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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 5, 2002

5 August 2002
Shaimiev Comments On Land Issue
In an interview with Interfax on 2 August, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said the issue of giving monasteries, churches, and mosques ownership rights to the land on which they are located was resolved in 1997 by Article 78 of the Russian Land Code, adding that the procedure for handing over ownership rights was determined by a resolution of the Russian government of 30 June 2001. In the interview, Shaimiev called for further liberalization of this legislation and also suggested that state-owned lands be distributed to religious institutions, which have increased in number over the past several years. At the same time, he said that proposals from some politicians that the state return to the Russian Orthodox Church all 3 million hectares of land that it owned before the 1917 Revolution are "unrealistic and practically unrealizable," adding that the majority of those lands are currently owned by other entities. Shaimiev then said that if religious believers want to obtain more agricultural lands, they can rent or purchase them in accordance with the law on the purchase and sale of agricultural lands.

Court: Muslim Women Must Show Faces In Passport Photographs...
The Kazan Vakhitov Raion Court refused on 2 August to grant the claim filed by a number of Muslim women who asked that they be permitted to wear traditional Muslim headdresses in their passport photographs, reported the same day. Three Tuben Kama residents -- Minnisa Muksinova, Gelfaniya Akhmetshina, and Gelnur Nureeva -- filed a suit against the passport-visa service of the Tatar Interior Ministry, which refused to accept photographs in which applicants' faces were covered, and thus, the women argued, their rights were restricted.

At the beginning of this year, however, the Russian Interior Ministry suggested in a recommendatory letter that people be allowed to cover their faces under exceptional circumstances, e.g., priests.

An official from the Interior Ministry, Ramil Shaidullin, said at the court hearing that in order to identify a person, the face, forehead, cheekbones, and lower part of the chin all had to be visible.

The plaintiffs said following the decision that they will appeal to the Tatar Supreme Court and then, if necessary, to international human-rights organizations. The chairwoman of the Muslim Women's Union, Almira Adiatullina, told the agency that at least 20 women had filed similar suits with the Kazan Vakhitov Raion Court, but except for the three above-mentioned women, the rest were refused.

Ten of those whose suits were refused appealed to the Tatar Supreme Court, but their claims were once again denied.

...As Parliamentary Speaker Backs Demand
The day after Muslim women had their demands refused in court, Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin backed their claim, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 3 August. He also called groundless the assertion that a person's face, forehead, cheekbones, and chin must be visible in order to identify that person, pointing out that until February, individuals whose religious beliefs require them to cover the their faces were allowed to so in their passport photographs.

Mukhametshin Meets With Unified Russia Leaders
State Council Chairman Mukhametshin met with visiting members of the Unified Russia General Council on 2 August, reported the same day. Mukhametshin said Unified Russia enjoys support in Tatarstan and that numerous followers of the Tatarstan-New Century (TNV) political movement, of which he is chairman, have joined the party because Unified Russia and TNV have many common objectives and policies.

Mukhametshin once again took the opportunity to criticize the current distribution of tax revenues between Moscow and the subjects of the Russian Federation, saying that under such conditions, the regions are not interested in developing their tax bases. As a result, Mukhametshin said, the number of donor regions in Russia has decreased from 16 to 12, some which have even faced problems with wage arrears.

Cooperation between Unified Russia and TNV will be legally registered, Unified Russia leaders told a meeting with local members of the party the same day. They also said that party documents will soon be translated into Tatar.

New Muslim Paper Issued In Kazan
The first issue of a new Russian-language Muslim newspaper "Ummah" was published in Kazan on 1 August, Tatar-inform reported the next day. The paper was initiated by the civic group Ikhlas (Candid), which was established in October 2001.

The man in charge of the project, Rishat Khamidullin, said the paper aims to disseminate objective information about Islam and is mainly addressed at youth.

Candid has also arranged a series of lectures and conferences about Islam, established an Muslim women's club, and prepared a daily radio program about Islam, among other things.

Moscow Lags Behind On Funds For Kazan Celebration...
The Russian federal government has fallen behind in its disbursement of funds for the preparations for Kazan's 1,000th anniversary on 30 August 2005, reported on 4 August. Boris Pavlov, chairman of the local Economy and Industry Committee, told reporters in Kazan on 4 August that the federal government has so far provided only 26 percent, rather than the 33 percent it pledged, of the total cost per year for jubilee preparations. According to Pavlov, the amount of work that remains to be done to prepare for the celebration is significant and includes such things as improving roads and hotels, opening new supermarkets, and renovating historical monuments.

...Although Kazan Doing Its Bit For Petersburg
In connection with the upcoming celebration of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary, Tatarstan has agreed to renovate St. Petersburg's Kazan Street and the surrounding neighborhood, reported on 5 August. According to the report, 112 workers have arrived from the republic and are working seven days a week on the project. The work will include the complete restoration of the facades of 34 buildings, and the work is being personally monitored by Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Delegates Elected To World Tatar Congress...
Nearly 500 delegates gathered in Ufa on 3 August for the latest congress of Bashkortostan's Tatars, Bashinform reported the same day. The congress adopted an appeal to the third World Tatar Congress to be held in Kazan on 28-29 August and also elected 80 delegates for that event. A delegation from Tatarstan attended the congress, including Tatar Deputy State Council Chairman Robert Minnullin, Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Galeeva, and Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Tatar Congress Rimzil Valeev.

A second session of the congress will be held in either September or October. It was decided not to hold the entire congress at one time because of the 1 July plane crash that claimed the lives of a large number of children from Bashkortostan.

...As Tatar Organizations Prepare Alternative Congress
Tatar civic groups in Bashkortostan are preparing to hold an alternative congress of the republic's Tatars on 10 August, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported, adding that the organizing committee of the alternative congress held a session on 1 August.

Airat Giniatullin, head of Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service following the session that the congress's agenda will deal with the current condition of Bashkortostan's Tatars , preparations for the October national census, and the election of delegates to the third World Tatar Congress. Giniatullin said the alternative congress will elect 40 delegates to the world congress. He added that a document will be drawn up about the status of Bashkortostan's Tatars and distributed among the delegates of the World Tatar Congress.

President Addresses Congress...
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov addressed delegates and guests the day before the congress of Bashkortostan's Tatars, Bashinform reported on 2 August. Rakhimov said the importance of the congress lies in the fact that Tatars and Bashkirs share a joint history, as well as a spiritual and cultural community. The president also noted that Tatars have made significant contributions to the development of Bashkortostan and to the republic's cooperation with Tatarstan and other Russian regions.

The next day, Rakhimov addressed the congress itself, saying that Bashkortostan is "an example of how to resolve language and cultural problems among peoples living in a republic.... At the same time, we hope that the problems Bashkirs face in [Russia's] other multinational regions will also be resolved. Unfortunately, however, what is being done in this direction is insufficient even in Tatarstan," Bashinform reported the same day.

Commenting on the policy of the Bashkir government with respect to the republic's Tatar population, Rakhimov said: "We will continue to take all possible measures to preserve the language and historical and cultural traditions of the Tatar population, to broaden and improve national education, and to develop amateur, folk, and professional arts. Measures will also be taken with respect to the Tatar-language mass media and publishing. We will also back the processes of national development of all Tatar people inside and outside Russia, and we will promote the development of cultural and spiritual ties between Bashkortostan's Tatars and those Tatars living in other regions, foremost, in Tatarstan."

...As Tatar Academician Tells Tatars Not To Stress Issue Of State-Language Status
The president of the Bashkir Academy of Sciences, Robert Nigmatullin, called on Tatars at the congress in Ufa not to put too much stress on the issue of the status of Tatar as a state language, adding that, "spoken Bashkir is in a particularly difficult position," Bashinform reported on 3 August. "In many places, the Bashkir language 'is afraid of' the Tatar [language]. Let's be kind to our brothers; after all, we are the same people," Nigmatullin said.

Bashkortostan's Tatar organizations have persistently demanded that Tatar be made a state language in the republic, since it is the language of Bashkortostan's second-largest ethnic group, Tatars, following Russians.

Unified Russia Leader Says Putin Will Join Party.
Unified Russia intends to seek an amendment to the law on political parties during the upcoming fall State Duma session to allow bureaucrats to become members of political parties, reported on 2 August, citing Unified Russia General Council Chairman Aleksandr Bespalov. Bespalov, who was visiting Ufa at the time, added that he is certain that Russian President Vladimir Putin will join Unified Russia in the near future. The previous day, speaking from Kazan, Bespalov announced that Unified Russia has completed the creation of its regional branches, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that 87 regional branches have been created, and around 100,000 people have become party members.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova