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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 26, 2004

26 February 2004
Shaimiev Says Members Of Former Russian Cabinet Had Opposing Views
Commenting on the recent shakeup of the Russian cabinet, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 25 February that "it is the right of the country's president to dismiss the government" adding, however, that "it is the first time the Russian government was sacked during the electoral campaign, three weeks before the presidential elections." Shaimiev said that "the fact that Viktor Khristenko and not [former Prime Minister] Mikhail Kasyanov became the acting prime minister raises a question of whether the dismissal of the cabinet was directly linked to Kasyanov's removal." As for the future government's agenda, Shaimiev said the new cabinet will have to concentrate on ensuring Russia's further development without relying on exports of raw materials. He said that his republic is also considering new technology-based projects for boosting the economy and fulfilling the Russian president's aim of doubling gross domestic product by 2010.

World Tatar Congress Concerned With Tatar Rights In Bashkortostan
A special meeting of World Tatar Congress executives in Ufa adopted a resolution on 25 February upholding the stance of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic organizations to push for the official status of Tatar in the republic. Earlier this week, the civic organizations appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, and the Bashkir State Assembly seeking an early resolution of the problem. Speaking to RFE/RL today, the chief executive of the congress, Rinat Zakirov, and the chairman of the federation-wide Tatar national-cultural autonomy, Rimzil Weliev, said that the adopted document expressed concerns with the current state of Tatar-language teaching, as well the amount of airtime given to Tatar programs on predominantly state-owned Bashkir television and radio. The resolution also declared that the December 2003 presidential elections demonstrated that 1 million Tatars, representing the second-largest ethnic group in the region, "protested against the current ethnic policies of the Bashkir government."

Upsurge In Street Crime In Tatarstan...
Deputy Interior Minister Rafil Nogumanov told a news conference on 25 February that the number of street crimes and robberies has grown in Tatarstan's cities by 65 percent in the first two months of 2004, as compared to the end of 2003, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Most of the assaults are reportedly made in the evening and women and pensioners constitute the majority of those attacked.

...As Chally Said To Still Have Problems With Organized Crime
Chally city prosecutor Ildus Nafikov told reporters that after the local police had detained members of the "Tagiryanovskie" and "29ii kompleks" gangs, two other criminal groups -- "Tridsatniki" and "Gesovskie" -- had begun struggling for control over Tatarstan's second city, Kama-press reported on 25 February. Nafikov also said that the underworlds of Moscow and Kazan were maintaining their influence on criminal groups in Chally. During the same conference, the head of the city police Faizolla Khosniev said that Chally's crime rate had dropped by 6 percent in 2003 compared to the previous year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Comments On Government Dismissal
Commenting on the dismissal of the Russian government on 25 February, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking for the next government to be more ambitious, RosBalt reported. Rakhimov said that although Putin denied he had any qualms with Mikhail Kasyanov's cabinet, "there were questions to ask it." Specifically, Rakhimov listed the unfounded growth of bread prices, which was supposed to be regulated by the government, and the growth of fuel prices. Despite the fact that the move was unexpected, it is "exceedingly correct and responsible," Rakhimov said.

Announcement Of Midair Collision Investigation Results Postponed
Yuliya Fedotova, who is representing the families of victims of the July 2002 air crash in south Germany (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002), told RosBalt on 25 February that publication of the official investigation report on the crash, scheduled for 31 March, has been postponed again until July. Fedotova said German lawyers representing the relatives of the crash victims informed them on 25 February that this decision of the local investigators. This is the third time the report's release has been delayed since summer 2003.

Commenting on the killing the previous day of the Swiss air-traffic controller who was on duty during the accident (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2004), Fedotova said reports by some media outlets about the possible involvement of victims' relatives are "unethical" and "unfounded."

World Tatar Congress Holds Meeting In Ufa
National and cultural problems of Bashkortostan's Tatars were on the agenda of the World Tatar Congress Executive Committee meeting in Ufa on 25 February, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. In his speech at the gathering, Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress Deputy Chairman Radik Sibegetov said Bashkir national leaders see two reasons behind the clash between Bashkir and Tatar intelligentsia and national movements. The first is the fact that Tatars do not recognize Bashkirs as a separate ethnicity. Tatar leaders such as Gayaz Iskhaqyi, Sadri Maqsudi, and Fatyikh Kerim have voiced this in the past, while Tatar presidential adviser Rafael Khekimov, ethnology professor Damir Iskhaqov, and writer Marsel Ekhmetjanov have expressed this idea recently.

The second controversial point, according to Bashkir leaders and scholars, is the expansionism of Tatars who seek to dominate the Volga-Ural region, Sibegetov said.

He also listed reasons cited by Tatar leaders and scholars as causing tensions between Bashkirs and Tatars. They include the fact that Tatar, spoken by a third of Bashkortostan's population, has not been given state-language status; violations of the constitutional right of Tatar children to study their native language and the teaching of Bashkir in Tatar schools; the restrictions Tatars face in meeting their national and cultural needs and unequal distribution of money for developing Tatar culture; the low representation of Tatars in Bashkortostan's authority bodies; and administrative pressure forcing Tatars to be registered as Bashkirs and falsification of census results. Speaking at the meeting, Bashkir presidential administration head Emir Yuldashbaev and Bashkortostan's Deputy Nationalities Policy and Culture Minister Tamara Pushkareva said there are no any violations of Tatars' rights and problems concerning Tatars in Bashkortostan.

Press Board Head Appointed
President Rakhimov on 25 February appointed Boris Melkoedov head of the Press and Printing Affairs Board in the Bashkir government, RosBalt reported, citing the presidential press service. The board was established in late January as a result of the abolishment of the Bashkir Media Ministry. Melkoedov, 33, has worked since 1997 in the Bashkir presidential administration.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova