11 April 2001, Volume 2, Number 15
INTERNATIONALROMA APPEAL TO UNITED NATIONS. Romany National Day was on 9 April, and a rally at UN headquarters in New York called on the world body to confer "the status of a non-territorial nation to the Romany people, providing for adequate representation in relevant international governmental organizations [including] a seat in the United Nations...[and] elected officials in the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the constitutive organs of these organizations." For the full text see http://www.hri.ca/racism/meetings/warsaw.htm. A key meeting aimed to get UN recognition of a Romany Nation will be held in South Africa in August. (MINELRES, 10 April)
AZERBAIJANCORRUPTION IS 'VERY HIGH.' Out of a group of experts, officials, journalists, and politicians polled recently, 73 percent said that corruption in Azerbaijan is currently "very high," the Turan news agency reported on 4 April. An additional 17 percent said it was "high." Sixty percent said that the amount of corruption had increased in the past year, and significant percentages blamed the current government, the low level of civic culture in the country, and the impact of the Soviet past. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
BELARUSYOUTH FRONT LEADER JAILED FOR 10 DAYS. Pavel Sevyarynets, leader of the opposition Youth Front, has joined three older opposition leaders in jail, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 5 April. As in the sentences handed down earlier to Vintsuk Vyachorka, Ales Byalatski, and Yuras Belenki, Sevyarynets was sentenced for organizing an unauthorized demonstration to mark Freedom Day on 25 March. The same day a court in Barysau (Minsk Oblast) jailed Alyaksandr Abramovich for 10 days for staging a protest in support of Russia's NTV television. And Minsk prosecutors instigated criminal proceedings against four activists of the Zubr (Bison) movement: Alyaksey Shydlouski, Tsimokh Dranchuk, Zmitser Drapachka, and Ales Aronich. The four were detained by police while painting graffiti that read: "Where are the missing people? Where are [opposition politicians Yury] Zakharanka, [Viktar] Hanchar, [Anatol] Krasouski?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
UNIONS URGE MINSK TO FOLLOW ILO RECOMMENDATIONS. "We demand that the authorities put an end to their unprecedented interference in trade unions' affairs and to their attempts to destroy the trade union movement and the system of social partnership in the republic," Belarusian trade unions said in a statement adopted in Minsk on 6 April, Belapan reported. The trade unions discussed a resolution of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which advised the Belarusian authorities to improve labor legislation and stop violations of trade union rights. The trade unions urged the government to start following the ILO recommendations immediately. Their statement accuses the government of trying to place branch unions under its control, orchestrating a smear campaign against the trade union movement in the state media, sacking trade union leaders who are critical of the authorities, and denying registration for new trade union organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
LUKASHENKA SAYS WESTERN AID AIMS AT 'FALSIFYING' ELECTIONS... Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 10 April made his annual address to the National Assembly, which consists of the Chamber of Representatives and the Council of the Republic. Touching upon his recent decree on Western gratuitous assistance to Belarus, he explained why he had to introduce rigorous state control over aid shipments. According to Lukashenka, under the pretext of sending humanitarian aid, the West is trying to install a system for falsifying the upcoming presidential elections, Belapan reported. "They [the West] do not need transparency [in the elections]. They ship whole systems here, beginning with [those for] falsifying the upcoming elections, and create computer networks," the agency quoted him as saying. Lukashenka added: "We don't need a [Western] computerized system for falsifying elections, we don't need [it], we will create a state one." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)
OPPOSITION ASKS INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO WORK ON REGIME. The Consultative Council of Opposition Political Parties has appealed to international organizations and foreign parliaments to use their influence to improve the political situation in Belarus in the run-up to this year's presidential election, Belapan reported on 5 April. The council's statement says the recent ballot for the Chamber of Representatives showed that the authorities do not intend to comply with international standards for democratic elections. The council notes that Belarus's parliamentary elections, marred by large-scale fraud, were the authorities' rehearsal for the presidential ballot. The appeal is addressed to the European Parliament, the OSCE Parliamentary Assemblies, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly as well as the parliaments of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
DEADLINE LOOMS OVER JURIDICAL ADDRESS CHANGES. Religious organizations whose juridical address is a private apartment have until 1 June to find an alternative juridical address and gain reregistration if they want to avoid losing their legal status. A Belarus government official told Keston News Service that the change would not obstruct the functioning of religious communities, but others see the move as part of a targeted campaign to put pressure on non-Orthodox Christian religious groups. (Keston News Service, 6 April)
JURIDICAL ADDRESS DIFFICULTIES OBSTRUCT JEWISH REGISTRATION. Four Reform Jewish communities are among a range of religious communities whose registration is being obstructed because the government insists the juridical addresses at which they are attempting to register their communities are unacceptable. Yakov Basin, chairman of the Minsk-based Religious Association of Communities of Progressive Jews, told Keston News Service on 23 March that the difficulties "stem from the government's attitude to all non-Orthodox religious communities." (Keston News Service, 6 April)
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINABANJA LUKA'S FERHADIJA MOSQUE TO BE REBUILT FIRST. After years of foot-dragging, the urban planning department of the town of Banja Luka in Republika Srpska (the Serbian entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina) has agreed that the Ferhadija (Ferhad Pasha's mosque) should be rebuilt. The Republika Srpska religion minister told Keston News Service that the Bosnian Serb authorities would respect freedom of religion for all. However, there are 5,500 Muslims in Banja Luka, and thus far there are no plans to rebuild any of the other mosques destroyed there during the war. (Keston News Service, 9 April)
PETRITSCH BLASTS 'MOBS.' The international community's high representative for Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, said in Sarajevo on 8 April that recent riots by Croats in several towns amounted to an attempt at "mob rule" that neither he nor SFOR will tolerate. He stressed that the unrest was well organized, Reuters reported. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Miller said that behind the riots was the desire by the leaders of the hard-line Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to protect their illegally gained wealth, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 9 April. The rioting left 18 peacekeepers and 15 international officials injured, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. It was the most serious political violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina for some time. On 7 April, SFOR troops took control of several federal army installations in various parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina "to support the federal authorities" and prevent arms from falling into the Croatian hard-liners' hands, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
BULGARIAFORMER KING LAUNCHES POLITICAL MOVEMENT... Former King Simeon II on 6 April launched a new political movement that will run in the 17 June parliamentary elections. Simeon did not say whether he intends to personally seek a seat in the legislature. The Simeon II National Movement will not be an alliance or coalition of parties, but "an alliance of individuals sharing its goals and values," "Monitor" reported. Simeon said the movement proposes to bring about change in Bulgaria's economic and political outlook "within 800 days" by pursuing "quick and fundamental changes in living standards through building a functioning market economy in line with EU criteria." He said corruption in politics and the economy must be "eradicated" and an end must be put to the situation where "most people live in misery, while some politicians live in inexplicable opulence." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
...AND IT IS LEADING IN POLLS. The recently founded Simeon II National Movement is leading in public opinion polls released on 9 April, AP reported. A Gallup poll showed the movement is backed by 45.8 percent of respondents, while a survey conducted by the Mediana polling institute on behalf of the daily "Trud" showed the former monarch's party has a backing of 28 percent, with an additional 25 percent considering the possibility. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)
CROATIAOFFICIAL BILINGUALISM RETURNS TO ISTRIA. Led by the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS), the county assembly of Istria agreed to reintroduce Italian along with Croatian as official languages in the region, "Novi List" reported on 10 April. Several leading Croatian politicians charged that IDS is playing politics and unnecessarily aggravating interethnic tensions, "Vecernji list" reported. IDS President Ivan Jakovcic said, however, that the measure is sound, "Vjesnik" reported. He charged that it is the governing Social Liberals and Social Democrats who are exploiting the issue for political ends. He called on the central government and President Stipe Mesic to support bilingualism in Istria. Mesic said that he is all for people speaking many languages, but wonders whether the timing of the reintroduction of bilingualism was not prompted by political considerations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)
'HISTORICAL' FAITHS FAVORED IN DRAFT RELIGION LAW. Minority religious communities in Croatia have reservations about the latest draft of the new Law on the Legal Status of Religious Communities. Serbian Orthodox, Baptist, and Adventist representatives told Keston News Service that the bill allows the Catholic Church an unfair place of primacy and gives "second-class status" to other religious communities, as well as making a distinction between "historical" religious communities and those established more recently. (Keston News Service, 4 April)
VETERANS PROTEST AGAINST SFOR FIZZLES. In Mostar, HDZ leader Ante Jelavic said on 7 April that the Croats' protests were "spontaneous." He added that the HDZ will continue to seek "self-administration," Reuters reported. In Croatia, veterans' leader Mirko Condic pledged a blockade starting at mid-day on 9 April around the SFOR base at Divulje near Split. He slammed the behavior of the international community and the Croatian government toward the HDZ and the Herzegovinian Croats. The protest lasted less than one hour, however, because of a poor turnout. Several veterans organizations have long been at political loggerheads with President Stipe Mesic and the government of Prime Minister Ivica Racan, whom the veterans accuse of belittling the legacy of the war of independence. The government and its supporters say they are exposing war crimes and ill-gotten privileges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
CZECH REPUBLICGERMANY BANS NEO-NAZIS WITH CZECH LINKS. Klaus Hardrath, interior minister in the German state of Saxony, on 5 April issued an order banning the activity of the ultraright Saxon Switzerland Skinheads (SSS). The organization operated near the border with the Czech Republic and, according to reports in the German media, also trained on Czech territory, CTK reported. The SSS was formed in 1996 by former members of the extremist Viking Youth organization, which was banned in 1994. The SSS had some 100 members and 200 supporters who often attacked left-wing activists, foreigners, and drug dealers. Last year, police confiscated weapons and explosives from apartments of SSS members. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
SKINHEADS, GUESTS ATTEND CONCERT TO PROMOTE RACISM... Some 400 skinheads from the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, and Poland on 7 April attended in Senohraby, near Prague, a rock concert of foreign bands promoting racism. Among the bands were the Slovak Judenmord (Death to Jews) and the British Celtic Warriors. The Slovak band has a photo of the Auschwitz gates on its CD sleeves. Police said they could not stop the concert as the skinheads had hired a room in a local pub. Also on 6 April, Interior Minister Gross said police at present lack the means to oppose racist groups' activities and that he intends to set up an interministerial committee to examine ways the ministry, the Counter-Intelligence Agency, and other institutions could do so. Gross was responding to criticism from Ondre Cackl, member of an NGO monitoring racist organizations, who said Czech police "stand and watch" while neo-Nazis chant racist slogans at rock concerts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
...AND HAVEL COUNSELOR FILES COMPLAINT. Presidential counselor Jana Chalupova on 8 April filed a complaint against the concert's organizers. She told CTK she wanted to thus "express my opinion that the concert has violated the law." Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Chalupova "had acted as a private person" and the complaint should not be viewed as one filed by the presidential office. Antiracist activist Jakub Polak said he is considering filing a similar complaint. Polak said police took no action against the extremists, despite the fact that "the promotion and support of a movement suppressing the rights and freedoms of citizens" could be demonstrated since it was voiced in the concert's promotional leaflet, "of which police were aware." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
ROMA CRITICIZE CABINET OVER MEMORIAL. Over 100 Roma gathered on 8 April at a memorial for Romany victims of the Nazis in Lety to mark International Romany Day, CTK reported. Lety was a concentration camp for the Roma set up in 1942 by the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and guards there included Czechs. Hundreds died there and thousands were sent to Nazi extermination camps. During the communist era a pig farm was built on the site, and although President Havel in 1995 unveiled a memorial to the victims at the site, the pig farm still exists. Cenek Ruzinka, chairman of the Committee for the Compensation of Roma, criticized the government for failing to respect promises to close the farm. Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky, who attended the ceremony, said in reaction that the cabinet faces budgetary constraints and considers it more important to channel funds for "the future of Roma people, [and] their education than to invest in the past." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
ROMA EMIGRATE TO U.K. Twenty Romany families from the Ostrava region emigrated to the U.K. over the past six weeks, Romany Civic Initiative representative in Ostrava Josef Facuna told CTK on 5 April. Facuna said that Zeman and the ruling Social Democratic Party are responsible for their departure. "Under the government of [former Prime Minister] Vaclav Klaus it was possible to find a job, earn money, and live decently," he said. A spokesman for the U.K. Embassy in Prague said British immigration authorities received 55 asylum applications in January "and the number doubled in February." The applicants were accompanied by 119 dependents, the spokesman said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
GEORGIANATIONALIST LEADER BEATEN. Georgian television reported on 5 April that Zviad Dziziguri, leader of the Union of National Forces, was beaten near his home. Several legislative deputies accused the police and security forces of being behind the beating, Caucasus Press reported on the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
PARLIAMENTARY CONDEMNATION OF RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE 'IGNORED.' Religious minority leaders in Georgia have claimed that the parliamentary resolution condemning religious violence has been all but ignored by the local media. One source told Keston News Service that the 30 March resolution was designed primarily for foreign consumption. Also on 30 March, parliament adopted a constitutional amendment giving the Orthodox Church a special role in society, arousing concern from other religious groups. Representatives of the "traditional faiths" hope to meet President Eduard Shevardnadze soon to discuss the religious situation. (Keston News Service, 3 April)
MINORITIES CONCERNED OVER ORTHODOX CONCORDAT. On 30 March the Georgian parliament adopted a constitutional amendment establishing relations between the state and the Orthodox Church on the basis of a concordat. Despite pledges by President Shevardnadze that the religious liberty of non-Orthodox citizens will not be harmed, some minority faiths remain concerned. (Keston News Service, 4 April)
ETHNIC AZERBAIJANIS SAID TO BE MISTREATED. The Bilik Dunyasi news agency of Baku reported on 5 April that Azerbaijani villages in Georgia are now being renamed and history books are being burned. The agency said that the status of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Georgia "is constantly deteriorating," even though the situation had improved earlier upon President Eduard Shevardnadze's coming to power. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
DISPLACED PERSONS BLOCK HIGHWAY IN WESTERN GEORGIA. Ethnic Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia blocked the main Kutaisi-Tskhaltubo highway for three hours on 6 April to protest the local authorities' failure to pay them their 14 laris ($6.80) monthly allowance for the past three months, Caucasus Press reported. The protest was triggered by the suicide the previous day of an elderly Georgian fugitive who could not afford medical treatment for a chronic condition. The Tskhaltubo authorities promised the overdue allowances will be paid. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
HUNGARYPRODI URGES CHANGES IN MEDIA AND MINORITY POLICIES. EU Commission President Prodi said at a closed meeting of the Hungarian parliament's Integration Committee on 5 April that problems related to government influence in public media and the treatment of the Roma minority have to be resolved before the country joins the EU. Prodi said the minority issue is a crucial one for the EU, as "it is itself a community of minorities." Prodi said he understands Hungary's concerns about the state of ethnic Hungarians abroad, but "a similar enthusiasm" is expected toward minorities within the country. Regarding the public service media, Prodi said an amendment of the Media Act is necessary in order to reach an agreement on Hungary's audio/visual policy at EU accession talks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
KAZAKHSTANIGNORANCE OF ISLAM COULD LEAD TO ISLAMIST POLITICS. Maulen Ashimbaev, director of the Kazakh Institute of Strategic Studies, said that ignorance among the Kazakh population could lead to the politicization of those who claim to be Muslims, Kazakh television reported on 5 April. He called for the introduction of religious instruction in all schools and for the state to avoid any interference in the work of the Muslim spiritual directorate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
KOSOVASERBIAN ROLE IN DRAFTING KOSOVA'S CONSTITUTION. Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said in Belgrade on 5 April that "it is very important" to include representatives of Kosova's Serbian minority in the process of drafting a constitution for Kosova. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said he and Haekkerup discussed "the problem of the legal framework for Kosovo," including "the interim constitutional arrangements" for the general elections expected later this year. "We pointed out that there is readiness on part of the Yugoslav side to join the work on that project," AP quoted Kostunica as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
KYRGYZSTANNGO SUES OVER MEETING RESTRICTIONS. Yelfira Yausheva, coordinator of the Coalition of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 5 April that she has sued the Bishkek city administration over its restrictions on public meetings. Meanwhile, "Res Publica" editor Zamira Sydykova told RFE/RL that her paper has hired all the journalists from the banned "Asaba" daily. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
MUSLIM CONGRESS TO BE HELD IN BISHKEK. The Chairman of the governmental Commission on Religious Affairs informed RFE/RL on 9 April that the second congress of Kyrgyz Muslims would be held in Bishkek on 15 May. Mufti of Kyrgyzstan Kimsanbai-Ajy Abdrakmanov will report to the congress on the activity of the country's Muslim Board. The first official congress of Muslims was held in December 1996. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, 9 April)
LATVIANEARLY 60 PERCENT OF ETHNIC RUSSIANS CAN SPEAK LATVIAN. According to the provisional results of the population census in Latvia, there are 609,859 ethnic Russians among the 2,138,202 respondents above the age of seven, BNS reported on 9 April. Among the Russians, 356,955 persons, or 58.5 percent, said they are proficient in the Latvian language. However, the overall share of people in Latvia able to speak Latvian (81.7 percent) was lower than those able to speak Russian (84.4 percent). Of the 763,675 residents living in the capital Riga, 336,613 are native Latvian-speakers; 414,376 are native Russian- speakers; 5,833 gave another language as their native tongue; and 6,853 did not reveal their native language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)
CORRUPTION GAP. Latvians view corruption in their country as far worse than it in fact is, a perception that may actually help them to overcome this legacy of the Soviet past, according to Inese Voika, the president of Transparency International's Latvian's affiliate, to a briefing at RFE/RL last week. Voika noted that there is a wide "gap" between how corrupt Latvia actually is and how corrupt Latvians think it is. A 1999 World Bank survey found that Latvian businessmen pay on average far less in bribes than do their counterparts elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. But she said, Transparency International's 2000 survey of national perceptions of corruption found that Latvians think their country is far more corrupt than do either of its Baltic neighbors or most other Central and Eastern European countries. (RFE/RL Press Release, 9 April)
MACEDONIAINTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY APPEALS FOR DIALOGUE. Romania's Mircea Geoana, who currently holds the OSCE chair, said on 5 April that "all legitimate interests should be presented [at the round-table talks]. We also feel the need of having some quick success, some quick wins that will give confidence," Reuters reported from Skopje. British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said in Tetovo after meeting with Arben Xhaferi, head of Macedonia's Democratic Party of the Albanians, that "we need to work while there is an interval, when Macedonia is clear of violence. We must create the political conditions in Macedonia where all citizens know they have equal rights and feel they have equal opportunities." Earlier, after meeting with Macedonian leaders, Cook said in Skopje: "We want to help Macedonia defeat the terrorists. We support multiethnic Macedonia in which the citizens are equal with equal opportunities. There is no place for violence in a democratic society," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
ARRESTS AND ACCUSATIONS... The Skopje dailies "Vest" and "Dnevnik" reported on 7 April that police arrested 30 Albanians in the villages of Poroj and Dzebciste in the Tetovo region. While some of them were released because of a lack of evidence, 18 were held in detention because police found a number of automatic weapons, ammunition, and explosives in their possession. During the arrests, there were short exchanges of fire between the guerrillas and the police, "Dnevnik" reported. While the newspapers stated that no policemen were wounded, it is not clear whether there were casualties among the Albanians. It is not clear how many Albanians have been arrested since the outbreak of violence earlier this year, but the number seems to be rising every day. ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 April)
OPPOSITION, OSCE DISCUSS ELECTION PROCESS. Ridvan Bode, who is the Democratic Party's (PD) general secretary, and Fatmir Mediu, the chairman of the Republican Party (PR), met with OSCE representatives on 6 April to discuss safeguards for the upcoming parliamentary elections, which are due in June. The two conservative officials agreed to participate in the elections and also welcomed the planned OSCE election monitoring. Both PD and PR officials previously claimed that electoral lists are faulty and suggested that the governing Socialists may try to rig the elections. The opposition politicians claim that the Socialists broke the 28 February agreement with the opposition to check voters' lists. They demanded that the OSCE insist on a fresh review of the lists. Just two days earlier, the local PD chairman in Tirana, Vili Minarolli, accused OSCE Head of Mission Gert Ahrens of undermining the opposition-government agreement by opposing the agreed reexamination of the lists. ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 April)
MONTENEGROPOLITICIANS SLAM INTIMIDATION OF MUSLIMS, ALBANIANS. Several pro-independence politicians, as well as political leaders of the Muslim and Albanian minorities, took issue with some recent remarks by pro-Belgrade leader Bozidar Bojovic, "Pobjeda" reported on 10 April. Bojovic warned Muslims and Albanians not to support Montenegrin independence lest pro-Serbian Montenegrins make the minorities scapegoats for Podgorica's eventual break with Belgrade. Politicians and commentators used words such as "national-chauvinist," "barbaric," and "greater Serbian" to describe Bojovic's remarks. Some pro-Belgrade politicians previously suggested not allowing Muslims or Albanians to vote on independence. Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic blamed his defeat in the 1997 Montenegrin presidential election on the Albanians and Muslims. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)
POLANDTEAMS OF POLICE, PROSECUTORS TO TARGET CRIME IN SMALL TOWNS. Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski told journalists on 5 April that special groups of police and prosecutors will combat crime in small towns that have become dominated by gangs. According to Kaczynski, such a method for combating gangs has proved successful in Wyszkow, near Warsaw. Kaczynski said Wyszkow has become notorious due to criminals who have taken over the town. Some residents maintained that investigative agencies in the town are corrupt and are doing nothing to improve public safety. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
POLAND, GERMANY FAIL TO AGREE ON EU LABOR MOVEMENT RESTRICTION. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek failed on 6 April to resolve differences between their countries over Berlin's attempts to lay down a seven-year restriction period on labor movement from countries that are now preparing to join the EU, dpa reported. Buzek also failed to persuade Schroeder to find an "interim solution" that could allow Germany to release compensation payments to former Nazi slave laborers even if U.S. class-action lawsuits against German companies that used slave labor during World War II are not dismissed. Trying to remedy the problem, the Polish foundation handling Nazi labor issues has started paying one-time 1,400 zlotys ($350) stipends to victims older than 80. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
ROMANIAANTONESCU ADMIRERS MERGE ORGANIZATIONS. The Marshal Ion Antonescu League and the Marshal Antonescu Foundation, both set up in 1990, have merged into a single organization, the PRM weekly "Romania mare" reported on 6 April. Iosif Constantin Dragan, a Romanian magnate with an Iron Guard past, who is honorary chairman of both organizations, has been re-elected to that position. He told the audience that a Romanian-language translation of Norman Finkelstein's controversial book "The Holocaust Industry" is under way. Deputy Senate Chairman Gheorghe Buzatu, who is one of the most prominent historians engaged in the rehabilitation campaign of Romania's Nazi-allied wartime leader and a member of the PRM, has been appointed chairman, while Radu Theodoru, possibly the most vociferous anti-Semite and Holocaust-denier in post-communist Romania, has been appointed executive chairman of the new organization. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
RUSSIADUMA ACTS ON EMERGENCY SITUATIONS LAW. On its second reading, the Duma approved a bill that will allow the president to introduce a state of emergency to protect "the constitutional order or the rights and freedoms of citizens," Interfax reported on 5 April. One part of the bill specifies that "the purpose of the introduction of a state of emergency may be the elimination of the circumstances caused by its imposition." Such a state of emergency cannot last longer than 30 days for the country as a whole or for more than 60 days in any particular region, but during that period, the president can overrule all government bodies. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 9 April)
PETITION TO END CHECHEN WAR... The Russian national committee "For the End of War and the Restoration of Peace in the Chechen Republic" is circulating a petition to support its call for an end to the fighting in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 April. The committee, which was created one week ago, includes human rights groups, members of the Duma and Federation Council, social scientists, and prominent writers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
...WHILE PUTIN HAS PARLIAMENTARIANS SHOW SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGN... During his address to the Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin called on everyone to rise in support of those he called "the heroes of the Chechen war," grani.ru reported on 5 April. No one refused to stand, the website reported. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 9 April)
...AND EUROPEANS ASKED TO AID CHECHNYA DIRECTLY... Vladimir Kalamanov, the presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya, told a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on 5 April that the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should send humanitarian aid directly to Chechnya, rather than to Ingushetia, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
...WHILE RUSSIANS IN CHECHNYA SAY MOSCOW HAS ABANDONED THEM. According to an article in "Kommersant" on 6 April, the few remaining ethnic Russians in Chechnya "do not understand why only foreign aid workers have been helping them" and why the Russian authorities do not. On 8 April, Interfax quoted Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov as telling "Segodnya" that Chechen fighters have killed 37 Russian civilians, including 17 women and one child, since the end of January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
MOSCOW CONCERNED BY RUSSIAN OUTMIGRATION FROM NORTH CAUCASUS. At a 5 April meeting with clergy in Stavropol, presidential representative to the South Russia federal district Viktor Kazantsev expressed concern at the outflow of ethnic Russians from the North Caucasus, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 8 April. Kazantsev noted that in Daghestan the Russian population has fallen by 50 percent over the past decade, while in Ingushetia Russians now account for less than 2 percent of the population. In 1996, Russians were the second- largest ethnic group in Ingushetia and accounted for 13.2 percent of the republic's 299,700 population. In Karachaevo-Cherkessia, where Russians are the largest ethnic group (42.4 percent), every third Russian family is seeking to leave, according to Kazantsev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
REPRESSED PEOPLES PLAN CONGRESS. Representatives of the Ingush, Koreans, Cossacks, Chechens, and Russian Germans met in Moscow on 7 April at the Ministry for Federation Affairs, Nationalities and Migration Policy to plan for a congress of formerly repressed peoples later this spring, ITAR-TASS reported. The congress will mark the 10th anniversary of the Russian law "On the Rehabilitation of Repressed Peoples." Nikolai Bugai, the head of the ministry's nationality policy department, said that the problems of these communities have "to some extent" been resolved and in any case are less acute than they were a decade ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
HOW MANY NEO-NAZIS IN RUSSIA? A Moscow school for Armenian students was attacked by 20 young thugs on 15 March. Several students were badly beaten. While the police dispersed the attackers, no one was detained, reports "Obshchaya gazeta." Less than six years since the start of Russia's neo-Nazi "movement," reports the paper, there are some 3,800 neo-Nazis in Moscow; about 2,700 in St. Petersburg; over 2,000 in Nizhny Novgorod; more than 1,500 in Rostov-on-Don; The movement also has over 1,000 followers in Yaroslavl, Pskov, Kaliningrad, as well as several hundred in Voronezh, Samara, Saratov, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Tomsk, Vladivistok, and Ryazan. The total neo-Nazis in Russia is thought to be over 30,000. ("Obshchaya gazeta," No. 13, April 2001)
ONE IN THREE RUSSIANS HAS PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. The Russian Psychiatric Society told Interfax on 6 April that almost one Russian in three has psychological problems, a share that has risen 44.2 percent over the last 10 years. The psychiatrists said that the number of cases of schizophrenia increased by 25.5 percent over that period and the number of suicides has likewise grown. The psychiatrists called on President Putin and the whole of Russian society to pay more attention to this trend. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
RATE OF MENTAL ILLNESS RISES AMONG YOUNG. During the last 10 years, psychological illnesses have increased in Russia by 1.5 times among adults and by 2.5 times among children and adolescents, Tatiana Dmitrieva, director of the Center for Social and Legal Psychiatry, told reporters on 5 April. Almost 6 million people are registered in Russia with mental illnesses, according to Dmitrieva, but the real figure is likely higher since this statistic does not include those treated in private clinics and hospitals, Interfax reported. Dmitrieva added that Russia's increasing number of people afflicted with mental illness is part of a worldwide trend. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
MORE STUDENTS OVER 18 TO GET DRAFT DEFERMENTS. The Duma has approved an amendment to the country's laws on military service in order to provide draft deferments to those who are still in secondary or trade schools after the age of 18, "Segodnya" reported on 6 April. If the amendment is approved by the legislature, such students could lose their deferment at age 20. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
MIRONOV URGES EXTENDING RELIGIOUS REGISTRATION DEADLINE. Russian human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov said on 6 April that "it would not be a bad thing" if the Duma were to formally extend the deadline of 31 December 2000 stipulated in the controversial 1997 Law on Freedom of Consciences, which required religious organizations to register with the Justice Ministry. Such an extension would allow the more than 2,000 religious groups that were unable to register by that time to do so, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
PATRIARCH TO HELP POOR IN ARMY. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 6 April, Patriarch Aleksii II asked that the commanders of Russia's military send him information on those soldiers who need help in acquiring housing or other goods so he can help them from the fund that he and the government have set up. Aleksii also said that the Russian Orthodox Church is not seeking restitution of all property confiscated from it during the Soviet period, but that "we are speaking about the return of part of the property" that was taken, particularly land. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
LUZHKOV SCHEDULES 'SUBBOTNIKI.' The office of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 7 April that four Soviet-style "subbotniki" will be held this month, Interfax-Moscow reported. During these sessions on Saturdays, Moscow residents are expected to help clean up the city. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
NEMTSOV SAYS RUSSIA NOT COMPLETELY FREE. The leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) faction in the Duma, Boris Nemtsov, said that Russia is not yet a free country in the full extent of that word, Interfax reported on 6 April. He told a Moscow conference on "The Strategy and Problems of Development of Legislation in Russia on the Way to a Civil Society" that both freedom and property are important. But he said that "as long as [President] Putin listens at the same time to [Prosecutor-General Vladimir] Ustinov and [deputy head of presidential administration Dmitrii] Kozak, to [Communist Party leader Gennadii] Zyuganov and [Yabloko head Grigorii] Yavlinsky, there will not be any reform..." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
SERBIA'CRIMINALIZED STATE' MACHINERY. The recent arrest of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic has highlighted a lack of consensus within the Serbian coalition government on the conduct of domestic reforms and international relations, according to a leading French scholar on the Balkans. Although the new government passed its first political test in arresting Milosevic, Jacques Rupnik told an RFE/RL briefing last week, it is going to need from the West both "financial incentives" and "a credible political goal" to overcome the "criminalized state" machinery inherited from the Milosevic period. (RFE/RL Press Release, 9 April)
TAJIKISTANGIANT 'NEW' BUDDHA FOUND. A 1,600 year old statue of a sleeping Buddha -- uncovered by archeologists from the former Soviet Union 35 years ago and never seen by the outside world -- will soon go on display in Dushanbe. After Afghanistan's Taliban destroyed the largest Buddhas in Central Asia, the "new" Tajikistan Buddha, dating back to the 5th century, will be the largest ancient Buddha statue in Central Asia. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/culture/articles/eav040601.shtml (EurasiaNet Weekly Update, 9 April)
TURKMENISTANPRESIDENT BANS OPERA, BALLET... Insisting that ballet and opera are "alien" to Turkmen culture, President Saparmurat Niyazov on 5 April closed the main opera and ballet theater in Ashgabat to allow for the development of distinctly Turkmen culture, Interfax-Central Asia and AP reported. He also placed the country's culture minister on a sixth-month probation as director of a youth theater and announced that Turkmen broadcasting will fall under the Communications Ministry, Turkmen radio and television reported on 4 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
...AND DECREES NATIONAL DRESS. A meeting of parents for school children in the city of Dashoguz was held in early April, the "Memorial" Central Asian Human Rights Center reported. The school management announced that as of that day all schoolgirls -- regardless of nationality -- must wear traditional Turkmen dresses. According to the 1995 census, non-Turkmen ethnic groups comprised 37 percent of the regional population. (Information Center for Human Rights in Central Asia, 7 April)
UKRAINEPACE COMMITTEE WANTS UKRAINE SUSPENDED FROM COUNCIL OF EUROPE. Hanne Severinsen, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for Ukraine, told RFE/RL on 6 April that the PACE Monitoring Committee has recommended to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to begin procedures for the suspension of Ukraine's membership in the Council of Europe. Severinsen said the PACE Monitoring Committee's resolution is "very critical, especially regarding the [Ukrainian] president." She added: "[The criticism] refers to abuse of power, particularly to pressure on the freedom of expression and the opposition." Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko commented that the PACE Monitoring Committee's recommendation "is more of an emotional than an essential nature," Interfax reported on 7 April. "I don't think [Ukraine will be suspended from the Council of Europe], but we should meet some conditions," Zlenko added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
ANTI-KUCHMA REFERENDUM INITIATIVE DEEMED PREMATURE, ILLEGAL. Lawmaker Taras Chornovil, an activist of the Forum of National Salvation (FNP), said on 9 April that the FNP proposal to initiate a no-confidence referendum on President Leonid Kuchma is premature, Interfax reported. "If we now begin the [referendum] action, which is doomed to fail, we will in this way begin someone's election campaign or give a trump card to the president," Chornovil noted. First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk said the referendum idea is legally invalid, adding that a law on referendums adopted in March bars no-confidence plebiscites. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)
PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CRIMINAL CODE WITHOUT DEATH PENALTY... The parliament on 5 April voted by 379 to three, with two abstentions, to pass a liberalized Criminal Code that replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment, Interfax reported. The Constitutional Court ruled in 1999 that the death penalty is illegal and ordered the legislature to annul corresponding articles in the Criminal Code. Under the new code, people under 18 or older than 65 may not be imprisoned for life. The bill also limits punishments for mentally incapacitated criminals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
...LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES... The parliament also adopted a new version of the March 2000 law on political parties, which was vetoed by President Leonid Kuchma. Lawmakers rejected seven presidential amendments to the law, accepted five fully, and seven partially, Interfax reported. The adoption of this law, like that of the Criminal Code, is one of Ukraine's obligations to the Council of Europe. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
...BUT FAILS TO ENDORSE BILL ON PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY, OPPOSITION. The parliament failed to endorse in the first reading a bill on parliamentary majority and opposition. Out of the 394 deputies registered in the session hall, 172 supported the bill while 128 were against it. The parliamentary caucuses of the Communist Party, the Fatherland Party, Rukh (Kostenko), Reforms-Congress, and some legislators from the Socialist Party refused to participate in the voting. The rejected bill stipulated that a parliamentary majority is a voluntary association of no less than 226 deputies who are headed by the parliamentary speaker. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)
ISLAMIC COMMUNITY GROWS. Islamic federations such as the "Religious Center of the Muslims of Ukraine" and the "Ar-Raid Federation of Social Organizations" are increasing Islamic visibility in Ukrainian society. These organizations represent traditional Muslim groups on the territory of Ukraine -- such as the ancient and long-repressed community of Tatars in the Crimea -- as well as newer Arab immigrants. (EurasiaNet Weekly Update, 9 April)
UZBEKISTANPEACEFUL PROTEST BROKEN UP. A public protest scheduled for 6 April was broken up by the security services, the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) reported the same day. Reportedly, protesters were packed into cars and driven away from the planned demonstration site. (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, 6 April)
HUMAN RIGHTS SOCIETY UNDER ATTACK. The head of the HRSU press office, Ruslan Sharipov, reported on 6 April that a police watch had been set on its office that day and that he had been threatened with arrest. Meanwhile, HRSU consultant Elena Urlaeva was allegedly taken to a psychiatric clinic along with Iosif Shimonov. Talib Yakubov, HRSU head, said he would write a protest letter to Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov and appealed to international organizations for support. (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, 8 April)
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CRITICIZE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR TRIALS... Representatives of Uzbekistan's Jehovah's Witness community have complained to Keston News Service that if their members reject compulsory military service because of their religious beliefs they are not allowed to do alternative service and continue to be sentenced for refusing military service, often being given "punitive" fines. (Keston News Service, 6 April)
...AND THEIR REGISTRATIONS OBSTRUCTED. Some 10 Jehovah's Witness communities across Uzbekistan have been denied registration, despite meeting all the requirements, Jehovah's Witnesses told Keston News Service in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on 18 March. Only two communities are registered. The Jehovah's Witnesses attributed the registration obstructions to a "lack of understanding" on the part of the authorities at all levels, and pledged to resolve all outstanding problems with the authorities directly through dialogue. (Keston News Service, 6 April)
WHAT'S WRONG WITH RELIGIOUS CHARITIES? Although a number of humanitarian aid charities function in Uzbekistan, some of them affiliated to international charities, so far the Uzbek government has failed to register any local charities with an affiliation to a religious group, Keston News Service was told in interviews in mid-March in Tashkent. Government officials appeared suspicious about possible missionary activity, but representatives of Adventist and Catholic charities stressed that their work is purely humanitarian. (Keston News Service, 3 April)
YOUTH FACE CRISIS. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov has taken steps to influence young people against the militant Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, such as restructuring the government-sponsored youth organization. But some Uzbeks say the Karimov regime is lax about the real causes of popular disillusionment and apathy, including mass unemployment and poverty -- particularly in the densely-populated Ferghana Valley -- along with the jailing of many thousands of Muslims. (EurasiaNet Weekly Update, 9 April)
END NOTEWHEN ENROLLMENT PATTERNS SHIFT
By Paul Goble
Moscow's institutions of higher education are increasingly dominated by native Muscovites rather than by students from around the country, a shift that appears likely to transform both the intellectual and political role these schools play in the Russian Federation.
A Moscow newspaper reported that at the end of the Soviet period, 75 percent of the students in the universities of the Russian capital came from outside the city, but that now, 10 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, only 26 percent of those enrolled come from outside the city.
This shift reflects a variety of factors: the increasing costs students and their families must bear when attending a university far from home given subsidy cuts, the refocusing of non-Russians on their own university centers, the growing ability of some to attend universities abroad, the ever more successful efforts by Moscow parents to ensure that their children attend elite institutions, and growing interest in and support for regional institutions.
But the consequences of this shift are already obvious. In Soviet times, Moscow's universities attracted the best and the brightest from around the country, and children of the Moscow elite often found it difficult to enroll in those institutions unless they were especially well-prepared or -- even better -- connected.
Among those who benefited from this pattern were those like Mikhail Gorbachev, whose upward trajectory began when he was accepted by Moscow State University but who, if they were 18 again and living in a distant region like Gorbachev's Stavropol, might find it difficult or even impossible to enroll in that institution now.
That pattern not only contributed to a certain intellectual dynamism in the capital but also promoted significant upward social mobility and the continuing renewal of the national elite. It meant that members of the top elite often had the shared experience of attending university together. And it meant that Moscow's universities served social functions similar to the elite institutions in France, Britain, and the United States.
The shift in enrollment patterns seems certain to affect all of these things and hence to have an impact on the broader society as well in three major ways.
First, the Moscow universities may decline relatively if not absolutely as intellectual centers compared to other universities elsewhere. And that in turn will mean that regional universities are likely to become ever more important, an arrangement that many other countries have come to terms with but one that is fundamentally at odds with Russian intellectual traditions.
Second, the increasing share of Muscovites among Moscow university students will tend to slow social and geographic mobility by freezing out some of the best students from outside the city. And any such slowing down could lead to tensions between Moscow and the regions, especially if people in the regions come to view this trend as something the Moscow elite intends.
And third, and perhaps most important, this shift in enrollment patterns in Moscow higher schools inevitably means that members of the central and regional elites will lose one of the common experiences that has tied them together in the past. In many countries, those who attend the national or elite educational institutions become the national elite. Those who attend regional education centers become the regional elite.
If that pattern holds in Russia, and there is no reason to think that that country will prove to be an exception, then relations between Moscow and the regions are likely to be complicated by yet another and entirely unintended factor. Such a separation of key elites there could make it even more difficult for the center, that is, Moscow, to rule the periphery.
It is impossible to say whether the shift reported in university enrollment between Muscovites and non-Muscovites over the last decade will continue or whether all these consequences will be realized. But the possibility that these developments may occur seems certain to be at the center of both educational and social debates in the coming years.