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(Un)Civil Societies Report: July 20, 2000

20 July 2000, Volume 1, Number 10
NEW BALKAN WEBSITE. A portal to South East Europe and a daily newspaper in Albania, "Gazeta Shqiptare" includes news from Albania and Kosova plus the Balkans. You can visit Balkan Web and find information in Albanian, English and Italian at: (Civil Society Mailing List, 15 June)

TV STATION DEFIES AUTHORITIES. Defying warnings from the Azerbaijani prosecutor-general, the private AS TV on 17 July rebroadcast an interview first aired on 14 July with Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev, Groong reported, citing the BBC World Service. Caucasus Press reported the next day that Russian Security Council secretary Sergei Ivanov has asked the Azerbaijani leadership to investigate how the interview was filmed and taken out of Russia. Ivanov said the film footage, in which Basaev calls for a war to drive Russia out of the Caucasus, could be construed as propagating war, which is a violation of Russian law. (RFE/RL Newsline, 18 July)

EU TELLS BELARUS TO GIVE OPPOSITION ACCESS TO STATE MEDIA. French Ambassador Bernard Fassier, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, told Belarusian officials on 12 July that the EU will recognize the upcoming parliamentary elections in Belarus only if Minsk gives the opposition parties access to state media and expands the powers of the parliament, AP reported. Meanwhile, Interfax-Belarus reported, members of the Russian State Duma sent an appeal to Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka urging him to make the Belarusian vote democratic. (RFE/RL Newsline, 13 July)

BELARUS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CONCERNED ABOUT MISSING ORT CAMERAMAN. Leaders of the Belarusian human rights community have expressed their "utmost concern" about the fate of Dmitrii Zavadskii, a Minsk-based ORT cameraman who has been missing since 7 July, Belapan reported on 12 July. In a joint statement, those groups noted that Zavadskii has become one of a growing number of people who have disappeared in Belarus, including opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar and businessman Anatol Krasouski. Meanwhile, the news agency reported, the acting minister of internal affairs, Mikhail Udovikau, met with Zavadskii's wife. He told her that the authorities are doing everything possible to find her husband. (RFE/RL Newsline, 13 July)

A RESPITE FOR STREET CHILDREN? ... "The state allocates each child in the Kaspi [State Orphanage] $1.50 a day but only 20 cents of this money actually reaches the orphans. Mzia Gelashvili, of the Frank humanitarian aid organisation, estimates that fewer than half of Georgia's 16,000 homeless children live in similar institutions, the rest simply roam the streets...The orphanages, at least, offer the hope of adoption... Would-be parents are at the mercy of corrupt administrators who can charge up to $3,000 for a healthy child. And foreigners have been banned from adopting Georgian orphans since 1997 when the government outlawed the practice of "selling our children abroad. Appalling conditions in state orphanages, on the other hand, simply drive many homeless children back to the streets [where they] join gangs...[or] turn to drugs and glue [or] resort to prostitution." (Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 30 June)

TESTIMONY ON OIL MAFIA TO BE MADE PUBLIC. The parliamentary committee investigating alleged illegal oil deals between 1992-1996 has announced it will make public Zsolt Nogradi's 8 June testimony to the committee. At that time, Nogradi reportedly accused Interior Ministry Sandor Pinter, other high-ranking politicians and police officials of having contacts with the mafia involved in those illegal deals. By deciding to make public the 33-page doucument, which contains the names of some 200 persons, the committee ignored a recommendation by the the country's ombudsman for data protection. (RFE/RL Newsline, 18 July)

NEW ARTICLE 19 PUBLICATION "DEFINING DEFAMATION." The media monitoring organization, Article 19 and its Global Campaign for Free Expression, has issued a new publication which finds that "in many countries laws protect the 'reputation' of public ministries, the dead and flags. The authorities often use defamation proceedings to cover up illegitimate activities in high places, to shield public figures from legitimate criticism, and to suppress debate on important issues." "Defining Defamation: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Protection of Reputation," as Article 19's new publication is called, sets out legal standards to establish an appropriate balance between the freedom of expression and the need to protect individual reputations. "The principles include: definitions of who should be allowed to bring defamation cases; criminal defamation and unacceptable sanctions (imprisonment and prohibitive damage awards); proof of truth in defamation cases; and scope of liability. The principles are based on the premise that in a democratic society, freedom of expression must be guaranteed and may be subject only to narrowly drawn restrictions needed to protect legitimate interests, including reputations. They set out standards of respect for freedom of expression to which legal provisions designed to protect reputations should, at a minimum, conform." Defining Defamation" can be found at 714.htm. Copies: (ARTICLE 19 Press Release, 17 July)

SEENPM WORKSHOP FOR JOURNALISTS. Trainers who will assist journalists in covering elections attended a workshop in July. Held in Bosnia, the workshop was the first organized by the South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM), a new regional network of media training institutes and NGOs in Southeast Europe. Treating elections and the media, election reporting, ethics and election coverage, the workshop included participants from Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Moldova, Macedonia and Romania. Almost 40 different courses, including online and investigative journalism, will be organized for journalists and trainers until June 2002. Contact Genc Caushi at the Albanian Media Institute, Rr.Him Kolli, No. 45, Tirana, Albania. Tel./Fax:(355-42) 298 00. E-mail: (International Journalists' Network Bulletin, 10-14 July)

INDEPENDENT PAPER FACES DIFFICULTIES. The newspaper "Mezon" ("Scale" in Uzbek) is a social and political weekly that was founded by the Uzbek Society of Osh province in November 1996. The newspaper had problems with authorities before, but there has never been an effort on the part of authorities to close the newspaper down. But now the weekly owes $700 to the Osh Printing House, reportedly the main reason the newspaper stopped appearing in March 2000. The newspaper management and the founding body are now in the search of funds and are planning to resume the production as soon as financial problems are settled. (Ferghana-Valley List, 14 July)

LATVIAN PROSECUTORS CHIDE JOURNALISTS FOR FALSE REPORT. The office of the prosecutor-General on 12 July publicly criticized the Russian-language "Chas" for falsely claiming that there had been massive sexual abuse of adopted Latvian children in Sweden, BNS reported. Prosecutors said that the article falsely attributed the accusation of sexual abuse in Sweden to the Children's Rights Protection Center of Riga, Janis Gulbis. Gulbis said he would not file suit against "Chas" since the newspaper has since printed a retraction. The article quoted Gulbis as saying that 60 percent of children adopted from Latvia by Swedes are sexually abused, triggering a slew of inquiries to the Swedish authorities before the retraction appeared. (RFE/RL Newsline, 13 July)

NUMBER OF LIBEL SUITS TO DECLINE WITH NEW COURT GUIDELINES? New legal guidelines in Moldova making a clear distinction between opinion and news are expected to reduce the number of libel suits filed against local journalists. Most libel cases in Moldova involve journalists who have quoted statements of politicians aimed against each other. Moldovan journalists are still liable to heavy fines for libel and defamation. The recommendations also state that representatives of government and legal bodies, as well as politicians, should be prepared to tolerate a higher level of criticism and wider coverage of their private lives than private individuals. Representatives of the justice system, however, "due to their special role in society" should be "protected against destructive attacks" in the press, the court said. (International Journalists' Network Bulletin, 10-14 July)

JOURNALIST SUBJECT TO DEATH THREATS. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned over death threats made by unknown people against independent Molodovan reporter, Andrei Turcanu, known for his investigative journalism on corruption. After Turcanu published an article on 30 June in "Messagerul" on possible corruption in the privatization of the state tobacco industry, he began to receive telephone calls threatening him and his family with "extermination." (CPJ Press Release, 17 July)

MUSLIM TATAR TURKISH PUBLICATION ON-LINE. The publication of "The Muslim Tatar Turks Democrat Union of Romania" is now available online at "Karadeniz" is published in Tatar, Turkish and Romanian. (Turkistan Newsletter, 14 July)

FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS NOT PRESS FREEDOM... [There is widespread] "confusion between the ideas of "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press," Robert Coalson pointed out in the 7 July "Moscow Times." ..."[I]t is not an accident, for instance, that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly and separately protects both freedom of speech and of the press...Freedom of speech is a raw, elemental right while freedom of the press, in order to have any significance whatsoever, demands institutional guarantees from the courts, the government and society at large. Russia demonstrates that it is possible to have the former without the latter."

MEDIA-MOST PLEADS INNOCENCE. The Media-MOST Group's press service released a statement on 12 July maintaining that "all agreements between Media-MOST and Gazprom as well as all deals concluded between the two companies were based on economic expediency for both sides and were in strict accordance with Russian laws," Interfax reported. The statement continues that the company considers "the federal prosecutors' interference in these relations as an unprecedented abuse of power for the purpose of establishing control over" mass media that the authorities find "objectionable." (RFE/RL Newsline, 13 July)

PUTIN SAYS PROFITABLE MEDIA ENTERPRISES WILL REFLECT REALITY... Supplementing remarks on the media that he made in his state-of-the-nation speech last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2000), President Putin suggested in his interview with "Izvestiya" on 14 July that he favors an economic approach to the issue of media freedom. He stated "I believe that if the state wants the media to be a really independent and democratic instrument in the development of society, it must give certain preferences to this segment [the media] of the market." He explained that the business is not that profitable in Russia today, given the high costs of paper and printing, and therefore "the media must be made truly independent, so that it can then reflect real life rather than the one its master would like presented." (RFE/RL Newsline, 14 July)

...AS INTERNATIONAL MEDIA WATCHDOGS GIVE PUTIN POOR MARKS... Meanwhile, the previous day, James Ottaway, chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee, told reporters in Moscow that Russia has no truly free and independent media. He said that Moscow government officials actively intrude in the media's affairs and that the situation in the regions is even worse. Ottaway participated in a delegation of officials to Russia from six international organizations who monitor the press. A statement released by the group noted that President Putin has done little to support his statement that a free press is crucial for a healthy society. (RFE/RL Newsline, 14 July)

...AND VGTRK HEAD SAYS STATE'S INTERESTS ARE SOCIETY'S. Also on 13 July, All Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) head Oleg Dobrodeev told Interfax that the problem of restrictions on freedom of expression exists in Russia's regions but not in Moscow, and he added that it "has an exclusively economic character," Interfax reported. When asked whether VGTRK conducts an exclusively "pro-Putin policy" or whether there remains a place for opposition in the healthy sense of the word, Dobrodeev said that "at this stage, the interests of society and the president coincide." (RFE/RL Newsline, 14 July)

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM COMMITTEE CITES ANTI-MEDIA MEASURES... "The Russian Union of Journalists estimates that 80 per cent of the print and broadcast news media in Russia is controlled directly or indirectly by the Federal government or the 89 regional governments or other local authorities. Instruments of control are unequal subsidies needed for media survival, and by use of the government's power for grant broadcast licenses, newsprint, access to government printing presses and the government-controlled press distribution system. We see four major threats to press freedom and independent journalism in Russia today. One is government attempts to control the press with new information security policies and intimidation of opposition media with selective, politically motivated criminal prosecutions and tax-enforcement raids against media that question government policy. The second threat comes from government and oligarch media owners in Moscow and the regions, who use their own broadcast stations and publications to attack enemies and competitors and report favorably only about their own political candidates. The third threat to freedom of the press and independent, honest, objective journalism is the lack of high standards of ethics and professionalism in the news media. If the media are to claim their vital place in building a free and democratic society, they must by worthy of that standing. Publishers and journalists themselves need to set higher ethical standards and to demonstrate greater concern for the public interest and the common good. The fourth threat is the lack of an economic environment to create the financial independence needed by the news media." (World Press Freedom Committee Press Release, 14 July)

... DETAILS RECENT GOVERNMENT ANTI-MEDIA MEASURES ... "The list [of government actions which are intended to intimidate journalists and which was presented to Russian officials] shows that there is a contradiction between the good public statements and reality...[D]evelopments involving high-profile cases that have gotten international attention: The Babitsky case; major promotions given to the officials responsible for initiating the Alexander Nikitin and Grigory Pasko cases; The Media-MOST/Gusinsky case; the jailing of Igor Sutyagin, which recalls those of Nikitin and Pasko... Information Minister Mikhail Lesin's threat to make all news media outlets re-register and seek renewal of their licenses annually; Statements by Mr. Lesin and his subordinates to the effect that the Russian government needs to "protect" itself against "aggression" by the news media; President Putin's apparent intolerance of satirical comment in forcing the televised political puppet show "Kukly" to withdraw the figure caricaturing him; constant pressure by a large portion of the 89 regional governors to make the local press conform to their political lines; Russian Federal Security use of regulations permitting surveillance of all Internet communications; various other instances of official harassment of Russian and foreign correspondents trying to cover the realities of the second Chechen war." (World Press Freedom Committee Press Release, 14 July)

... SPOTS FLAWS IN LEGISLATION... "The [Russian] Constitution provides that "Freedom of the mass media shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be prohibited." It also stipulates that everybody has the right to seek, receive, produce and disseminate information by any legal means. The press law, while not without serious flaws, was a notable advance over Soviet-era legislation. It explicitly gives journalists access to state-of-emergency areas, certainly a provision that should have been respected in Chechnya. But the law also contains a number of troubling provisions that would be either unacceptable or considered obsolete in the legislation of advanced democracies. These include the complex registration procedure for news media outlets, which may be denied; a right of reply up to twice as long as the original statement; a broad, vaguely worded ban on incitement of "intolerance or passions", a need for official permission to distribute foreign periodicals; a vague provision of punishment for "abuse of freedom of mass media." (World Press Freedom Committee Press Release, 14 July)

... AND RECENT OFFICIAL REACTION. "Russian spokesmen in international fora such as the recent Council of Europe Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy in Krakow have been stressing the paramount role of the State in the media environment rather than the need for press freedom. A paper submitted by the Russian delegation introduced such concepts as "information war", "information security", "international information terrorism", etc. Its approach was reminiscent of the Cold War, saying, for example that freedom of expression and the free flow of information might be "limited by law for the purpose of protecting the security interests of each State". It spoke at length of the "threat of information wars" and other similar vague notions as justifications for international controls over the news media." (World Press Freedom Committee, 14 July)

FAR EASTERN MEDIA MAVERICK. Vladimir Yefimov, director of Kamchatka TV, "succeeded in defying local authorities who apparently wanted to snuff out his broadcasts." After "telling viewers there were swindlers among the [Kamchatka] administration," Yefimov's station started to have difficulties. The campaign against KTV began in March 1999 with efforts to get Moscow to cancel its broadcast license. When that effort failed, Kamchatka Governor Biryukov tried to pressure the State Property Committee to evict the station for failing to pay its rent. Yefimov fought this campaign by launching a publicity blitz, including leaflets and street protests. ("The Moscow Times," 18 July)

JOURNALIST DIES FOLLOWING ATTACK. Igor Domnikov, a reporter with "Novaya gazeta," died on 16 July, two months after being hospitalized as a result of an attack outside his home by an unknown assailant armed with a hammer. The editor of "Novaya gazeta" told Ekho Moskvy earlier that an investigation had shown the beating was linked with Domnikov's "professional activities with 'Novaya gazeta.'" Some reporters had also suggested that it was a case of mistaken identity because another journalist [Oleg Sultanov] from the same publication who resembled Domnikov and had been investigating corruption in the oil industry lived in the same building as Domnikov. (RFE/RL Newsline, 17 July)

"NOVAYA GAZETA" PAYS A PRICE FOR ITS NEWS. "Novaya Gazeta" has often published investigative stories on corruption cases, implicating both individuals close to circles of power and security services. The newspaper criticized Russian forces' actions in Chechnya since the first conflict in 1994. On 27 April, the magazine received a warning from the Ministry of Information because it published an interview with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. On 15 March, in the middle of the electoral campaign, a hacker with access to "Novaya Gazeta"'s computers destroyed the entire upcoming issue. According to the editorial staff, the issue contained revelations on the financing of presidential elections. (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 17 July)

DIGITAL DOCUMENTARY ON CHILDREN. There are currently some 500,000 children in orphanages in Russia and another half a million on a waiting list. Only five percent of these children are orphans, the remainder have either been abandoned or taken away from their homes due to abuse related to alcoholism. The numbers of such children continues to increase. For more information on this project, contact (Civil Society Mailing List, 6 July)

MOSCOW ORPHANS' CENTER OPENS. The Miramed Independent Living and Social Adaptation Center opened in Moscow as of July. It offers classes, counseling, case work and educational assistance to orphans between the ages of 15 and 23. For more information, contact Eric M. Batsie at (Civil Society Mailing List, 18 July)

NEO-NAZI LEADER GIVEN OFFICIAL POST IN SARATOV... "Grigory Trofimchuk, the leader of the Saratov branch of the violent neo-Nazi group Russian National Unity (RNU), has accepted a position on an official advisory council to the Saratov Regional Parliament. Since Spring, Mr. Trofimchuk has held a similar position on the Public Council under the mayor of Saratov, which voted 38 to 1 to accept the RNU leader as a member. ... The RNU is Russia's largest neo-Nazi group and is officially registered in Saratov." (Union of Councils for Soviet Jews Press Release, 12 July)

... EVEN AS ORYOL NEO-NAZI LEADER ARRESTED. "Igor Semyonov, a neo-Nazi leader in the Russian city of Oryol with a history of violence and ties to the local authorities, was arrested on June 25th by the FSB, according to Bella Vishnevskaya, a local Jewish human rights activist. A search of Semyonov's apartment [reportedly] uncovered a huge amount of weapons.... According to Ms. Vishnevskaya, in May Semyonov announced the formation of his party's "Border Guard" youth club, which would train local youths in the combat arts for eventual military service, while at the same time indoctrinating them in neo-Nazi ideology." (Union of Councils for Soviet Jews Press Release, 7 July)

SERBIAN JOURNALIST TO GO ON TRIAL. Officials of the military court in Nis said on 12 July that journalist Miroslav Filipovic will go on trial on 25 July for "spreading false news reports" and "espionage" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2000). (RFE/RL Newsline, 13 July)

PHOTOGRAPHER BEATEN. Followers of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church assaulted FoNet photographer Zivota Ciric in the village of Njegusi on 10 July. His camera was broken by church official's bodyguards and police later exposed Ciric's film. (ANEM Report, 10 July)

INDEPENDENT DAILIES WITHOUT NEWSPRINT. Most of Belgrade's independent print media -- "Blic," "Glas javnosti," and "Danas" -- are not receiving supplies of newsprint from Matroz, Yugoslavia's only domestic manufacturer. As a result, they face a reduction in printruns or even cessation of publication, reported the Beta news agency on 13 July. Matroz director stated that a section of his plant is under repair and was attempting to distribute newsprint equitably. The three dailies plus the weeklies NIN and "Vreme" recently requested that the Federal Ministry of Trade give them licenses to import paper, but no reply has been received. (ANEM Report, 13 July)

SATIRICAL WEEKLY SHUTS DOWN. During celebrations of "Nasa krmaca's" fourth anniversary on 11 July, its editor in chief announced the satirical weekly's closure. The weekly had produced eighty issues, six special editions and fourteen books. The editor noted that the "Nasa krmaca" staff had not only been under pressure from the government but also from the opposition which felt that the weekly's existence gave an illusion of press freedom. The decision to close the journal was due to lack of newsprint and harsh new laws. (ANEM Report, 11 July)

INDEPENDENT REPORTERS BARRED FROM PARLIAMENT. Journalists from a number of Belgrade media outlets ("Blic," "Danas" and the Beta agency) were barred on 11 July from reporting on a session of the Serbian Parliament Legislative Committee, by order of the parliamentary information service. This is the first time such an expulsion order has been issued by a member of a party other than the Serbian Radical Party. (ANEM Report, 12 July)

MEDIA 'COMPLETELY FREE' SAYS YUGOSLAV MINISTER... Pointing to "almost a thousand radio and TV stations, most of which are private property,' Ivan Markovic, the Federal Telecommunications Minister said in an interview with "The Voice of Russia" that he could "proudly state that the media in Yugoslavia were completely free." (ANEM Report, 11 July)

... BUT OSCE MEDIA ENVOY EXPRESSES CONCERN. In his report to the OSCE Permanent Council, OSCE Envoy for Media Freedom Freimut Duve expressed concern over the problems of the media in Yugoslavia, noting that 15 media organization had been closed in this year. Duve also reported to the representatives of the 54 OSCE member states that he had sent Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic several letters of protest about the repression of the independent media. (ANEM Report, 14 July)

DAILY ORDERED TO PUBLISH SERB RESPONSES TO ACCUSATIONS. Kosovo's temporary media commissioner, Douglas Davidson, ordered the Albanian-language Pristina daily, "Dita," to publish responses from people whose names and personal information were published in the paper on June 26 and July 4, the OSCE Mission in Kosovo announced on 13 July. (ANEM Report, 13 July)

SERBIAN TOWN BLOCKS ROMA FROM USING POOL. Serbia's independent news agency FoNet reported on 13 July that "Romanies cannot swim in the swimming pool of the Krsmanovaca sports centre in Sabac - which is owned by Cedomir Vasiljevic, chairman of the local committee of the Serbian Radical Party [nationalist party, junior member of the ruling Serbian coalition] - the Fund for Humanitarian Rights announced today. In cooperation with Romany NGOs the fund has confirmed this allegation by Romanies from Sabac and concluded that this is a case of extreme racial discrimination."

NEWSPAPER OMBUDSMAN MAKES DEBUT. The Slovak newspaper "Vychodoslovenske noviny", published in Kosice, introduced the position of an "obudsman", to monitor editorial and journalist ethics, using as a model the BBC and RFE/RL professional code. (RFE/RL Slovak Service, 13 July)

LEAGUE OF PROFESSIONAL WOMEN WEBSITE. The LPW is a Kyiv-based business association; its website was launched in July, providing information on activities, services, a brief organizational history and information on its leadership, consultants and partners. Its web address is (Center for Civil Society International, 18 July)

POLITICAL ACTION WORKSHOP. The Ninth Annual Political Action Workshop will be held at the University of Maryland, June 5-7, 2000. The workshop will focus on know-how about human rights and minority issues in Central and Eastern Europe. Specialists in government relations, grassroots politics, information networks, and the media will provide presentations on accessing and influencing American policy on human rights and minority rights concerns. For further information contact the Hungarian American Coalition; phone: 202-296-9505; fax: 202-775-5175

EMERGING DEMOCRACIES CONFERENCE. An international conference on "Emerging Democracies, Citizenship and Human Rights Education", organized by the Dutch National Institute for Curriculum Development (SLO), will be held in Enschede, the Netherlands, June 18-21, 2000. The event is organized with the collaborative effort of the Consortium of Institutions for Development and Research in Education in Europe (CIDREE). For more information e-mail: or visit:

MINORITY LANGUAGES CONFERENCE. The European Centre for Minority Rights (ECMI) is organizing a conference on "Evaluating Policy Measures for Minority Languages in Europe: Towards Effective, Cost-Effective and Democratic Implementation", Flensburg, June 22- 25, 2000. The conference will focus on the selection design and evaluation of practical policy measures that can be used in minority language policies. It will emphasize discussion on and development of instruments that can be useful to states that are implementing (and planning on signing and ratifying) the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. Contact European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), Att: Ms Maj-Britt R. Ulbrich, Schiffbruecke 12, D-24939 Flensburg, Germany; phone: 49 (0) (461)141-4 90 fax: 49 (0) (461) 141-4 919; e-mail:

COMMUNICATION AND CONFLICT CONFERENCE. The Seventeenth International Social Philosophy Conference will be on "Communication, Conflict, and Reconciliation" at the University of Waterloo, July 20-23, 2000. Contact Jan Narveson e-mail:

NATION-STATES CONFERENCE. There will be a conference on "Nation-States, Multination-States & Supernational Organizations", to be held in Montreal, October 3-6, 2000. The conference, sponsored by the Jacques Cartier Center in Lyon, will focus on the most appropriate model of political institutions for the next millennium, particularly different aspects of the nation-state, the multination-state, and supranational institutional structures. Issues will include definitions of the nation and multinational states, the typology of minorities, collective rights, federalism. Contact Michel Seymour at e- mail: or website:

CONFERENCE ON POST-NATIONAL ORDER. The Hellenic Political Science Association (HPSA) will host a EuroConference on "Democracy Beyond the Nation-State: Perspectives on Post-National Order", Athens, October 5-7, 2000. E-mail the Hellenic Political Science Association:

SYMPOSIUM ON ETHNOPOLITICAL CONFLICT. The Steinberg Symposium at the University of Pennsylvania is an annual event on a wide range of topics. This year's symposium will be on "Can the World Cope? The Challenge of Ethnopolitical Conflict", November 29-30, 2000. E-mail Carrie Stavrakos at

CONFERENCE ON SECESSION/SELF DETERMINATION. The 45th annual meeting of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy on "Secession and Self-Determination", will be held with the American Association of Law Schools in San Francisco, California, January 2-3, 2001. Contact American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, c/o Judith DeCew, Dept of Philosophy, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, Mass. 01610.

CITIZENSHIP/DEMOCRACY/MINORITY RIGHTS NEWSLETTER. The Forum for Philosophy and Public Policy at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada distributes a quarterly newsletter on recent trends in citizenship, democracy and minority rights in multiethnic states. The newsletter is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Contact or (Minelres, 10 June)

OSCE NEWS ARCHIVE NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE. Source material on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) activities, plus a complete and user-friendly listing of all OSCE press releases, advisories and statements is now available online at The archive contains all OSCE media releases 1 January 1995 and is updated daily. Searching is by source, keyword or chronological segment. A section on media advisories lists all current events open to the media. Contact the Press and Public Information Section of the OSCE Secretariat, e-mail: (Minelres, 29 June)

THE CONSORTIUM OF MINORITY RESOURCES. COMIR is an internet-based cooperative project for the free flow of information and dialogue on ethnic relations, multicultural politics and minority rights. Founding organizations include Balkan Academic News, Center for Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe South East Europe (CEDIME-SE), Constitutional and Legal Policy Institute, Europan Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), European Roma Rights Centre, The Forum Institute, Human Rights Watch, International Helsinki Federation of Human Rights, LGI Managing Multiethnic Communities Project, MINELRES Project, and Minority Rights Group International. COMIR plans to establish a clearing house of activities for the OSCE region to support democratic governance of multiethnic/national societies and to set up a Virtual Library, coordinated mailing lists, a search engine, a Minority Rights Practitioners Resource Pack. (QFPPPE, Number 17)

COUNCIL OF EUROPE ETHNIC MINORITY WEBSITE. The Council of Europe has a new web site on minorities on the Directorate General of Human Rights on the protection of national minorities in three categories: The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Intergovernmental Activities on minorities, the Joint Programme of the European Commission and Council of Europe on National minorities. The website is on: (QFPPPE, Number 17)


by Paul Goble

An official at Turkmenistan's Council for Religious Affairs has acknowledged that his government agency controls the selection, promotion, and dismissal of all Sunni Muslim mullahs and Russian Orthodox clergy in that republic.

Last week, Mered Chariyarov, a longtime official at the Turkmenistan Council, told a representative of the Keston Institute, an Oxford-based religious rights watchdog organization, that his state body has registered only Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity and actively controls the assignment of Muslim mullahs and Christian priests and hierarchs.

That policy leaves Turkmenistan in violation of the principles of the OSCE. Indeed, it could become the basis for Ashgabat's expulsion from that organization. But what is more significant, it also threatens to recreate the Soviet-era division between tightly controlled "official" Churches and often radicalized "unofficial" religious activities.

The re-emergence of such underground religious groups, particularly among Muslims who had significant experience with them in Soviet times, could contribute to the rise of precisely the kind of fundamentalist challenge to political stability in Central Asia that both regional leaders and many outside powers say they most fear.

As was the case during the Soviet period, both the requirement for registration and the ability to assign religious leaders appear to give the government enormous power over those believers who do register: the regime is allowed to pressure religious leaders into cooperating with the state by informing on their congregations or even to place secret police agents in place of genuinely religious people.

But this Soviet approach also had the effect of depriving the mullahs and Christian clergy who participated in such "official" Churches of their authority and of driving many of the religious leaders and their followers underground into "unofficial" congregations far beyond the control of the state and often in clear opposition to it.

For no other faith was that trend greater than Islam. On the one hand, Islam does not have a clergy as such. Any believer who can read the Koran can serve as a leader. And on the other, the communist authorities were contemptuous of Islam, an attitude that appears to have made them particularly clumsy in promoting their own "official" version.

Indeed, across Central Asia, followers of what was sometimes called "underground" or the "non-state" version of Islam simultaneously subverted efforts by the Communist Party authorities to maintain control and provided a popular foundation for the small, pro- independence parties that emerged at the end of the Soviet period. With the collapse of Soviet power, many expected that this system of official registration and government intervention in the lives of religious groups would end. Some thought that an end to government interference would be a hallmark of the expected democratic transformations of their countries. Many others had that expectation because they believed the authorities would recognize how counterproductive such involvement was.

But nowhere has the state entirely withdrawn from its involvement with religion. Virtually all post-Soviet governments have retained the Soviet practice of requiring religious groups to register with the authorities in order to operate legally, and most have kept the Soviet-style councils for religious affairs to monitor the situation often, as in Turkmenistan, with the same officials in the same positions.

Until now, however, none of these regimes has admitted to using these councils to control the assignment of religious leaders. It is possible that Turkmenistan is the only one that is now doing so, but both the existence of similar councils in other post- Soviet states and the continuity in structures and personnel in these bodies in many of them suggest that the Turkmenistan admission indicates a far larger problem.

Nowhere is this problem likely to be greater than across the predominantly Islamic countries of Central Asia. To the extent that governments there are following Ashgabat's lead, they seem certain to produce precisely what they say they most fear: a religious population increasingly alienated from governments that appear, as did the Soviet regime until the very end, far more powerful and stable than they in fact are. (RFE/RL Newsline, 17 July)