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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 24, 2002

24 May 2002
Tatarstan Parliament Speaker Critical Of Russia's Nationalities Policy
Speaking at an interregional seminar on the development of the legal basis of federative and interethnic relations in Kazan on 17 May, Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin criticized a number of developments in this sphere, including the abolishment of the Russian Nationalities Affairs Ministry and plans to abolish the State Duma Committee on Nationalities Affairs, as well as the removal of nationality information from Russian passports, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 23 May. Mukhametshin also pointed out that the State Duma has not passed a single law on nationalities policy in the past few years, and added that there is not a single official in the Russian presidential administration who deals with this issue.

Mukhametshin said that the absence from the seminar of the Russian minister in charge of nationalities questions, Vladimir Zorin, who was in Kazan at the time of the seminar, clearly showed his position.

Mezhregiongaz Head Meets With Top Republican Officials
Following a closed-door meeting with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov on 23 May, Nikolai Gornovskii, general director of the Mezhregiongaz gas-transportation company, said that his company will deliver 14.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Tatarstan this year, which is just enough to meet the republic's needs, reported the same day. Gornovskii said that another topic of conversation was possible joint projects with Tatarstan companies. He added that Tatarstan is one of best regions in Russia in terms of payments for gas.

Opposition Writer Publishes Anti-Shaimiev Book
"Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 23 May that Rinat Mukhammadiev, former chairman of the Tatarstan Writers Union and a former deputy in the Tatarstan State Council, who is now in opposition to republic's leadership, has published a book titled "Downfall," which has been called a lampoon aimed against President Shaimiev.

KamAZ Official Denies Reports About Strikes At Company
Deputy general director of the KamAZ automotive concern, Nail Galiullin, denied reports by Tatarstan media that the company's workers had gone on strike to protest delays in wage payments, reported on 23 May. reported earlier the same day, citing Efir television, that some 400 KamAZ employees held a strike on 16 and 17 May, which was halted on 17 May once they were paid wages for March. Galiullin said the Efir report was misunderstood and that a KamAZ worker who was interviewed by the television station actually said that there would be a work stoppage if workers were not paid wages for March within a few days.

Galiullin said the company, which employs 60,000 workers, has wage arrears totals 70 million rubles ($2.2 million) or 1,100 rubles ($35) per employee. The average salary at KamAZ is 4,000 rubles ($128) per month.

Siberian Tatar Groups Call For Integrity In Census
Tatarstan's Siberian Association, as well as a number of experts on the history and culture of Siberian Tatars, called on Siberian Tatars to register in the October national census as "Tatars," reported on 23 May. The authors stressed that the list of nationalities developed by the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which was commissioned by the Russian government, divided Tatars by territory, dialect, religion, and class into several "ethnic" groups. In addition, according to the list, Siberian Tatars are divided into even smaller groups, including Bukhara, Zabolotnyi, Tara, Tevriz, Tobol, Turalin, and other Tatars (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10, 13 May 2002).

The appeal claimed that the Tatar people have developed a rich literary language, a system of education, and masterpieces of art and literature, which are common national values for all Tatars, and that Tatars should maintain their unity.

Court Case Against Journalist Opens In Kazan
The Kazan Sovetskii Raion Court began hearing a case against journalist Talgat Bariev on 23 May, Bariev told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau the same day. The suit was filed by Lev Ovrutskii, a reporter with the "Moskovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane" daily, who claimed that his honor and dignity had been insulted by Bariev's satirical article "Polnyi klizmets" (though the title of the article does not translate well, the word "klizmets" is a derivative of the Russian word for enema, thus "A Complete Enema"), which was published in "Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly in December. The hearing is slated to resume on 3 June.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Paper Claims Moscow Pushing Rakhimov To Oppose Tatarstan
"Zvezda povolzhya" weekly wrote on 23 May that according to reports in Bashkortostan's mass media, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the World Bashkir Congress in Ufa on 14-15 June. The paper also said that such a move would show Putin's support for efforts toward the Bashkirization of Tatars in the republic.

According to the weekly, Ufa is trying to show its loyalty to Moscow and at the same time to distance itself from Kazan. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, who hopes to be re-elected next year, realizes that Putin will decide whether or not he is successful in the election, the weekly commented.

The paper said that there have been rumors that Rakhimov's upcoming meeting with Putin is the reason why the Russian Constitutional Court recently postponed its decision regarding the legality of regional heads serving more than two terms in office. The paper predicted that in order to stay in office, Rakhimov will have to oppose Tatarstan in its efforts to promote a treaty-based federation. Another condition, the weekly said, may be the requirement that Rakhimov suggest that national republics be eliminated.

Tatar Leader Expresses Fears About October Census
Indus Tagirov, chairman of the Tatar World Congress (VKT) executive committee, told "Zvezda povolzhya" on 23 May that suspicions that Moscow is inspiring a split between Bashkirs and Tatars are well-grounded. He said that attempts are being made to reduce the overall number of Tatars and to divide them into smaller groups during the October national census. Tagirov said some people in Bashkortostan want the republic's population to be made up of 40-50 percent Bashkirs, which could be done at the expense of Tatars. "I'm afraid the million Tatars [in Bashkortostan] may be registered as Bashkirs," Tagirov said. He added that: "A policy of forcible persuasion is being carried out in Bashkortostan to convince Tatars that they mistakenly consider themselves to be Tatars. Questionable documents are being used as proof. Mishers and Tipters are being called Bashkirs."

Tagirov added that republican authorities are going to use an "administrative factor" by ordering heads of raion administrations either to secure the "required percentage" of Bashkirs or to resign.

Tagirov noted that the Russian minister in charge of nationalities questions, Vladimir Zorin, has commented several times on the situation in Bashkortostan, saying, "Nobody will be forced [to make a certain choice during the census]" and "everyone will [be able] to answer census questions freely." Tagirov said he wasn't satisfied by this answer.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova