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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 15, 2002

15 May 2002
Parliament Concerned About Tatarstan's Demographic Situation
The Tatarstan State Council discussed the demographic situation in the republic on 14 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Roza Tufitullova, chairwoman of the Parliamentary Commission on Social Issues, Children, and Youth Affairs, said the republic had only 9.5 births per 1,000 people in 2001, while there were 13.3 deaths per 1,000 people last year.

As a result, Tatarstan's population has decreased by more than 84,000 people since 1991. The average life span has also fallen from 64.8 years to 61 years among males and from 76 years to 74.5 years among females over that same period.

Tufitullova said that if the current trend continues, people over 65 years of age will represent more than 20 percent of the republic's population by 2015.

Meanwhile, only 7 percent of newborns in Tatarstan in 2001 were considered to be in good health and one in five pregnancies was terminated by abortion.

Two hundred forty mothers refused their parental rights after giving birth last year, while the state deprived another 800 parents of such rights for abusing their children's rights.

In an emotional speech during the session, State Council deputy Tufan Minnulin asked rhetorically, "Why does a country that specializes in the production of vodka and weapons need people at all?... After World War II, people lived under worse conditions, but for some reason, the birthrate was higher. Why? It's because, unlike now, in those times, people had hope that things would improve in their country."

The State Council adopted a list of recommendations to the republican government in order to increase the population, including promoting family values among youth and providing subsidies to families with children.

President Meets With Iranian Ambassador
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev met with Iranian Ambassador to the Russian Federation Golamreza Shaphei in Kazan on 14 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today (See "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14 May 2002). During their meeting, Shaimiev expressed his republic's interest in cooperation with Iran on prospecting and oil-extraction projects.

For his part, Shaphei confirmed that Iran was considering the possibility of purchasing Tatarstan-produced border-patrol boats, cargo vessels, and helicopters.

Security Council Head To Visit Kazan
Following a visit to Nizhnii Novgorod today, Russian Security Council chief and former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo will head to Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 May. Rushailo is expected to hold a number of meetings with heads of defense-industry plants in Tatarstan and with high-ranking republican officials.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan Constitutional Court Confirms President's Right To Dissolve Parliament
The Constitutional Court of Bashkortostan issued a ruling regarding President Murtaza Rakhimov's claim against articles 86 and 87 of the Bashkortostan Constitution on 14 May, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In his suit, Rakhimov claimed the constitutional provisions concerning presidential powers stated that he cannot stop the operation of, or dissolve, any of the republic's legally elected bodies. The court ruled that, according to Russian and Bashkortostan legislation, the president can demand that the republic's parliament stop working, or even dissolve it, if necessary.

Congress Postponed In Light Of Russian President's Visit
Organizers of the World Bashkir Congress decided to change the date of the congress's planned second session from 12 June to 14 June because of a possible visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Ufa on 12 June, the date of annual City Day celebrations in the republic's capital, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 14 May.

Bashkir Congress Member Critical Of Leadership's Activities
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent quoted Damir Valiev, a member of the World Bashkir Congress, as criticizing the organization's chief executive Niyaz Majitov for not establishing a staff policy for congress officials and for ignoring issues of importance to the Bashkir people throughout Russia, such as the absence of native-language teaching and Bashkir-language media outside the republic. VAliyev urged the congress "to put an end to its formalist approach and to avoid turning the upcoming congress session into a festive event."

Historian Comments On Census, Bashkir Population Figures
Bashkir historian Nezir Kulbahtin told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 14 May that the October national census "is more important than the [World] Bashkir Congress because, if the census indicates a small Bashkir population, then this will endanger the sovereignty of Bashkortostan."

Kulbahtin added that, "Non-Russian ethnic groups from the central Volga region, such as the Mordva, Mari, and Chuvash peoples, move to Bashkortostan, taking advantage of the Bashkir people's hospitality, and they outnumber the Bashkir communities."

Kulbahtin also noted that Bashkortostan's industrial centers, which occupy 13 percent of the republic's territory, "have altered the traditional lifestyle of the Bashkir population -- their occupations -- and is the main reason for falling population figures."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi