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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 13, 2004

13 July 2004
Kazan Not Necessarily To Obtain Kazan Mother Of God
Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Aleksii II has urged all sides to avoid creating an "unhealthy atmosphere" over the 18th-century copy of the Kazan Mother of God, which in the possession of the Vatican but slated to be handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church next month, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 13 July.

Archbishop Anastasii of Kazan and Tatarstan said on 12 July that the Holy Synod will rule on whether the icon should be returned to the Tatar capital.

Aleksii II noted that a joint commission with the Vatican concluded in May 2003 that the icon in the Vatican's possession is not the true icon discovered in Kazan in 1579 and stolen in 1904. Aleksii II stressed, however, that the icon is an "object of worship to which our ancestors have been praying since late 18th century." He added that it "will be returned to Russia without political conditions initially set by the Vatican."

The Vatican has announced that the icon will be handed over to Patriarch Aleksii II by a delegation of Roman Catholic cardinals in Moscow in August (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 July 2004), although Pope John Paul II had initially hoped the handover would afford him an official visit to Russia. "The pontiff hopes the Roman pilgrimage of the Kazan Mother of God promotes desired unity between the [Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox] churches," Vatican representative Joaquin Navarro-Valls said, according to "Kommersant-Povolzhe." Senior Tatar political leaders had expressed a desire to see the icon returned by 2005, when Kazan celebrates 1,000 years of existence.

Communist Leader In Tatarstan Accused Of 'Betraying' Zyuganov
At a meeting of the Tatarstan branch of the Communist Party of Russia (KPRF) on 11 July, some members accused branch head Aleksandr Salii of opposing KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov and unsuccessfully proposed his dismissal, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 13 July. The proposal was rejected. Meanwhile, Salii said he "will resign if Gennadii Zyuganov remains the KPRF leader." Zyuganov loyals in the Tatarstan branch of the KPRF sought to dismiss Salii and deprive him of a mandate as a delegate at the republican congress on 13 June; Salii reportedly pledged to back Zyuganov at the congress to ward off that threat.

But Salii reportedly participated in a meeting of Zyuganov opponents and a subsequent, alternative KPRF congress that elected Vladimir Tikhonov its leader. Salii said he took part in the Tikhonov congress because "the previous leader and his team have exhausted their capacity for work." Many of the 11 July meeting's participants backed Sallii, saying he is being "unfairly persecuted by 'Zyuganovites'" for his candor. Salii suggested that any decision be postponed until the Justice Ministry determines which of the congresses is legitimate; branch members backed that proposal. He also said that at least 20 first secretaries from KPRF regional branches have been targeted by Zyuganov supporters.

Tatenergo To Sell Energy On Russian Market
Tatenergo plans to sell 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of energy on the FOREM federal wholesale energy market in 2005, Prime-TASS reported on 12 July. That figure has reportedly been included in Unified Energy Systems' 2005 plans. Tatenergo transmits up to 7 billion kilowatt hours of energy produced by the Russia's electricity grid every year. Meanwhile, Tatarstan currently consumes just half of the energy produced by Tatenergo, leading the company to seek ways to increase deliveries via FOREM. Stakeholders in Tatenergo, with capital of 15 billion rubles ($514.5 million), include Svyazinvestneftekhim (51 percent) and the Tatar Land and Property Relations Ministry (49 percent).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Airlines Administration Sues Union Over Strike
Bashkir Airlines has appealed to the Bashkir Supreme Court to declare a strike by the company's pilots' trade union on 8 July illegal, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 13 July. Before the strike, the union refused to sign a collective labor agreement proposed by the airline and demanded that all normative documents issued by management be agreed with the union. As a result of the action, flights from Ufa to Istanbul and Rostov-na-Donu and from Moscow and Norilsk to Ufa were delayed. On the evening of 8 July, the sides agreed on a compromise and the strike was stopped. On 12 July, a harmonization commission began consultations to remove controversies.

Radik Gainullin, an assistant to the airlines' general director on legal issues, told the daily that if the court agrees with the appeal, the airline will sue the union to cover the company's losses, which have yet to be determined.

Bashkortostan To Celebrate 450th Anniversary Of Joining Russia
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov signed a decree on 12 July on preparations for celebrating the 450th anniversary of Bashkortostan's voluntary joining Russia in 2007, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The celebration's organizing committee is headed by Bashkir presidential-administration head Radii Khebirov. The decree noted that joining Russia played a fateful role for Bashkortostan's multiethnic people and is of great historical importance. During Rakhimov's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in May, they agreed that the jubilee will be celebrated on a federal scale.

Bashkir National Leader Believes Ufa At Least 1,500 Year Old
A group of archeologists headed by Niyaz Mejitov, a historian, the chairman of Bashkortostan's Peoples Assembly, and former Bashkir World Congress leader, found remains of an ancient city in the center of Ufa that, according to Mejitov, could date to the 5th-6th century, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 9 July. Mejitov said remains found at a depth of 3 meters prove that Ufa, which celebrated its 430th anniversary in June, must be much older.

Beloretsk Resident Brings Cholera From India
A 53-year-old Beloretsk resident who was hospitalized for a week on suspicion of cholera infection has been diagnosed with the disease, Russian and Bashkir news agencies reported on 12 July. The man fell ill on 2 July in Delhi, where he had been since 9 June. On 5 July, he returned to Ufa and the next day he was hospitalized in Beloretsk. Currently, 41 people who came in contact with the man in Bashkortostan have been hospitalized for medical supervision but no symptoms of cholera have been detected. "Kommersant-Povolzhe" on 13 July cited an unspecified source in the Bashkir State Sanitary and Epidemiological Committee as saying there is no threat of a cholera epidemic.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova