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Tatar Activists Protest Renaming Of Presidency

Tatar President Rustam Minnikhanov
KAZAN -- Activists in Tatarstan have protested against the proposed abolition of the term "president" to designate the heads of Russia's 21 republics, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

The November 4 protest in Kazan was staged by activists with the opposition Tatar Public Center.

On November 2 the Russian State Duma passed in the first reading a draft law banning the use of the term president to designate republic heads on the grounds that the Russian Federation should have just one single president.

Neither Tatarstan's President Rustam Minnikhanov nor Bashkortostan's Rustam Khamitov has commented publicly on that initiative.

One of the Kazan protesters, Rinat Yunusov, told RFE/RL the Russian government is trying to destroy Tatar national identity step by step. "First they banned our alphabet, then free elections, now they are trying to annul our presidency, and then they will propose abolishing our republic," he said.

Yunosov pointed out that the federal government already takes every eight rubles out of 10 earned in Tatarstan in taxes. "Now that kind of economic pressure is being underpinned by attacks on Tatarstan's political institutions," he said.

Another influential Tatar political figure, Fawzie Bayramova, leader of the self-proclaimed pan-Tatar Milli Medjlis (parliament) told RFE/RL that Moscow's efforts are aimed not just at changing the name of the president, but at abolishing that post as a political institution.

"In Tatarstan, the presidency is directly linked to our sovereignty, so abolishing the presidency would automatically mean abolishing our constitution and sovereignty," Bayramova argued.

Tatarstan signed a unique treaty with Moscow in February 1994 that gave it a greater degree of autonomy than any other federation subject. That treaty was superseded in June 2007 by one that revoked many of the privileges Tatarstan had previously enjoyed.

Moscow also prevented Tatarstan from adopting the Latin alphabet several years ago after the Tatar government tried to switch from Cyrillic.