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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 21, 2002

21 June 2002
Shaimiev Says Regional Leaders Deprived Of Powers, Made Responsible For Developments...
In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 June, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev commented on the activity of the power-sharing commission headed by the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, Dmitrii Kozak, by saying that "strengthening vertical power should not be brought to the absurd." Shaimiev said representatives of both federal ministries and Federal Districts interfere with the regions even though responsibility for the situation in those regions falls on the regional leaders. Shaimiev asserted that a similar strengthening of vertical power leads to a dangerous dilution of responsibility.

...Promotes Right Of Regions To Annul Bilateral Treaties With Moscow...
President Shaimiev said in the same interview that a right of annulment of power-sharing treaties by Moscow is to be balanced by a similar right for federation subjects in the case that the federation does not perform satisfactorily. He noted that the budget system in Russia "remains extremely centralized even when compared with the standards of a unitary state." He criticized a provision approved by the commission on power sharing that allows federal bodies to take over some powers on the implementation of regions� budgets. "This is an interference in the exclusive powers of regions on managing their own budgets," he said.

...Opposes Moscow's Move To Take Over Natural Resources
Shaimiev also criticized amendments to the federal law on natural resources, according to which all resources except clay, sand, and crushed stone, are controlled by Moscow. He said, "federation subjects are excluded from the process of managing the use of natural resources while the budgets of regions are deprived of income from the payments for their use." The Russian Constitution, however, contains a provision saying that "land and other natural resources are used and maintained as a basis for life and the activity of people living on [the] corresponding territory," Shaimiev said. He stressed that currently federation subjects are deprived of the right of regulating these resources, even reserves of drinking water on their territories, and are not allowed to supervise activities of state companies on the use of natural resources, something that violates the federal constitution and threatens the environment.

Siberian Tatars Seek To Register As Separate Group Within United Tatar Nation
RFE/RL's Tyumen correspondent reported on 19 June that the Tatar National Cultural Autonomies of the southern raions of the Tyumen Oblast met several days before a conference to discuss the position of Siberian Tatars concerning how they should identity themselves in October's Russia-wide census. Faizulla Kamalov, the head of the Tyumen Oblast Tatar National Cultural Autonomy council, said that although Siberian Tatars have their history on local territories, their written language did not develop and some lakes that they possessed for centuries have been sold to other people -- all of this because Siberian Tatars do not have the status of an indigenous ethnic group. Kamalov said it is necessary to seek a separate code in the census for Siberian Tatars and ask them to register under this designation. Anas Gaitov, the executive secretary of the Siberian Tatars Assembly, as well as a majority of the participants, supported the proposal.

Delegates from raions and cities expressed various opinions. Vagai Raion Tatar National Cultural Autonomy leader Akhat Fatkhullin said registration as Siberian Tatars is unlikely to improve the fate of Tatars in the region. He said at the same time that he will submit to the decisions of the conference. Urta Saz Village Council Secretary Boris Tuichikov, from the Tuben-Teude Raion, also expressed doubts that the separation of Siberian Tatars could lead to positive results for them.

The conference unanimously passed a resolution saying that Siberian Tatars should be registered as a separate ethnic group in the census -- as well as Kazan Tatars and other Tatar ethnic groups -� and then Siberian, Kazan, and all other Tatars should be counted together as "Tatars." The conference passed a corresponding appeal to the Russian and Tatar presidents, the State Duma chairman, the Tatar State Council, and the World Tatar Congress.

Protest Action Against Prohibition Of Latin Script Finds Support
Tatar-inform reported on 19 June on the growth in the number of supporters of the campaign to protest the amendment to the federal law on languages that prohibits the use of non-Cyrillic scripts in Russia. The amendment was intended to prevent Tatarstan from implementing its 1999 law on restoring the Tatar Latin script. The action of collecting signatures was begun on 12 June by Lev Ovrutskii, a reporter with "Moskovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane," who said the State Duma had tactlessly interfered in "a purely Tatar affair." Signatures will be passed to the State Duma.

Mukhametshin Praises Opposition Journalist For Position Of Principle
Tatar-inform cited State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin on 19 June as saying that Ovrutskii and editors at "Moskovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane" took a brave position while covering the issue. "[A] journalist whose name was usually associated with a 'pro-Moscow' policy showed a position of principle. Despite the fact that we are on different positions on some issues, he undoubtedly deserves respect," Mukhametshin stressed.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Minister Discusses Improvements To Bashkir-Language Press
Bashkir Press Minister Zufar Timerbulatov told the World Bashkir Congress roundtable devoted to the republic's language policies on 15 June that by the early 1990s, there were only 8 Bashkir-language print-media outlets published throughout the republic, while in many regions, the local Bashkir press was made up of newspapers translating the local Russian papers, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 18 June. In some rural regions, the circulation of newspapers translated into Bashkir exceeded the circulation of the original Russian papers, while the cities of Ufa, Sterlitamaq, Salavat, and Neftekamsk didn't even have any local Bashkir-language newspapers at all.

In his report, Timerbulatov criticized the translated newspapers for "failing to become a testing ground for young Bashkir writers and poets and for slowing down the development of Bashkir journalism."

Commenting on the present situation in the republic's media market, Timerbulatov said the resolutions of the first World Bashkir Congress in 1995 led to the creation of several self-sufficient Bashkir-language newspapers and magazines that have been distributed throughout the republic, such as the newspaper "Yashlek" and the magazine "Akbuzat." He added that the majority of Bashkir-language papers in the republic's regions have ceased to be simple translations of Russian papers, and only four of 54 regions have yet to undergo such a transition.

Government Discusses Issue Of Unprofitable Companies...
Bashkortostan's Cabinet of Ministers met on 18 June to discuss the work of the Birsk, Davletkan, Durtule, Sibay, and Yanaul regional administrations to reduce the number of unprofitable companies in those regions, "Respublika Bashkortostan" reported the next day. Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov said at the meeting that, although the administrations of these regions have undertaken certain activities to close or transform unprofitable companies, the number of loss makers increased during the first quarter of 2002. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Sigakov said the increase in unprofitable companies was the result of fear of leaving people unemployed. "Thus, we cause production costs to rise.... It is essential to eliminate such [unprofitable] companies. This is the only way to stimulate private initiative. We shouldn't wait for the situation to deteriorate, especially on the eve of Russia's entry into the WTO [World Trade Organization]," Sigakov said.

...Prepares To Crack Down On Debtors...
Bashkir state radio quoted Prime Minister Baidavletov on 19 June as saying that the republic's regional administrations and a number of companies owe the Bashkir government a total of 10.8 billion rubles ($348 million). The majority of this debt, 62.2 percent, belongs to companies in the agriculture industry. Baidavletov said the Bashkir Prosecutor's Office revealed that, "loans were not always used as required, which is why it is impossible to establish a precise time for their repayment. Nonetheless, the government has adopted a resolution not to prolong the term for debt repayment anymore."

...As Average Salaries To Agricultural Workers On The Rise...
The Bashkir Agriculture Ministry announced on 20 June that the average salary of farmworkers in the republic has reached 1,120 rubles this year, which is about 50 percent higher than in 2001, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

...And Commission Reports Increase In Wage Arrears In 2002
Wage arrears in the Bashkortostan's industrial sector have increased by 57 percent so far in 2002 to some 1.17 billion rubles ($37 million), Bashinform reported on 20 June. The issue was on the agenda at a meeting of the trilateral commission on the regulation of socioeconomic relations, which involves members of the Bashkir government, trade-union leaders, and heads of companies. In the agrarian sector, back wages have more than doubled this year to 315 million rubles ($10 million). GK/IN

Rakhimov Meets With Russian Officials During Congress
During the opening day of the second World Bashkir Congress on 14 June, President Rakhimov held a number of meetings with Russian officials who came to Ufa to participate in the congress, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

Rakhimov met with Aleksandr Bespalov, chairman of the Unified Russia party's general council, to discuss the creation of party structures in Bashkortostan. Bespalov later told a press conference that he "came to Bashkortostan to learn from such a wise and respected man [and] influential politician as President Murtaza Gubaidullovich Rakhimov."

Rakhimov also met with Vyacheslav Volodin, head of the Fatherland-All Russia faction in the Russian State Duma, to discuss legislative issues involving the federal government and subjects of the Russian Federation, the presidential press service reported on 14 June.

Rakhimov also had a brief meeting with First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Central Bank Oleg Vyugin for talks on monetary policies, after which Vyugin gave the work of Bashkortostan's National Bank a positive assessment.

Central Bank Official Predicts Stable Inflation In Coming Months
Deputy Chairman of the Russian Central Bank Vyugin said at a press conference in Ufa on 14 June that the Central Bank had developed a joint strategy with the Russian federal government to guarantee private bank deposits and to liquidate bankrupt financial institutions, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

When asked about inflation in Russia, Vyugin said: "Inflation will grow by 1 percent per month in the fall, just as it will in the summer. Thus, by the end of the year, we will be able to meet the 14 percent [annual inflation] target set by the [federal] government. Even if we don't [manage to do this], I don't see anything frightening about it, since the most important thing is that we control this process."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Cafe 'Putin' Opened In Chelyabinsk
A cafe named "Putin" has been opened in Chelyabinsk, "Kommersant" reported on 21 June. The cafe, established by two female students, is decorated with a portrait of the Russian president and a Russian state flag and serves a specialty called "Vertical Power." The cafe's checks feature Putin in various poses, including in a "tubetei" Tatar national cap and in kimono.

In December 2000, Chelyabinsk resident Mikhail Onishchenko composed a "Song about the President" devoted to Putin. Six months later, clocks with Putin's portrait on the face were produced in Chelyabinsk to mark the anniversary of his inauguration. Then the Magnitogorskii Metallurgicheskii Kombinat arranged an exposition in its museum of items connected with Putin. In August 2001, the Kusinskii Zavod began production of Putin's cast-iron busts.

Experiment On Alternative Civil Service Stopped In Nizhnii
Participants of the experiment on alternative civil service in Nizhnii Novgorod stopped their work in the First Gradskaya Hospital on 20 June, reported the same day. The agency cited a source in the city administration as saying that the work was stopped after administration officials informed members of the alternative civil service department that according to the law on similar service passed by the State Duma in the second reading, the experiment in Nizhnii Novgorod and Perm will not be recognized as valid alternative service.

The experiment started in Nizhnii Novgorod on 4 January when the department of 20 servicemen began their work in the hospital at the initiative of Mayor Yurii Lebedev. In Perm, a similar department was formed at the initiative of a local human rights group. The experiment began before the adoption of the relevant federal law was criticized by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Liberal Russia Members Distribute Copies Of Berezovskii's Film
Liberal Russia in Perm Oblast began an program to distribute 1,500 copies of the film "Assault on Russia" initiated by oligarch Boris Berezovskii to investigate the 1999 apartments blasts in Moscow and Volgodonsk and the prevention of a similar blast in Ryazan in fall 1999, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 19 June. The agency cited members of the local branch of Liberal Russia as saying that they insist on an independent investigation of the circumstances of the bombings and propose amendments to the Russian Constitution to establish the institution of parliamentary and public supervision of executive authorities and law-enforcement bodies.

FSB In Samara Marks Anniversary Of Former Soviet Leader
The Federal Security Service (FSB) Board in Samara Oblast held a ceremonial meeting on 15 June to mark the 88th birthday of Yurii Andropov, who headed the KGB of the USSR for 15 years, "Samara segodnya" reported on 17 June. Veterans of the organization delivered their memoirs about meetings with Andropov. Speechmakers stressed the "unremitting interest of the young generation in the person of Andropov."

Ethnic Russians Increase Muslim Community In Tyumen Oblast
A mosque constructed six month ago in the village of Matmassy near Tyumen cannot accommodate all the believers, the majority of which are youth between 25 and 27 years old, reported on 18 June. The agency cited representatives of the local Muslim organization as saying that numerous ethnic Russians accepted Islam in recent years. The Muslim community has repeatedly appealed to Tyumen head Stepan Kirichuk to permit construction of one more mosque but the mayor refuses to allot land for mosques either in Matmassy or Tyumen. The Matmassy mosque is located on private land belonging to local businessmen Rinat Nasyrov, who financed the construction.

Conflict Between Authorities, Energy Company In Ulyanovsk Claims First Victim
One person died on 18 June in a picket in the village of Staroe Timoshkino in Ulyanovsk Oblast's Baryshskii Raion protesting the cutting off of electricity, agencies reported. Ulyanovskenergo, the local branch of Russia's Unified Energy Systems (RAO EES), stopped supplying Ulyanovsk with hot water and oblast raions with electricity after the oblast debt for energy consumed in 2002 reached 210 million rubles ($6.7 million). In February, Ulyanovsk Governor Vladimir Shamanov promised Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov that the oblast will pay its current energy bills in full and will gradually repay its back debts to RAO EES. However, the oblast currently pays 89 percent of its bills and its total debt to Ulyanovskenergo has reached 3.7 billion rubles ($117.7 million).

Kasyanov said on 19 June that there is no need to introduce direct federal rule in Ulyanovsk Oblast. The previous day, RAO EES board member Andrei Trapeznikov called for such a measure. Kasyanov said the situation in the oblast is "very sharp" but added that similar events take place in the country several times a year. He expressed hope that RAO EES will treat the problem "with understanding" since "people should not suffer from the actions of the authorities."

On 20 June, the Ulyanovsk administration and Ulyanovskenergo signed an agreement to restore the supply of hot water to Ulyanovsk, reported. The same day, the power supply of Baryshskii Raion was also restored after the local administration repaid a part of its debt to the energy company.

Ulyanovsk Legislature Concerned About Influence Of Foreign Religious Organizations
Deputies of the Ulyanovsk Oblast Legislative Assembly proposed amendments to the federal law on freedom of conscious and religious associations in order to "prohibit registration on Russia's territory of foreign religious organizations, financing of local religious organizations from abroad, and foisting religious literature on people against their will," Rosbalt reported on 18 June. Deputies said, "the state is to save Russia's traditional faiths from spiritual expansion of destructive religious cults." The proposal must be supported by at least half of federation subjects in order to be discussed by the State Duma. The Legislative Assembly of the Krasnodar Krai has already backed the initiative.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova