20 June 2001, Volume
INTERNATIONAL LIBRARY ON ETHNIC MINORITY ISSUES.
The new International Library on Ethnic Minority Issues can be seen at http://racoon.riga.lv/minelres/archive//06152001-18:04:28-22585.html.
PRISONERS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE.
Thirty inmates of a prison in the eastern Armenian province of Sevan have embarked on a hunger strike to protest their exclusion from the recently proclaimed amnesty to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Some 2,100 prisoners are eligible for release under the amnesty, which does not extend to persons serving time for murder or other serious crimes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMNESTY BILL.
Deputies voted unanimously on 12 June at the end of a two-day debate to approve President Robert Kocharian's proposal to declare a general amnesty to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The amnesty extends to some 2,100 persons, or one-third of the country's prison population. Of those, almost 1,250 will be released and a further 870 will have their sentences reduced. It is not clear whether the amnesty applies to former Education Minister Ashot Bleyan, who was sentenced last December on corruption charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)GOVERNMENT OPPOSES PROPOSED PENSION INCREASE.
Ministers on 12 June rejected as not economically feasible a proposal by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) to raise state pensions, which currently average $10 per month, by up to 30 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. State Social Security Fund head Frunze Musheghian said the government cannot raise the 13 billion drams ($23.6 million) that he calculated the pension hike would cost. The HHD has challenged that figure, saying it is too high. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)
WAR INVALIDS STAGE DEMO.
Some 300 members of the society representing Karabakh war invalids staged a protest in Baku on 16 June to demand the release of several of their fellow invalids detained by police in February following a mass hunger strike to demand an increase in their allowances, Turan reported. The protest was sanctioned by the municipal authorities and no incidents were reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)
NGOS VOW TO FIELD 14,000 ELECTION OBSERVERS.
Some 200 Belarusian NGOs have set up an Independent Monitoring civic group in order to coordinate their efforts to prepare no less than 14,000 observers for the 9 September presidential elections, Belapan reported on 12 June. "For the first time we have created a single, nonparty and independent monitoring network that will cover electoral commissions of all levels on the entire territory of Belarus," human rights activist Ales Byalatski commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)
SERBS PROTEST NEW IDENTITY CARDS.
The government of the Republika Srpska believes that the recent decision of the joint Council of Ministers, with the support of the international community's Office of the High Representative, to issue identity documents only in the Latin alphabet is a violation of the constitution and undermines the rights of the Bosnian Serbs, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 14 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)MUSLIMS DEDICATE MOSQUE DESPITE SERBIAN RIOTERS.
Bosnian Serb police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse "hundreds" of demonstrators in Banja Luka on 18 June, Reuters reported. The protesters sang nationalist songs and chanted anti-Muslim slogans. The rioters want to prevent work on rebuilding the 16th-century Ferhadija mosque, which Bosnian Serb irregulars destroyed during the 1992-1995 war as part of a campaign to remove all physical aspects of Bosnia's Ottoman heritage. Some 100 Muslims, guarded by police, nonetheless succeeded in laying the cornerstone for the mosque, AP reported. Muslim and foreign leaders criticized the Bosnian Serb authorities for not stopping violent protests during an attempt to begin work on Ferhadija in early May. This time, however, Banja Luka Mayor Dragoljub Davidovic promised that security will be tough, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 18 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)
FORMER KING WINS ELECTORAL LANDSLIDE.
With over 99 percent of ballots cast in the 17 June parliamentary elections counted, the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) is certain to have won an electoral landslide. The NDSV has 43.5 percent, more than the total of the second- and third-place formations together, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The outgoing ruling alliance of the United Democratic Forces (ODS) is second, with 18.24 percent, closely followed by the For Bulgaria Coalition, whose main component is the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) will also be represented in parliament, having scored 6.75 percent. No other formation passed the 4 percent electoral hurdle. While voter turnout was fairly high (66.7 percent), it was lower than observers expected. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)READY FOR REFUGEES FROM MACEDONIA.
Minister without portfolio Aleksandar Pramatarski said on 14 June that Bulgaria is planning for the possibility of an influx of Macedonians seeking refuge in the country, "Novinar" reported. In an article titled "Refugee Camps Along the Border With Macedonia," Pramatarski said Bulgaria would be able to accommodate up to 5,000 refugees. He said the costs of taking care of so many people would be 1 million leva (about $440,000) a month and that Bulgaria would ask international humanitarian organizations for help in such a situation. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said earlier this week that he does not expect a wave of refugees from Macedonia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)
GOVERNMENT TO ADVANCE COMPENSATION TO AGED FORCED LABORERS?
Labor and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla said on 13 June that the Czech government is planning to pay compensation in advance to Czechs who were forced to work for the Nazis during World War II and are now over 80, CTK reported. Spidla said that for these people, payment is "most urgent -- especially from the moral point of view." The Bundestag last month approved the agreement on the compensation of people forced to labor in Nazi camps and at German-owned companies, and AFP reported on 13 June that claimants from Poland and the Czech Republic will be among the first to receive compensation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE LAW ADOPTED.
The parliament on 14 June adopted a government-sponsored mandatory unemployment insurance law by a vote of 54 to zero, with four abstentions, ETA and BNS reported. The law, which will go into effect on 1 January 2002, provides that employees pay 1 percent of their salaries into the unemployment insurance fund while employers pay an additional 0.5 percent of the salaries. Unemployment benefits for the first 100 days will be 50 percent of the recipient's last salary and 40 percent for the remainder of the year. At present, unemployment benefits are a symbolic 400 kroons ($22) per month. The parliament earlier rejected a no-confidence motion on Economy Minister Mihkel Parnoja by a vote of 42 to 42. The motion needed at least 51 votes to oust the minister. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)ID CARD TO REPLACE PASSPORT NEXT YEAR.
Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus announced that beginning in 2002 Estonia's passport will be replaced by an electronic plastic ID card, which will cost 150 kroons ($8), ETA reported on 15 June. Loodus said the actual production costs of the card, which will be valid for 10 years, will be about 250 kroons. Noting that only 10,000 people have applied for ID cards in Finland, where they are not compulsory, Loodus said Estonia's new ID cards will be compulsory. The government's financial losses for the IDs will be partially compensated by charging 350 kroons for a new traveling passport, which cost 80-85 kroons each to produce. The Citizenship and Migration Department has planned a five-year transition period for issuing the new documents and signed contracts with the Swiss company Trueb for the production of 1.34 million ID cards and with the British firm De La Rue on printing 1 million passports. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)
COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE TO BE REDUCED.
Parliament on 13 June voted to reduce compulsory military service from the current nine months to six months, Hungarian media reported. The government's press department said the long-term objective of the amendment, to take effect on 1 January 2002, is to move toward a professional army. Reservist service will also be reduced from four months to 90 days. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)STRASBOURG DISMISSES ROMA LAWSUIT.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has dismissed after nearly 11 months of consideration a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Hungarian government by Romany families from the Hungarian village of Zamoly, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 14 June. The court said the Roma, some of whom have since received asylum in France, had failed to exhaust all legal remedies in Hungary. Jozsef Krasznai, the spokesman of the Romany group, and 24 others had sought a total of over 100 million forints ($340,000) in compensation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)
OPINION POLLS SHOW WANING SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENT, RULING PARTY...
A recent poll of 1,000 Georgian citizens conducted by the "Gorby" Center of Sociological Studies suggests that the most popular politician in Georgia is currently former Georgian Communist Party first secretary Djumber Patiashvili, Caucasus Press reported on 13 June. If presidential elections were to be held next week, 15.4 percent of those questioned would vote for Patiashvili, 10 percent for Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, 9.2 percent for incumbent President Eduard Shevardnadze, 8.5 percent for Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, 3.9 percent for Imereti Governor Temur Shashiashvili, and 2.4 percent for opposition Industrialists parliament faction leader Gogi Topadze. None, apparently, would vote for current parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, whom some observers believe has hopes of succeeding Shevardnadze. Similarly, in a parliamentary ballot, 18.4 percent would vote for the opposition Revival Union, 15 percent for Topadze's "Industry Will Save Georgia," 10.7 percent for the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), and 5.6 percent for the Labor Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)...AS OPPOSITION CALLS FOR 'PEACEFUL TRANSITION OF POWER.'
Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili told a gathering of some 7,000 supporters in Tbilisi on 13 June that criminal proceedings should be brought against both Shevardnadze and Zhvania for "treason," adding that he is ready to submit to the Prosecutor-General's Office documentation substantiating that charge. He said the SMK has brought Georgia to the verge of poverty, and criticized as "ruinous" the agreements that Georgia has signed with the IMF and World Bank. He called on the population to bring about "a peaceful change of power" in Georgia. Natelashvili's party garnered unexpectedly strong support in local elections in 1998. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)
SHADOW CAPITAL LEGALIZED...
The law passed earlier this year permitting the repatriation with impunity of funds illegally transferred to foreign bank accounts went into effect on 14 June, RFE/RL reported. During 20 days, 16 banks will accept payment into accounts of unlimited sums that will not be subject to tax or penalties nor will the funds' provenance be checked. Financial experts estimate that between $500 million and $3 billion may be repatriated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)...WHILE MOTHERS AGAIN DEMAND ALLOWANCES.
A group of 22 women from South Kazakhstan Oblast convened a press conference in Almaty on 14 June to report on their five-month campaign to compel the oblast leadership to pay them their overdue social allowances, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Some women have had their passports confiscated, while local officials have denied in conversation with others that they are entitled to any allowances. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)
DEMONSTRATORS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN.
Some 100 supporters of imprisoned former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov staged a protest in Bishkek on 12 June to demand his acquittal and release, RFE/RL reported. The protest was timed to coincide with a Supreme Court session to review Kulov's appeal of his January sentence, but that session was indefinitely postponed. Protesters marched on the government building calling on President Askar Akaev to resign. Police used force to break up the protest and detained three activists from Kulov's Ar-Namys party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)
GOVERNMENT ARMS 'RESERVISTS.'
Police spokesman Stevo Pendarovski said in Skopje on 13 June that the authorities are in the process of arming "reservists" in the capital with rifles and uniforms, Reuters reported. He added that the move is part of "a plan for the full mobilization of the police reserve forces." It is not clear if members of all ethnic groups are being armed or only Slavic Macedonians. An unnamed "senior Western diplomat" in the Macedonian capital told the news agency that the "move is a worrying indication of the potential for outright civil war" unless a political settlement is reached quickly. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)HAGUE WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL MONITORING EVENTS.
Florence Hartmann, the spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told AP in The Hague on 13 June that Macedonia "is part of the territory of ex-Yugoslavia and it is [the scene of] an armed conflict. The fact that we have jurisdiction [there] is a warning to all parties.... All individuals responsible for crimes under our competency will have to respond before the international tribunal." She added that members of the tribunal staff are "in the field collecting information" and that any reports of offenses will be investigated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)
RALLY AGAINST 'HISTORY OF MOLDOVA.'
PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca on 15 June told a protest rally in Chisinau that the country's intelligentsia may launch mass protests against the government's intention to replace the teaching in schools and universities of the "History of Romanians" with the "History of Moldova," Infotag reported. About 100 attended the rally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)GOVERNMENT REJECTS MAKING RUSSIAN OBLIGATORY IN SCHOOLS.
The government on 13 June decided to oppose in the parliament a draft law submitted by two deputies representing the Party of Moldovan Communists that would have made the teaching of the Russian language obligatory in Moldovan schools, Flux reported. The cabinet said the draft infringes on the constitution, which stipulates that students are free to be instructed in the language of their, or their parents', choice. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)VICTIMS OF STALINIST REPRESSION DEMAND RUSSIAN REPARATIONS.
Hundreds of survivors of Stalinist-era repression demonstrated on 13 June in Chisinau, demanding that Russia pay compensation. The demonstration marked the 60th anniversary of the beginning of deportations of Moldovans to Siberia and other desolate areas of the Soviet Union following the annexation of Bessarabia by the Soviet Union in June 1940. During the night of 12-13 June 1941, more than 22,000 people were deported to Siberia. Other massive deportations took place in 1949 and 1951. Moldovan National Party Chairman Ion Buga told the rally that Russia must "follow the German example" of assuming responsibility for crimes committed in the past and pay reparations to the victims and their successors, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)
U.S. PRESIDENT PRAISES POLAND AS EXEMPLARY DEMOCRACY.
U.S. President George W. Bush visited Warsaw on 15 June, where he met top Polish officials and made a major foreign policy speech at the Warsaw University Library. "I came here to show nations which are hungry for democracy, or striving for democracy, or looking at democracy, what's possible. And Poland serves as a bridge and an important example. If you believe in a Europe whole and free and secure, a good place to make that case is right here," Reuters quoted Bush as saying after his meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)
NGO LAUNCHES 'APPEAL TO MEMORY.'
The Pro-Europa League on 13 June marked the 11th anniversary of the miners' rampage in Bucharest by launching an "Appeal to Memory." The appeal, a copy of which was received by "RFE/RL Newsline," said the marathon demonstration in Bucharest's University Square against the return to politics of former communist politicians and "servants of the political police" was quashed by miners on orders of "high state officials" -- an allusion to President Ion Iliescu and his supporters. The appeal criticizes the Iliescu-supported amnesty of those involved in the rampages, saying that "no one can receive a certificate of impunity, regardless of [his] position." The appeal concluded by saying that bringing those guilty to justice is inevitable, "as demonstrated by the indictment of dictators or notorious Nazis." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)JUSTICE MINISTER HAS 'NO INTENTION' TO GRANT AMNESTY.
Meeting members of the association representing victims of the 1990-1991 miners' rampages in Bucharest, Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu gave assurances that her ministry is not contemplating granting an amnesty to those involved in "social protest movements" since 1989, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The association's representatives requested from Stanoiu that criminal charges be brought against police and Prosecutor-General's Office officials who in 1990 ordered police forces to use violence and arrest protesters on Bucharest's University Square. Stanoiu refused to comment, saying only that she will "examine" the problem. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)
STROEV SAYS PUTIN HAS ENDED RUSSIA'S 'TIME OF TROUBLES.'
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that Putin's policies have brought an end to Russia's "time of troubles," RIA-Novosti reported on 13 June. Stroev described the last decade in Russia as "a time of mindless destruction and revolutionary ideas." But Stroev added that despite the progress made so far, the future of Russia and of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will depend "on which takes place more quickly" -- the introduction of new technology or the exhaustion of natural resources. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)PUTIN POINTS TO RUSSIAN ENDURANCE OVER PAST DECADE...
Speaking at a Kremlin session on Russian Sovereignty Day when he presented former President Boris Yeltsin with the first Order of Merit of the Fatherland and gave awards to writers and artists, President Vladimir Putin noted that "everything we endured over the past decade, all our experiences, successes, and failures, shows one thing -- any reform only makes sense when it serves the people," Russian and Western news services reported on 12 June. Putin added, "if reforms do not benefit citizens, then they will fail." Putin also said he remains committed to "democracy and civic freedoms -- they are the essence of society and have to be fought for every day." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)...AND YAVLINSKY SAYS SOVEREIGNTY FREED RUSSIA FROM COMMUNISM.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky told Interfax-Northwest on 12 June that the adoption of Russian sovereignty was "the day of Russia's liberation from communist ideology and the first step to its integration into the world democratic community." Yavlinsky also said the appointment of the Federation Council is a retreat from democratic values, that a revival of the death penalty is completely unacceptable, and that any appearance of bureaucratic authoritarianism could "completely liquidate all the positive achievements which have taken place since the proclamation of the independence of our Motherland." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)ILLARIONOV SEES NO THREAT OF FASCISM IN RUSSIA.
Andrei Illarionov, the presidential economic adviser, said in an interview published in "Ogonek," No. 24, that he sees little danger of fascism emerging in Russia. He noted that he had prepared a report on fascism in the 10th grade and had also written a university thesis on fascist economics. On the basis of what he learned at that time, he said that the only thing Russia shares with Germany of the 1920s is a sense of defeat. Illarionov also said that many of the Russian politicians who once called themselves liberals in fact have pursued and continue to pursue populist programs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)PUTIN WANTS DIALOGUE WITH CIVIL SOCIETY...
Putin on 12 June met with [according to NTV, 30] representatives of nongovernmental organizations and told them that he seeks "a constructive, positive, and continuing dialogue" between the Kremlin and civil society, Russian agencies reported. He said that these organizations, which were established without the state playing a role, often have "a more effective influence on society than do political parties." At the same time, he said he regrets that many NGOs now receive support from foreign rather than Russian sources. He noted that he has worked to strengthen the state and will now promote a stronger society, because "a weak state is a threat to democracy in no less a degree than a despotic power." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)...WELCOMES ITS GROWTH...
Putin told the NGO leaders that there are now approximately 300,000 NGOs registered with the Justice Ministry, and that "even if half of these organizations fulfill their stated obligations, then this will be a major force." At the same time, he said that "society as a whole must divide with the authorities responsibility for the social-economic situation in the country, but this can happen only when society is given access to the development of these decisions." He also said that "power in Russia has been sufficiently strengthened that it can support democratic rights and freedoms of citizens." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)...AND NGO LEADERS RESPOND POSITIVELY.
The NGO leaders in attendance welcomed Putin's attention to their work and told him that during the past year 12-13 percent of Russia's population received assistance from noncommercial and nongovernmental organizations, Interfax reported. The leaders requested that the Russian government promote the kind of conditions, including legal support for charitable giving, that would allow the NGOs to perform more effectively. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)HELSINKI GROUP HEAD WARNS AGAINST COOPERATION WITH BEREZOVSKY.
Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, on 14 June said that many human rights groups will not support Boris Berezovsky if he attempts to form an opposition party, Interfax reported. She also said, most of them want to avoid politics as such, and many groups have concluded that their reputations would suffer if they cooperated with him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)DUMA APPROVES MODIFIED LAND CODE ON FIRST READING.
After a stormy session during which the Communists and Agrarians tried to block consideration of the land code and even physically prevented Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref from speaking from the podium; after disorder in the hall caused Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev to be hospitalized for hypertension; and after the Communists and Agrarians walked out rather than take part in the vote and threatened both to seek the dissolution of the parliament and to stage mass demonstrations; the Duma on 16 June voted 251 to 22, with two abstentions, to approve on first reading a land code measure that even its opponents concede will allow the buying and selling of no more than 10 percent of the country's land, Russian and Western agencies reported. The pro-Kremlin parties as well as the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko were predictably pleased with the results of the vote, with many of them saying that the Communist and Agrarian failure to block the measure showed the weakness of these groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)MOST RUSSIANS SAY WEST'S OPINIONS CAN BE IGNORED.
A poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by "Profil" on 11 June said that only 21 percent of Russians surveyed believe that Moscow should take the opinions of the West into account when the Russian government is making a decision. Seventy percent said Russia should make decisions without taking the opinion of other countries into consideration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)DUMA LEADERS WANT SEVEN ANNUAL DAYS OF MILITARY GLORY.
The leaders of the Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, Russian Regions, and People's Deputy factions jointly proposed a measure calling for marking "seven days of military glory of Russia" every year, Interfax reported on 13 June. The days include 18 April, in honor of Aleksandr Nevsky's defeat of the Teutonic knights in 1242; 9 May, in honor of the 1945 victory over fascism; 10 July, in honor of Peter the Great's victory at Poltava in 1709; 23 August, in honor of the defeat by Soviet forces of German units at Kursk in 1943; 21 September, in honor of the victory over the Mongol-Tatar horde at Kulikovo field in 1380; 5 December, in honor of the beginning of the Soviet counterattack near Moscow in 1941; and 24 December, in honor of the taking of the Ismail fortress by forces under the command of A.V. Suvorov in 1790. The authors of the plan did not specify whether all of these holidays would be vacation days. Intellectuals in Tatarstan oppose commemorating the Battle of Kulikovo. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)OSCE MISSION IN CHECHNYA RESUMES ACTIVITIES.
OSCE Chairman in Office Mircea Geoana formally opened the OSCE representation in the northern Chechen town of Znamenskoe on 15 June, Interfax reported. Geoana said the OSCE's work in Chechnya will be "as comprehensive as possible," but the Russian human rights commissioner for Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, whose headquarters are also in Znamenskoe, said at the ceremony, which was also attended by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, that the OSCE should ignore political aspects of the Chechen conflict and concentrate on the humanitarian situation. He added that it should work closely with Kadyrov's administration. Speaking in Moscow on 15 June, a spokesman for the Russian Justice Ministry said the OSCE mission will pay that ministry an annual fee of 13 million rubles (about $450,000) for security that will be provided by the ministry's penitentiary guards. Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov, for his part, said "the mission workers will be provided with safe and unimpeded access to any point in Chechnya" if they notify the republic's leadership about their planned itinerary and destination beforehand, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)CHECHEN LEADER APPEALS TO U.S. PRESIDENT...
In a letter addressed to U.S. President Bush, the text of which has been made available to RFE/RL, Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov appeals to him to try to persuade Russian President Putin during their 16 June talks in Ljubljana to end the war in Chechnya. Acknowledging that the Chechens have been constrained in the face of Russian brutality to resort to "legitimate self-defense," Maskhadov again affirms his readiness for "a negotiated and honorable conclusion of hostilities that would preserve the independence of our people and restore stability to the greater Caucasus region." He also points out that, contrary to Russian claims, the practice of Islam in Chechnya is "among the world's most tolerant forms" of that religion. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)...AS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS APPEAL TO WORLD LEADERS.
Russian human rights groups organized as the "For an End to the War and for Peaceful Regulation in Chechnya" committee appealed to the leaders of the G-7 plus Russia countries to push for a political settlement in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 14 June. They called for an end to human rights violations there and for negotiations with Chechen leader Maskhadov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)EU CONCERNED ABOUT CHECHNYA, MEDIA FREEDOM.
In a draft statement reported by Reuters on 16 June, the leaders of the European Union, meeting in Goteborg, Sweden, said that "the situation in Chechnya gives rise to serious concern," adding that "a political solution to the conflict is urgently needed" and violations of human rights must be "thoroughly investigated." The statement also indicated that the EU plans to continue to monitor the state of media freedom in Russia: "A strong civil society is necessary in a modern democratic society. Freedom of speech and pluralism in the media are essential democratic principles and core values for a genuine EU-Russia partnership." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)PUTIN SAID AIMING FOR 'CORPORATE STATE.'
According to an analysis in "Vremya MN" on 15 June, Putin is aiming to create "a corporate state," one in which government and business will be separated, there will be a liberal economy with the opportunity for foreign investments, and strict administrative control. The article's author, Andrei Neshchadin, said that this state will create a classical balance between state, society, and business. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)ENTREPRENEUR PARTY FOUNDED.
The Development of Entrepreneurship social-political group transformed itself into a political party on 16 June, Interfax reported. Deputy Ivan Grachev, who has headed the movement in the Duma, was elected party president. Grachev said he expects his party to do well in upcoming elections because "the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko have already exhausted their possibilities." But he added that his party is prepared to cooperate with both of these groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)DUMA AGAIN FAILS TO APPROVE CONDEMNATION OF NATIONALIST AND RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM.
For the fourth time, the Duma failed to pass a draft appeal to President Putin calling for combating manifestations of nationalist and religious extremism, Interfax reported on 14 June. Only 163 of the needed 226 deputies voted in favor of the measure. Unity deputy Aleksandr Fedulov, who wrote the appeal, said he will resubmit the measure. In another action, the Duma failed to approve a call by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia to lift international sanctions on Iraq, the news agency said. That measure attracted 204 and 206 votes, again short of the 226 needed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)PUTIN CHANGES CONSTITUTION BY DECREE.
President Putin has issued a decree that calls for the Russian Constitution to be modified to include the new name for Chuvashia, Interfax reported on 12 June. The republic will now be identified in the basic law and in other documents as the Chavash Republic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)TATARS FORM POPULAR FRONT TO DEFEND SOVEREIGNTY.
Arguing that Moscow's policies are designed to annihilate the republic's sovereignty, a forum of groups from Tatarstan, including the Tatar Public Center, the Milli Mejlis, the Tatar Youth Union Azatliq, the Idel-Ural public movement, and the Fund for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, has created a People's Front to defend the republic, Tatar-inform reported on 15 June. Republic government officials attended the meeting, but organizers criticized the republic authorities for failing to fight against Russia's effort to suppress the right of Tatarstan to national self-determination. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)YAKUTIA IGNORES PULIKOVSKII'S WARNINGS.
The State Assembly of Yakutia on 15 June ignored warnings from Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far East federal district, and refused to drop provisions in the republican constitution on republican citizenship and sovereignty, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The assembly, however, did agree to some other measures to bring the republic's constitution into conformity with that of the Russian Federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)MOSCOW WANTS BERLIN TO HELP RUSSIAN GERMANS.
The Economic Development and Trade Ministry told participants in an economic conference in Berlin this week that Moscow hopes German firms will invest in areas of the Russian Federation where ethnic Germans live, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)ALTAI REPUBLIC MAY SEEK PASSPORT INSERTS.
The government of the Altai Republic plans to survey its population and to consider the costs involved of having inserts in the Altai language for Russian passports that are to be distributed to its residents, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 14 June. Of the 204,000 residents of the republic, approximately 70,000 are Altais. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)ROMA SAID UNLIKELY TO RECEIVE HOLOCAUST COMPENSATION.
Nadezhda Demeter, a Roma rights activist, told AP on 13 June that the Roma (gypsies) of Russia are unlikely to receive any of the compensation due to them as victims of the Nazi Holocaust. She said that none of them has received any help so far, in part at least because the Russian government has not tried to assist them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)AFRICAN BEATEN IN MOSCOW.
Abdula Baji, a 34-year-old citizen of Senegal, was beaten by two Muscovites and subsequently hospitalized, Interfax-Moscow reported on 13 June. Police noted that this is the third such attack on blacks in Moscow since the middle of May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)PROTESTS AGAINST PAPAL VISIT A 'SLAVIC INTIFADA,' PAPER SAYS.
According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 June, the protests organized by the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine against the upcoming visit there by Pope John Paul II are nothing other than "a peaceful Slavic intifada." The paper claims that the visit represents a Catholic assault on Orthodoxy and has been instigated by former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski as part of a plan to replace Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma with a pro-U.S. politician. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)WILL LOCAL RELIGION LAWS BE REVOKED?
The inaugural meeting of the reconstituted Council for Cooperation with Religious Organizations under the Russian President, took place on 29 May in the offices of the presidential administration and was chaired by Aleksandr Voloshin. Deputy Justice Minister Yevgeny Sidorenko told the Council that in 33 of the Russian Federation's 89 subjects (administrative regions), some 50 laws and regulations had been adopted on the activity of religious associations of which his ministry deemed 35 to be unconstitutional. Sidorenko named six where the Ministry of Justice had revoked local legislation: Oryol, Lipetsk, Tula, Arkhangelsk, Ryazan, and Udmurtia. Amendments had been made to local legislation in Bashkiria, Ossetia, Tyumen, and Perm. Twenty-two regions had failed to bring their legislation into conformity with the constitution, he noted. Some religious groups have already begun legal moves to challenge the constitutionality of such regional religious laws. (Keston News Service, 14 June)SUPPORT EXPRESSED FOR RESTRICTIVE DRAFT RELIGIOUS POLICY.
The Internet site state-religion.ru has published four positive comments on the draft religion policy proposed by the Institute for State-Confessional Relations and Law and the Moscow City Department of Justice, which calls for tighter controls on religious organizations and protection against "foreign religious expansion into Russia an element on the foreign policy of a number of foreign states." (Keston News Service, 14 June)RUSSIANS INCREASINGLY CONFIDENT ABOUT FSB.
Nearly 60 percent of Russians now say they have confidence in the Federal Security Service (FSB), up from 44 percent in 1995, according to a report in the "The Christian Science Monitor" on 13 June. Sergei Grigoryants, the head of Moscow's Glasnost Foundation, told the newspaper that "members of the security services are not only proud of themselves, they are also sure that they have come to power in the past couple of years." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)MOSCOW EXTRADITED 1,614 PEOPLE IN 2000.
A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office said on 14 June that Russia received 4,225 extradition requests from foreign countries and agreed to extradite 1,614 persons, Russian and Western agencies reported. The largest number were sent to Ukraine. International law department head Kostoev said "Russia extradites about 10 times more people than other countries give to us." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)27 MILLION PEOPLE HAVE CROSSED RUSSIA'S BORDERS IN 2001.
Lieutenant General Aleksandr Shaikin, the chief of the department of border control of the Federal Border Guard Service, told Interfax on 13 June that more than 27 million people have crossed Russia's borders so far this year, including about 17 million foreigners. He said that border guards have turned back some 35,500 people and detained more than 2,500 border violators. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)
FEUDING BETWEEN MILITARY AND POLICE CONTINUES.
Police Captain Dragan Karleusa told AP in Belgrade on 13 June that police believe that a mass grave near their training camp at Batajnica contains the bodies of "dozens" of ethnic Albanians killed during President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown in Kosova. Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said that there are probably more mass graves nearby. He added that "it seems to be impossible that [army Chief of Staff] General [Nebojsa] Pavkovic as the commander of all troops in Kosovo didn't know what happened there." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)SERB GETS 20 YEARS FOR WAR CRIMES IN KOSOVA.
An international panel of judges sentenced Cedomir Jovanovic to 20 years in prison for his role in the death of 60 ethnic Albanians in three separate incidents on 25 March 1999, Reuters reported from Prishtina on 14 June. Jovanovic was a paramilitary who wore a police uniform. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)ATTACKS ON BELGRADE MUSLIM COMMUNITY INTENSIFIED.
After recent attacks on vehicles and property of Belgrade's Islamic community and intimidation of the Belgrade mufti, the Serbian Ministry of Religion has issued a press statement condemning attacks by "unknown individuals acting against the Islamic community." These come after attacks have also been made against the Jewish religious community and on the Belgrade Baptist church and after neo-Nazi symbols were painted at an art gallery showing the life of Roma (Gypsies) in Belgrade. (Keston News Service, 15 June)
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DISAPPEARED, FAMILY BEATEN.
According to the Human Rights Center of Uzbekistan (HRCU), 31 armed policemen conducted an unauthorized search on 15 June at the house of Shovruk Ruzimuradov, head of the HRCU in Kashkadarya. The police beat four female relatives, including Ruzimuradov's 76-year-old mother. The activist's sister claims that police planted nine leaflets of the banned religious party "Hizbut-ut Tahrir;" computer files were confiscated, and telephone service cut off. Ruzimuradov's current whereabouts are unknown. (Human Rights Center of Uzbekistan, 16 June)
ETHNIC MINORITIES IN GEORGIA.
A new website on ethnic minorities in Georgia is at http://racoon.riga.lv/minelres/archive//06152001-17:57:02-19212.html.
THE RISE IN BILINGUALISM
By Paul Goble
Two out of every three children around the world are now being raised to speak two or more languages, a pattern that simultaneously may promote greater international cooperation but also challenges some longstanding assumptions about the relationship between language and identity.
The United Nations released a study last week which found that 66 percent of the world's children are now bilingual or even multilingual, a dramatic increase over the last century. In the past, bilingualism generally was a stage in the process whereby one group assimilated into another.
But the UN report suggests that something new may be involved now. Increasingly, it said, people are learning as a second language not the language of the dominant community in their own country but rather a language spoken in a foreign country.
Not surprisingly, ever more people around the world are choosing to train their children in English which at present is the most widely used language on the Internet and for international business. Indeed, according to the UN report, more people now speak English as a second language -- some 350 million -- than speak it as a first language -- only 322 million.
And this shift to English internationally has encouraged many native English speakers to assume that they need learn only their own language. In the United States, that assumption is especially widespread: There, only 6.3 percent of the population speaks more than one language, a figure far lower than in most other countries around the world.
But English is far from the only language people around the world are choosing to learn as a second one. Many people are turning to Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, or Russian. These languages currently occupy a regional niche, but they may ultimately become world languages much in the same way that French was a century ago or that English is today.
These trends are likely to have a significant impact on how people identify themselves and how they view others. Many analysts now argue, for example, that the loss of language may lead to a loss of identity and that a shift to a second language may promote greater international understanding and cooperation. And they thus project that an expansion of bilingualism will lead to a diminution of national identifications.
That was the assumption behind the language policy pursued by the Soviet government, and there have certainly been cases where these assumptions have been true. But there have been even more cases where the reverse has been the case.
The Irish, for example, became significantly more nationally self-conscious after they stopped speaking Gaelic and began speaking English. And many of the national movements in the former Soviet Union routinely used Russian as well as their national languages to promote their own national goals. Consequently, it is far from certain that bilingualism will inevitably lead to the kind of integration many now believe.
But the rising rates of bilingualism now may point to even more dramatic changes. They may lead to a decoupling of language and national identity more generally. If that happens, then other factors, such as religion, residence, or class, may come to define how people see themselves and whom they see as their friends or opponents. And consequently, the rise of broader linguistic communities as the result of bilingualism could presage more divisions rather than fewer.
The United Nations report ends on an upbeat note, suggesting that the spread of second languages will allow more international conversations. But past history suggests that at least some of these conversations may lead not to agreement but to new arguments not only over language but over other issues as well.