|Wednesday, 6 December 2023|
NAA: Civilian Affairs Committee Visit to Russia
From: Chris Scheurweghs <firstname.lastname@example.org>
AM 183 CC (95) 10 Original: English
CIVILIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE VISIT TO RUSSIA
Moscow and Kazan 1 - 5 July 1995
International Secretariat September 1995
AM 183 i CC (95) 10
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. POLITICAL PARTIES AND INSTITUTIONS 1 A. The Institutional Framework of Democracy 1 B. Election Prospects, December 1995 3 C. The Legal Framework for the Elections 4
II. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND THE MEDIA 5
III. CRIME 8
IV. ETHNIC RELATIONS 8 A. General Analysis 9 B. Chechnya 11 C. Tatarstan 12
V. FOREIGN POLICY 14
ANNEX 1 List of participants 15 ANNEX 2 Programme 16
1. On 1-5 July 1995 a delegation of the Civilian Affairs Committee visited Moscow and Kazan, the capital of the autonomous Republic of Tatarstan, to discuss with Russian counterparts a wide range of issues related to the development of democracy in Russia and the obstacles thereto. The delegation was led by Mrs Brigitte Schulte, Chairperson of the Civilian Affairs Committee, and included an almost equal number of representatives of NAA countries and of associate delegations (see list of participants in Annex 1). Four major topics were on the agenda: (i) building democratic institutions, especially endowing the Parliament with adequate powers to control the executive branch and the military; (ii) inter- ethnic relations and the relationships between the Central Government and specific groups or regions (including Chechnya); (iii) the situation of the Russian media as a major component of democracy; (iv) law and order issues, including the fight against organised crime, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, and illegal immigration.
2. The visit to Moscow was organised jointly by the NAA and the Centre for Political and International Studies, with assistance from the Council of the Federation. The support of the State Duma, although expected, was not forthcoming. The visit to Kazan was meant to provide members with a first-hand opportunity to become acquainted with the relationship between the centre and ethnically-mixed regions. It was arranged directly from the NAA.
I. POLITICAL PARTIES AND INSTITUTIONS
3. During meetings with academics and representatives of a wide range of political parties (see programme in Annex 2), the delegation discussed several major issues likely to have a bearing on the future of democracy in Russia, including the Constitution and political institutions; prospects for the 1995 parliamentary elections; and the impact of the war in Chechnya on the future balance of political forces in the Federation.
A. The Institutional Framework of Democracy
4. Opinions on the adequacy of the institutional framework for democracy varied greatly among the speakers, a major bone of contention being the Constitution. Ever since its adoption in December 1993, under dubious circumstances - the aftermath of the September 1993 showdown between the Government and Parliament, and the disputed results of the referendum -,(1) the Constitution has been a controversial document. Critics, such as Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Political Science W. Smirnov, argue that it bestows too much power to the President in comparison with Federal assemblies, and that it contains numerous ambiguities, contradictions and gaps which generally play into the hands of the President because of his broad discretionary powers. This criticism is stressed by the opposition in the Duma, including the Communists. However, Communist Deputy and member of the Duma Committee on Legal Affairs, O. Mironov, disagreed with Professor Smirnov's contention that the Duma was nothing but a "fig leaf".
5. The Committee visit coincided with one of the deepest crises to date between the legislative and executive branches of government. Following the mishandling of the Budennovsk hostage takeover by Russian forces in late June, the Duma passed a vote of no-confidence in the Government. For several days it was unclear who would have to yield and possibly be dismissed - the Government or the Duma. The crisis could only be averted through a last minute compromise between the deputies and President Yeltsin who had to dismiss several key ministers to rally a majority of Duma members to his cause.(2) Although the events of 23 June - 1 July illustrate how difficult it is for the Duma to impeach the Government, it can be argued that the strength of the Duma's disapproval of Government policy over Chechnya attests to the reasonably healthy state of Russian democracy. The dismissal of officials under parliamentary pressure for the misuse of military force in a security crisis is, indeed, a novel feature in Russian political life.
6. A criticism often made of the Russian Constitution - and echoed by Mr. Mironov - is that it gives the President too much power to rule by decree and allows him thereby to escape meaningful control by Parliament. This problem is compounded by the fact, stressed by Professor Smirnov, that Russia is still not endowed with a system of courts capable of arbitrating differences in constitutional interpretation. Although it is functioning again after being suspended for nine months following the September 1993 events, the Constitutional Court is still largely paralysed and deprived of the necessary discretionary powers to arbitrate conflicts of interpretation over the Constitution between the legislative and executive branches of government.
7. While conceding that the Constitution was not a perfect document, Mr. Shilov-Kovedyaev, a member of "Choice of Russia" and drafter of the Constitution asked Western participants to take into account the relative youth of Russian democratic institutions. Mr. Anderson (UK) appropriately remarked that the text of the Constitution was but one element of a democratic system of government, the most important factor being a democratic culture, which includes the respect for others' opinions and a spirit of consensus. He therefore urged the Russians to develop that spirit and cautioned the critics against too harsh and too early a judgment on a text which is only slightly more than one year old.
B. Election Prospects, December 1995
8. Russian political forces are obviously gearing up for the upcoming parliamentary elections, the date of which has now been confirmed for 17 December 1995, after a compromise was found on elections to the State Duma on 20 June 1995 (see Section C). In May, President Yeltsin initiated attempts to form two broadly-based coalitions: one on the centre-right under the leadership of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, and one on centre-left led by Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin. This initiative signalled that the electoral competition was on, and that the presidency intended to take an active part in it. In early summer the group led by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, "Our Home is Russia", seemed to be quickly attracting support, partly owing to his rise in popularity following his deft handling of the Budennovsk hostage crisis. The severe defeat of President Yeltsin's candidate in the gubernatorial election in Sverdlosk on 20 August - the President's own political "home" - however, bodes ill for the future of the Prime Minister's coalition. The coalition under Speaker Rybkin encountered difficulty in enlisting support from the very outset. Mr. Rybkin's expected coalition partners opted for opposition to President Yeltsin. At the end of the summer, it seemed that the President's attempts to shape political alignments were unlikely to be more successful than earlier attempts to mobilise Russians on a platform of national consensus - for example through the "Treaty on Public Accord" signed in 1994. Mr. Yeltsin nevertheless seems intent on nurturing consensual support through the consultative "Public Chamber", an advisory body under the President, whose activities were discussed by the delegation with its Executive Secretary, Mr. Fedotov.
9. As should be expected in the lead up to the election campaign, the political differences in the platforms of the contending parties are sharpening. Indeed, the pluralism of ideas among the speakers could hardly have been broader on the variety of issues discussed by the delegation, including economic and social reform, Chechnya, the role of the press, ethnic relations and so forth. Only two major issues seemed to gather unanimity among Russian political forces: NATO enlargement, which is unanimously opposed by all political forces; and the conduct of the war in Chechnya, which almost all political forces consider a disaster, regardless of their assessment of rebel leader Dyokhar Dudayev.
10. It is only possible to speculate on patterns of alliances in the run up to the elections. While the "Yabloko" coalition created by Mr. Grigorii Yavlinski, Yuri Boldyrev and Vladimir Lukin, and former First Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar's "Choice of Russia" are often classified as "democratic" parties, a spokesman for "Yabloko", Mr. Igrunov, denied that any union between his group and "Choice of Russia" was possible. The two groups held different views on too many subjects, including such key issues as the Constitution, the September 1993 conflict between the President and Parliament, economic policy, and the war in Chechnya. The more conservative "Yabloko", whose leader, Mr. Yavlinski, is the most popular political figure in Russia, would consider an alliance with the Communist Party and their Agrarian cousins. Whether the more liberal "Choice of Russia", which has traditionally supported President Yeltsin, could rally the bloc created under Mr. Chernomyrdin is a matter of speculation. Another unknown is the attraction and cohesion of nationalist forces: Liberal-Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky will be challenged by more "respectable" nationalist movements, such as the "Congress of Russian Communities" whose fortunes were recently boosted when the popular former head of the 14th Army, General Alexander Lebed joined their ranks. Obviously, the parliamentary elections will also be an important test in the competition for the June 1996 presidential elections.
C. The Legal Framework for the Elections
11. The delegation was able to discuss the legal framework for the elections with representatives of the political parties, the Central Electoral Commission and the Council of the Federation, including the leader of the Council of the Federation's delegation to the NAA, Mr. Dolgolaptev.
12. That legal framework is only partly in place. A major step was taken on 20 June with the passing of the law on elections of deputies to the State Duma. The law struck a compromise between, on the one hand, the Duma and on the other, the President and the Council of the Federation. The new law upholds the existing system by which 50% of the deputies are elected in single candidate constituencies and 50% on party lists, while it concedes that at least 90% of the candidates on the party lists should come from the regions. (3) This regional representation is likely to influence the outcome of the elections by increasing the number of "independent" deputies who are actually members of the former Nomenklatura, and of representatives of those parties that are well-rooted at the local level, such as the Communists and the Agrarians.
13. Compared to the December 1993 elections, which were hurriedly organised following the bloody showdown between President and Parliament in September 1993, preparation for the December 1995 elections seems to be well underway, as described by the Vice-Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, Mr. A. Ivanchenko, and one of its Department Chiefs, Mr. Vladmir Zhdanovich. A major effort to train members of regional and local electoral commissions is reportedly underway.
14. Two major hurdles still have to be overcome for elections to take place, however. The first one is the absence of a general law on political parties, which would entail e.g. provisions for the financing of the parties. The second is the lack of agreement between the two Chambers as to how the Council of the Federation should be "formed" (this is the term used in the Constitution). According to the State Duma, which adopted a relevant bill on 5 July, the Council of the Federation should be directly elected. The majority of the Council members, supported by the President, argue on the other hand that the future Council should be nominated from among the executive and legislative authorities of the 89 "subjects of the Federation".(4) Should the two Chambers be unable to find a compromise, it is unclear whether only the Duma or both assemblies will be renewed in December 1995.
II. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND THE MEDIA
15. During a very informative session, the delegation discussed the media situation in Russia with individuals representing a broad range of perspectives and interests as regards freedom of information and of the press. It was clear from all presentations that both the printed and the broadcast media are in a deep state of flux. This was illustrated, for example, by dramatic drops in the circulation of large Soviet newspapers such as Pravda and Argumenty i Fakty, from a readership of about 1.5 million to 135,000 in the first case and of some 36 million to hardly more than two million in the second.(5) Elements of the old information system are still in place, while transformations of the media world are well underway but have not yet resulted in a clear picture of the media world.
16. Freedom of the press and information is guaranteed in the Constitution (Article 29). However, the economic, legal and cultural conditions are not yet present for this freedom to be fully exercised. Perhaps the most serious obstacle to the full development of a free press is the lack of financing. In the old system, the press used to be fully owned, controlled and financed by the Government. Currently, to the displeasure of many deputies in the Duma, the Government still owns two major newspapers, Rossiyskaya Gazeta and Izvestiya, and it allocates modest subsidies to a few others. The independent press, however, has to find new sources of support. Subscriptions cannot be relied upon partly because dire economic conditions make newspapers unaffordable to many Russians,(6) and partly because of the increasing competition of television. As a result, many newspapers resort to advertising, often at the expense of the quality of the information provided. Moreover, a proper law on advertising is still lacking. Foreign ownership of newspapers remains forbidden although international press magnates such as Murdoch and Berlusconi are beginning to make inroads into the Russian media market through the acquisition of shares in holding companies. An additional hurdle is the difficulty media outlets encounter in accessing publishing companies: while publishing is no longer a state monopoly, private printing remains unaffordable for many newspapers and public printing does not come without political conditions. Proper regulation of printing is still lacking, and newspapers still cannot legally own assets. Generally speaking, the business media seem best capable of staying afloat because they appeal to special categories of regular readers who can afford the cost of information.
17. Television is a major competitor of the printed media, thanks to an increasing pluralism and growing public access to foreign channels. As remarked by Pravda Editor in Chief, Mr. Ilyin, the battle for freedom of the press will be carried out on television. Broad changes are in process on that score, as explained to the delegation by Mr. Sosnovski, Deputy Director of the recently created Russian Public Television company (ORT) overseeing the two state channels, Ostankino (Channel 1), and Russian Television (Channel 2). Dubbed an electoral and propaganda war machine by President Yeltsin's opponents, the creation of ORT was presented by the Government as a means to put an end to the rampant corruption and collapse of state assets occurring in the oldest public television channel, Ostankino. Fifty-one per cent of ORT assets are held by the state and 49% by private or semi-private investors. According to Mr. Sosnovski, ORT's goal is twofold: (1) to provide information in Russian to the Russian population in Russia, to the Russian diaspora in the other republics of the former Soviet Union and, by satellite, to Russians scattered over all continents; (2) conversely, to provide coverage on developments in the regions of Russia and other areas of settlement of Russian populations which are often neglected to the benefit of the Centre. That the creation of ORT should have a political objective was not denied by Mr. Sosnovski, although he identified that objective as "maintaining stability" in the country - rather than maintaining the current elites in power - and "keeping in check centrifugal forces at work in Russian society". Mr. Sosnovski also described the channel as appealing mostly to a "conservative" public. The fact that the Board of Governors of ORT is chaired by President Yeltsin himself was nevertheless interpreted by Pravda Editor in Chief, Mr. Ilyin, as a clear sign of the political intent behind the creation of the company, a few months before the beginning of the electoral campaign. It should be added that, unlike the printed press, ORT is, according to its deputy director, financially well-endowed and therefore able to create good programmes and attract qualified journalists. The role and influence of private television channels was not discussed by the participants.
18. One aspect of the media situation which was only briefly touched upon, but is nevertheless important in assessing press freedom, concerns the physical safety of journalists. The murders of investigative journalist Dmitri Kholodov in October 1994 and TV anchorman Vladimir Listyev in March 1995, are only the best publicised examples of how dangerous press work can be in a country where lawlessness can cost the life of those who attempt to tell the truth.(7) Many others have been victims of assaults and threats, resulting in 20 cases of death by mid-1995, according to the Secretary General of the Union of Russian Journalists, Mr. G. Maltzev. Psychological, professional and physical pressure on journalists is reportedly even more widespread at the regional level where local potentates are trying to impose their views on journalists with the help of subsidies, bribes and murders on order, if necessary.
19. An issue of concern to Russian journalists is that of access to information in conflict situations, as illustrated by the case of Chechnya. In that instance, the broad freedom enjoyed by journalists in covering the conflict in its early stage gave way in a second stage to Government attempts to limit access when it appeared that the coverage of military operations was extremely critical. Whether restrictions imposed on journalists were more severe than those imposed in the West in similar circumstances (for example, the Gulf War) is a debatable question on which there were differences of view not only among Russians, but also among members of the NAA delegation. A specific hurdle in the Russian case is the lack of legal harmonisation between regulations governing freedom of access to information by journalists, and the right of the military or police forces to withdraw information or deny access for national security reasons.
20. To sum up, it is undeniable that freedom of the press has dramatically improved in Russia since the end of the communist monopoly of power, but that many hurdles remain to be overcome. Proper legislation needs to be passed to clarify the rights and duties of journalists, the rules concerning media ownership, the media tax regime, and advertising, in particular on television. Adequate judicial means of redress have to be made available. A "Judiciary Chamber on Information Conflicts", has been created to arbitrate conflicts related to freedom of information and to recommend improvements in the legislation. But it is devoid of enforcement power and often seems to act as an instrument to encourage press "discipline" before official organs resort to sanctions.
21. The crime situation was discussed with a very high-ranking delegation of the Ministry of Interior led by the then Acting Minister of the Interior, Evgeny Abramov (8)and including Major General Ovchinnikov, who has played a very important role in Chechnya as Deputy Chief of the Interior Ministry's (MVD) Internal Groups. Both the general crime situation and specific aspects of the developments in Chechnya were on the agenda.
22. Overall, Interior Ministry officials were keen to emphasise that, although criminality had increased tremendously over 1990-93, it remained much less severe than in the West, and that improvements had been recorded in 1994. They attributed these improvements to the efforts carried out by the Ministry, including the establishment of a "Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime", headed by the First Deputy Minister of the Interior. Branches of that Directorate have been established at local and regional level with all decentralised structures being directly responsible to the First Deputy Minister. This has created a parallel structure to that of the local police, which has been entrusted with greater powers to fight crime in the regions. It is clear, however, that the Chief Directorate and its sub-structures also point to an attempt by the Central Government to identify and control corrupt local police and administrative structures.
23. As a rule, Ministry officials tended to play down participants' concerns with nuclear smuggling, criminal activities of the Cossacks (mentioned by Mr. Tanase of Moldova, in reference to the Transdniester region), and drug trafficking. They were also careful to avoid attributing specific responsibility to particular ethnic groups in the rise of crime. Only car theft was qualified by them as a serious issue, on which they are cooperating with countries such as Germany, Poland and Sweden. They also expressed their satisfaction with Turkey's cooperation in fighting organised crime. As a limit to international cooperation, they cited the fact that Russia had not, as yet, signed any agreements on extradition or legal assistance with any foreign country.
IV. ETHNIC RELATIONS
24. Inter-ethnic relations were obviously the major item on the delegation's agenda during the visit to Kazan, but members also examined the issue more broadly in a morning-long discussion with deputies, experts, and representatives of minority groups holding sharply diverging views. These ranged from pleas on behalf of oppressed "compatriots" living in the "near abroad" by the Chairman of the Committee on Citizenship Affairs, Mr. Mikitaev, to the expression of deep resentment by Mr. Ahilgov, Chairman of the Confederation of Repressed Nations, at what his organisation considers a regular pattern of suppression of minorities in Russia (viz. Chechnya) and persistent reluctance to recognise past errors (notably Stalin's policy of suppression and deportation of minorities). The session also provided an opportunity for an exchange of experiences and assessments among Russian participants and members of the NAA delegation coming from Estonia, Moldova and Ukraine, which all share the "privilege" of having to manage the painful human legacy of the former Soviet Union.
A. General Analysis
25. Possibly the most enlightened analysis of inter-ethnic problems in Russia was offered by Dr. Emil Pain, an academic and member of the Presidential Council whose views only partly dovetail with official policy. Mr. Pain distinguished three kinds of inter-ethnic tensions in Russia and the CIS republics, granting that these are not mutually exclusive categories:
- vertical tensions between ethnic communities holding power in "subjects of the Federation" (former autonomous republics or regions)and the Central Government;
- horizontal tensions among ethnic communities themselves;
- tensions due to the alienation of specific ethnic groups: Jews, Gypsies, minorities in the Caucasus, etc.
26. According to Mr. Pain, the most serious of these tensions are of the former kind. However, their outcome is not preordained, as illustrated by the sharply different development of the Tatar and Chechen conflicts with the Central Government. In the first instance, prudence and moderation on both sides led to the successful conclusion of a treaty laying the basis for peaceful future relations, while in the second, the two parties' unwillingness to yield led to ghastly bloodshed.
27. On the level of the Federation as a whole, Mr. Pain remarked that tensions between the Centre and the "subjects", which had run high in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, had somewhat subsided. In 1992 and 1993, these tensions had largely been fed by the struggle between the executive and legislative branches, then vying for support from the regions and offering favours in return. Six subjects of the Federation declared their independence in 1991 and 1992 and many more ceased making financial contributions to the Central Government. Following the December 1993 elections and referendum, the situation stabilised somewhat and the Central Government was able to regain some hold on power. As a result, it also felt able to make some concessions to the regions. Treaties were then signed, with Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Northern Ossetia, and Yakutia (Sakha), giving these five republics a certain degree of sovereignty. Moscow and Grozny failed to reach a compromise. In certain instances, local elites, who had nurtured the support of local nationalist movements, stopped doing so when they understood that they could obtain concessions directly from the Centre, and that those movements were becoming major political competitors, in the absence of any meaningful other - liberal - opposition. The local elites were also able to consolidate their power by monopolising the fruits of the large scale privatisations carried out over 1992-94.
28. The fate of national movements varied. Some of their leaders went underground, but most of them were integrated into the local elites or lost their public appeal. Tatarstan is a case in point. Whereas the Tatar Public Centre had been at the forefront of the drive for autonomy in the Republic, one of its most prominent leaders, Mr. Rafael Khakimov, is now a middle- of-the-road presidential adviser, and current leaders are clearly in opposition to the Local Government. Indeed, as Mr. Pain remarked, in the last elections, not a single leader of the nationalist movements from Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, or the Caucasus republics was elected to the State Duma.
29. Another issue addressed by Mr. Pain was that of the possible consequences of Russian nationalism, in particular the question of whether Russian nationalism might evolve into a kind of fascism. To begin with, Mr. Pain remarked that there was a sharp increase in xenophobia: anti- foreigner feeling was expressed by 20% of the Russian population in the 1980s; it now hovers at some 75%. He noticed, however, that this xenophobia was rather abstract and often indistinct from hostility towards the Government, to the mafias, to the West, etc. In addition, few people would attribute the woes of Russia exclusively to ethnic minorities. For example, the events of Budennovsk had led to demonstrations against the Government, not against the ethnic groups who had been responsible for taking hostages in the first place.
30. Mr. Pain warned, however, not to underestimate the potential of Russian nationalism for several reasons:
- many Russians feel ill at ease in the rump state which they inherited after the breakup of the Soviet Union;
- in many republics, Russians feel like outsiders; they perceive themselves to have been left behind, both politically and economically, and are jealous of the way others have been better able to adapt to the fledgling market economy;
- the change of status from majority to minority is difficult to accept for many Russians living in ethnically-mixed regions of Russia or on its periphery.
31. The delegation was, once again, subjected to a demonstration of Russian nationalism when it met with Liberal-Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Accusing Estonia of apartheid against Russians, castigating Turkey for supporting Chechen separatism, predicting rebellion of Russians in Crimea, Mr. Zhirinovsky advocated the reunion of all ethnic Russians in a single country. What this meant for the territorial integrity of Russia's neighbours remained unclear. Mr. Zhirinovsky proposed that the issue be arbitrated by referendum, sidestepping the question of who would then be called to vote.
32. Mr. Zhirinovsky's attitude obviously contains germs of fascism, although Mr. Pain would probably not describe the Liberal-Democrats' brand of populism that way.(9) The question is how much of its appeal aggressive nationalism of the Zhirinovsky kind will retain in the forthcoming elections, compared to more temperate and respectable forms of nationalism harboured by groups such as the "Congress of Russian Communities" now rallying around by General Lebed.
33. Far from resorting to sweeping generalisations of the Zhirinovsky brand, Mr. Pain concluded his statement by warning participants of the danger of globalising the problems of Russian minorities. These problems were highly location-specific:
- in Central Asia, the major issue is repatriation to the mother country of the many Russians who will never be able to integrate culturally there;
- in the Baltics and other places, the risk is not that of major clash, but one of "lumperisation" of the Russian populations, which will nurture simmering tensions over the long run; specific efforts to integrate these populations into the political and economic life of the country would therefore be at a premium.
34. The conflict of Chechnya, whilst not discussed in detail, overshadowed discussions in most sessions, especially as the visit coincided with the deepest tension to date between Parliament and Government over the handling of the crisis. From the perspective of inter- ethnic relations, the war in Chechnya was subject to sharply conflicting assessments. Tatar leaders, who share the Muslim culture of Chechens and their desire for autonomy from Moscow, were very critical of the policy carried out by the Central Government, regretting that no greater efforts to settle the conflict peacefully had been made in late 1994. While a member of the State Council (Parliament) accused Russia of "genocide", Presidential Adviser Rafael Khakimov was less radical. All the same he blamed the Central Government for not making a serious offer to negotiate with Chechen leader Dudayev in late 1994. Dr. Emil Pain also hinted that Moscow's policy had been wrong-headed: in late 1994, Mr. Dudayev was losing popularity because of the economic crisis and growing insecurity in Chechnya; rather than further undermining his legitimacy, the military intervention made him a hero. As to the future, there seemed to be broad agreement among political forces and experts that the path to negotiations championed by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin was the right one. Unable to dissent from official policy, Interior Ministry representatives nevertheless gave very evasive responses to questions by the delegation about their willingness to abide faithfully by the ceasefire.
35. Many of the remarks made by Dr. Emil Pain apply to the situation in Tatarstan. Endowed with an ethnically-mixed population (107 ethnic groups; about 48% Tatar, 43% Russian, 9% other, according to the 1989 census), Tatarstan has been able to conclude a power-sharing treaty devolving the small Volga republic a large measure of autonomy in its relationship with the Central Government. The treaty, concluded on February 15, 1994, was no minor achievement, particularly if one considers that Tatarstan was the only republic, along with Chechnya, to have refused to sign the Federation Treaty in 1992. Its negotiation required two years of patient and stubborn efforts by the Local Government. The ingredients that ensured the success of the endeavour are the diplomatic skills of the Tatar leadership and the cohesion of the local political class. In brief, Tatar leaders knew when to make demands and when to cede ground, and they did not have to accommodate an overly broad range of political views domestically.
36. Although the consequences of the agreement have not been fully spelled out and there are differences of interpretation of its provisions and subsequent implementation agreements, it is presented by the Tatars as a potential model for the regulation of relationships between the Centre and other subjects of the Federation. Few in Moscow would, however, support that view - at least in the present circumstances. Proposals endorsed by such unlikely bedfellows as Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Presidential Adviser Sergei Shakhrai to do away with the national-administrative division of the country and replace it with territorial-administrative divisions underline that centralising reflexes remain strong in the Russian capital. This is a cause for concern, not only to the Tatar leaders, but also to the members of the Council of the Federation who base their legitimacy on the defence of the rights of the regions.
37. For obvious reasons Tatar leaders emphasise the scope of their autonomy, describing the position of Tatarstan as being "with", and not "within" the Russian Federation. But while the treaty provides for far- reaching political autonomy, reading the fine print demonstrates that economic autonomy is far from having been achieved. For example, Tatarstan, a rich oil-producing region, has to negotiate annually with Moscow on the amount of oil and petrochemicals it may produce and export. Moreover, the management of areas of "joint competence" (the police, weapons sales, monetary policy, transport and communication policy, etc.) is a frequent matter of dispute. A particular bone of contention is the participation of Tatar conscripts in the Russian army. Although the Russian authorities have pledged not to send Tatar conscripts to hotspots, they have not always honoured their pledge, and "bodybags" have been known to come back to Kazan from Chechnya, for example. The issue is particularly sensitive because conflicts on the Russian periphery often involve combat against Muslim groups. Tatar authorities and clergy are therefore trying to obtain a clearer commitment from Moscow. They also express concern about a pattern of regular and serious discrimination against Tatar youth in the Russian army. Those difficulties notwithstanding, the agreement of February 1994 provides for the reintegration of Tatarstan into national political life.(10) According to Presidential Adviser Rafael Khakimov, Tatarstan now intends to play a role of critical and constructive involvement in Russian political structures. The Republic will therefore participate in the December 1995 elections, unlike in December 1993, when it boycotted the Federal elections and referendum.
38. It is fair to say, as Tatar leaders do, that Tatarstan has a national problem, not an ethnic one. This is demonstrated in two ways. Outwardly, although there is growing awareness of the existence of large populations of Tatars in neighbouring republics, (Udmurtia and Bashkortostan especially), few attempts at bringing those populations together have been made. Domestically, despite the Republic's ethnic diversity, and the coexistence of Muslim and Christian Orthodox groups, there are no obvious ethnic tensions between Tatars and Russians.(11) Although the drive for autonomy was accompanied by attempts to revive Tatar language and culture, this does not seem to have been at the detriment of Russian culture (both Russian and Tatar are official languages). Education in Tatar is now more broadly available than in the past; however many parents still prefer to send their children to Russian schools which give them a better education and broaden their job prospects countrywide. As a sign of harmonious inter-ethnic coexistence, Tatar representatives indicated that 40% of marriages in the Republic are mixed. Tatarstan's relative domestic peace may be helped by the traditional moderation of Tatar Islam. Although Grand Mufti Gabdullah Khazrat vowed to remain faithful to that tradition, the outcome of the competition for influence from various branches of islam from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and elsewhere remains uncertain. Grand Mufti' Khazrat nevertheless seemed confident that Tatar Muslims could continue to "take money from the Arabs, get instruction from the Turks, and live how we see fit".
39. Tatarstan's relative stability may be helped by the lack of real political debate in the Republic. Although some 30 political movements exist in Tatarstan and branches of national parties are beginning to form, parties play almost no role in elections, which are competitions among individuals. This apathy of partisan political life is reflected in the political structures, clearly dominated by the executive. Tatarstan has a very weak legislative body, the State Council, in which only 39 out of 130 deputies have a full time position. Mr. Likhachev, the Chairman of the State Council, sees the role of the Tatar Parliament mainly as advisory, rather than supervisory. The broad political consensus is likely to help Tatarstan in its economic reform process. Although the region was late in converting to liberal economic ideas, it seems to be rapidly catching up and could possibly overtake the Central Government in some areas.
V. FOREIGN POLICY
40. Foreign policy was not on the agenda of the visit. Two issues were nevertheless occasionally and briefly touched upon: NATO enlargement, and the conflict in former Yugoslavia. On both accounts, the conclusion to be drawn is that the deeper the rift between the Government and a political group or region, the more likely the latter's position is to be at odds with official policy. Tatar leaders, for example, voiced no major objections against NATO enlargement, granting that this was not their major concern. The gap between Tatar opinion and Government policy was even larger on Bosnia, where Tatars feel greater empathy for Bosnian Muslim brothers than for the orthodox Christian Serbs which Moscow has pledged to support. Rear Admiral Premyak, Deputy Chairman of the Commission on Security and Defence of the Council of the Federation, on the other hand, stressed that the solidarity of Slavic nations necessitated Russian involvement in the Balkans and the continued presence of Russian peacekeepers, regardless of whether Western nations decided to stay or not. He also suggested that parliamentary assemblies such as the NAA could contribute to peace in the Balkans by convening a forum of MPs from Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina under its auspices. ANNEX 1
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Leader of the Delegation
Mrs Brigitte Schulte (Fed. Rep. of Germany) Chairperson, Civilian Affairs Committee
Mr. Donald Anderson (UK) Alice Mahon (UK) Mr. Niki Bettendorf (Luxembourg)
* Mr. Ismet Sezgin (Turkey) * Mr. Cavit Kavak (Turkey)
Mr. Martin Zijlstra (Netherlands)
Associate NAA Members
Mr. Gyorgy Csoti (Hungary) Mr. Ovidiu Petrescu (Romania) Mr. Bohdan Horyn (Ukraine) * Mr. Eino Tamm (Estonia) * Mr. Jan Krol (Poland) * Mr. Ion Tanase (Moldova)
Mr. David Law (Canada), Adviser Mr. Craig Oliphant (UK), Adviser
Catherine Guicherd (France), Director, Civilian Affairs Committee
Accompanying the German Delegation
Mr. Thomas Wriessnig
* Mr. Edward Ossadchy Mr. Alexey Korolev (Kazan only) * Mr. Valery Zaitsev Mr. Andrey Efimenkov (Kazan only)
* Moscow only ANNEX 2
INTERNAL STABILITY AND DEMOCRACY IN RUSSIA
Visit to Kazan, 1-2 July 1995
Saturday 1 July 1995
Morning: Visit to the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan
Meeting with Dr. Vasily N. Likhachev, Chairman, and other members of the State Council
Afternoon: Visit to the Presidency of the Republic of Tatarstan Meeting with: Mr. Rafael Khakimov, Presidential Adviser Mr. Timour Akulov, Presidential Adviser
Sunday 2 July 1995
Morning: Meeting with Mr. Gabdullah Khazrat, leader of the Moslem Clergy of the Republic of Tatarstan
Meeting with the leaders of the Tatar Public Centre
Afternoon: Return to Moscow
International Seminar, 3-5 July 1995 Moscow
Monday 3 July 1995
Session 1: Building Democratic Institutions in Russia
Discussion 1.1: Infrastructure of Democratic Institutions Branches of Power: Division and Interaction Presentations by: Mr. W. Smirnov Vice-President, Russian Political Science Academy Mr. A. Fedotov Executive Secretary, Public Chamber under the President Mr. O. Mironov Member of the State Duma, Communist Party
Discussion 1.2: Political Parties and Movements in Russia: towards Elections 1995
Presentations by: Mr. V. Shilov-Kovedyaev Member of the State Duma, "Choice of Russia" Mr. V. Igrunov Member of the State Duma, "Yabloko" Union Mr. Kononikov "Union of Realists" movement Mr. O. Novikov Chairman, Federal Democratic Movement Mr. V. Zhirinovsky Member of the State Duma, Chairman of the Liberal-Democratic Party
Session 2: Briefing at the Ministry of Interior "On the Status of Internal Affairs and Fight Against Crime in Russia"
Meeting with: Mr. Evgeny Abramov Acting Minister of Interior Mr. Gorchakov Chief, Foreign Relations Directorate Maj. Gen. Ovchinnikov Deputy Chief, Chief Directorate of the Forces of the Interior Mr. V. Vorozhtsov Chief, Public Relations Directorate Mr. Yashkin Deputy Chief, Directorate to Counter Organised Crime
Tuesday 4 July 1995
Session 3: Ethnic Relations in Russia and the CIS Presentations by: Dr. Emil Pain Member of the Presidential Council, Director of the Centre for Ethnic-Political Studies Mr. N. Bindyukov Chairman, Sub-Committee on Relations with Compatriots, Committee on the CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots, State Duma Mr. A. Mikitaev Chairman of the Committee on Citizenship Affairs under the President Mr. R. Tuzmohammad President, Commonwealth Lawyers for Asia-Pacific Mr. Ahilgov Chairman, Confederation of Repressed Nations, Deputy Chairman of the Federal Democratic Movement of Russia Mr. Banrekin Chief, Department on Relations within the Federation, Foreign Ministry
Wednesday 5 July 1995
Session 4: Fourth Branch of Power? Media and Democracy in Russia
Presentations by: Mr. G. Maltzev Secretary General, Union of Russian Journalists Mr. I. Eremin Vice-Chairman of the Judiciary Chamber on Information Conflicts Mr. Ilyin Editor in Chief of Pravda Mrs Ilyina Deputy Editor in Chief of Business World Mr. Vorozhtsov Chief, Centre for Public Relations Directorate, Ministry of Interior Mr. Sosnovsky Deputy Director of Russian Public Television
Session 5: Briefing at the Central Electoral ommission
Presentations by: Mr. A. Ivanchenko Vice-Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission Mr. V. Zhdanovich Department Chief of the Central Electoral Commission
Session 6: Visit to the Council of the Federation Meeting with:
Mr. A. Dolgolaptev Deputy-Chairman of the Council of the Federation and Chairman of the Council of the Federation Delegation to the NAA Mr. Pyotr Premyak Deputy Chairman of the Defence and Security Committee Mrs L. Kotesova Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Committee Mr. Yu. Lunkov Chief, Department of Interparliamentary Relations Mr. Z. Novozhilova Chief, Directorate of International Cooperation and other members and consultants and staff of the Council of the Federation delegation to the NAA
(1) See Civilian Affairs Committee, Democratization in Eastern Europe : an Interim Assessment, [AL 197 CC (94) 8], pp. 7-8
(2) Both seemed to have an interest in averting a showdown: the deputies were unwilling to abandon their posts before the planned December 1995 elections and the President was bound by the regulations on political party registration which would have prevented his chosen candidate, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, to run in the parliamentary elections, were they to be held earlier than December.
(3) For information about other aspects of the compromise, see Civilian Affairs Committee, Visit to Moscow and Kazan, Information Document, June 1995, AM 177 CC(95) 9, p.7.
(4) The "subjects of the Federation" are republics, provinces, autonomous provinces, districts, autonomous districts and territories. The current Council of the Federation has been elected. However, about half of the incumbents also hold political office at regional or local level and are therefore seldom present in Moscow.
(5) As reported to the delegation by Pravda Editor in Chief, Mr. Ilyin
(6) According to the Secretary General of the Union of Russian Journalists, G. Maltzev, only one Russian in 10 is able to afford a newspaper.
(7) See Civilian Affairs Committee Visit to Moscow and Kazan, Information Document, June 1995, AM 177 CC(95) 9, pp. 9-11.
(8) The former Minister of the Interior, Victor Yerin, was one of the three high-ranking officials who had to step down under pressure from the Duma on 1 July. He was replaced by General Anatoli Kulikov on 6 July.
(9) Mr. Pain's statement suggested that he saw little danger of fascism. However, his description of the political situation in Russia had strong similarities with the characteristics of a fascist regime - although it would preclude the development of a nazi-type political system.
(10) For further details, see Elizabeth Teague, "Russia and Tatarstan sign Power-Sharing Treaty", RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 3, No.14, 8 April 1994.
(11) This remark is drawn from observations in the capital, Kazan. Ethnic resentment of Russians against Tatars reportedly exists in industrial regions such as Naberezhny-Chelny.