RFE/RL: comments on ethno-territorial arrangements in Russia

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Subject: RFE/RL: comments on ethno-territorial arrangements in Russia

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RFE/RL: comments on ethno-territorial arrangements in Russia

RFE/RL Russian Federation Report
Vol. 2, No. 22, 14 June 2000
A Survey of Developments in the Regions Outside Moscow
Prepared by the Staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
******************Note to Readers*****************
A weekly supplement to "RFE/RL Newsline," the "RFE/RL
Russian Federation Report" features news about the
Russian Federation outside Moscow and the North
Caucasus. Those interested in Russia's regions might
also want to look at Russian-language transcripts of
RFE/RL's weekly "Korrespondentskii Chas" at



Writing in "Obshchaya gazeta" in issue No. 22, analyst Dmitrii Furman
concludes that while President Putin's desire to "fight separatism"
may make sense, the asymmetrical nature of the Russian Federation is
not the cause of regional separatism. Furman argues that Putin and his
administration are confusing cause and effect: "Russia's legal
'asymmetry' reflects its ethnic heterogeneity." Approximately 20
percent of the Russian population is ethnically non-Russian, according
to Furman, and the hierarchy of the region's relations with the
federal center is a reflection of "historical compromises." He notes
that "if there were not one million Chechens but three million, their
independence might have been secured long ago," and while there are
many more Tatars than Chechens, "the Tatars do not have that cultural
and psychological alienation from Russians that Chechens are known
for." The Tatars also have not suffered the trauma of deportation like
the Chechens. Furman argues that while few Tatars feel close to the
Chechens now, they may start to do so if the "illusion of their
sovereignty" is shattered. He concludes that "in the near future"
Russia is likely to encounter separatist movements in republics
ethnically stronger (more numerous) than Chechnya, more motivated and
irreconcilable, more connected to each other and supportive of each
other, and "at the very first convenient moment they will make Moscow
pay the bill." On 12 June, the tenth anniversary of the Day of the
Adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian
Federation, the moderate nationalist Tatarstan Public Center (TPC)
held protest meetings in Kazan, Chally, and Naberezhnye Chelny, where
maps showing the new seven federal okrugs were burned in protest,
RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see also "End Note" below). JAC



How Will Putin's Territorial Reform Affect Tatarstan?
By Liz Fuller
President Vladimir Putin's plans to divide the Russian Federation into
seven territorial okrugs, each to be administered by his personal
representative, and his proposal to strip the elected leaders of the
89 federation subjects of their ex officio membership in the
Federation Council have met with mixed reactions in Tatarstan. Those
reactions will, in turn, have a major impact on local politics in the
run-up to the presidential election in March 2001.

Putin's stated rationale for his new territorial-administrative model
focused on the need to reimpose strong vertical power in order to
prevent the disintegration of the federation. But many Tatars from
across the political spectrum have interpreted Putin's statements as
directed against the unique status that Kazan negotiated with Moscow
in February 1994.

Rashit Yagafarov, chairman of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public
Center, said on 31 May that the proposed reorganization "ruins
everything that Tatarstan has achieved over the past 10 years." Other
commentators anticipate further measures to annul the privileges
Tatarstan enjoys. For example, the Kazan newspaper "Vremya i dengi" on
30 May reported that the Center for Strategic Development headed by
Putin's close ally German Gref has drafted plans for annulling the
power-sharing treaties that Bashkortostan and Tatarstan concluded with
Moscow and abolishing Tatarstan's Yelabuga offshore zone.

Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev initially expressed approval
of Putin's proposed new system of seven okrugs, which, he said, would
prove "a more efficient instrument" than the previous "flawed" system
of presidential representatives for each of the 89 federation
subjects. Shaimiev subsequently told journalists in Moscow after
meeting with Putin on 17 May that he believed that the regional and
republican leaders would support Putin's supplementary plans
(announced that day) to revise the principles upon which the
Federation Council is based, At the same time, Shaimiev and Saratov
Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov also suggested that a new state council
composed of the heads of Russian territories be formed that would be
chaired by the Russian president.

But Tatarstan's parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin, who like
Shaimiev had publicly endorsed the proposed division of Russia into
seven okrugs, suggested that Putin's draft mechanisms for recalling
elected heads of federation subjects, and his plans to vest regional
leaders with comparable powers to remove their own elected
subordinates, are undemocratic and unconstitutional and will likely
provoke a storm of protest from the radical Tatar opposition.
"Republika Tatarstan" on 20 May quoted Mukhametshin as suggesting that
Putin's proposal may in fact have been intended to provoke a backlash
at the local level that Moscow could then adduce as the rationale for
removing recalcitrant governors and presidents.

It is unclear, however, whether Shaimiev's initial positive response
to Putin's 13 May decree establishing the seven okrugs and their heads
was prompted by the assumption that he would be named head of the
Volga okrug. (That mega-region comprises the Bashkortostan, Marii El,
Mordovia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Chuvash Republics, as well as the
Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug and Kirov, Nizhnii Novgorod, Orenburg,
Penza, Perm, Samara, Saratov, and Ulyanovsk oblasts.) According to
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 June, the governors of those regions
proposed Nizhnii Novgorod governor Igor Sklyarov for that post,
whereupon Putin countered by suggesting Shaimiev. Finally former
premier and head of the Union of Rightist Forces Sergei Kirienko was
named to that position.

Being appointed okrug head would have put Shaimiev in a strong
position to prevent the erosion of the privileges he had won for his
home republic over the decade since he was first elected its
president. But at the same time, Shaimiev's spokesman Irek Murtazin
was quoted in "Vechernyaya Kazan" on 7 June as saying that Shaimiev
made his acceptance of Putin's offer conditional of his retaining the
post of president of Tatarstan and on Kazan being named the okrug
center. Predictably, Putin rejected those conditions.

Having lost out on the chance of becoming okrug head - assuming he
really aspired to it in the first place - Shaimiev still has not
announced a decision on whether he will run for a further term as
president of Tatarstan in the elections due in March 2001. Nor is it
clear whether he can legally do so: he was first elected president in
1991, and the Russian Constitution limits to two the number of terms a
president may serve. Shaimiev's advisors, however, argue that the
present Russian Constitution was adopted only in 1993 and is not
retroactive, so that there are in fact no legal obstacles to Shaimiev
running for re-election.

As for the Tatar opposition, it is now split. The moderates, including
the Tatar Public Center, have no great affection for Shaimiev, and
some of its members consider his endorsement of Putin's proposals a
betrayal of Tatarstan's interests. The TPC held a rally in Kazan on 31
May at which they accused Shaimiev of being "soft with Moscow and
iron-hard with Kazan." But at the same time, the moderate opposition
nonetheless considers Shaimiev the sole figure strong enough to shield
Tatarstan from the anticipated negative impact of Putin's proposals.

The radical wing, including the Communists and the so-called Round
Table, see Putin's proposals as an opportunity to get rid of Shaimiev,
whom they have accused of corruption and protectionism. The Round
Table has already appealed to Kirienko to abolish the presidency in
Tatarstan and introduce a parliamentary system on the grounds that the
legislation on the presidential elections (passed in the first reading
on 31 May) makes fair elections impossible.
Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
"RFE/RL Russian Federation Report" is prepared by Julie A. Corwin
(JAC) on the basis of a variety of sources, including reporting by
"RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. Regular
contributors are Jan Cleave (JC), Liz Fuller (LF), and Paul Goble
(PG). It is distributed every Wednesday.
Direct comments to Julie A. Corwin at corwinj@rferl.org.
For information on subscriptions or reprints, contact Paul Goble in
Washington at (202) 457-6947 or at goblep@rferl.org. Back issues are
online at http://www.rferl.org/russianreport
Technical queries should be emailed to:
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