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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 7, 2001

7 December 2001
Deputy Calls On Prosecutor-General To Sue Newspaper For Provocative Anti-Tatar Publication
Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin on 6 December called on the Russian prosecutor-general to give proper attention to the publication of a seemingly anti-Tatar article in the Russian-language "Zavtra" (see "Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 November, 2001). The article, titled "The Second Capture of Kazan," presents a "provocative lie" and "kindles interethnic and inter-faith hatred," Safiullin charged. His comments appeared in an article published in "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 6 December.

Tatarstan State Council Protests Alleged Efforts To Divide Tatars
The State Council on 3 December adopted an appeal to the Russian State Duma protesting reported efforts to divide Tatars into several ethnic groups in the 2002 census, republican media reported. Deputies said the number of Tatars be reduced to a fraction of the 7 million figure in the 1989 census as a result of such a move.

Deputy Tufan Minnullin said Tatars may become a marginalized people after the next census, and then anyone can contest the necessity of Tatarstan's existence. Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin called this policy "genocide" and proposed a Russia-wide conference on the issue and an extraordinary congress of the Tatars World Congress. Deputy Renat Kharis said in Ulyanovsk he had witnessed video-recorded calls to Tatars telling them that they are "Bulgars" rather than "Tatars." The State Council also passed an appeal to Tatars, saying they will lose their statehood, culture, education, and literature if they are divided into several, smaller ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Crimean correspondent reported on 5 December that Crimean Tatars are being divided into three ethnic groups -- Nogais, Crimeans, and Crimean Tatars -- in the Ukrainian census scheduled for 5-15 December.

Christian Tatar Leader Calls On Fellows To Choose 'Primordial Name'
In an interview published in "Vostochnyi ekspress" on 30 November, Aleksei Shabalin, the head of the republican Christian Tatars center, called on all Christian Tatars to choose their "primordial name" during the 2002 census. He said the name "Kreshen" existed in Volga Bulgaria, long before the campaign of baptizing Tatars after the capture of the Kazan Khanate. Shabalin said that, during a 1926 census, the last that counted those people separately from Tatars, some 101,000 Christian Tatars were registered. He claimed that the figure is now about 200,000 in Tatarstan and 350,000 in all of Russia. However, Shabalin decried "speculation" that Christian Tatars are seeking to establish a "republic within a republic" by returning to their old name. His people are simply trying to maintain their identity and culture, he said.

Moscow Said To Be Preparing Merger Of Federation Entities
"Zvezda Povolzhya" on 6 December cited an unidentified source as reporting that the Kremlin has developed a plan to merge federation members during 2002. According to the scheme, republics will be maintained in their current shape in the first stage of the process, while 69 oblasts will be reduced to about 20. The paper said Samara Oblast will likely be merged with the Ulyanovsk and Orenburg oblasts. The population of the new entities will amount to some 4 million to 5 million. In the next stage, a mechanism for the voluntary merger of republics with new entities may be launched, the weekly predicted.

President Professes Hard Line Over Minor Issue Of New Cars
President Mintimer Shaimiev's recent crackdown on new car purchases by public officials is symbolic but signals upcoming financial difficulties in Tatarstan, the weekly "Vostochnyi ekspress" concluded on 7 December. At a closed-door meeting with government officials and local administration heads on 3 December, President Shaimiev prohibited all state authorities from buying new cars in 2002-03, reported the same day. Shaimiev said he will personally approve such purchases, and then only in cases of accidents.

"Vostochnyi ekspress" reported that some 16,000 state officials in the republic use about 2,000 cars that are replaced once every three years. Apart from this, administrations heads purchase new jeeps every year, the weekly claimed. But the resulting spending is roughly $5-6 million -- "scant" compared to the republic's $2 billion budget, it noted.

New Version Of Constitution Said To Largely Maintain Sovereignty Clause
"Vostochnyi ekspress" on 7 December reported that a working group's proposed revisions to the Tatarstan Constitution are "quite good" as regards maintaining elements of sovereignty and statehood. Its adoption will be "excellent" in the present conditions, the paper concludes.

Tatneft To Provide 6 Billion Rubles For Tuben Kama Oil Refinery
Tatneft's board will allocate some 6 billion rubles ($201 million) in 2002 for construction of the Tuben Kama oil-processing plant, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shvetsov said on 3 December. Tatar-inform reported that the first line of the facility is to be completed by June 2002.

Kazan Authorities Promote Housing For Disabled
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov said on 3 December that the republic will spend some 4.5 million rubles by 2005 to implement a program on social benefits for the disabled, reported. There are 200,000 disabled persons in the republic and 50,000 in Kazan, it added. Kazan authorities are constructing handicapped-access housing for the disabled.

District Official Seeks To Establish Association Of Oil, Gas Companies
Sergei Obozov, an adviser to the Volga federal district's presidential envoy, backed the idea of establishing an association of oil and gas companies in the district, reported on 5 December. He said Sibur, Tatneft, and other companies have repeatedly made similar proposals. Current conditions call for the idea to be implemented ahead of a threat from foreign competition and a loss of markets the companies will face after Russia enters the World Trade Organization, he said. Obozov said companies will need to increase mutual deliveries of raw materials and energy, coordinate price policies, share influence, unite resources to develop new technologies, and coordinate investments in order to avoid duplicating facilities. He stressed, however, that the idea should be discussed with the companies' senior managers no earlier than in three months' time to allow for acceptance at all levels.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Muslim Religious Board Confirms Meetings Between Supreme Mufti, Tariq Bin Laden
Tariq Bin Laden, a brother of Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden, on several occasions visited Ufa to meet the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, Talgat Tadjuddin, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 4 December, citing the latter's Religious Board as confirming recent reports in the "Moskovskii Komsomolets" newspaper. Tajuddin has not commented on reports hinting that he has close ties with the bin Ladens.

Parliament Freezes Draft On Teaching Non-Russian And Bashkir Languages In Schools
Bashkortostan's State Assembly has not yet taken up debate on amendments to the republic's Law on Education proposed by the Education Ministry, which crafted the bill to meet requirements of a recently adopted law on Bashkortostan population's languages. The delay effectively denies the children of different nationalities living in the republic the opportunity to learn their native languages.

Deputy Says All Bashkortostan Residents Will Need To Learn Bashkir
Valiakhmet Badretdinov, chairman of the committee on education, science, culture and youth affairs in the Legislative Chamber of Bashkortostan's State Assembly, told RFE/RL on 4 December that he has prepared a number of amendments to the republic's Education Law. He believes the Bashkir language, one of the republic's official languages, should be taught to all children. "[I]rrespective of nationality they may need it to solve a wide range of issues in the areas of the economy, culture, and formal affairs," he said. Badretdinov added that Bashkir "will be a native [language] only for Bashkir children."

Official Touts Human Rights Record in Bashkortostan
Bashkortostan Supreme Court Chairman Marat Vakilov told a Russian representative to the European Court of Human Rights that just one of 7,000 complaints filed by Russian citizens since 1998 came from his republic, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 3 December. Vakilov met in Strasbourg with Anatolii Komlev. According to the Bashkir judge, the only complaint received by the European Court from Bashkortostan concerned the nonpayment of wages and was rejected by the court.

Vakilov said the low number of complaints revealed that there are "not so many violations in Bashkortostan as, for example, in Turkey, which holds the record for most of complaints filed."

Reports Differ On Status Of Suspected Weapons Smuggler
Sergei Tiunov, the Bashkortostan resident detained at a checkpoint in Daghestan en route to the Chechen Republic with a large cache of weapons and Islamic literature in late November, was reported missing from the Russian Armed Forces in April 2001, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 3 December. Russian media reports allege he went AWOL (absent without leave), while Irina Mamon, head of the committee for social support to military officers serving in North Caucasus, told RFE/RL that Tiunov and his colleagues had been kidnapped by Chechen militants.

Bashkortostan Representatives Entered To All Bodies Of Russia's New Centrist Party
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov joined the Supreme Council of the newly formed Unity and Fatherland party, while Russian Duma Deputy (Bashkortostan) Zaynulla Bagishaev joined the union's General Council. The leader of the Fatherland party's Bashkortostan chapter, Duma Deputy Rim Bakiev, became a member of the union's Central Political Council. Two Duma deputies from Bashkortostan, Khalil Barlibaev and Mikhail Bugera, were appointed members of the organization's Central Control and Revision Commission, Bashinform reported during the union's constituent congress on 1 December.

Police Battle Reluctance To Testify In Bribery Cases
Bashkortostan interior officials quoted by the republican press on 4 December said they are unable to effectively prosecute the growing cases of bribery because parties involved are rarely interested in reporting them to police.

Power Cable Thefts Resume In Bashkortostan's Regions
Despite the high risk of being killed by high voltage shock, thieves are still targeting electricity supply lines in regions of Bashkortostan, republican radio reported on 5 December. In several cases registered in the Elshe and Kugerchen regions of the republic, up to 1.5 to 2 kilometers of power cables were stolen in the past week.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

U.S. Ambassador Assures Muslim Leaders America Is Not Fighting Islam
United States Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow told a news conference in Yekaterinburg on 4 December that an Internet site purporting to recruit Russian veterans of the Afghan war to join American troops in Afghanistan is a "provocation," stressing it is unconnected with the U.S. government.

Visiting Chelyabinsk Oblast on 5 December, Vershbow met with Talgat Tadjuddin, the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, and Gabdulla Shakaev, the mufti of Chelyabinsk and Kurgan, to assure them that his country's efforts in Afghanistan are not directed at Muslims and Afghans, but at terrorists and fanatical extremists. Tadjuddin said Russia's Muslims support the U.S. policy against international terrorism, adding that terrorist acts are not linked to Islam and are not in the interest of Muslims. Tadjuddin said the peaceful coexistence of the Orient and the West, Asian and European civilizations, Islam and Christianity, is possible and added that the experience of the Chelyabinsk Oblast demonstrated as much.

Opposition Presidential Candidate Loses Case Against Chuvash Electoral Commission
The Chuvash Supreme Court rejected a claim by Valent Nyamin, a representative of Chuvash presidential candidate Stanislav Voronov, against the republican Central Electoral Commission, VolgaInform reported on 4 December. The claimant accused the Commission of disregarding a publication by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" of an interview with incumbent President Nikolai Fedorov -- a move that, Nyamin believes, violated electoral legislation.

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Marii El Hosts Japanese Culture Festival
A Japanese culture festival is continuing in Marii El between 3 and 10 December, reported. The event includes a film festival, an art and literature exhibition, and an art and literature competition for schoolchildren.

FSB Head Lauds Security Of Nuclear Facilities In Nizhnii
Visiting Nizhnii Novgorod on 5 December, Federal Security Service (FSB) head Nikolai Patrushev praised the activities of Nizhnii Novgorod FSB bodies on intelligence related to nuclear and defense industry facilities, Nizhnii Novgorod's telegraph agency reported. Patrushev said he believes Nizhnii will not again become a "closed" city.

Turkish Cultural Center Opens In Nizhnii
A Turkish Cultural and Educational Center opened at Nizhnii Novgorod Linguistics University, Nizhnii Novgorod's telegraph agency reported on 4 December. The Turkish language has been taught at the university for five years, and the program is being extended to include classes for the general public, not just students.

Chile Looking At Nizhnii Investment
Chile could become the first Latin American state to invest in joint ventures in the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Chilean Ambassador to Russia Pablo Cabrera said on a visit to the region on 4 December, according to Nizhnii Novgorod's news service. Cabrera met with Deputy Governor Yurii Sentyurin and local businessmen to discuss economic cooperation, prospects for opening a Nizhnii Novgorod trade mission in Chile, and educational exchanges between two sides' universities.

Nizhnii Muslims Forgive Attackers Of Mosque
Umyar Yusip, the mufti of the Volga region, told on 30 November that Muslims forgave those who attacked the Tauba mosque in Nizhnii Novgorod soon after 11 September and won't sue them. Yusip noted that "the mosque was constructed with the help of our Christian brothers," adding that local Orthodox leaders contributed money to its founding. He said all good existing in the city and the oblast is the fruit of the common creativity of Christians and Muslims, and Muslims take these relations seriously.

Muslims In Saratov Oblast Given Premises For Mosque
Authorities of the Saratov Oblast's Piter Raion handed over the former building of the raion archive to the local Muslim community to provide for a new mosque, reported on 29 November.

Sverdlovsk Legislator Supports Third Presidential Term For Governor Rossel
Vladimir Primakov, the head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast parliamentary Legislation Committee, told Region-Inform on 30 November that his committee received an anonymous draft of an amendment to the Oblast Charter enabling the governor to run for a third term. Primakov said its consideration may be initiated by the governor, prime minister, speaker of one of chambers, a group of 17 deputies, or 50,000 voters. He said if the amendment is debated he will strive to see it passes, adding that incumbent Governor Eduard Rossel is the most appropriate choice.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Faces HIV Epidemic... on 30 November cited Viktor Romanenko, the deputy head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast hygiene center, calling the "AIDS epidemic in the oblast...out of control." He said hospital capacities will soon become insufficient to treat all patients. An epidemic was declared in Yekaterinburg, Verkhnyaya Salda, and Asbest in the Sverdlovsk Oblast.

...While Young Children Report They 'Have Tasted Alcohol'
Novyi region reported on 30 November that nearly all children between five and six years of age questioned in Asbest in Sverdlovsk Oblast had tested alcohol, including vodka and spirits. Some 94 percent said they are going to drink alcohol when they finish school.

Udmurtian Parliament Passes Bill On State Languages
Udmurtia's State Council passed a law on state languages and the languages of those living in the republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 November. The legislation announces Russian and Udmurt to be state languages but does not oblige study of the Udmurt language. The republic's other ethnic groups -- Tatars, Maris, and Chuvash among them -- are provided guarantees aimed at preserving their languages.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova