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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 2, 2004

2 January 2004
Shaimiev Praises Tatarstan's Achievements In 2003
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said in his New Year television address to the people of Tatarstan on 31 December 2003 that his republic had "managed to achieve most of its goals" by ensuring the growth of monetary incomes per capita "despite the inflation and general growth of prices." Among the year's achievements Shaimiev highlighted stable oil and petrochemical production, the growing output at the KamAZ automotive concern, Tatarstan's high level of agricultural production, as well as the ongoing preparations for the 200th anniversary of Kazan State University in 2004 and Kazan's millennium celebrations in 2005. He added that the December elections for the Russian State Duma revealed that voters had enormous trust in the government, but at the same time unveiled a number of problems that need urgent resolution. Shaimiev said that these problems included low incomes, a lack of security, and drug addiction.

Prime Minister Outlines Tatarstan's Economic Agenda For 2004
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov told reporters on 31 December 2003 that in 2004 his government would concentrate on optimizing budget expenses, which does not mean abolishing state institutions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Budget-funded organizations, such as hospitals and kindergartens, will be required to offer services for fees, up to the total value of 6 billion rubles ($205 million), twice as much as 2003. Under republican regulations, half of the extra profits will be used for increasing employee salaries. Currently, most of Tatarstan's state enterprises earn extra income by renting unused production premises for low prices, a situation, which in Minnikhanov's opinion, "has to be changed." Every year, more than 50 percent of Tatarstan's budget is used for social-security programs.

Free Housing Program To Be Completed In 2004
Telget Abdullin, executive director of the state housing fund, told reporters on 30 December that in order to accomplish its housing renovation program in 2004, the fund will need 4 billion rubles ($137 million) instead of the planned 3 billion rubles in 2004, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The program -- sponsored by the Tatneft oil company, Tuben Kama Petrochemical Company, Tatenergo, the KamAZ automotive concern, and Tuben Kama Tires Company -- began in 1996 and has given free apartments to 42,000 families in Tatarstan. Another 7,000 apartments are to be distributed by late 2004.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Civic Groups Form Union To Promote Tatar Language
A meeting of a union of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups was held on 27 December in Ufa, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 29 December. Ramil Bignov, Tatarstan's economic and trade representative to Bashkortostan, who chaired the meeting, said there are problems with bilateral relations between Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and hoped that relations between Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov will improve. Bignov said Rakhimov's statement following the first round of presidential elections about raising the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan gave Tatar groups an impulse to unite. Participants at the meeting discussed the union's charter. The body aims to help the republic's Tatars develop their culture, develop a mechanism for conducting a dialogue between state bodies and citizens, and promote the rights and freedoms of the republic's residents. In an statement to the Bashkir president, Tatar public leaders said that Rakhimov's promise to raise the status of Tatar influenced the second round of presidential elections on 21 December, which Rakhimov won with 78 percent of the vote. They said that giving Tatar the same state-language status as Bashkir or Russian would contribute to preventing interethnic conflict in the republic. It was also pointed out that the issue of the status of the Tatar language is to be resolved before the 14 March Russian presidential elections. More than 10 Tatar organizations in Bashkortostan are members of the union.

Rakhimov's Inauguration Closed For Reporters
Journalists were not allowed to attend President Rakhimov's inauguration on 29 December, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The presidential press service provided no explanation for the measure. Rakhimov took an oath before federal politicians in attendance at the inauguration. Rakhimov swore "to serve Bashkortostan's multinational people, to strengthen Bashkortostan's statehood, to observe strongly the Russian Constitution and the Bashkir Constitution, to guarantee the rights and freedoms of citizens, [and] to perform honestly the duties of Bashkortostan's president."

Rakhimov Says Campaign Techniques Used Against Him Are Dangerous For Russia
During his inauguration speech, President Rakhimov said that dirty campaigning against him was seen on an unprecedented scale in the recent presidential election campaign. Rakhimov said that he was reminded of the Nazis' Blitzkrieg tactics during World War II. An attempt was made to nullify the republic's achievements, the president said, adding that "some [federal] mass media, including several TV channels, and even some federal officials took part in this cynical campaign run by oligarchs." Rakhimov added that this type of campaigning presents a threat not only for Bashkortostan but for all of Russia.

Shaimiev Says Friendly Relations With Bashkortostan Inevitable
Visiting Ufa on 29 December, Tatar President Shaimiev said it is impossible for Tatarstan to develop without close relations with Bashkortostan in both the political and economic sectors. "Our history and fate is together and we are wise enough to take into account the interests of our brotherly peoples," Shaimiev said.

Presidential Staffer Says Bashkir Media 'Mild'
Presidential administration official Emir Yuldashbaev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 30 December that the "mildness" of the republic's mass media was among the mistakes of Rakhimov's presidential campaign. "The economic and political situation and interethnic relations are so calm, stable, and positive in Bashkortostan, when compared to Russia's other regions, that journalists are in the habit of a serene life," Yuldashbaev said. He compared "oligarchs" who took part in the elections to thieves who open doors with master keys.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova