A remarkable meeting took place recently in Kazan, Tatarstan, where the President, Prime Minister, and many top officials and ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the Earth Charter. (Tatarstan is a semi-autonomous, multi-ethnic Republic within the Russian Federation. Its Parliament formally endorsed the Charter in 2001. For more background, see the end of this article, as well as Rustem Khairov’s chapter in The Earth Charter in Action, which you can download in PDF format English, Spanish, or Dutch.)
Tatarstan, with its nearly even mixture of Muslim and Christian peoples, has long been a prominent example of how the Earth Charter can be used to promote common understanding and peace. And in the “Annual Message of the Tatarstan Republic,” delivered by President M.S. Shaimiyev to the TR State Council this year, the Earth Charter was publicly highlighted as a guideline document of increasingly practical significance and policy relevance.
This Message states: “Recently the work of all [public authorities] has intensified on implementing the Earth Charter, which we endorsed in 2001. We should bear in mind that this is not just an ecological program. It integrates economy, politics, ecology, and education. It works for the sake of ethno-confessional tolerance and to the advance the living standards of our population.”
The Prime Minister of the Republic also spoke about the Earth Charter to say that he has entrusted all the ministries and departments “to hold activities to promote the Earth Charter principles” and to submit relevant information in their regular reports. These public announcements follow on a series of internal policy directives in nearly every area of Tatarstan’s internal policies, from education to investment.
These are impressive steps toward implementing the principles of the Charter. The presentations took place at a three-day Ecological Forum and a Scientific-Practical Conference on the Charter. Among the many top officials and ministers who spoke at the meeting, M.G. Galeev, Chairman of the Committee on Economics, Investments and Entrepreneurship under the State Council of Tatarstan Republic, said Tatarstan’s Earth Charter events “are not temporary in character – this is a work for ever.”
Tatarstan’s Ministry of Education was given a special assignment to prepare and publish three text books on the Earth Charter, for junior, medium and senior school children. The books will be adapted to both natural and social sciences based on the international experience. A text book on history of religion has also been compiled for the schools of the Republic-for the first time in modern Russia. And a special course for teachers on the Earth Charter is envisioned.
Meanwhile, the book Earth Charter in Tatarstan — a beautiful coffee-table book in Russian with English summaries — is being republished. It was presented to Earth Charter delegates in Amsterdam at the “Earth Charter +5” conference in November 2005; the new version will have a new cover and will come with a CD.
Moreover, to fulfill the President’s instruction, the Tatarstan Republic Academy of Sciences has worked out an innovative historical-architectural program based on the Charter. The program includes projects of different commemoratives and monuments to be erected in parks, reserves, and even along big highways to publicize the Charter.
On the instruction of Mrs. I. Larochkina, the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic, different competitions and contests are being held among reserves and biological reservations, along with special events at schools, and Earth Charter alleys of trees are being planted in a number of cities. Relevant websites feature some of these events, along with information about the implementation of the principles of the Charter in Tatarstan. If you speak Russian, please visit: www.tatecolog.ru and www.eco.tatar.ru .
The scope of the work underway for the Earth Charter in Tatarstan is extraordinary, extensive, and is taking place at all levels of government. Circulations of magazines, booklets, calendars and posts devoted to the Charter are also large and growing. In many cities, conferences are being organized around the Charter, including those of party conferences, as well as concerts and youth festivals. Tatarstan has become a world leader for putting the principles of the Earth Charter to work in practical ways.
Preliminary plans are now underway for an International Round Table in Kazan for the year 2008 to study Tatarstan’s experience in promoting the Charter’s principles, in response to President M. Shaimiyev’s proposal to promote the Earth Charter internationally
Tatarstan is located in the center of the Russian Federation on the East European plain, on the conjunction of two largest rivers of Europe-the Volga and Kama. The territory of the republic is about 67,836 km, and the capital of the republic is the city of Kazan. More than 70 nationalities live there, the most numerous of which are Tatars and Russians. The state languages are Tatar and Russian, and the population of the republic is about 3,773,800 people.
Kazan, sometimes spelled Kasan, was founded in 1401. The city became the capital of a powerful Tartar khanate in 1455, which emerged from the empire of the Golden Horde, but was conquered by Czar Ivan IV in 1552. Tolstoy and Lenin studied at the University of Kazan, founded in 1804. The city also has a branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an ancient cathedral, several monasteries, mosques, and the Russian Islamic University Medrese, founded in 1998.