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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 9, 2002

9 May 2002
Ethnicity Debate Continues To Swirl Around October Census
Valerii Tishkov, director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the opposition by Tatar social scientists to Moscow's plans to register Kreshens separately from Tatars in the October census was nationalism, "Vremya novostei" reported on 30 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 16, 19 April 2002). Tishkov said that experts from his institute insist on including Kreshens on the list of ethnicities to be used in the census, though this name is simply a Russian translation for "baptized Tatars." There is also not a Kreshen language. Nevertheless, Tishkov also spoke in his interview with "Vremya novostei" about violations of Kreshens' rights in Tatarstan by constructing mosques in their villages instead of Orthodox Christian churches.

Tatar historian and ethnologist Damir Iskhakov told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 8 May that "Previously, Tishkov's institute supported the idea of allowing the baptized Tatars to choose whether to register as Tatars or Kreshens, but the [Russian] Orthodox Church, in cooperation with the [federal] government, is unwilling to let the baptized Tatars slip out from under its control, and therefore, it is applying pressure on the baptized-Tatar community to register as a separate people. According to my own data, which have been confirmed by a number of sociologists, many of the baptized Tatars don't want to be registered this way."

Commenting on Tishkov's statements, Iskhakov said, "There is a mutual agreement for registering the Siberian and Astrakhan Tatars as ethnic subgroups so that their statistics would be used for calculating the total Tatar population in Russia."

Iskhakov added that mixed marriages created a situation: "where some people are uncertain how they should register. For example, it is known that one-third of Bashkirs in Bashkortostan are married to Tatars, so what nationality should the children of these families choose? Of course, anyone in such a situation can make his own decision, but it would be better to introduce composite names like a Tatar-Bashkir nationality [for such children]. However, this approach won't be used regarding our [Tatar] nationality during the census, but it will be used for Mordva people, who will be registered both as Mordva-Erzyas and Mordva-Mokshas."

Victory Day Celebrated In Kazan
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev delivered a message on 8 May to the World War II veterans of Tatarstan, congratulating them in advance of Victory Day ceremonies, which were held in the republic today. Shaimiev said that, along with being provided proper social security, veterans should also be "cared for and respected by their families, neighbors, and society in general."

Praising the heroism of the "defenders of the motherland," the Tatar president also noted the great importance of preventing the "horror of a new world war."

Also on 8 May, Shaimiev met with a group of veterans in his residence at the Kazan Kremlin, while Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov greeted veterans during an event at the Seideshev Great Concert Hall. Unlike in previous years, veterans were not given gift sets or foodstuffs from the state, which was explained by the increase that was made to their pensions.

Asiya Valiullina, deputy head of the Russian Pension Fund branch in Tatarstan, told reporters on 8 May that more than 2 million rubles ($64,500) was allocated to create a fund to support veterans. The money was taken from fines paid by Tatarstan enterprises for untimely contributions to the pension fund. The fund was reportedly set up to finance holiday events, to make one-time payments of 500 rubles to assist veterans in need, to improve the living conditions of veterans, and for subscriptions to "Trud" and "Moya gazeta" newspapers.

A Victory Day parade was held near Victory Park in Kazan today, while a variety of festivities were organized in different parts of the city to celebrate the allied victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

Dormitory Collapses In Center Of Tatarstan Capital
A five-story section of the Kazan Construction Academy dormitory collapsed in the center of Kazan on 8 May, destroying the rooms inhabited by 50 people, three of whom were buried in the debris, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. An 8-year-old boy was found alive by rescuers, while at least two females were reportedly still missing, Efir television reported on 8 May.

The collapse was reportedly the result of extremely wet conditions in the area housing the building's showers and toilets, which was caused by leaky pipes.

On 30 April, a state commission approved the building's technical condition and its further use.

The more than 350 people residing in the dormitory were evacuated following the incident.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

LUKoil Vice President Reportedly Interested In Running For Republican Presidency
"Zvezda povolzhya" daily reported on 8 May that Ralif Safin, senior vice president of Russia's largest oil company LUKoil, will likely run for president of Bashkortostan in 2003. Safin, 48, is reportedly being backed by Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, and Sergei Kirienko, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District. Meanwhile, banker Sergei Pugachev has lent his support to incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, who is now 68 years old.

Issues surrounding the upcoming Russian census in October have strained relations between Rakhimov and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, the paper said. Shaimiev is unhappy that hundreds of thousands of Tatars living in Bashkortostan may be registered as Bashkirs in the census. This possibility could explain why an amendment was made to the Tatarstan Constitution stipulating that Tatarstan's fundamental law reflects the will of the entire Tatar people, not just those living in Tatarstan. By using this article, Shaimiev can defend the interests of Bashkortostan's Tatars, the paper said.

The paper speculated that if Bashkortostan registers its half-million Tatars as Bashkirs, then Shaimiev will undoubtedly support the ethnic Tatar Safin in the next presidential elections.

Prosecutors Seek To Evict Former Supreme Court Chairman
The Bashkortostan State Revision Committee and the republican Prosecutor's Office have completed an audit of the Bashkortostan Supreme Court and its former chairman, Marat Vakilov, which revealed that Vakilov obtained one of his apartments illegally, Bashinform reported on 8 May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report, 22, 24, 25, 29 April and 6 May 2002).

The Prosecutor's Office appealed to the Ufa Leninskii Raion Court to acknowledge that the authorization granted to Vakilov and his family to obtain one of their three apartments was illegal and that they should therefore be evicted.

"Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 8 May that the audit of the court's activities revealed that, while Vakilov headed the court, the licenses of about 100 republican judges were not prolonged in the required time period. As a result, those judges were not legally qualified to hear cases, and thus, the judgments they made also had no legal basis. Tens of thousands of cases have also been held up as a result, the paper reported.

These judges continued to work and receive their salaries, however, resulting in some 7.3 million rubles ($234,000) in illegitimate wage payments.

Two-Thirds Of Republic's Residents Think Bashkortostan Should Be Sovereign
According to a poll conducted in April by the Sector for Studying Public Opinion of the Institute of Social and Economic Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Ufa Scientific Center, 72 percent of Bashkortostan residents questioned had a positive opinion of the political situation in the republic, while 15 percent had a negative opinion, Bashinform reported on 8 May. Some 68 percent of respondents backed the republic's constitutional provision stipulating that Bashkortostan is a sovereign state within the Russian Federation, while 14.7 percent disagreed with this. Fifty-eight percent believe that amendments to the Bashkortostan Constitution should be approved in a referendum, while 26 percent think it is a parliamentary prerogative.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova