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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 30, 2005

30 August 2005
Tatar Congress Criticizes Moscow Policy
Speaking at a World Tatar Congress (BTK) session in Kazan on 29 August, BTK Executive Committee Chairman Renat Zakirov said that Moscow is neglecting the interests of national minorities as it strengthens the so-called power vertical in the country. "It seems that federal authorities that concentrated all the financial resources didn't think about the preservation and development of nationalities," Zakirov said. "It turns out that Tatarstan alone is to look after it." Zakirov said Moscow's passive position on the nationalities issue is most clearly visible with respect to the situation of ethnic Tatars in Bashkortostan. "Their willingness to preserve their language is nearly considered extremism by Bashkir authorities, while federal authorities could pressure Bashkir authorities." Zakirov added, "The Tatar language is disappearing in Russia's regions in a catastrophic manner, as it is practically impossible to open national schools in big cities."

The Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Rawil Gainetdin warned that 80 percent of people attending mosques are refugees who do not speak Tatar and ask for sermons to be delivered in Russian. People are treated to vodka and pork during the Tatar Saban Tue holidays, Gainetdin said.

Radical nationalist and former Ittifaq party leader Feuzie Beiremova called the celebration "a holiday in a cage" and urged Tatars to restore their statehood.

Day Of Turkey Devoted To Kazan Millennium
Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev met with a Turkish delegation headed by Turkey's Minister of State Beshir Atalai in Kazan on 29 August, reported the same day. Shaimiev told reporters following the meeting that relations between Russia and Turkey are seeing a breakthrough in recent years. "We are glad that mutual understanding and close relations...[have been] established between Russia and Turkey," Shaimiev said. Bilateral trade between the Republic of Tatarstan and Turkey, the its third-largest foreign trade partner, increased fivefold year-on-year to $1 billion in 2004. Shaimiev also praised Turkish construction companies' contributions to the Kazan jubilee -- Turkish contractors built and reconstructed the Presidential Palace, the National Arts Gallery, the Opera and Ballet Theater, the building of the Tatar government, and Kazan's international horse-racing complex. The same day, an exhibition of 1,300 books presented to Tatarstan by the Turkish delegation opened at Tatarstan's National Library. As part of the Kazan jubilee celebrations, a Turkish Cultural Center will open within the Tatar State Humanitarian Pedagogical University.

Orange-Colored Concert Of Scorpions In Kazan
The German rock group The Scorpions performed its "Moment of Glory" show in Kazan on 29 August, during the millennial jubilee, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The performance was attended by 12,000 spectators, including President Shaimiev and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov.

A newly constructed ice arena that is a copy of the Hamburg hockey facility was also inaugurated. Federal Sports Agency head Vyacheslav Fetisov said at the opening ceremony that the new Kazan ice arena is the largest in Russia. Thousands of young people dressed in orange T-shirts and performed sport exercises and dances to fill the stadium.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan President Satisfied With Redistribution Of Powers Between Moscow, Regions
Republican President Murtaza Rakhimov told reporters on 29 August after his return from Kazan to Ufa that he considers the Russian State Council "capable of resolving Russia's essential socioeconomic issues," "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" reported the same day, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. Commenting on the State Council session held in the capital of Tatarstan on 26 August, Rakhimov said Russian President Vladimir Putin tasked the Russian government with developing draft legislation to increase the powers and independence of regions. Rakhimov said he believes the firm position taken by Putin on this issue will help avoid senseless duplication of the functions of federal and regional authorities.

Communists In Bashkortostan Launch 'Referendum'
The republican branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) is planning to launch what it is touting as a referendum on 1 September, Bashinform reported on 29 August. The party's self-described "People's Referendum" is a response to the rejection by the Russian Central Election Commission and the Russian Supreme Court of a Russia-wide referendum initiated by the party. The Communists will solicit residents' opinions on issues of land ownership, minimum wage, the cost of housing and municipal services, the monetization of in-kind social benefits, differentiated income-tax levels, and on the responsibility of authorities regarding residents' standard of living. The KPRF's republican branch has included a question on voter confidence in Bashkir President Rakhimov.

Secondary Schools Vulnerable To Fire
Some 78 percent of Bashkortostan's secondary schools lack automatic fire-alarm systems, while 30 percent of schools have no facilities whatsoever to warn of a fire, RosBalt reported on 29 August, citing the Bashkir Civil Defense and Emergency Situations Chief Directorate. An inspection of schools before the new academic year revealed that 69 percent of the republic's secondary schools are ready to accept students on 1 September. Some 541,000 children are enrolled for school this year in Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova