHILDREN. Meanwhile, parents in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia Republic, have written to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to protest what they term the local authorities' refusal to provide education for their children in Udmurt, a Finno-Ugric language, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 August. There were 714,800 Udmurts in Russia at the time of the 1989 Soviet census, of whom 70 percent lived in Udmurtia. The Izhevsk authorities have made available a school building on the city outskirts to accommodate 1,200 Udmurt pupils, but parents protest that it is inaccessible. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted Udmurtia President Aleksandr Volkov as having told a representative of the republic's Tatar minority that he does not considerable it appropriate to create "national reservations" within the republic's education system, meaning schools in which teaching is conducted in languages other than Russian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August)

POLL RESULTS DIFFER SHARPLY OVER ISSUE OF NATIONALISM. A June poll conducted by All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that 16 percent of respondents believe that "Russia is for Russians," up from 11 percent the previous June, while pollsters at Levada Analytical Center concluded that 58 percent of Russians believe the same slogan to be true, according to Ekho Moskvy,, and other media reports. Director Yurii Levada added that the majority of respondents who backed that slogan in his group's poll were youths. The (VTsIOM) study suggested that more than 40 percent of Russians believe relations among ethnic groups in the country are strained, and that more than half of Russians disagree with nationality-based preferences, Ekho Moskvy reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August)

MONTENEGRIN GROUP CHALLENGES SERBIAN RELIGION MINISTRY. The Krstas Society of Montenegrins in Serbia issued an appeal on 11 August to the government of Serbia and Montenegro to call on Serbia's Ministry of Religion to stop what Krstas called discrimination against the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (CPC), which is a rival of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). The appeal came in response to a ruling by Serbian Religion Minister Milan Radulovic, who effectively dismissed a request by Krstas and the CPC to build a church in Vojvodina. Radulovic said that religious buildings cannot be constructed without the permission of the SPC and that it is the duty of the authorities to implement its decisions in such matters. The generally bad relations between the SPC and CPC have become even worse in recent weeks over moves by the SPC to increase its visibility and role in Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2005 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 August 2005). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August)

OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES HELPED WITH ANDIJON INVESTIGATION. Nikolai Patrushev, director of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), told journalists in Aktau, Kazakhstan on 19 August that the FSB sent personnel to Uzbekistan to aid in the investigation of violence in Andijon on 12-13 May, reported. "We sent experts and specialists [to Uzbekistan] who worked directly with our colleagues," Patrushev said, adding that intelligence services need to work toward the prevention of terrorist attacks throughout the CIS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has maintained that religious extremists were to blame for the violence in Andijon, and Uzbek officials have put the death toll at 187. Russian officials have spoken out in support of this version of events. Rights activists have charged that hundreds died when Uzbek security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators and Western governments have called for an independent inquiry into the allegations, a demand Uzbekistan has refused. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August)

OPPOSITION LEADER HOPES TO CREATE PRECEDENT WITH LAWSUIT. Sanjar Umarov, the leader of Uzbekistan's Sunshine Coalition opposition movement, told on 17 August that he hopes to create a precedent with his lawsuit against the newspaper "Zerkalo XXI," which he has accused of defaming him in a recent article. "It would be good to find out what organizations or people are behind this," he said. "And when we find out, then I'll think about how to hold these people or organizations responsible, either here or at the international level." The first hearing in the case was scheduled for 17 August but did not take place because representatives of "Zerkalo XXI" did not attend. An editor at the newspaper told Arena, a media-watchdog site in Uzbekistan, that "Zerkalo XXI" representatives did not attend the hearing because they were only informed of the proceedings on 16 August, when by law they should have been informed three days before the first hearing. The editor told Arena that the newspaper plans to defend itself and will present proof of the allegations that Umarov deemed defamatory. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August)