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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 9, 2003

9 January 2003
Election Commission Head Confirms Readiness For Early Elections
Tatar Central Election Committee Chairman Anatolii Fomin told reporters on 8 January that the recent statement of State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin about possible early elections for the republican parliament "fully complies" with federal legislation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Mukhametshin recently admitted that the State Council could be dissolved before the end of its term (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 January 2003). Fomin backed the idea of moving the date of elections to December 2003, together with the Russian State Duma elections, "for the voters' convenience." He explained that federal law permits moving the elections within a one-year margin from the original date and, therefore, it was possible to reschedule the State Council elections from late 2004 to late 2003. Fomin said his commission was ready for elections should the republican parliament adopt a special law on holding early elections.

Orthodox Leader Seeks Higher Status For Religious Education In Tatarstan
Archbishop Anastasii, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Tatarstan, filed an official request to the State Duma asking it to consider the issue of state accreditation for religious higher-education institutions in the republic, Intertat reported on 8 January. Anastasii reportedly seeks the right for the Kazan Orthodox theological seminary opened in 1997 to distribute official higher-education certificates. The Russian Islamic University in Kazan operates on a similar legal basis: allowed to teach students but unable to give out official certificates. Anastasii claims the official recognition of religious higher-education institutions would held satisfy the demand for professional staff for Tatarstan's religious communities. Only 11 out of 286 Orthodox priests currently working in Tatarstan have higher religious education, which they received outside the republic.

Qatar Eager To Support Russia's Islamic University
Tatar Mufti Gosman Iskhaqov, returning from a business trip to Qatar on 8 January, said that the country's Ministry of Religious Affairs agreed to assist in renovating the dormitory building of the Islamic University in Kazan, Tatarinform reported the same day. Under the new federal regulations on contacts with foreign Islamic organizations inspired by the November 2002 hostage taking in Moscow, the Islamic University and Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board will have to undergo a thorough legalization procedure at the Russian Foreign Ministry before receiving the aid.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ufa Trying To Put Brakes On Planned WWF Project
The consultative environmental council of the Main Bashkir Administration of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection has recommended that a planned World Wildlife Fund (WWF) project in Bashkortostan's mountainous territory not be implemented, Bashinform reported on 8 January. In accordance with the project, a number of protected nature reserves were to be established in the republic. The council, however, has appealed to the republic's official environmental-protection bodies, saying that the project had not been properly examined by the state. In addition, the council said that the WWF did not consult with the residents in the southeastern districts of the republic about the possible consequences of the project. Bashinform also cited the Bashkir Union of Environmentalists, which claimed that the WWF has refused to provide the Bashkir government or environmental groups in the republic with a report on the projects first stage, which was conducted over two years with a total cost of more than 1 million Swiss francs ($720,000).

Education Was Priority Sector In 2002
The Bashkir government spent 8.3 billion rubles ($261.2 million), or 22 percent of its total budget expenditures, on the education sector in 2002, Bashinform reported on 8 January. The republic allocated some 8,500 rubles ($267) a year for every school student and up to 60,000 rubles ($1,900) for every child living in an orphanage. In 2002, the government allocated an additional 222.6 million rubles for educational institutions to pay for municipal services, equipment, and preparations for a winter.

Tatar Groups To Join Common Opposition For Parliamentary Election Campaign
The leader of Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center, Airat Ginietullin, told on 8 January that Tatar civic groups will nominate candidates for parliamentary elections in the republic as part of a united opposition in tandem with Yabloko and the Communist Party, as well as with the Rus national movement. Ginietullin said that Tatar organizations plan to nominate about 20 candidates, including the chairman of the Council of Tatar Civic Organizations, Marat Ramazanov; the chairman of Bashkortostan's Tatar National Cultural Autonomy, Zahir Khekimov; the director of the Belebei Tatar school, Nurmokhemmet Khoseinov; and former Salavat Mayor Eskhet Galiev. Ginietullin said that even if Tatar activists do not succeed in being elected to the Bashkir parliament, they will at least have the opportunity to launch open discussions of the problems faced by the republic's Tatar population, which, Ginietullin said, they currently don't have the opportunity to do.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova