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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 22, 2004

22 October 2004
Shaimiev Adviser Believes Tatarstan Will Remain National Republic
Tatar presidential political adviser Rafael Khekimov told "Zvezda povolzhya" on 21 October that he is sure Tatarstan will not be abolished as a national republic in the near future. "There are, of course, forces that would like to put an end to democracy and federalism. But they do not have enough resources after all. The negative consequences of liquidating federalism are too great," Khekimov said. Commenting on President Vladimir Putin's proposal on appointing governors, he said it has "rational reasons" as well as "emotional" ones. The move of criminal forces into government is one of the rational reasons, Khekimov said. Khekimov also said he is sure that Putin will appoint Mintimer Shaimiev as Tatarstan's president. Khekimov added that negotiations are being held on extending the power-sharing treaty between Kazan and Moscow so "a procedure of appointment in Tatarstan is a special issue."

Editor Calls For Referendum On Abolishing Direct Election Of Governors...
"Zvezda povolzhya" Editor In Chief Reshit Ekhmetov called in an editorial on 21 October for holding a referendum in Tatarstan on the issue of whether regional leaders should be elected by a direct public vote or appointed by the Russian president. Ekhmetov predicted that local communists, nationalists, democrats, and representatives of managing bodies would unite to defend the right to elect the republic's president. If he insisted on such a referendum, President Shaimiev would turn into a figure similar to 1968 Prague Spring leader Alexander Dubcek. Ekhmetov also suggested that the Tatarstan New Century movement could initiate the referendum.

...As Liberal Leader Appeals To Public To Defend Right To Elect President
The weekly also published a call by Creation association leader Airat Sheripov on Kazan residents to join a 23 October demonstration near the Geliesker Kamal Theater to defend the people's right to elect regional leaders. In the protest's draft resolution, it is stated that "refusal to elect regional leaders by the public contradicts the principles of federalism and democracy and means that Russia is turning into a unitary state." Sheripov also initiated the establishment of a Committee for Defense of Democracy, which publicist Lev Ovrutskii, political science professor Midkhet Faruqshin, journalist Rimzil Weliev, and political science researcher Vladimir Belyaev have agreed to join.

Tatar Unions Refuse To Participate In National Protest
Tatar Trade Union Federation Chairwoman Tatyana Vodopyanova told a State Council Presidium session on 21 October that Tatarstan's government has agreed to allocate 30 million rubles from the republic's budget to pay compensation to state-sector employees this year and 35 million rubles next year, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 22 October. The decision was approved at a joint meeting of the government and the republic's trade unions held on 20 October as an alternative to the nationwide protest by state-sector employees the same day. Vodopyanova commented that the Tatar union did not join the protest as it "preferred a constructive dialogue rather than demonstrating active opposition." She said meetings of state-sector employees were held across the republic on the eve of the action during which it was decided not to go on strike.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Ethnologist Accuses Bashkortostan Of Distorting Census Figures
In an article published in "Zvezda povolzhya" on 21 October, ethnology professor Damir Iskhaqov commented on the recently reported results of neighboring Bashkortostan's 2002 census (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 October 2004). The data put the number of ethnic Bashkirs in that republic at 1.2 million, or 29.8 percent of the population, and the number of Tatars at 990,702, or 24.1 percent. Iskhaqov said that between the censuses of 1989 and 2002, the number of Bashkirs in that republic increased by 357,500, while the numbers of Tatars and of Russians fell by 130,000 and 57,600, respectively. As a result, the share of Bashkirs in the republic's population grew by 7.9 percentage points, while those of Tatars and Russians fell by 4.3 and 3 percentage points. In the meantime, the number of Bashkirs outside Bashkortostan between the censuses of 1989 and 2002 declined from 481,500 to 452,700. Demographic forecasts suggested that the number of ethnic Bashkirs in Bashkortostan could increase naturally and through migration by no more than 85,700, Iskhaqov said. He claimed that the Bashkir "splash" was the only such increase among people in the Volga-Ural region according to the 2002 census. Iskhaqov argued that the number of ethnic Tatars was reduced by roughly 270,000, with that figure transferred to the ethnic Bashkir group. Iskhaqov questioned why federal President Vladimir Putin has shown no interest in the fact that some 300,000 ethnic Tatars have disappeared from Bashkortostan in recent years. He also suggested that Bashkortostan's ethnic Tatar groups should challenge the census figures in court.

Thousands Of Educators Protest In Ufa
Some 13,000 teachers from Bashkortostan's 491 secondary and basic schools joined the Russia-wide strike on 20 October, Bashinform reported the next day. In Beloretsk, Sterletamaq, Salawat, and Ishimbai, trade union leaders held meetings with members of those cities' administrations. An estimated 15,000 employees of the education, health-care, and cultural sectors who took part in a protest in Ufa on 20 October, according to the Bashkir Federation of Trade Unions press center. Demands include a 50 percent average salary hike in 2004 and a doubling of salaries in 2005.

Scholars Call For Federal Ministry Dismissal
Scholars from the Ufa Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences staged a protest on 20 October to support the Russia-wide protest by education, health-care, and cultural workers, Bashinform reported on 21 October. Participants backed a resolution demanding that science workers' salaries be raised to match the average salary in the industrial sector, social guarantees be extended to scholars, a moratorium be announced on reforms in the science sector, and staff cuts at scientific institutions be prevented. The protesters also demanded that the Russian education and science minister be dismissed.

Four Accused In Case Of Slain Prosecutor
Bashkortostan's highest court has begun hearing testimony in the case of the slaying of Sibai Prosecutor-General Khenif Qarachurin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 December 2003, and 5 April, 30 June, and 6 October 2004), RosBalt reported on 21 October, citing the court press service. Thirty-five witnesses are expected to testify before the end of the process. Investigators allege that former Sibai traffic-security head Nuriekhmet Shagiev contracted the murder. Yevgenii Levchenko is accused of having carried out the killing, while two other suspects are accused of having abetted the crime. Shagiev maintains his innocence. Shaigiev was sentenced earlier this year to three years probation for exceeding his authority and illegal weapons possession. Qarachurin was killed in December.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova