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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 20, 2004

20 January 2004
Crimean Tatars Push For Using Historical Names
The Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar parliament, has appealed to Ukraine's parliament suggesting that a special commission should be set up to restore the historical Crimean place names, inhabited by Tatars before the mass deportations of 1944, Rosbalt reported on 12 January. Mejlis chairman Mustafa Jemilev told reporters that it was important to give the places their original names -- to locations renamed not only after but also before the deportation, as there "were many silly things done before 1944." Within the last decade, the ancestors of deported Crimean Tatars have undertaken efforts to return to their motherland and have made numerous claims on plots of land there.

Moscow Linguist Says Kashapov Arrest Was Ungrounded
Irina Levontina, a linguist from the Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, testified before the Chally city court on 12 January that leaflets found in the apartment of the local Tatar Public Center (TIU) leader Refis Kashapov contain no incitements of interethnic or interconfessional hatred, Kama-press reported the same day. Invited to the court session by Kashapov's defense team, Levontina said that the leaflets called for the peaceful resolution of existing conflicts. Levontina disagreed with the earlier statements by Kazan State University linguists, whose assessments of the controversial leaflets led to Kashapov's arrest.

Tatar Public Groups Concerned With TV And Radio Programs
The presidium of Tatar Public Center (TIU), the Megarif society, and Tatarstan's Board of the Elderly issued a statement on 13 January claiming that the content broadcast by the republic's TV and radio "did not respond to the requirements of their audience." The groups said that before the December State Duma elections, Tatar state TV and radio daily programs were reduced by 1 1/2 hours to make room for political commercials, but after the elections the programming schedule was not changed. On the other hand, some commercial radio stations in Tatarstan were accused of "limiting their programs to music and greetings, while withholding news about developments in the republic and the country."

The Tatar organizations reportedly will also hold a conference on 22 January involving local TV and radio broadcasters, public figures, artists, writers, and journalists to discuss the implementation of Tatarstan's law on languages, which gives both Russian and Tatar official status.

Meanwhile, the TIU leadership is currently divided over the conflict between its most recent leader, Reshit Yegeferov, and former leader Zeki Zeinullin, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 January. For example, the 9 January issue of the "Zvezda Povolzhya" weekly published a TIU resolution by Zeinullin's supporters dismissing Yegeferov. Nevertheless, on 10 January Yegeferov represented the TIU a the demonstration in Chally supporting local TIU branch leader Refis Kashapov, who is currently in detention (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 January 2003). On 15 January the TIU presidium will gather for an emergency meeting to consider the current situation around its leadership.

Shaimiev Meets New Turkish Consul
Ismail Hakki Musa, the new Turkish consul in Kazan, was officially presented to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 14 January, the presidential press service reported the same day. During his diplomatic career Musa has worked in the European department of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the Turkish Embassy in Algiers, served as Turkish consul in France, and as first secretary and advisor to the Turkish permanent representation in the European Union. Officially Tatarstan and Turkey have maintained economic, scientific, and cultural ties since the signing of the bilateral cooperation treaty on 22 May 1995. Timur Akulov, Tatar presidential advisor on international affairs and director of the presidential Foreign Affairs Department, told reporters after the meeting that in 2003 bilateral trade turnover had increased by 4.5 times as compared to the previous year. Akulov said he was convinced that "2004 will become a crucial year...and by 2005 Turkey will move from the 28th position in Tatarstan's trade partners list to 2nd or 3rd place."

Tatar PEN Center Presents Book On Ethnic Self-Identities, Federal Policies In Volga-Ural Area
The Tatar branch of international Pen Club uniting writers and journalists worldwide, presented a new book titled "The Tatar Way: Rights of the People and Political Correctness" in Kazan on 15 January, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The book consists of contributions by Tatar, Russian, and American writers and researchers devoted to the Tatar and Bashkir self-identity and situation with ethnic languages in the Volga-Ural region.

The book also provides an English summary, which says that it "raises the issues of interrelations of Russian Federation authorities and the Republic of Tatarstan, a constituent entity of the federation, which is so far not in favor of the Russian federalism."

Tatneft Affiliate Reportedly Purchases Used Boeings
Germany-based tour operator Thomas Cook AG has reportedly signed an agreement to sell 12 of its Boeing 757-200 airliners to the Moscow-based leasing company Tsentr-Kapital, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 January. However, Tsentr-Kapital and its founders, Zenit bank and Tatneft, have denied reports on the deal. Thomas Cook, established by Lufthansa AG and the Karstad Quelle AG trade network, specializes in tourism and transportation services. It is the second-largest tour operator in Europe, with an annual trade turnover of 2 billion euros.

Tsentr-Kapital, one of Russia's five largest leasing companies, was set up in 2001 by Tatneft and Zenit bank, in which Tatneft has a controlling stake. Tsentr-Kapital's boasts capital of 120 million rubles and a $230 million leasing portfolio. Tsentr-Kapital primarily deals with the leasing technological equipment, automobiles, and special vehicles. The agreement to sell the 12 commercial airliners was signed in Germany on 15 January between Thomas Cook subdivision Condor Flugdienst GmbH and Tsentr-Kapital, according to Thomas Cook. The company's press department said it sold the airliners because a sharp decline in the market for short-distance flights made it unprofitable to retain them in its fleet.

"Kommersant-Daily" quoted an unidentified Tsentr-Kapital source as saying the airliners will likely be leased to airlines in South America and in Asia. Zenit currently promotes a program for the lease of Tu-214 aircraft -- which are produced by the Kazan Aviation Plant -- that are similar in class to the Boeing 757-200.

Company With Tatneft Ties Wins Tupras Tender
Efremov Kautchuk GmbH, a Germany-based company that operates independently but reportedly acts in Tatneft's interest, was named the winner of a tender for a controlling stake in Turkey's Tupras oil refinery, reported on 16 January, citing Reuters. Efremov Kautchuk bid $1.3 billion for a 65.76 percent stake in Tupras, which controls 87 percent of Turkey's oil-refinery market, compared to a $770 million bid offered by Anadolu Ortak Girisim Group. Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan said the Turkish government will not change its decision, despite Anadolu Ortak Girisim Group's subsequent offering of a larger sum.

To take part in the tender, Efremov Kautchuk established a joint venture with the Turkish Zorlu Group, which works in country's textile industry and energy and banking sectors. The result of the tender is to be confirmed by Turkey's government and prime minister by the end of January, "Vedomosti" reported on 19 January.

In 2002, Tupras processed 23.3 million tons of oil and produced 21.6 million tons of oil products. The company is expected to post $11 billion in sales for 2003. Tatneft, Russia's sixth-largest oil producer, currently delivers 19 percent of the oil processed by Tupras.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan's Tatars Insist On Official Status For Tatar Language
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 9 January, a senior member of the Bashkortostan Tatar Congress and a Tatarstan trade representative said that Tatar civic groups in Bashkortostan continue to believe that state-language status should be extended to Tatar. Ramil Bignov said there are 1.5 million ethnic Tatars in Bashkortostan, which is higher than the number of ethnic Bashkirs in the republic. Bignov was responding to a statement by the chairman of the Bashkir Congress's executive committee, Ekhmet Soleimanov, in which Soleimanov said that granting state-language status to Tatar would prompt demands for similar recognition from the Chavash, Maris, and other peoples in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 January 2003). Soleimanov conceded that several languages could be afforded official status. Bignov noted that there are seven languages with official status in Daghestan. President Murtaza Rakhimov recently spoke favorably of revising the Tatar language's status in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2003).

Presidential Spokesman Says Tatars In Bashkortostan Live Better Than In Neighboring Tatarstan
The Bashkir presidential press service's Gali Feizov authored an article in "Kyzyl tang" of 9 January in which he countered allegations in Tatarstan's "Zvezda Povolzhya," "Tatarstan yeshlere," and "Tatarstan" publications that Tatars' rights in Bashkortostan are not respected. In "Bashkortostan and Tatarstan In A Mirror Of Statistics," Feizov said social wealth is a key issue in relations between citizens and the authorities, not ethnic identity. He asserted that Tatars in Bashkortostan live better than those in Tatarstan owing to Bashkortostan's superior economic climate, although he conceded at the same time that incomes are considerably lower in Bashkortostan. Bashkortostan's average income is on the rise, he added.

NIKoil Changes Name To UralSib
NIKoil President Nikolai Tsvetkov told reporters on 13 January that the financial corporation will adopt the name UralSib, "Vremya novostei" and "Vedomosti" reported the next day. The decision will be made at a board meeting on 14 January. NIKoil's insurance subdivision, NIKoil Insurance, also announced on 13 January that it renamed itself on 9 January into the UralSib Insurance Group. Last year, the managements of NIKoil and UralSib agreed on a merger between Avtobank-NIKoil and the Bashkir bank, in which NIKoil purchased 14 percent. In late November, NIKoil began opening its offices within those of UralSib. Beginning in December, NIKoil representatives made up a majority in the UralSib Observation Council and NIKoil's top manager heads the bank. NIKoil assets, which include a registering company, a brokerage, a depository, a managing company, three insurance companies, and four banks, total 100 billion rubles ($3.5 billion). UralSib, which unites seven regional banks, has 75 billion rubles in assets.

Motherland Bloc's Bashkir Branch Promotes Direct Elections Of Administration Heads By Local Deputies
Bashkortostan's branch of the Motherland bloc has issued a statement protesting the system where raion administration heads are nominated by the Bashkir president and local council's presidiums to the local councils, Regnum reported on 13 January. The statement, signed by branch leader Aleksandr Kozlov, said this is undemocratic and called for direct elections by local councils as prescribed by federal law. Local election laws will be harmonized with the federal ones by 1 November 2005, so local bodies elected in March will be temporary and will have to be re-elected in the near future. The Motherland branch suggested that the existing norms of local legislation about the election of administration heads be frozen until it is harmonized with federal law.

BTK Appeals To Rakhimov About Tatar-Language Status
The Executive Committee of the Bashkir Tatar Congress (BTK) discussed at a 13 January meeting the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The committee appealed to the State Assembly to stop considering amendments to the republican law on languages until the issue is resolved. Another appeal will be sent to President Rakhimov calling on him to introduce to the parliament a proposal for Tatar achieving state-language status. Committee members pointed out that the issue should be resolved before the 14 March Russian presidential elections.

Parliament Confirms Baidavletov As Prime Minister
The Bashkir State Assembly unanimously approved Rafael Baidavletov as the republic's new prime minister on 15 January, RIA-Novosti, RosBalt, and other Russian and Bashkir news agencies reported the same day. The cabinet submitted its resignation after the republic's presidential elections in December. President Murtaza Rakhimov, in proposing Baidavletov to head a new cabinet despite his advanced age, said the latter is "full of strength and energy, has great work experience, and is able to function sufficiently." President Rakhimov signed a decree the same day appointing Baidavletov prime minister. Baidavletov must now present a cabinet structure for approval.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Federation Council Speaker Promotes Council Supervising Mass Media
Visiting Kirov Oblast on 14 January, Federation Council Chairman and leader of the Russian Party of Life Sergei Mironov spoke at a press conference for the establishment of a nationwide public council on mass media, reported the same day. Mironov said the body is needed "to determine information policy in electronic and printed mass-media outlets. It is time to stop a torrent of pornography and smut that falls upon us from the screens of our TV sets." Mironov said he does not mean to introduce censorship, although a major part of the population would back the idea. He suggested that well-known writers Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Daniil Granin be included on the council and opposed inclusion in it of bureaucrats, State Duma deputies, or Federation Council senators.

Putin Concerned About Small Peoples' Languages, Cultures
Meeting with Mordovian President Nikolai Merkushkin on 13 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed an interest in resolving interethnic problems in the multiethnic republic, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Putin pointed out that "special attention should be paid to the languages and cultures of small ethnicities." Putin said "this is Russia's cultural wealth," adding that many issues in this regard cannot be resolved without state support.

Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast's Khodyrev To Run For Reelection
Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Gennadii Khodyrev told a press conference on 16 January that he will run for reelection in 2005, Regnum reported the same day. Khodyrev said, "I will run if my health lets me." Asked about the possibility of returning to the oblast of ex-governor and Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, Khodyrev said, it is a real possibility that Nemtsov will run for the Nizhnii Novgorod governor's post but it's unlikely that he will return to the oblast.

Nizhnii Government To Appeal For Credit To Repay Euroloan
At the same press conference, Khodyrev also said that the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast government plans to attract a credit from Sberbank to repay the next tranche on its euro loan in April 2004, Regnum reported on 16 January. Budget revenues and money returned by subborrowers will also be used for the payment. In April, the oblast is to pay $23.875 million of the debt itself and $3.1 million in interest. The oblast owes a total of $77.898 million on the loan. The oblast took out $100 million euro loan in October 1997 for a five-year term at an annual rate of 8.75 percent interest. In December 1999, the loan was restructured and its repayment was postponed. In 2003, the oblast covered 811.7 million rubles ($28.1 million) of the main debt and 306 million rubles in interest.

Employing The Disabled, Youth Mandatory For Nizhnii Companies
Enterprises in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast are obliged to fill quotas employing disabled people and young people under oblast legislation that came into force on 1 January, Regnum reported on 14 January. In companies with more than 30 employees, 3 percent of the vacancies are to be offered to the disabled and another 3 percent to high school graduates, orphans, and persons under 18 years of age. Companies that are unable to accept such employees may finance the creation of such vacancies in other organizations or companies. Otherwise, companies have to pay 2,300 rubles to the oblast for each disabled person in the quota that they do not employ.

NGOs Protest Rocket Destruction Facility In Perm
Some 70 Russian environmental, human rights, and other NGOs appealed on 14 January to Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the destruction of intercontinental ballistic solid-fuel rockets in Perm, a practice promoted by the Russian Aviation-Cosmic Agency and financed by the U.S., reported the same day. The protesters said the project harshly violates the constitutional rights of Perm and Perm Oblast residents and laws protecting the environment, including federal environmental laws, including some on the protection of the atmosphere. The civic leaders said even though the project has not passed a mandatory state environmental examination, rockets are already being burnt in Perm's densely populated raion without any antipollution measures in place. Meanwhile, children's rate of illness and the infant-mortality rate in that particular Perm raion exceeds the average rate. More specifically, the mortality of newborn babies in the first half of 2003 was two times the average in Perm. Numerous appeals were sent in the past year to the Russian president, the Russian government, the State Duma, and the Perm Oblast governor but the protesters say no adequate response was ever received. At the same time, local mass-media outlets that were covering this issue were blocked, they claimed. The appeal to Putin states that oblast residents are being deprived of full and true information about the facility and its influence on people's health and the environment, while authorities declare that the project is environmentally safe and will help attract big investments. The activists also said that only several years ago during his electoral campaign, Governor Yurii Trutnev made opposite statements about the issue.

State-Owned Stake In AvtoVAZ On Sale
The Russian Fund for Federal Property announced that it will sell a state-owned, 2.05-percent stake in AvtoVAZ, "Samara segodnya" reported on 16 January. The shares will be sold in a specialized auction on 12 March. The outlet quoted unnamed analysts as saying that Vneshtorgbank and Templeton investment fund are possible buyers. According to the AvtoVAZ's auditor, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 38 percent of the concern's ordinary shares are owned by AVVA, 24 percent belong to the Central Department of Automobile Financial Corporation, and 2 percent are possessed by the IFK company. All those companies are controlled by AvtoVAZ managers. Another 8 percent are owned by Vneshtorgbank and 2 percent by the Aton investment company. The initial price is 528 million rubles, or 802 rubles per share.

Madrasah Opens In Tyumen Oblast
The first madrasah, or Islamic school, was scheduled to open in the Tyumen Oblast on 15 January at the Yembaevo Mosque, reported the same day. The oblast administration allocated 3 million rubles for the reconstruction of the mosque. The department head of the Tyumen Oblast Committee on Nationalities Issues, Aleksandr Gradusov, told the news agency that 12 young men will study at the madrasah for two years. The oblast faces a big shortage of trained imams, Gradusov said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova