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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 17, 2002

17 May 2002
Paper Claims Kazan Mayor Getting Ready For Presidential Race
In an editorial in "Zvezda povolzhya" on 16 May, the weekly's editor in chief, Rashit Akhmetov, wrote that Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov was likely to replace current Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev when his third presidential term ends in 2006. Akhmetov said Iskhakov would be a stronger candidate than State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin because of his better administrative abilities.

Akhmetov also wrote that Iskhakov would be "very suitable" for Moscow as Tatarstan's president and that, "He could transform the [republic's] political life so that the masses demonstrate, demanding to turn Tatarstan into the Kazan Oblast." He predicted that, "If Shaimiev gives in to Moscow, Tatarstan will soon be applauding Iskhakov, and it will be a different Tatarstan."

Researchers Facing Problems Developing Commercial Software For Tatar Fonts
According to "Respublika Tatarstan" daily on 14 May, Jewdet Suleimanov, head of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences and Kazan State University, "insists that all computers being used in Tatarstan should have Tatar fonts installed."

During the past decade, Suleimanov's laboratory, with the support of the republican government, has been working on the creation of Tatar fonts, Tatar keyboard drivers, as well as software for scanning and processing Tatar texts and recognizing Tatar speech. The paper said the major problem with enabling the Tatar-fonts software developed by the laboratory was that its drivers don't fit different computer platforms and, though they run well on Microsoft Windows 98 or Windows 95 systems, they don't work well with older versions of the operating system, which is a problem since many organizations in Tatarstan are still using old computer systems.

Another research group from Kazan State Technological University has also been working on Tatar fonts for personal computers. This group offers an alternative package of Cyrillic-based and Latin-based Tatar fonts with a converter enabling users to transform Cyrillic Tatar text into Latin Tatar and vice versa.

In addition to these commercial-software developers, there are many Tatars living outside the republic who have posted their own versions of Tatar fonts on the Internet. These fonts are available to be downloaded free of charge.

Teachers To Help Tatar Communities Across Russia
According to "Izvestiya Tatarstana" weekly on 15 May, officials from Tatarstan's Education Ministry and schoolteachers from the republic will spend 2002 touring 26 regions of Russia, including the Orenburg, Samara, Chelyabinsk, and Kirov oblasts, and the Udmurtia and Mari El republics to hold "Days of Tatar Education" in accordance with agreements signed with each region's government.

Guests from Tatarstan plan to instruct teachers from Tatar schools on how to conduct lessons on the Tatar language and on how to teach other subjects in Tatar. They also plan to meet with local education officials and Tatar communities in the regions.

During the trip, officials from the Education Ministry also plan to promote computer software for teaching the Tatar language to beginners.

Federal Inspector Comments On Mission In Tatarstan
On 13 May -- two years since Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree establishing seven federal districts in Russia -- Tatarstan's chief federal inspector, Marsel Galimardanov, told Tatarstan state television that his office "had well-run business contacts with the republican government.... Of course, there are some disagreements, but when we reach an agreement, both parties maintain it." Galimardanov added that in future, he plans to monitor the state program on support of small and medium-size businesses in Tatarstan in addition to his current tasks of hearing appeals from Tatarstan residents on social issues, monitoring the distribution of new Russian passports, and preparing for the October national census.

According to previous reports in Tatarstan's media, the majority of the appeals delivered by Tatarstan residents to the two representative offices of the envoy of the president of the Russian Federation in Kazan and Chally concern delays in wage payments.

Prosecutor-General's Office Checking Conformity Of Tatar Constitution With Federal Law
"Novaya vecherka" weekly published an article on 15 May saying that the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office in the Volga Federal District "is studying Tatarstan's new constitution thoroughly" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 May 2002). The paper quoted Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov as saying: "After a legal analysis [of the constitution], if necessary, we will take the same measures as we did with the previous constitution: [We will file an] appeal against it in court. It's very difficult to place this process within the framework of constitutional law, so we [will] have to use all means at our disposal."

Minnikhanov Drumming Up Business In Britain
Tatarstan Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov traveled to Great Britain on 13 May for a two-day visit that included talks with Britain's JCB Company, which specializes in producing construction and agricultural machinery, the governmental press service reported the same day. Minnikhanov also met with top managers from HSBC Bank to try to acquire the bank's partnership for future projects with JCB.

Interior Ministry Official Says Bribery Plaguing All Of Tatarstan's Universities
Aleksei Pankratov, deputy head of Tatarstan's Interior Ministry Board for Economic Crimes, told Efir television on 15 May that his organization investigated 280 bribery cases in the republic's higher-educational institutions in 2001. According to investigators, teachers at Tatarstan's state and commercial universities take bribes for routine tests, as well as entrance and annual examinations.

Earlier this year, the Sovetskii Raion Court of Kazan handed Rifat Korbanov, former rector of the Kazan Veterinary Academy, a five-year suspended sentence for taking bribes that included more than $1,000 in cash and a pedigreed horse.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Prosecutor's Office Taking Steps Toward Independence
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 12 May that he was given access to several documents showing that the Bashkortostan Prosecutor's Office, following on the heels of the republic's Supreme Court, has begun to act independently of the republican government. The correspondent quoted an 8 April letter from then-Bashkortostan prosecutor Jeudet Turumtaev to Rustem Khamitov, Bashkortostan's chief federal inspector, in which he said the appointment and dismissal of heads of municipal and district administrations by decree of the Bashkortostan president contravene articles 5 and 10 of the Russian Constitution. Turumtaev was reacting to the 22 February appeal by Zakhir Khakimov, head of Bashkortostan's Tatar National Cultural Autonomy, to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Zakhir Khakimov protested the dismissal, by decree of Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, of Salavat Mayor Askhat GAliyev and the subsequent appointment of Yurii Alimov to the post, also by decree. Zakhir Khakimov stressed that those decrees were illegal and called on Putin to take measures to annul them.

In Turumtaev's response, he said no special measures should be taken yet, since the issue of appointing heads of administrations is under consideration by the Bashkortostan Supreme Court at the initiative of Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev.

Meanwhile, Shamil Ishmakov, head of the Board for Monitoring the Observance of Laws and the Legality of Judicial Acts at the Bashkortostan Prosecutor's Office, in his 19 April letter to Vladimir Tatarchuk, head of the Volga Federal District Board of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, said his office has protested the decree on the appointment of Alimov as mayor of Salavat.

Professor Outlines Key Issues To Be Discussed At Bashkir Congress
Vadim Safin, psychology professor at the Bashkir Pedagogical University, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 16 May that local forums held as preparation for the second World Bashkir Congress avoided discussing the most important issues related to the development of the Bashkir people. Safin said the "humanitarian catastrophe" that the Bashkir people have been experiencing should be the key issue for discussion at the upcoming congress. The Bashkir population has been steadily decreasing and only 15 percent of Bashkir children have the opportunity to be instructed in their native language, Safin said. The second-most-urgent issue, is Moscow's policy aimed at the annihilation of Bashkortostan's sovereignty under the guise of federalism, Safin said, adding that federalism is a threat to ethnic groups in Russia that have small populations. If federalism is not turned into a confederation within 10 to 15 years, Russia will disintegrate and the standard of living in the country will drastically decrease, Safin said.

Bashkortostan Muslims To Elect Mufti
A plenum of the Bashkortostan Muslim Religious Board discussed upcoming elections for the republic's mufti on 15 May, reported. Current Mufti Nurmukhammat Nigmatullin will contest the elections with the imam of Beloretsk, Uchaly, and Burzyan raions, Ismagil Mukhamedyanov, and the rector of the Maryam Sultanova Islam Institute, Ildar Malakhov. Plenum participants also discussed preparations for the October national census, second World Bashkir Congress, and a planned congress of Bashkortostan's Muslims.

Paper Claims Moscow Supports Bashkirization Of Republic's Tatars
"Zvezda povolzhya" weekly wrote on 16 May that Moscow likely supports the Bashkirization of Tatars in Bashkortostan in exchange for the loyalty of President Rakhimov. The paper said that Bashkirs, who are closely related to Tatars, have turned to their opponents and "stabbed Tatarstan in the back."

Bashkortostan To Mark Declaration Of Russian Sovereignty As National Holiday
President Rakhimov issued a decree on 15 May declaring 12 June, the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Federation, a national state holiday in the republic, Bashinform reported the same day. The decree also requires republican bodies to disseminate information among the public about the importance of the sovereignty declaration in the modern history of Russia and Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Kirov Oblast Muslim Board Engages In Fight Against Wahhabism
The Kirov Oblast Muslim Religious Board has begun fighting the spread of Wahhabism, oblast Mufti Abdunnur Kamalutdinov told on 15 May. The mufti said that the issue of Wahhabism was on the agenda at the meeting of Talgat Tadjuddin, the chairman of the Central Religious Board of Muslims of Russia, and oblast officials and leaders of public and religious organizations the previous week in Vyatskie Polyany. The participants in the meeting stressed the necessity to fight against the spread of Wahhabism in Kirov Oblast.

Islamic Party Of Russia To Establish Branch In Marii El
A department of the Islamic Party of Russia will be formed soon in Marii El, Tadzhuddin Kasumov, the head of the republic's delegation at the party's constituent congress in Moscow, told on 14 May. The party promotes stability throughout the country, people's moral revival, and promotion of Islam's true values that are in no way connected to extremism and terrorism. The party also plans to take part in the next State Duma elections. Some 60,000 Muslims live in Marii El.

Report On Human Rights Violations Published In Mordovia
The Mordovian Human Rights Center issued a report on human rights in Mordovia in 2001, according to which the number of violations of law committed by law enforcement bodies' employees doubled in comparison to the 2000 rate and 40 criminal cases were filed against them, reported on 14 May. Torture still occurs at interior bodies, the report said. Half of appeals against verdicts on civil cases are annulled. The center stressed that the vast majority of mass media fear publishing critical articles about the authorities. The income of 51 percent of the population is less than a living wage. The republic lacks the institution of ombudsman, while not a single member of the pardon commission formed this year is a defender of human rights, according to the report.

Security Official Worries About Attention Of 'Destructive Forces' To Volga District
Foreign extremist organizations are seeking to destabilize the situation in a number of Russia's regions of strategic importance, Russian Security Council Chairman Vladimir Rushailo said during his visit to Nizhnii Novgorod on 15 May, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported the next day. Rushailo made his comments following a meeting with heads of executive and law enforcement bodies of the Volga Federal District. Rushailo said the Volga region is under the intense watch of destructive forces, adding that the threat of terrorism has not lessened in Russia. He called for consolidating the efforts of all federal and regional bodies. The presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, Sergei Kirienko, said the Volga district's multiethnic and multifaith nature should become its source for development rather than give rise to provocations and extremism.

Perm Oblast Pensioners Seek Compensations For 1998 Default
Some 10,000 pensioners in Perm Oblast have won lawsuits against the Perm Department of the Pension Fund to compensate them for the delay in payment of pensions during the Russia's 1998 default, department head Stanislav Avronchuk told Region-Inform-Perm on 14 May. The average compensation amounts to 300 rubles ($9.6). However, the compensations are unlikely to be repaid at the moment since special funding for this has not been provided in the fund's budget, Avronchuk said. The department appealed to Moscow to allocate subsidies to pay the money to pensioners.

Russia-Wide Party Of Cossacks Of Russia Formed
A Russia-wide Peoples' Patriotic Party of Cossack Self-Government, VNPPKS Cossacks of Russia, was established at its constituent congress on 11 May in Samara, "Samara segodnya" reported on 13 May. Some 600 delegates representing 70 regions of Russia adopted the party's charter and program and elected a political council and a revision committee. Support for the policy conducted by President Vladimir Putin, Cossack self-government, and Orthodoxy were outlined as key principles of the program. Party members will take part in State Duma and local self-government elections and coordinate the activities of Cossack organizations created throughout Russia since 1991. Regional conferences will be held in several regions in May to establish local branches of the party. Chieftain of the Volga Cossacks army, Boris Gusev, and head of Chelyabinsk Oblast Cossacks, Mikhail Lonshchakov, were elected as party heads. It was agreed that a party leader will be nominated later and that the party central body will be located in Samara.

Prosecutor-General To Lead Investigation Into Murder Of Tolyatti Journalist
Samara Oblast Prosecutor Aleksandr Yefremov told a press conference in Samara on 17 May that the Russian prosecutor-general will lead the investigation into the murder of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" Editor in Chief Valerii Ivanov. Yefremov said Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov is due to arrive in Tolyatti soon. Yefremov said six suspects have been detained, 20 more persons are being checked, and orders were issued to arrest leaders of criminal groups who left Tolyatti immediately after the murder.

Four Idel-Ural Regions Said Ready To Enter WTO
Six subjects of the Russian Federation -- Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Sverdlovsk and Perm oblasts -- are ready to enter the World Trade Organization while other regions do not meet WTO standards, Federation Council Senator Vladimir Gusev said at parliament hearings in the Federal Assembly, reported on 15 May. Tyumen Oblast is a "neutral zone," according to Gusev. However, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel does not fully agree that his oblast is fully ready to enter WTO. Two months ago, he called on the heads of oblast industries to promote competitive production. He stressed that only a third of industrial companies in the oblast, mainly metallurgical, are ready to join the WTO.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova