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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 21, 2001

21 December 2001
Ulyanovsk Tatar Organization Protests Division Of Tatars In Census
The board of the Tatar-Bashkir National Movement in Ulyanovsk has appealed to the Russian Duma, the Federation Council, the Russian presidential administration, and the Tatarstan State Council to protest dividing Tatars into six ethnic groups in the 2002 census, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 15 December. The board called the move a "provocation" and urged Moscow to stop its "anti-Tatar and anti-Tatarstan" policy, arguing that attempts to incite a clash between Russians and Tatars could lead to the country's collapse. RFE/RL's Ulyanovsk correspondent on 15 December cited board representatives saying it is quite possible to divide Tatars into even more ethnic groups, up to 200 or 300, as Mishers alone could be divided into numerous lesser ethnic groups -- such as Mishers of Sergach, Mishers of Chuprele, of Melekes, of Penza, and so on. Such groups could even appeal for benefits on the basis of their resulting minority status, board members said.

As early as 1999, the idea of separating Christian Tatars enjoyed the support of Vladimir Zorin, the head of the Duma's National Issues Committee at the time and more recently appointed national policies minister. On 17 July 1999, Zorin had told ORT that 176 peoples exist in Russia, while in the USSR there are 146. Zorin added that "it is possible that the 177th people will appear in Russia, as our committee is receiving appeals from Christian Tatars seeking to register a 'Kreshen' nationality."

Painter, Healer Promotes Capital Punishment For Drug Traffickers
"Zvezda Povolzhya" on 14 December published an appeal by renowned painter and healer Ildar Khanov to the Russian president and people to fight drug addiction. The problem has become a national tragedy and threatens to annihilate the "national genetic fund," he said. Khanov added that only "the most extraordinary measures" could effectively combat this "monster," which penetrates into all branches of power and "is smothering the country." He called for the development of a legal basis for fighting drug addiction and trade, and backed capital punishment for drug traffickers. Legislation should provide forcible treatment of drug addicts, he added. Khanov claims to have treated more than 10,000 drug addicts.

Two-Thirds Of Kazan Residents Think Russia Will Regain Superpower Status
"Vostochnyi ekspress" on 14 December reported that 68 percent of Kazan residents questioned believe Russia will become a superpower, 14 percent said the country will disintegrate, and 8 percent suppose it will turn into a colony of the United States.

Old Believers Consider Russia A Russian-Tatar State
Old Believer leader Valerii of the Ural Eparchy told "Vechernie vedomosti iz Yekaterinburga" that the Old Believers sect represents a Russian-Tatar civilization, a Eurasian civilization born within the Golden Horde, while contemporary Orthodoxy was born within the European civilization, reported on 19 December. "We and the Moscow Patriarchy are different civilizations within the Russian people," Valerii said, adding that differences between Orthodoxy and Old Believers are strategic and concern civilization -- rather than simply being ceremonial. "Eurasia is our orientation," he said, as "Russia-Moskoviya is in fact a Russian-Tatar state." The Old Believers community in Yekaterinburg has roughly 2,000 members.

Growth Of Muslims Among Non-Muslim Peoples Reported
Abdunnur Kamalutdinov, the mufti of Kirov Oblast, told on 19 December that the number of Muslims is growing in the oblast mainly due to the number of new converts, primarily Russians. Kamalutdinov said local mosques did not have room to accept all attendees during the recent Eid Fetr holiday prayer, marking the end of Ramadan. He called on local authorities to help construct an Islamic college in Kirov, a project currently being sponsored by Muslims.

The agency reported the same day that 50 percent more Muslims than in the previous year took part in the Eid Fetr prayer in Saratov.

Helsinki Group Defends Tatarstan's Human Rights Activist
"Zvezda Povolzhya" on 20 December published an appeal by Lyudmila Alekseeva, the leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group, to Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev to protest police persecution of Dmitrii Vokhmyanin, the chairman of Tatarstan's Human Rights Committee. Alekseeva expressed concern over reports that the activities of the Vokhmyanin's committee have been blocked, and that law-enforcement agents have beaten Vokhmyanin's son and threatened him and his family. The weekly also published an open letter by 14 Russian regional human rights leaders and delegates of the Russian Civil Forum backing Vokhmyanin.

Kazan interior bodies filed criminal charges against Vokhmyanin on 4 September, accusing him of embezzlement.

TNV Likely To Oppose Merger With Political Party
State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, who also heads the Tatarstan-New Century (TNV) movement, told Tatar-inform on 20 December that most of the movement's regional branches in Tatarstan oppose a merger with any federal political party. Mukhametshin said the TNV's upcoming congress will discuss that issue, adding, "We are, in the future, going to officially state our support for respective political parties to resolve concrete political tasks." TNV has roughly 15,000 active members in the republic.

Tatar Writer Publishing Anthology Peoples' Poetry
Tatar poet and BBC journalist Ravil Bukharaev told "NG-Ex Libris" that he is preparing to publish an anthology of Russian peoples' poetry. Bukharaev said the new title should be regular and include poems by non-Russian writers in their native languages and translations into Russian and English. The first volume presents poetry from Tatarstan and the North Caucasus.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tadjuddin Praises Putin's Administration
The supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, Talgat Tadjuddin, praised Russian government activities in support of relations between faiths and ethnic groups in his Eid Fitr holiday sermon in Ufa's Lyalya-Tulpan mosque on 16 December. Tadjuddin did not mention the Republic of Bashkortostan's government. The Muslim service included condolences to the American people after the September terrorist attacks and was broadcast by Russian ORT and RTR TV channels nationwide. Unlike previous years, when Tadjuddin spoke only in Russian, this time he resumed the sermon in Tatar after an introduction in Russian.

Rakhimov Extends Eid Fetr Holiday
On the eve of Eid Fetr, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov issued a decree declaring 17 December a state holiday to prolong celebrations that began on Sunday, 16 December.

Ethnologist Says Bashkir Population Figures Likely To Slide After 2002 Census
Ildar Gabdrafikov, an expert with the Ufa branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in charge of ethnography and ethnic policies, told RFE/RL on 17 December that Bashkirs representing a "titled" ethnic group in Bashkortostan were only the third-largest group residing in the republic -- at 22 percent of the population. Russians and Tatars represent larger groups (38 and 29 percent, respectively), he said, and republican government chose Tatars to "beef up" statistics by registering them as Bashkirs because they had more similarities and long-time experience living with Bashkirs. Gabdrafikov stated that in the predecessor to the Republic of Bashkortostan after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, there was a large part of the population that considered its Muslim faith a major factor in its self-identity rather than calling itself Bashkir or Tatar.

On the current ethnic situation in Bashkortostan, he said Bashkir population figures could further dwindle after the 2002 census because people currently registered as "Tatar-speaking Bashkirs" are likely to claim Tatar ethnicity when polled next year. So far, they have represented 25 percent of the total Bashkir population.

Federal Inspector Defends Activities
The chief federal inspector in Bashkortostan, Rustem Khamitov, speaking to AROMI agency on 17 December said that for Russia and regions like Bashkortostan, "the most important [think] is to avoid division of the country into pieces, because all of Russia's residents are a single people." Referring to the current legal harmonization process, Khamitov said there were no Bashkir laws that fundamentally contradicted federal legislation -- aside from the republic's laws on ownership of natural resources and state property.

Khamitov called the current work of republican and federal authorities in the re-division of powers "a constructive dialogue which will obviously cause changes in treaty-based relations between the center and the region by the middle of next year." The inspector advocated maintaining treaty-based relations between Ufa and Moscow, citing historical traditions and popular support. Khamitov said he considered himself "a patriot of the Republic of Bashkortostan" and said he does not want to "damage its interests in any way" when fulfilling his duties.

Bashkir Officials Denounce Moscow Inaction Against Corruption
President Murtaza Rakhimov told an international conference on corruption in Ufa on 18 December that his government "has already gained sufficient experience" in opposing such crime. But, he said, "the absence of corresponding federal law prevents us from combating" corruption.

State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev claimed the Russian Criminal Code is helpless against corruption, as it stipulates no punishment for those engaging in it. He said federal law should include severe sanctions against corrupt officials. Tolkachev also denounced Russian law-enforcement agencies for failing to effectively curb bribery and widespread violations such as abuse of state funds.

Prime Minister Says State To Withdraw Unconditional Support To Farms
Prime Minister Rafael Baydalvetov, in a report to the Agriculture Ministry on 19 December, signaled that Bashkortostan's farms "will have to get used to working without support from the state" beginning from 2002. He said that only a limited number of farms will get state orders for growing grain next spring, while the majority will have to take loans and seek buyers on their own.

Ufa Plant Launches Production Of Russia's Latest Military Jet Engine
Ufa's engine plant began the production of sophisticated jet engines for the latest model of Tu-30 fighters. The facility is reportedly the only producer of changeable thrust vector engines, which are exported around the world.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chavash Republic's Fedorov Re-Elected For Third Term
Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov was elected to his third presidential term on 16 December with 40.73 percent of the poll, agencies reported. Fedorov gained 3 percentage points more than his closest rival, Duma deputy and local Communist Party (KPRF) leader Valentin Shurchanov. Federal Security Service (FSB) Lieutenant General Stanislav Voronov came third with 11.95 percent. However, Fedorov lost the poll in Cheboksary, the Chavash capital, with 30 percent, or 11 percent less than Shurchanov.

Fedorov appealed to the voters to thank them for "the victory of the Chavash people in the dispute between new and old," the victory over nostalgia about the past.

Perm Governor Concerned About Construction Of Harmful Facility In Udmurtia
Perm Oblast Governor Trutnev sent a request to Udmurtia President Aleksandr Volkov to provide him with information about the environmental-impact study of a rocket-fuel-utilizing plant planned for construction near Votkinsk Raion not far from Perm Oblast, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 17 December. Udmurtia's environmentalists are strongly opposed to the project.

SPS In Perm Disbands
The political council of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in Perm Oblast decided to disband their organization in the oblast in order to protest the policy of the party's federal leaders, Boris Nemtsov and Anatolii Chubais, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 18 December.

Perm Oblast Heads Promote Merger With Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug
Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev said on 17 December that the leadership of his oblast had not given up on the idea of joining the oblast with the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, Region-Inform-Perm reported. Trutnev called this process a "unique" one for Russia, adding that rearrangements of the two territorial entities' budgets are being negotiated. He said Perm authorities are acting "carefully" on this issue.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Company Plans To Lay Off 3,000 Disabled
Reports about plans of the Kalina company to dismiss 3,000 disabled employees from 1 January sparked sharp protests by public organizations for the disabled in Sverdlovsk Oblast, reported on 18 December. The local branch of the Russian Afghanistan Veterans Union sent their appeal to the State Duma to protest the abolishment of privileges for enterprises employing the disabled, the agency said.

Nizhnii Authorities Seek To Revive Nuclear Station Project
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev expressed his support for restarting the stalled construction of a nuclear heating station near Nizhnii Novgorod, the Nizhnii Novgorod news service reported on 17 December. Khodyrev said that the project has passed numerous examinations, including one by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Meanwhile, environmentalists in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast expressed their concern about plans to renew the station's construction which have been actively promoted by State Duma deputy (KPRF) from the oblast Ivan Nikitchuk.

Samara Oblast Parliament Elects New Speaker
Viktor Sazonov, the head of the Punishments Performance Board in Samara Oblast, was elected speaker of the newly elected Samara Duma, reported on 18 December. Sazonov told reporters that social policy, support for local industry and manufacturers, fighting crime, youth policy, and establishment of offshore zones in the oblast will be priorities in the legislature's work.

FSB Reports Successful Operation In Nizhnii
Vladimir Bulavin, the head of the Federal Security Service Board in Nizhnii Nogvorod Oblast, told a press conference on 18 December that defense industry companies in the oblast were of interest for foreign intelligence services in 2001. Bulavin said his service prevented the attempt by a foreign diplomat to obtain information about the work of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center's branch in Sarov.

Miners Consider Themselves Needy People
According to a survey held among miners in Chelyabinsk Oblast, 58 percent of them do not support any political party, while KPRF and Unity enjoy the most support, Evo PRESS reported on 18 December citing "Gornyatskaya pravda". More than a third said anarchy reigns in Russia and that it is not a democratic state. Some 48 percent consider their participation in elections does not affect the results, as changes in the Russian leadership do not represent the outcome of free and true elections. Some 63 percent of miners said they represent a needy part of the population.

Teachers Go On Strike In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Teachers of two schools in the Turinskaya Sloboda rural center of Sverdlovsk Oblast went on strike on 18 December, reported. They have not been paid for three months.

Plans To Create Harmful Facility Sparks Protests Of Residents In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Region-Inform reported on 17 December that the Sverdlovsk Oblast administration announced its plans to create a joint venture to process radioactive sand near Krasnoufimsk. The oblast government will own 51 percent of the company while 10 percent will belong to the federal Atomic Industry Ministry and 19 percent is expected to be sold to foreign investors. Residents of the Krasnoufimsk Raion have sharply protested the project, "Novyi Region" reported the same day.

Minors Prefer Remaining Imprisoned To Being Amnestied
Uralinformbureau reported on 17 December that 4,182 convicts will be amnestied in Sverdlovsk Oblast according to the Duma's 30 November resolution; 1,574 of them will be freed and the sentences of 2,545 more will be reduced. The agency reported on 19 December that in Tyumen Oblast, the number of HIV-infected prisoners has doubled in the past year to 1,400, or to 10 percent of all imprisoned, while the number of tuberculosis patients has grown by 17 percent to 2,856, or 30 percent of all prisoners.

Meanwhile, the Tyumen Oblast Department for Implementation of Punishments said on 17 December that many imprisoned minors are seeking to avoid being amnestied as they would prefer not to return to their unfavorable families or remain homeless, while in penal institutions they are provided with food and shelter.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova