MINELRES: RFE/RL Newsline on minority issues

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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 97, Part I, 24 May 2004

TAJIK AUTHORITIES ORDER JEWISH COMMUNITY TO VACATE SYNAGOGUE BY JULY.
Dushanbe authorities have ordered the city's small Jewish community
to vacate the country's only synagogue by July so its site can be
used for a new presidential palace, the Norway-based Forum 18, which
monitors religious developments in the former Soviet Union, reported
on 21 May.  Deutsche Welle reported the story on 19 May.  The rabbi
of the synagogue, Mikhail Abdurakhmanov, has attempted to persuade
the authorities to allow the synagogue to remain, saying that the
Jewish community is too small and too poor to build another
synagogue. City officials have said that allowing the structure to
stand would spoil the layout of the new complex, and have offered a
plot of land for construction of a new synagogue. Tajik officials
insist the 100-year-old building has no historic value. Most of
Tajikistan's Jews emigrated in the early 1990s, and almost all of
those who remain -- about 500 in the entire country -- are elderly
and poor, Abdurakhmanov said. BB

SOUTH OSSETIA HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION. Parliamentary elections were
held on 23 May in Georgia's breakaway, unrecognized Republic of South
Ossetia, Russian and Georgian media reported. Preliminary returns show
that the Unity Party of President Eduard Kokoity won a majority of 30
seats, half of which are distributed under the partylist system and half
in single-mandate constituencies. Four of the latter seats were reserved
for the republic's Georgian population, but voting took place in only
five predominantly Georgian-populated villages. On 21 May, South
Ossetian Foreign Minister Murad Dzhioevsaid that members of the Georgian
youth movement Kmara! (Enough!)will be denied entry to South Ossetia,
Interfax reported. Georgian media reported the previous day that Kmara!
activists are trying to mobilize the local Georgian population to oust
the South Ossetian leadership as a preliminary to formal recognition of
Georgian hegemony (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2004). On 22 May,
Kokoity likened the policies of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
to those of radical nationalist former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who
formally abolished the republic's autonomy, Interfax reported. Kokoity
affirmed that the people of South Ossetia remain committed to their
pro-Russian orientation. Neither Georgia nor the international community
recognize the polls as valid. LF 


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 98, Part I, 25 May 2004

ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT, MINORITIES CONDEMN GEORGIAN THREAT OF MILITARY
FORCE. The Abkhaz parliament adopted a statement on 24 May condemning
as "an encroachment on the rights and freedoms of a sovereign state"
the recent hints by Georgian politicians, including President Mikheil
Saakashvili, that Tbilisi might attempt to repeat in Abkhazia and
South Ossetia the popular protests that culminated in the resignation
earlier this month of Aslan Abashidze, leader of the Adjar Autonomous
Republic, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Also on 24 May,
representatives of the Russian, Armenian, Greek, Estonian, Polish,
and Ukrainian communities in Abkhazia issued a statement affirming
their support for the unrecognized republic's constitution, which
defines Abkhazia as an independent sovereign state. They denied
Georgian claims that they would support the return of Abkhazia to the
jurisdiction of the central government. LF


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 99, Part I, 26 May 2004

ESSAY CONTEST CALLED XENOPHOBIC. An national essay competition held
in Russian schools has provoked charges of racism and xenophobia,
REN-TV reported on 24 May. The competition in 60 Russian regions was
held under the auspices of the Duma's Culture and Tourism Committee,
and the jury was headed by Russian National Patriotic Party leader
Aleksandr Sevastyanov. Students were asked to write on the topic of
what it means to be an ethnic Russian today and many of the entries
repeated common stereotypes that non-Russians control the country's
economy and politics. "What is happening now is that people of other
ethnic origins come and get control of markets, for instance, and so
we end up working for them in our own country," said Andrei Polyakov,
the student who won the $2,000 first prize. Sevastyanov added:
"Today, 80 percent of ethnic Russians believe that Russia is
overflowing with foreigners. This is a view expressed by the people.
I share it and many of those who wrote essays share it." Polyakov
told REN-TV that he "just wrote down what [adults] have said" to him.
RC


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 100, Part I, 27 May 2004

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RENEWS 'AUTONOMY' OFFER TO ABKHAZIA, SOUTH
OSSETIA... Speaking on 26 May in Tbilisi at a ceremony to mark the
anniversary of the declaration in 1918 of an independent Georgian
state, Mikheil Saakashvili said that Georgia "is on the right path,"
Caucasus Press reported. He again said he is prepared to discuss with
the leaders of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
"any model of a federal state" that would grant them "enlarged
autonomy" and, in the case of Abkhazia, international guarantees of
security, Georgian media reported. That proposal is in line with the
new plan unveiled last week that defines Georgia as a federal state
within which Abkhazia is a sovereign entity (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
18 May 2004). Saakashvili presided on 26 May over a military parade
in Tbilisi that according to Defense Ministry personnel cost 350,000
laris ($179,000), and a naval parade in Batumi. In a speech at the
latter event, he said Georgia's armed forces are ready to protect the
country's maritime borders, but will not undertake any aggressive
naval action, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

....BOTH OF WHICH REJECT IT. Raul Khadjimba, who is prime minister of
the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, dismissed the formation of a
single state comprising Georgia and Abkhazia as "out of the
question," Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 26 May. Khadjimba
stressed that the republic's population has already affirmed its
support in a referendum for the constitution, which defines Abkhazia
as an independent sovereign state. In Tskhinvali, capital of the
unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Foreign Minister Murad Djioev
similarly told Interfax that the republic "is a sovereign state."
Djioev said the South Ossetian leadership is ready for talks with
Tbilisi on resolving the decade-old conflict between them, but not on
creating a unified state. LF