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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 11, 2002

11 January 2002
Independent Paper Predicts Early Parliamentary Elections
The daily "Zvezda Povolzhya" quoted unnamed sources on 11 January as saying that after Tatarstan's parliament adopts the new constitution it will be dissolved, since the document's provisions would ban the presence of executive officeholders in the legislative body. The paper claimed that the next parliamentary elections will be held in May and cited public relations agencies as assessing the cost of State Council seats at $50,000 for each candidate.

Letter Against Script Reform Called Provocation
According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 9 January, Russian Federation Council staff asked the administration of Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev to check the so-called "Garipov letter," which called for the halt to the transition to Latin Tatar script "initiated by a group of nationalists," signed by 156 young scientists of Kazan universities. Head of the Young Scientists Council at Tatarstan's History Institute, Nail Garipov, whose name was among the first on the list of signatories, told RFE/RL that he "was aware" of the appeal sent to the Russian president, State Duma, and Federation Council, but added that he didn't sign the document. According to him, the petition claiming to express the young Tatar scientists opinion is in fact "far from being true." Garipov also noted that the names of other signatories were unknown to him and called the letter "a provocation."

Candidate For Tatarstan's Second Representative's Seat In Federation Council Still Unknown
Tatarstan's State Council speaker Farit Mukhametshin told reporters on 7 January that he "knew the person" who will be appointed his republic's second representative to the Russian Federation Council in addition to former Chally Mayor and Russian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Rafgat Altinbaev. Mukhametshin said that he recently met with the candidate but refused to name him.

The State Council speaker added that the person to be proposed for confirmation during the next parliamentary session "after the latest fashion will not be some businessman residing in Moscow, but will be a politician well-known in our republic."

According to previous comments in Tatarstan's press, Altinbaev has been criticized by republican authorities for "failing to defend his region's interests."

Website Against Tatar Language-Teaching Attracts Wide Interest Among Tatars
Parents of a number of Russian children studying in Kazan have set up an website at to protest the obligatory teaching of the Tatar language to pupils of all nationalities in Tatarstan, RFE/RL reported on 8 January. Creators of the website insist on that their issue is not an ethnic-related problem, but a legal one. Meanwhile, the majority of people visiting the site and leaving their opinions in the guest book turn out to be Tatars living in Russia and abroad stating their deep discontent with the arguments brought up by the page.

By the time this review was finished, the website's administrators erased the bulk of such statements, commenting that they didn't concern the issue of obligatory Tatar-language lessons.

Ulyanovsk Muslims To Join Tatarstan's Muslim Board
The leader of the Ulyanovsk Oblast Muslims, Fatikh Khazrat, met with the chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov, to discuss the joining of his board to Gusman's board in 2002, Efir TV reported on 10 January. According to Fatikh Khazrat, Ulyanovsk Muslims want to leave the Ufa-based Muslim Religious Board headed by the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, Talgat Tadjuddin.

In February, Tatarstan's Muslims are expected to hold elections for the new Muslim Religious Board chairman, where the Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov will be opposed by two senior Muslim priests from Kazan mosques.

Tatars Scientists Say Moscow-Proposed List Of Nationalities Threatens Tatar Nation
Experts from the Language, Literature, and Art Institute under Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences sent an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking for the revision of the decision on dividing the Tatars according to their place of residence and their dialect during the nationwide census set for late 2002. The scientists stated that the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, which was responsible for the nationalities list prepared for the census, "neglected the knowledge of scientists" working in the regions. According to them, this division was pushed by federal officials and threatened the Tatars, who represent a single nation.

Low Subscription Figures In Chally Reveal Low Cultural Level Of Residents
Only 10,000 of some 250,000 Tatars living in Tatarstan's second city, Chally, subscribed to the Tatar press for the year 2002, RFE/RL reported on 9 January. According to the correspondent, a hundred years ago the Tatar writer and publicist Mejit Gafuri explained the similarly low subscription figures among Tatars as due to both reluctance to read and poverty, while modern Tatar society doesn't seem to have changed its century-old attitude.

KamAZ Heads For Victory In Paris-Dakar Race
The KamAZ-Master truck racing team from Tatarstan so far has lost only one of the 11 stages of the Paris-Dakar rally, republican media reported on 10 January. The team is reported to be leading among the racers from world-famous truck companies and its single defeat was due to the KamAZ crew stopping en route to help the Mercedes truck team, which had gotten stuck in the Sahara sands. The Czech Tatra truck racers are reported to be the main rivals to Tatarstan's team.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

President Insists He Has Successor
President Murtaza Rakhimov said at a recent meeting with industry leaders that he has a successor but avoided naming that person, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 8 January. Rakhimov noted that Russian media have speculated over whether he will remain for a third presidential term. Rakhimov said no one leader can hold his office forever, adding that each has a successor.

Opposition Newspaper Says Amended Bashkortostan Constitution Still Promotes Separatism
Bashkortostan's independent newspaper "Otechestvo" marks the anniversary of the republic's constitution with a report claiming that "zealous separatists" who intended to make Bashkortostan's constitution similar to those of independent states are mistaken. Russia's new leaders could not bear even the formal existence of a sovereign state within the country and in fact abolished that constitution, the paper stresses. The publication says that, even after amendment, the new version of the republican constitution still promotes separatism.

Rus Head Says Civil Forum Excluded Republican Opposition
Anatolii Dubovskii, the leader of Bashkortostan's Rus civic organization and a participant in the Russian Civil Forum, told "Otechestvo" that delegates loyal to the authorities represented Bashkortostan at the forum while the republic's most active opposition organizations did not take part. Dubovskii said several of Bashkortostan's civic groups -- including Rus, the Tatar Public Center, Equality, and Yabloko -- have formed an organizing committee to arrange monthly roundtables to discuss urgent issues for the republic and the country. The legal foundation for civic initiatives, freedom of the mass media, and religious extremism will be on the agenda, he said.

Scholar Says Bashkortostan Leaders Losing Power, Influence
Ethnic and political researcher Ildar Gabdrafikov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 8 January that the recent appointment of virtual unknowns to represent Bashkortostan at the Federation Council signals a new political power order. That order is characterized by businessmen in politics, growing pressure on republican authorities, and a loss by republican leaders of their power and influence on the federal level, the scholar said.

Ufa, Moscow Negotiate Subsidies To Bashkortostan Social-Economic Development Program
Bashkortostan's deputy prime minister and finance minister, Foat Khantimerov, met in Moscow with Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin. The two discussed the republic's five-year social and economic plan, Bashinform reported on 9 January. They also talked about opening a branch of the Federal Commission on the Securities Market in Bashkortostan and compensation from the federal budget for damage from natural disasters to farmers. Khantimerov also met with Ilya Klebanov to discuss the development of republican defense manufacturers.

Yabloko Fills Its Ranks In Bashkortostan
"Otechestvo" reports that the number of Yabloko members has grown tenfold in Beloretsk and sixfold throughout the republic after a local court ordered Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii to pay President Murtaza Rakhimov 800,000 rubles for insulting him. The Russian Supreme Court annulled the verdict by the Beloretsk court and ordered that the case be heard by Moscow's Kuntsevo court.

Republic Collected 51 Billion Rubles In 2001
Bashkortostan Finance Minister Foat Khantimerov told a government meeting on 8 January that the republican budget received 51.3 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) in revenues in 2001, 2.6 billion rubles more than it planned. Some 25.4 billion rubles was transferred to the federal budget. In 2000, the republic transferred to Moscow 11.3 billion of the 52.3 billion rubles it collected.

Tradesmen Protest Restrictions On Trade
Some 300 tradesmen staged a picket in an Ufa market to protest an order by the city administration to remove their trade pavilions, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 9 January.

Prosecutors Protest Smoking Restriction Law
Prosecutors have protested a law limiting smoking that came into force in the republic in October as restricting human rights, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 8 January. A signature-drive against the prosecutors' move has already begun in the republic. The Health Ministry issued an appeal backing the law in which it said that normal efforts against smoking are impossible in Bashkortostan. The ministry criticized the republic's media for ignorance on the issue.

Bashkortostan Agricultural Manufacturers Peddle Wares In Germany
A Bashkortostan delegation is taking part in the Green Week international exhibition in Germany on 11-20 January, an event that includes agricultural manufacturers from 60 countries, Bashinform reported on 8 January.

Three Of Four Young Businessmen Engage In Trade
Referring to the Youth Information Business Center, Bashinform reported on 8 January that 76 percent of young businessmen in the republic are engaged in trade, 3 percent represent the industrial sector and 4 percent the agricultural sector. Some 18 percent have businesses in the service sector. The center has composed a register in which 103 youth-owned companies and 3,375 young businesses were included.

Cardiovascular Disease A Leading Cause Of Death
Andrei Yevsyukov, the head of the republican cardiology clinic, told Bashinform on 10 January that the death rate from cardiovascular disease has grown from 5.9 to 7.0 per 10,000 people in 1998-2000. The number of disabled because of such diseases has doubled in the same period, to 22.4 per 10,000 residents, Yevsyukov said.

Schools Provided With New Bashkir-Language Textbooks
New textbooks in the Bashkir language, on Bashkir culture, geography, history, and the Bashkir alphabet were published in the republic in 2001, Bashinform noted on 9 January.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Four Companies Acquire Combined 24 Percent In UralAZ
Four companies from Bashkortostan, Moscow, and Chelyabinsk Oblast have purchased portions of a 24 percent stake in truck maker UralAZ, General Manager Valerii Panov told Ural-Press-Inform on 3 January. The shares were sold in a closed auction conducted in Miass in the Chelyabinsk Oblast.

First Detachment Begins Alternative Service In Nizhnii
The first detachment of 20 draftees began their alternative service as hospital attendants in a Nizhnii Novgorod hospital, Nizhegorodskie Novosti reported on 4 January. Each of the servicemen signed a two-year contract under which they are paid salaries, supplied with uniforms and meals, and enjoy the free use of mass transit. The city budget will allocate 19,000 rubles a year for each serviceman, much less than is spent for "true" military servicemen, according to city officials. The Soros Foundation has contributed $15,000 to the pilot project. Project organizers say their initiative will reduce the number of draftees skipping military service, now 1,000 a year, and will help fill some 1,500 job vacancies in the city.

Lev Pavlov, the head of the city of Nizhnii Novgorod's Servicemen Affairs Committee, told a city administration meeting on 8 January that the number of conscription-dodgers has been halved to 1,091 as a result of experiment. Last fall, the oblast fulfilled its conscription figures for the first time in years, Pavlov said.

India Requests Quick Delivery Of Ural Tanks
The Indian Defense Ministry has appealed to Moscow to accelerate deliveries of T-90C tanks, reported on 4 January, citing RIA-Novosti. Indian military commanders plan to equip four or five of its armored regiments with Nizhnii Tagil-produced tanks to hold in check Pakistani units equipped with some 300 Ukrainian T-80U vehicles, the agency said.

Saratov's Governor Forms Senior Administrative Council
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov established a Senior Administrative Council, the body analogous to the federal State Council, to promote new legislation and proposals for the Duma, SaratovBusinessConsulting reported on 3 January. The council, uniting heads of the oblast municipal bodies, will gather once in three months.

Sverdlovsk Ombudsman Unhappy With Official Indifference To Human Rights
Sverdlovsk Oblast Human Rights Representative Tatyana Merzlyakova sharply criticized oblast authorities for "non-interference in the sphere of human rights." Merzlyakova said authorities are ignorant of numerous incidents of residents being disconnected from energy supplies, mass dismissals connected with bankruptcies, and company fraud. At the same time, she praised the activities of social-sector and health-care bodies in 2001.

Newspaper Editor Attacked In Yekaterinburg
Denis Tokarsky, the editor in chief of the Yekaterinburg newspaper "Kapital. Den za dnem," was attacked and beaten by two men on 7 January, UralBusinessConsulting reported the next day. Tokarsky told the agency that the event was most likely connected with his professional activities. Tokarsky filed a criminal complaint, the agency said.

New Chief Inspector Focusing On Ulyanovsk Energy Crisis
Aleksandr Ivanov, 42, has been appointed chief federal inspector to Ulyanovsk Oblast, Rosbalt reported on 4 January. He previously served as federal inspector to the oblast. Ivanov told reporters on 3 January that he will follow the implementation of legislation, coordination of federal bodies' activities in the region, and organization of harmonization procedures between Moscow and local governing bodies.

Ivanov said overcoming an energy crisis is the most urgent issue in the oblast. He backed the idea of "federal influence" in regions facing long-term catastrophic situations, adding that an external manager may be appointed to Ulyanovsk Oblast.

Meanwhile, Ulyanovskenergo head Georgii Chernikov, who headed the company for the past three months, resigned, reported on 4 January.

Mordovian Farmers Praised For Good Harvest, Urged To Pay Debts
In his annual appeal to the State Council, Mordovian leader Nikolai Merkushkin said 2001 was particularly successful for the republic's agricultural sector. He said numerous farms still face losses, however, adding that the republican Fund for the Development of Agriculture is owed 200 million rubles ($6.7 million).

Merkushkin said industrial growth totaled 12 percent in Mordovia in 2001, twice the Russian average, while the construction sector saw 33 percent growth. Salaries increased by 17 percent. The republic was 21st in investment among Russian regions, he added.

Russian Government Restructures AvtoVAZ Debt
The Russian government has approved a schedule for restructuring AvtoVAZ's debts to the federal budget, Agentstvo biznes-novostei reported on 8 January. According to the document, the car-making concern will repay 3.6 percent of its debt in each of 2002 and 2003, from 3.8 to 5.9 percent in 2004-09, and 66 percent in 2010.

Drug Addicts Mortality Falls In Yekaterinburg
Yekaterinburg paramedics say incidents of drugs overdose in 2001 were one-third the previous year's rate. Yevgenii Roizman, the president of the City Without Drugs foundation, told Novyi region that fighting drug trafficking was successful last year and that several police employees involved in drug trafficking were charged. Roizman said his foundation receives and checks tens of anonymous reports of drug sales every day. It is now impossible to buy heroin in Yekaterinburg for new drug users, he added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova