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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 17, 2003

17 September 2003
Tatar Politicians Comment On Christian Tatar Issue
The Interregional Union of National Cultural Associations of Kreshens (Christian Tatars) issued an appeal to the Russian president and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church claiming that Kreshens are not recognized as a separate people and are prevented from professing Orthodoxy in Tatarstan, "NG-Religii" reported on 17 September.

In an interview published in the same weekly, Rafail Khekimov, the director of the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences and an adviser to the Tatar president, said the appeal was inspired by forces outside Tatarstan. Khekimov said policy on Christian Tatars in the republic is based on the Russian Constitution, which enables people to consider themselves representatives of any nationality, but that Christian Tatars cannot be considered a separate nationality as there are no differences in language and culture between Christian and Muslim Tatars. He said some 10 to 15 Christian Tatars issued the appeal while the majority do not support the move. He also said there is no discrimination against Christian Tatars in Tatarstan and many of them are prominent persons in the republic. Citing the claim by the authors of the appeal to the patriarch that they are forced to adopt Islam, Khekimov said he is not aware of any such cases and the media never reported them.

The weekly also published comments on the issue by Damir Iskhaqov -- the deputy chairman of the World Tatar Congress's Executive Committee, history professor at the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, and head of the Center for Ethnological Monitoring -- who said the Russian Orthodox Church is trying to increase its influence on the Tatar nation, and that Christian Tatars are being used to split the Tatar community. Iskhaqov also said that during the 2002 census the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences pushed an artificial division between Christian Tatars, who consider themselves a part of the Tatar people, and Kreshens, who seek to be recognized as a separate people. The number of Kreshens turned out to be less than the Moscow scholars predicted, which is why the issue of violations of Kreshens' rights in the republic is being raised, he said. Iskhaqov also criticized the policy of Tatar authorities on Christian Tatars, saying more money should be spent on their cultural needs.

President Introduces Draft 2004 Budget
President Mintimer Shaimiev introduced on 15 September the draft 2004 budget to the republican parliament, republican media reported. According to the draft, budget spending of 42 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) will exceed by 5 percent its planned revenues of 39.8 billion rubles. The federal budget is to transfer 11.1 billion rubles to Tatarstan's budget.

Tatneft Sells Tatincom
Tatneft signed on 16 September an agreement with Svyazinvest branches Volga-Telecom and UralSvyazInform on selling a controlling stake in the Tatincom-T cellular-communications provider, the Tatneft press service reported the same day. The price of the stake was not revealed by the companies. Tatincom, which uses the DAMPS format, increased its subscribers from 19,000 in 1999 to 120,000 in 2003, installed new basic stations on highways and in the republic's cities, and modernized existing stations. Currently the company is also developing its GSM network. Tatneft's decision to sell its stake in Tatincom is part of its strategy to reinvest its nonprofile assets in projects connected to oil production. Nevertheless, Tatneft will remain Tatincom's largest corporate client.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Safin Says No Political Parties Behind His Bashkir Presidential Ambitions
Relif Safin, Altai's representative in Russia's Federation Council who is planning to run for the Bashkir president, told Ekho Moskvy radio on 16 September that his decision to run was due to "sufficient work experience in business, senatorial experience, and connections with the major economic, legal, and financial institutions of Europe."

In his opinion the current situation in Bashkortostan "represents complete antagonism between the people and the existing authorities." Safin said he is sure that his campaign will face administrative barriers imposed by President Murtaza Rakhimov's government.

He also said that "there are no financial structures or political parties behind" him and that new politics in Russia would be defined by the "rich people who honestly earned their money and are ready to deal with the problems of socially unprotected people" and small businesses.

Rakhimov Claims To Have Moscow's Blessing For Re-Election Bid
President Rakhimov told Bashkir Satellite Television on 16 September that in his meeting with Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin he received "confirmation" of Moscow's future support in the 2003 presidential elections in the republic. Rakhimov noted that despite "some destructive forces" that "spread speculation about worsening living conditions in Bashkortostan," Gryzlov assessed the policies of the current republican government positively.

Bashkir Government Reportedly Arranging Sell-Off Of Profitable Industries
Bashkortostan's government has begun selling off the state's shares in extremely profitable republican industries, the "Ekspert-Ural" weekly wrote on 15 September. Since the beginning of September, federal and republican authorities have reportedly organized auctions for selling a 47.7 percent stake in Ufamolagroprom dairy and 100 percent of Polief synthetic-materials factory, which is owned by the federal government. The dairy shares were bought by the Vimm-Bill-Dann foods company, which already owned 50.13 percent of the firm, while Polief failed to find a buyer. The weekly commented that the chemical plant is the only producer of terephthalic acid and one of the two producers of polyethylene terephthalate in Russia. Both materials are considered to be good sellers as products essential for the manufacturing of polymeric packaging in Russia.

In his interview with Bashkir Satellite Television on 16 September, President Rakhimov commented on the Polief affair by saying that Russia's Gazprom is interested in buying the plant. He added that Gazprom is the only company in Russia that could ensure the supply of the necessary raw materials for the plant in sufficient amounts.

Bashkortostan's Prosecutors Confirm Tax Ministry's Complaint Against Ministry Of Property Affairs
Bashkortostan's Prosecutors' Office issued an official protest against the ruling of the republican Ministry of Property Affairs ordering federal tax offices across Bashkortostan to pay rent on their premises, RosBalt reported on 16 September. In July, Bashkir authorities requested local offices of the federal Tax Ministry to sign rental contracts with the republican government at a total annual price of some 100 million rubles ($3.2 million). According to the press service of the federal Tax Ministry branch in Bashkortostan, the republican Property Ministry acted on the orders of the Bashkir State Assembly and Cabinet of Ministers, as it pushed for the quick inclusion of all premises used by the tax service into the register of republic-owned real estate.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi