Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 202

A leading Kazan newspaper, Vechernyaya Kazan, has suggested that the Tatarstani leadership may have an ulterior motive for denouncing Russia’s new-format passports. There has been strong popular protest in Tatarstan over the fact that the documents are written only in Russian, sport the imperial Russian eagle on their covers, and contain no entry for "nationality." (See Monitor, October 27) Tatarstan’s parliament has suspended distribution of the offending documents throughout the republic. President Mintimer Shaimiev and parliament Speaker Vasily Likhachev, who represent Tatarstan in the upper house of the Russian parliament, have called for the issue to be referred to the Federation Council’s Committee on Federal and Interethnic Relations and have canvassed support from the leaders of other national republics, including Bashkortostan, Dagestan and Ingushetia. They have also received support from the Agrarian and "Russia’s Regions" factions in the lower house of the Russian parliament.

The popular daily points out that Russia is in the middle of debating next year’s federal budget. Tatarstan is one of only a dozen Russian regions that pay more into the federal budget that they receive in subsidies. The newspaper suggests that the republic leadership may be draping itself in the Tatar flag to secure a bargaining chip in its negotiations over the budget with the federal government. (Vechernyaya Kazan, October 28)

Vechernyaya Kazan habitually takes a jaundiced view of government: it recently ran in its masthead the laconic aphorism: "Gosudarstvo — eto ne my, a nas." (Vechernyaya Kazan, August 5) Almost untranslatable into English, the words imply that the state doesn’t represent its citizens, it represses them.

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