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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 20, 2002


20 November 2002
DAILY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
Pro-Orthodox Initiative Draws Mixed Reviews�
State Duma Deputy from Tatarstan Fendes Safiullin told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 20 November that a resolution by the Russian Education Ministry on teaching "Orthodox culture" in all schools in Russia is "absurd" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 November 2002). Safiullin said that religion should be taught in theological institutions and that forcing the teaching of religion in secular schools violates three articles of the Russian Constitution.

The leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gennadii Zyuganov, however, said: "The proposal by the Russian Orthodox Church and numerous creative organizations is quite justified. Orthodox culture provides the foundations for the development of our country. And this poses no danger to other faiths."

As Tatar Education Ministry Says Subject To Be Taught On Selective Basis...
"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 19 November cited the Tatar Education Ministry as saying that if the federal initiative introducing the teaching of Orthodox culture in all grades of secondary school is passed, then the subject will not be obligatory but will be offered on a selective basis.

...As Mufti Estimates Up To One-Third Of Russians Are Muslim
"Komsomolskaya pravda" on 19 November cited Russian Supreme Mufti Telget Tajetdin as estimating that there are 13 million to 49 million Muslims in Russia, or 10-35 percent of the country's population. The Russian Orthodox Church, on the other hand, claims that 80 percent of the Russian population, or about 120 million people, are Orthodox believers. The paper also said that Tatars, Russia's second-largest ethnic group, account for 6 million -- 2 million in Tatarstan and 4 million outside the republic -- of Russia's population, according to the preliminary results of the national census conducted in October.

Federal Officials Think Tatarstan Will Accept Cyrillic-Only Bill...
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" cited on 20 November unidentified officials in the Volga Federal District administration as predicting that Tatarstan will in the end submit to the law on the Cyrillic alphabet recently passed in the Russian State Duma (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 November 2002). Officials said that Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev would accept the Cyrillic-only law rather than spoil the good relations that currently exist between Kazan and Nizhnii Novgorod.

...As Tatar Scholar Says Transition To Latin Alphabet To Proceed
The same day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted the director of the Institute of Language, Literature, and Art of the Tatar Academy of Sciences, Nurmokhemmet Khisamov, as saying, "[Tatars] will continue the transition to the Tatar Latin script. Under the [Tatar] law [on restoration of the Latin-based alphabet], the transition is to be completed in 2010. We have eight more years."

Tatarstan Sells Grain Inside And Outside Country
Farmers from Tatarstan have sold at auction in Nizhnii Novgorod 70,000 tons of grain at a cost of 133.5 million rubles ($4.2 million), though they plan to sell a total of 199,000 tons of wheat and 417,000 tons of rye at the auction, Tatar-inform reported on 19 November, citing a briefing of the Tatar Cabinet of Ministers. The Russian federal government has allocated 6 billion rubles to purchase grain from Russian farmers.

The republic also exported for the first time 23,000 tons of grain, to Greece, Israel, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, and Morocco, and plans to export 50,000 tons by the end of the year and another 5,000 tons in January. Export grain prices are reportedly 40 percent higher than domestic prices.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

DAILY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
Republic's Upper Chamber Delays Discussion Of Draft Constitution...
Bashkortostan's Chamber of Representatives voted unanimously on 19 November to postpone hearings on the republic's draft constitution indefinitely, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Discussion of the draft had already been postponed by the State Assembly's Legislative Chamber on 13 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 November 2002).

...And Introduces New Taxes
During the same session, the Chamber of Representatives approved a law introducing a new unified tax on private businesses that will replace a number of different taxes currently in use, thereby easing payment procedures, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 19 November. The bill, which was approved by the republic's lower house on 13 November, is expected to net the republic an extra 317 million rubles ($9.1 million) in budgetary revenues in comparison with revenues from former taxes, according to Valerii Lesunov, chairman of the upper house's Committee on the Budget, Taxes, Banking, Finance, and Property.

Ministry: More Funds Needed For Road Repairs
The Bashkir Construction Ministry has said that only 38 percent of the funds needed to maintain the republic's roads have been transferred to road-maintenance services, while adding that 4,000 kilometers of roads in the republic go unrepaired annually, RosBalt reported on 16 November. There are 24,500 kilometers of roads in the republic, while only 40 percent of them are paved, compared to an average of 60 percent throughout Russia and 80 percent in half the regions of the Volga Federal District.

On 19 November, however, the upper house of the Bashkir parliament passed a bill on a new transport tax, which is expected to bring in an additional 1.175 billion rubles in revenues for maintenance of the republic's roads.

Official Confirms Legality Of Passport Pages
Ferit Adrakhmanov, head of the Bashkir Interior Ministry's passport-visa service, issued a public statement on 19 November, saying that insert pages for new Russian passports distributed in Bashkortostan are valid throughout the Russian Federation. He also denied speculation that, beginning in 2003, the new passports will not include insert pages with Bashkortostan's state symbols and the bearer's personal information written in Bashkir. Passports containing the insert pages have already been distributed to more than 1.8 million residents of the republic since January 2001.

Leaders Of Ethnic Communities Speak Out Against Changes To State System
The board of the Assembly of Bashkortostan's Peoples on 19 November declared its disapproval of possible changes to the state system in the republic that would see the abolishment of the presidency and the introduction of a parliamentary republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 November 2002). The organization called plans for government reform "premature" and "dangerous to the republic's constitutional rights and freedoms." The group also praised President Murtaza Rakhimov as the guarantor of stability in the republic and expressed concern about possible limitations to the republic's rights to control its economy and natural resources in the new draft constitution.

The statement was signed by Niyaz Mejitov, chairman of the assembly's board, as well as by his deputies, World Bashkir Congress leader Ekhmet Soleimanov; the head of the local Russian Community, Vladimir Samorodov; the leader of the Tatar Congress in Bashkortostan, Eduard Khemitov; the leader of the Chavash Congress in Bashkortostan, Georgii Shushpanov; the leader of the republic's Mari community, Pavel Bikmurzin; and the heads of the Georgian, Udmurt, Mordovian, Ukrainian, German, Armenian, and Jewish communities in Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi
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