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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 18, 2004

18 February 2004
Deputy Prime Minister Says Tatarstan Should Deepen Ties With Muslim Countries
Speaking at a gathering of Tatar representatives abroad and in Russia on 17 February, Tatar Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov called for the deepening of relations with Muslim countries, RosBalt reported. Pakhomov said Tatar representatives could popularize "Jadidism as a tolerant and creative [branch of] Islam and strengthen relations with the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC]." Pakhomov suggested that an OIC information center be opened in Kazan. Pakhomov also called for more efficient cooperation with UN organizations, the World Trade Organization, as well as with the Council of Europe, the World Bank, and the League of Arab States. Currently Tatarstan has plenipotentiary, permanent, and trade representations in 21 countries and seven of Russia's regions.

Authorities Inspect Kazan Water Park
After the Transvaal water park tragedy, which killed 25 people on 14 February in Moscow, Tatarstan's Construction, Architecture, Housing and Municipal-Services Minister Marat Khosnullin established on 16 February a commission charged with inspecting the buildings of large entertainment complexes, and other news agencies reported. Recently constructed buildings include the Kazan Basketball Hall and the Pyramid entertainment center.

The commission will investigate the Kazan water park, which according to "Kommersant" on 17 February was constructed without the necessary documentation or permission. The first phase of the facility, including the covered water park, was opened in November 2003. The $35 million project is co-run by the Cultural-Sports Center Kaleidoscope, the Kazan Melita fur factory, and the Moscow Aqua holding.

State Duma Official Highlights Alleged Violations At TAIF
State Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin appealed to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office and the Russian prime minister to investigate violations that allegedly took place during the establishment of the Tatar-American Investment and Finances (TAIF) company, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 17 February. Radik Shaimiev, the son of Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, is one of the senior managers. The newspaper speculated about the reasons behind Ilyukhin's statement, which could be an attempt to pressure TAIF in its ownership dispute with Tatneft over a plant at the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 October 2003).

"Kommersant-Dengi" reported on 8 February that TAIF managers are considering selling a stake in the company to unspecified American buyers. According to the newspaper, Moscow was recently "unpleasantly surprised" to find out that the Tatar Land and Property Relations Ministry, which initially owned a controlling interest in TAIF, had disappeared from the list of its shareholders.

TAIF was established in 1995 by the Tatar State Property Committee, which owned 50 percent of the company, the American NKS Trading Inc., which owned 33 percent, and several private investors. TAIF owns 7 percent of Tatneft, 10 percent of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, 7.5 percent of the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery, and more than 50 percent of Kazanorgsintez. TAIF ties together over 30 companies in the construction, oil-processing, services, finance, and petrochemical sectors.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Officials Uncertain About Law On Peoples' Languages
Firdewes Khisementdinova, the deputy head of Ufa's History, Linguistics, and Literature Institute, said that the number of students learning the Bashkir language in urban schools in the republic is decreasing, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 February. Meanwhile, the head of the Ufa Education Department, Khentemir Bayazitov, is reported to have a different opinion and said that in the five years since the adoption of the law declaring Bashkir a state language along with Russia the number of Ufa students regularly taking courses in Bashkir increased by 20 percent. Official figures show that 30 percent of Bashkortostan's schoolchildren are taking most of their school subjects in Bashkir but that figure is expected to decline since the introduction of state Russian-language graduation exams in 2003. Previously, some of Bashkortostan's schools and universities were allowed to give graduation exams in Bashkir.

Special Commission To Inspect Buildings Constructed By Turks
Ural Uraksin of the Bashkortostan's State Construction Committee told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 17 February that following the tragic collapse of the roof at an indoor water park in southwestern Moscow his organization was instructed to inspect all buildings in the republic built by Turkish construction companies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 2004). In recent years, several Turkish companies have won bids to construct such important buildings as the Ural Sib Bank offices and the Qarawan-Saray shopping center in Ufa.

Rakhimov Sacks State Secretary And Does Away With The Post
President Murtaza Rakhimov has signed a decree dismissing State Secretary Fewket Kidrasov and appointing him as the president's chief adviser, Rosbalt reported on 17 February. According to the agency, Rakhimov decided to abolish the post of state secretary, a position that was officially in charge of state information policies and ideology.

Republic Continues Support For Russian Naval Boat
The Bashkir government will send more than 20 tons of foodstuffs to the crew of the "Bashkortostan" naval vessel docked in Baltiisk, Kaliningrad, as well as 625 tons of diesel fuel -- enough for 10 refuelings -- warm clothes, and a minibus before the Fatherland Day celebrations on 23 February, Bashinform reported yesterday. The republic has kept its patronage of the boat within the framework of an agreement with Russia's Baltic Sea fleet command signed in September 2001.

Bashkortostan's Residents Earning More
The real income of Bashkortostan's population grew by 16.3 percent in 2003 compared to the previous year, reaching a monthly per capita income of some $150, the republican Statistics Committee announced on 17 February. The growth figure represents the amount by which income has increased after deducting inflation and payments such as retail sale tax. In 2003, Bashkortostan's residents reportedly could purchase more consumer goods than in 2002 but less pay-based services, the cost of which have gone up in the last year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi