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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 27, 2004

27 August 2004
Kazan Mayor Participates In Ceremony Marking Vatican's Return Of Icon To Russia
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov participated in the Vatican's 25 August ceremony marking its parting with an 18th-century copy of the Mother of God of Kazan icon, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. During the event, Iskhakov was accompanied by a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia's representative to Vatican Vitalii Litvin. Iskhakov was later was received by Pope John Paul II (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 August 2004).

The icon was placed on the alter of the St. Paul Cathedral on 26 August for public viewing. It was to be delivered to Moscow by air on 27 August, and will be handed over to Patriarch Aleksii II the next day, ITAR-TASS reported.

Pension Fund Chairman Satisfied With Tatarstan's Social-Security System
The head of Russia's Pension Fund, Gennadii Batanov, told reporters in Kazan on 26 August that the newly adopted pension law stipulates that the "federal fund and its regional offices are to deliver the monthly payments to each eligible person." He said that in order to create "an accurate database of pensioners, we need to closely cooperate with social security organs. We have inspected how the social security is organized in Tatarstan and obtained assurances in that the republic will solve this issue positively and none of those benefiting from social payments will be forgotten."

According to Batanov, 38.1 million people currently receive pensions in the Russian Federation, with an average monthly payment of 1,887 rubles ($65).

State Commission Discusses Tatarstan's Anticorruption Policies
The 26 August meeting of Tatarstan's State Commission on drafting the republic's anticorruption strategy acknowledged that corruption exists in the republic, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 27 August.

The commission's executive, public opinion researcher Aleksandr Salagaev, told the meeting that according to opinion polls conducted in Tatarstan, businesses are currently divided into two types -- those that enjoy support from individual state officials and those that do not. The low salaries of state officials were mentioned as the primary reason for corrupt practices, while imperfect legislation was named as the second.

Tatarstan's Teachers Likely To Abstain From Protests On 1 September
Tatarstan's Trade Unions Federation is unlikely to join a teachers protest on 1 September organized by SOTsPROF -- a Russia-wide association of trade unions that is an alternative to the more widely known Independent Trade Unions Federation of Russia (FNPR), "Vechernyaya Kazan" wrote on 27 August.

The daily quoted Yurii Prokhorov, the chairman of the republican education and science employees trade union committee, as saying that teachers in the republic have little reason to protest, because despite being far from prosperous, they work under better conditions than their counterparts in "neighboring Ulyanovsk Oblast, for example." At a recent annual meeting of employees in the education sector, President Mintimer Shaimiev pledged to give teachers a 20 percent pay hike as of 1 January 2005, to maintain the current compensations from the republican budget, and to find a way to retain bonus payments given teachers in rural areas that were earlier cancelled by the federal budget.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

UralSib Resumes Small-Business Project With EBRD
Bashkortostan's UralSib bank received a total of $8 million from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for implementing the joint programs of supporting small and mid-size private businesses, Bashinform reported on 26 August. A previous $5 million tranche was received by UralSib in January 2004, while the joint loan programs stipulate that a total of $25 million will be granted to private businesses via UralSib in the next several years.

Bashkir Communists Suffer Financial Difficulties
The membership payments of Bashkortostan's 6,500 Communist Party members, some $10,000, cover only 10 percent of the party's annual expenses in the republic, while the main source of income, donations from private companies, has disappeared, Vsya Ufa TV reported on 26 August. The staff of "Nash vybor" weekly, published by Bashkortostan's Communists, reportedly quit, while other party activist are working free of charge for several months now.

The party's financial difficulties reportedly emerged soon after the split in the party's leadership between Gennadii Zyuganov and Ivanovo Oblast Governor Vladimir Tikhonov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 July 2004).

Wages Arrears On The Rise
Some 87,000 people in Bashkortostan have not received their salaries on time, Deputy Prime Minister Fidus Yamaltdinov told a government meeting on 26 August. Total back wages owed to the workers of the republic's industries have increased by 6 percent in the first seven months of 2004, reaching a total of 365 million rubles ($12.5 million).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi