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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 4, 2002

4 January 2002
Speaker Says State Council Legitimate...
State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin told Tatar-inform on 29 December that he believes the current republican parliament must work until January 2003, when its electoral term is over, while a new legislative body will be elected according to a new electoral law. Mukhametshin stressed that the legitimacy of the current Tatarstan State Council was never contested although several paragraphs of the republic's constitution and its electoral law were deemed invalid in light of federal legislation.

...And Criticizes Federation Council Reform
State Council Chairman Mukhametshin also expressed regret that Tatarstan's leaders have lost their chance to be heard after leaving the Federation Council. He said the former Federation Council played "an exclusively important role" and had great influence. Mukhametshin criticized regional leaders for appointing senators with no connection to the areas they represent to the Federation Council. He said the representative for Tatarstan's legislature will be a Tatarstan resident, adding that the State Council will discuss that candidacy at its next session in January.

Education Ministry Promotes Teaching Chavash, Udmurt, Mari, Mordovian In Tatarstan
Radik Zaripov, an official with the Tatarstan Education Ministry, told "Medeni jomga" on 28 December that the instruction of Tatar schoolchildren in the Tatar language has increased by 25 percent in the republic in the past decade so that 49.6 percent of Tatar students in secondary schools are taught in Tatar. Zaripov said the ministry also promotes teaching the Chavash, Udmurt, Mari, and Mordovian languages and in 2001 held the first-ever student competitions in those languages in Tatarstan. He said negotiations are ongoing with Chavashia, Udmurtia, Marii El, and Mordovia to arrange instruction in those languages in Tatarstan's secondary schools.

Birth Rate Up, But Death Rate Still Ahead
"Vostochmyi ekspress" reported on 28 December that 9,000 babies, or 400 more than the previous year, were born in Kazan in 2001. The birth rate totaled 8.2 births per 1,000 women compared to 7.9 a year ago. However, the mortality rate still exceeds the birth rate in Kazan, with 14,041 deaths the past year compared to 13,816 in 2000.

Government Concerned About Growing Sales Of Fake Vodka
Alcohol production provides 16 percent of the republican budget, making it the second-biggest revenue source after oil and oil processing, "Vostochmyi ekspress" reported on 28 December. The weekly published a report on a government meeting devoted to Tatarstan's alcohol industry. Tatarstan is the third- or fourth-largest alcohol producer in Russia, and the alcohol trade totals 14.5 percent of Tatarstan's retail sales, the paper said. However, sales of Tatarstan-produced vodka fell by 37 percent in 2001 after Tatarstan authorities began permitting imports of alcohol from other Russian regions. The weekly cited Tatspirtprom General Manager Rashit Shaikhutdinov as saying that 45 percent of vodka sold in the republic is illegally produced. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev criticized plans to increase vodka production, saying that such a policy leads to the destruction of society. Some 3,500 Tatarstan residents died from the effects of bogus vodka in 2001, according to a report presented to the government. The meeting decided to promote the production of cheap vodka and to maintain a state monopoly in the sector, introduced in 1996.

Housing Construction, Connection To Gas Sectors Report Successes
The head of the presidential Housing Fund, Talgat Abdullin, told a government meeting that 6,000 families that lived in slums received new apartments in Tatarstan in 2001, 4,000 of them in Kazan, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 28 December. Abdullin said the program cost the republic 3 billion rubles ($100 million) during the past year. He said 6,000 apartments will be constructed this year under the housing renewal program.

The head of a fund to promote connection to the gas infrastructure, Dzhaudat Minnakhmetov, said his company constructed 15,000 kilometers of pipelines in the past year.

Analyst Says Russia's War In Chechnya Far From 'Antiterrorist'
In his article published in "Shehri Qazan" on 28 December, political analyst Mekhmut Ekhmetjanov sharply criticized Moscow's efforts to justify its war in Chechnya by representing it as a fight against terrorism. Ekhmetjanov wrote that the four-year war of the 150,000-strong Russian Army against the 10,000-strong Chechen army cannot be treated as a battle against terrorism. He also stressed that repeated comparisons between terrorists and Wahhabis is aimed at discrediting Islam by linking it to terrorism.

Deputy Says Census Threatens Tatars With Disintegration
State Council Deputy Tufan Minnullin wrote in "Medeni jomga" on 28 December that 2001 was a year of lawsuits against Tatarstan, its legislation, and the Tatar language. Minnullin said that a court verdict abolishing the requirement that Tatarstan's presidential candidates must speak both official languages -- Tatar and Russian -- humiliated the Tatar people. He added that the 2002 census may result in Tatars' becoming a small people and their disappearance from the list of peoples in the future.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Prominent Bashkir Intellectual Sums Up 2001
Bashkir poet/writer and member of the Bashkir Presidential Council, Mustay Kerim, told AROMI agency on New Year's eve that he considered the 11 September events in America "not to be the turning point of the world history, although it happened in America, which we though to be protected and invulnerable." He added that the Arab world was thought to be the source of the tragedy, emphasizing that there was a great danger of dividing the world into "Muslim" and "non-Muslim" parts.

Bashkirenergo Will Continue To Battle Unified Energy Systems
Bashkortostan media have reported that utility Bashkirenergo is continuing its dispute with Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES) and refuses to contribute the requested sum of over 3 billion rubles ($100 million) in membership fees since 1998. Aleksandr Voloshin, EES chairman who is also the head of the Russian presidential staff, is reportedly seeking a solution to the current conflict which pits Bashkirenergo and its counterparts in Tatarstan Republic and Irkutsk Oblast against the Russian energy producer. While EES plans to ask Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to tame the regional energy producers, regional companies claim they did not sign any contracts with EES and -- being state-owned ventures -- would not submit to a joint-stock venture.

Small Businesses Report Only A Slight Expansion In 2001
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Robert Vagapov told a news conference on 28 December that 11 percent of Bashkortostan's population is employed by small businesses, and produce 7 percent of the republic's gross domestic product. In early 2001, some 9 percent of the workforce worked for small private companies.

State Company Makes Bashkortostan A Leader In Communications Development In Ural Area
State-owned Bashinformsvyaz has invested $100 million in developing a communications network within the republic since 1996, Bashkir state radio reported on 3 December. One of the leading telephone services providers in the Urals area is also preparing a satellite TV project to cover the entire territory of Bashkortostan, including highland areas.

Local Bank Increases Charges For European Currencies Exchange
Reacting to growing interest from residents in exchanging their European currencies into euro and rubles before 28 February 2002, local Bashprombank set a 20 percent commission on such transactions. Russian savings bank Sberbank and its branches in the republic charge 4 percent.

Rakhimov Issues Orthodox Christmas Greeting
President Murtaza Rakhimov greeted the Orthodox Christian residents of Bashkortostan in connection with Orthodox Christmas, to be celebrated on 7 December. His message promoted inter-faith consent and cooperation of different confessions with the government.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Putin Congratulates Chavashia's Fedorov On Inauguration
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent congratulations to Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov on his election to a third term, reported on 28 December. Putin said it is symbolic that Chavash presidential elections were held in the year of the 450th anniversary of Chavashia's joining Russia.

Chubais Attends Fedorov's Inauguration...
The head of Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), Anatolii Chubais, attended an inauguration ceremony for Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov in Cheboksary, reported on 28 December. Chubais said Fedorov's victory in the 16 December elections was "difficult, well-deserved, and very important for Chavashia and the whole country."

...And Appoints New Head Of Chuvashenergo
During his visit, Chubais met with Chuvashenergo heads to present a new general manager of EES's republican operations, Vladimir Privalov, who replaced Aleksandr Kulikov in the post. Chubais said Privalov is charged with managing the company's upcoming restructuring. Chubais added that EES entered the current winter with the highest stocks of fuel in the past five years, 40 percent more than in 2000.

Chavash Republic, Yamalo Nenets Sign Cooperation Accord
Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov and Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Yurii Neelov signed an agreement on trade, economic, scientific-technical, and cultural cooperation, reported on 28 December. Under the document, the sides plan to develop mutual relations in health care, tourism, information, and gas deliveries.

Federation Council Member Says Senators Must Be Elected
Ramazan Abdulatipov, a Federation Council deputy representing Saratov Oblast, told a press conference in Saratov on 29 December that Federation Council members should be elected rather than appointed. He said the parliamentary authority must be elected at all levels. Abdulatipov estimated the current Federation Council consists of 35 percent businessmen; 15 percent former bureaucrats, including former ministers and governors; and the remainder close fellows of political leaders and their relatives. It is unclear what aims they pursue, he added. Abdulatipov said he promoted the adoption of 170 federal laws, but he noted that there is no mechanism providing adequate use of federal laws in regions.

Oblast Governor Entrusts Reporter With His Office
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov on 28 December allowed Susanna Oganezova, "Izvestia" correspondent in the oblast, to carry out his responsibilities for two hours, reported. When she was holding the position, Oganezova released a schoolboy held in an enlistment office, providing children with New Year's gifts, and punished a traffic officer for bribe-taking, the agency said.

Journalists Win Suit Against Information, Press Minister
A Saratov court has found in favor of local journalists against oblast Information and Press Minister Yurii Sanberg, who three months earlier prohibited reporters from attending meetings of the oblast government presidium, reported on 29 December. In early December, some 40 journalists appealed to the oblast's duma to annul the Information and Press Ministry which, they said, creates obstacles rather than helped them work. Deputies re-sent an appeal to oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov.

Indian Army Equipped With 124 Ural Tanks
Vladimir Kukarskikh, the deputy head of the Defense Industry Enterprises of Sverdlovsk Oblast, told Novyi region on 3 January that Nizhnii Tagil's Uralvagonzavod sent 124 T-90C tanks to India a month ago under the Russian-Indian contract on the delivery of 310 vehicles. The other 186 tanks will be assembled at an Indian military plant from spares that also have already been delivered to India, Kukarskikh said. He noted that Pakistan purchased 320 Ukrainian T-84 tanks during its arms race with India. In case a pessimistic scenario takes place in the region, Kukarskikh said he believes the advantages of the Indian-Ural T-90C tank over the Pakistani-Ukrainian T-84 will be obvious.

Municipal Services Cost More In Sverdlovsk
The price of municipal services were hiked by 60-80 percent, to some 600-700 rubles ($20-23) for a double-room apartment, in the Sverdlovsk Oblast as of 1 January, Novyi region reported on 28 December. Heating and electricity tariffs will grow in the oblast by 20 percent. Subscription fees for telephone and public transport prices will be also raised.

Another School Goes On Strike
The teachers at two schools in Turinskaya Sloboda in the Sverdlovsk Oblast have ended their two-week strike, Novyi region reported on 28 December. Meanwhile, teachers of a school in the village of Vostochnyi in the same oblast, on the same day, announced their plan to begin a strike on 15 January. One of them, Vladimir Chigintsev, said he would begin a hunger strike at the beginning of January. School personnel have not been paid since October, the agency said.

Ulyanovsk Oblast Promised Federal Subsidies To Pay For Energy
The presidential envoy to the Volga district, Sergei Kirienko, Russian Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, and Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov discussed the terms for restoring heating supplies in the Ulyanovsk Oblast, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported on 29 December. Because of non-payments, energy suppliers have kept temperatures in Ulyanovsk heating networks at 55 degrees Celsius, instead of the normal 80 degrees. The oblast has recently received 200 million rubles ($6.5 million) in funding from the federal budget to pay for energy.

New Deputy Presidential Envoy To Volga District Appointed
Lyubov Glebova, 41, was appointed deputy presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, reported on 29 December. Glebova was previously a Duma deputy and deputy chairman of the Duma's Education and Science Committee.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova