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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 7, 2005

7 June 2005
Human Rights Commissioner Plans Interfaith Conference In Kazan
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles proposed on 26 May that an international interfaith conference on tolerance and religious dialogue in Russia be organized in the Tatar capital Kazan this fall, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. Gil-Robles made the suggestion in a meeting with the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rawil Gainetdin. The forum would reportedly involve representatives of five monotheistic faiths, including Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Gil-Robles said he chose Kazan to host of the event after his recent visit to Tatarstan's capital, where he said there is a concord among followers of different religious traditions. Gainetdin backed the proposal and emphasized the importance of such a forum.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service following the meeting, Gil-Robles said he considers illegal the persecution of people over their membership of any religious organization -- specifically, the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir -- membership of which has served as grounds for the arrest of Muslims in many regions of Russia. Gil-Robles said he is against labeling any religion extremist, adding that countries protecting human rights should reject such a thing.

Kazan Hosts TYURKSOI Meeting...
The 22nd meeting of the Permanent Council of the International Organization for Common Development of Turkic Culture and Arts (TYURKSOI) opened in Kazan on 30 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Ministers of culture from Azerbaijan, the Altai Republic, Bashkortostan, Gagauzia (Moldova), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Sakha (Yakutia), Turkmenistan, Turkey, Tyva, and Khakasia, gathered in Kazan for the forum. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told the council members that 12 million representatives of Turkic peoples live in Russia and the close cooperation of those republics with TYURKSOI has allowed for joint projects on preservation, studying, and developing cultural and national values. Shaimiev emphasized the role of the Turkic world in the history of human civilization and called for "preserving the memory of the past and informing new generations about that wealth through its spiritual revival and flourishing." In his greeting sent to the council participants, Russian Culture Minister Aleksandr Sokolov said TYURKSOI's activities promote a stable peace and the preservation of peoples' cultural heritage in the face of globalization. All 11 visiting ministers praised the role of Kazan in developing Turkic peoples' cultures.

TYURKSOI was established in July 1992 in Almaty. The same year, Tatarstan joined the organization as an observer. TYURKSOI is headquartered in Ankara. The organization's supreme body, the Permanent Council of Culture Ministers, convenes twice a year.

...And Turkic-Language Theater Festival
A colorful performance was held in front of the Tatar State Galiesker Kamal Theater on 30 May to open the eighth International Theater Festival of Turkic Peoples, called Neuruz, devoted to the Kazan millennium, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Ministers from TYURKSOI member countries headed by TYURKSOI General Director and Azerbaijani Culture Minister Polad Byul-Byuloglu attended the ceremony. Fourteen theaters from Russia, CIS countries, and abroad will perform on 30 May-5 June. Neuruz, set up in 1989 is held by the Tatar Culture Ministry with the assistance of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, Russian and Tatarstan's theater figures unions, and TYURKSOI.

Tatar Organizations Protest Moscow's Interference With Tatar Language
A group of some 20 leaders of Tatar civic groups and scientific institutions -- including the Tatar World Congress, the Latin Front, the Tatarstan's Writers Union, the Tatar Public Center, the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Language, Literature, and Arts of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences -- appealed on 31 May to the Tatar people to oppose Moscow's attempts to deprive them of the right to decide issues related to the Tatar language on their own, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The appeal was initiated after talks between Moscow and Kazan on the new bilateral power-sharing treaty were halted. The two sides reportedly could not compromise on the Tatar-language issue. Chairman of the Tatar State Council Committee on Science, Education, Culture, and Nationalities Issues Razil Weliev, who took part in the talks, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service that the harmonization commission has failed to find a common decision on three articles of the treaty, two of which are linked to the Tatar-language issue. "Tatarstan demands that the Tatar-language status be determined only on the basis of Tatarstan's legislation, while Russia disagrees. If consensus isn't found on the issue, the presidents of Russia and Tatarstan should resolve it," Weliev said. In an interview with RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, Language, Literature, and Arts Institute Director Nurmokhemmet Khisamov expressed his concern about Moscow's efforts to decide the fate of the Tatar language, adding that, "Russia won't help develop the Tatar language."

Shaimiev Proposes Inclusion Of Chavashia In TURKSOY
Meeting on 1 June with International Organization for Common Development of Turkic Culture and Arts (TYURKSOI) General Director Polad Byul-Byuloglu and organization members, President Mintimer Shaimiev suggested that Chavashia be accepted as a member, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. "Chavashs are a Turkic-speaking people who have an ancient language and rich culture," Shaimiev said, adding that he discussed the issue with Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov. Shaimiev also listed the Caucasus republics Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachai-Cherkessia, and Crimean Tatars as possible candidates for membership of TYURKSOI.

Tatar Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Zile Welieva told reporters on 1 June that a meeting of TYURKSOI's permanent council agreed to hold a Turkic opera festival and a shaman festival in 2006. Welieva said TYURKSOI members also decided to establish an international center for the preservation of the so-called tangible and intangible heritage of Turkic peoples. The center will unite outstanding Turkic cultural figures to choose nominees for inclusion on UNESCO's list of tangible and intangible heritage. TYURKSOI members have agreed to include the Tatar national holiday Saban Tuye on the list, Welieva said.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Congress Leader Calls For Bashkir Cossack Revival
The chairman of the World Bashkir Congress' executive committee, Ekhmet Soleimanov, told a news conference on 27 May that the concepts of "national republics" and "separatism" should in no way be linked in the way that some politicians insist, Bashinform reported the same day. Soleimanov said Bashkirs voluntarily joined the Russian state and always enjoyed certain privileges -- the most important of which was the right of ownership of ancestral lands, which was annulled after the 1917 October revolution. The Bashkir Cossacks suffered the same fate, he said, adding, "We consider ourselves Cossacks in our souls and are proud of this." Citing a draft federal law on state service of the Russian Cossacks passed in its first reading recently by the State Duma, Soleimanov called for a revival of Bashkir Cossacks as well. "We always lived in peace on this land and protected this peace," he said.

Bashkir Deputy Criticizes Rossel Proposal To Abolish 'National' Republics
Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Fenil Tayipov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 May that a proposal by Sverldlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel to eliminate national republics in Russia should in no way be applied to Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Speaking at a conference on state nationalities policy in Yekaterinburg on 25 May, Rossel suggested that federation entities should be formed in Russia only on the basis of territorial principles, and not ethnic ones. Rossel also called for fixing a common "Rossiyanin" nationality in the passports of all Russian citizens. Tayipov suggested that Rossel was trying to please the Kremlin with this suggestion, as he seeks reappointment as governor.

17 Candidates Compete For Four State Assembly Seats...
By-elections to Bashkortostan's legislative assembly will be held in four electoral districts on 26 June, "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" reported on 30 May, citing the republican election commission. The seats were vacated when Nikolai Protasov was appointed to executive bodies and three other lawmakers -- Reshit Mokhetdinov, Leonard Sadyiqov, and Rinat Tukhteev -- left the assembly in the wake of a scheme aimed at nominating the son of republican President Murtaza Rakhimov, Ural, to be parliamentary speaker (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2005). Between three and six candidates will compete in each of the four districts.

...As 200 Run For 35 Ufa Municipal Seats
Two hundred candidates have been registered for the Ufa municipal elections scheduled for 26 June, "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" reported on 30 May. Under the planned local self-government reforms, the number of elected representatives for Ufa was reduced from 60 to 35. Thirty-six members of the acting Ufa council are seeking reelection. Twenty-three women are in the race, and a vast majority of the hopefuls are senior executives.

Number Of Legal Millionaires Grows Tenfold
The number of legal millionaires in Bashkortostan has increased tenfold in Bashkortostan over the past year, RosBalt reported on 31 May, citing the republic's board of the Federal Tax Service. According to tax declarations, 1,125 Bashkir residents earned in 2004 between 1 million rubles ($35,241) and 10 million rubles, while in 2003, that figure was 117. The number of people with the income between 10 million rubles and 100 million rubles also grew more than tenfold from 8 to 109. There are 11 people with an income of over 100 million rubles.

Court Prohibits Bashneft Reorganization
The Bashkir Arbitration Court on 1 June rejected an appeal by Bashneft to annul the court's ban on starting the oil company's reorganization, RosBalt reported the same day. Deputy Chairman of the Oil and Gas Industry Trade Union Aleksandr Grishin told the news agency that this is the second decision of the republic's Arbitration Court, after Bashneft appeals, since the beginning of May. Grishin said he believes the court "has taken a position of principle to annul the illegal decision by the Bashneft management to abolish nine oil and gas producing boards (NGDU) that will result in the lay-offs of 18 percent of the workforce or some 700 people."

Bashneft's February decision to close nine NGDUs was reportedly not agreed with the trade unions. The unions have now contested this decision in court. On 8 April, some 10,000 oil industry workers staged a meeting to demand an annulment of the order concerning Bashneft's reorganization. A court hearing on the trade union's lawsuit to annul the order is slated for 14 June. Grishin said "the Bashneft management has no chance of defending the reorganization as the Arbitration Court...has issued a decision to return the company's controlling interest to the state." He recognized, however, that lay-offs are possible if "they are economically reasonable."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Marii El's Political, Civic Leaders Unhappy With European Parliament Resolution
Leaders of Marii El State Assembly made a statement in opposition to a European Parliament (EP) resolution (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Report," 17 May 2005) on 30 May, Interfax-Povolzhe reported.

The statement by the assembly factions from Unified Russia, the Agrarian Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and the Russian Party of Pensioners, said the EP resolution on violations of human rights and democracy in Marii El is "based on rumors," not fact.

"All necessary conditions have been provided in the republic for the free development of national traditions, culture, and the language of the Marii people and all peoples residing in the republic, as well as freedoms of speech and worship," the statement said.

Forty Marii El scientific, cultural, civic, media, and educational leaders issued a similar statement on 1 June, criticizing the same EP resolution for interfering with Russian and Marii El internal affairs, Interfax reported.

"Parliament's conclusions don't reflect the true situation and cannot promote the resolving of difficulties which exist in interethnic relations," the authors of the appeal said. "Uninvited advisers who don't have information about the true situation in the republic and who pursue aims contradicting the interests of the Mari people will bring nothing but harm and discredit the idea of European cooperation."

The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry's Information Department said that the Mari and Russian languages are equal, something guaranteed by Marii El's Constitution. The Ministry Department said the EP should instead address the status of Russian in the Baltic countries, where Russian is not an official language despite the minority population there.

Teachers, Students Appeal To Putin To Increase Salary
Over 60,000 teachers and students in Sverdlovsk Oblast have signed an appeal to President Vladimir Putin demanding teacher salaries be raised by 50 percent in 2005 and 2006, Regnum reported on 1 June.

Similar appeals were sent from regions across Russia. More than 21,000 teachers signed an appeal in the Chavash Republic.

Education Workers Trade Union Deputy Chairwoman Lyudmila Katerinich told the news agency that if the demands were not met, a strike or other protest action would be announced on 12 October. Katerinich said students would join teachers if a decision were made to protest. She also said negotiations with authority bodies to reduce the cost of monthly public transport passes for students is ongoing.

Kidnapped Son Of AvtoVAZ Top Manager Freed

The son of AvtoVAZ Financial Director Galina Kazakova was released on 1 June and one of his kidnappers was detained, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 June. Yevgenii Kazakov, 26, was kidnapped on 26 May in Tolyatti (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 31 May 2005).

Reports say kidnappers called Kazakova and demanded she bring them $1 million in ransom on 1 June.

Police arrived at the meeting spot where the ransom was to be delivered and found Kazakov sitting in a car together with someone, who was detained on suspicion of kidnapping. The Tolyatti Interior Directorate reported the detainee "has fully recognized his guilt."

Kirov Oblast's Governor Opposes Merger With Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast
Nikolai Shaklein spoke against a merger with Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Regnum reported on 1 June, citing reports by the "Vyatskii Nablyudatel" newspaper.

Shaklein's comments came following a statement by Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Gennadii Khodyrev, who favors the merger.

Shaklein said Kirov Oblast's economic development distinguishes it from the neighboring oblast. Before a merger can proceed the Russian Constitution must be changed, Shaklein said.

Chelyabinsk Oblast Assembly Chairman Elected Head Of Local Branch Of Unified Russia
Chelyabinsk Oblast Legislative Assembly Chairman Viktor Davydov was elected secretary of the political council of Unified Russia in the oblast, Interfax-Urals reported on 3 June, citing the parliamentary press service.

The party's General Political Council recommended Davydov for the post and the oblast political council confirmed the nomination. The oblast political council was elected at an oblast party conference on 3 June.

Unified Russia members reportedly total half of the town heads and raions elected in the March municipal self-government elections. There are 12,000 members and 20,000 supporters of Unified Russia in Chelyabinsk Oblast.

Orenburg Oblast's Chernyshev Initiates Reappointment Procedure
Orenburg Oblast administration head Aleksei Chernyshev sent a request to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he be reconfirmed as oblast governor, Regnum reported on 3 March. The issue was previously discussed at Chernyshev's meeting with the Putin on 31 May.

Nefteyugansk Mayor Fired
Nefteyugansk Mayor Viktor Tkachev was relieved of his post after Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug Prosecutor's Office filed a criminal case against Tkachev, Regnum reported on 2 June. Tyumen Oblast Duma Chairman Sergei Korepanov told the news agency that the prosecutor is investigating the possible illegal sale of cottages by Tkachev in Krasnoyarsk Krai's Anapskaya village. First Deputy Mayor Igor Gribanov was appointed acting mayor.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova