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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 2, 2004

2 February 2004
Tatar, Russian Presidents Issue Eid Al-Adha Greetings
In his Eid Al-Adha greeting on 30 January, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said that "over many centuries, Islam played an important role in strengthening moral norms and increasing spiritual and cultural heritage in Tatarstan, reported. "Actively interacting with other religions, it obtained specific, civilized features in our republic and became a source of modern trends of harmonizing interethnic and interfaith relations," he added. Shaimiev expressed his confidence that "following true values of [Islam] and opening mosques and religious educational institutions are important factors in the spiritual renovation of the people."

Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent his greetings on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, which he said marks the "further revival of the religious life of millions of Islam followers" in Russia, "Kommersant-Daily" reported, citing the presidential press service. Putin said that the "true values" of Islam exhibited by followers' "tolerance and a friendly attitude toward neighbors, peaceful disposition, and caring for people." Putin pointed out that such values are "of special importance" today, as they "provide firm ground for peace and concord and promote the unity of our multinational motherland."

Muslim Religious Board Chairman Says Russian Muslims Are United
Central Muslim Religious Board (TsDUM) Chairman Telget Tajetdin in an interview with "Izvestiya" reiterated his denial of a public controversy with Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Rawil Gaintedin. Tajetdin said he met recently at the Kremlin in Moscow with Gaintedin and Muslims of North Caucasus coordination center head Ismail Berdyev. During that meeting, he said, the three exchanged opinions about the need for unity among Russia's Muslim communities. Tajetdin said there has been no split among Russian Muslims for the past 15 years.

Tajetdin also said Russia has quite a good chance of entering the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), noting that Russia has twice as many Muslims as Saudi Arabia. Any country whose population is partially Muslim can become an observer in the OIC, Tajetdin said.

In response to a question about foreign sponsorship, Tajetdin said TsDUM does not receive financing from any outside religious center. He said that in the early 1990s, TsDUM signed a $1.4-million agreement with the OIC's Islamic Bank for Development to support the construction of religious schools. However, TsDUM received only $410,000 of that sum, which it used to construct educational institutions in Moscow, Tatarstan's Elmet and Kazan, and Bashkortostan's Oktyabrskii and Ufa. No other money was received by TsDUM from abroad, Tajetdin said.

Doubles Running in Tatar Parliamentary Elections
Candidates running under similar or identical names as popular contenders have been entered in the State Council elections in several Tatar electoral districts, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 30 January. In Kazan's Derbyshki district, an Aleksandr Grachev will compete against former State Duma Deputy Ivan Grachev. In December, both Grachevs ran for the State Duma in Kazan's Volga district. In Kazan's Shalyapin district, Kazan Finance and Economy Institute student Lenar Ekhmetjyanov will oppose Firdinat Ekhmetjanov, the deputy director of the company Dan.

In Elmet district, brothers Nil Girfanov and Rawil Girfanov will run on the ticket of the Russian Party of Life. This tactic, the weekly speculated, is intended to obtain more television and radio air time and free space in print-media outlets for the family name, and one of the brothers would presumably withdraw his name prior to the elections.

In the southeastern district of Bogelme, Russian Party of Life candidate Nail Zaripov, the general director of Tatinvest holding will compete against Dinis Zaripov, a village council chairman. State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin is also running in this district. In Chistai's Gayaz district, Unified Russia candidate, Tatagrokhimservis general director Salikhjan Kelimullin, will face metalworker Nurgayaz Kelimullin.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Reshapes Cabinet...
President Murtaza Rakhimov has appointed former Bashkir State University official Galie Mokhemetjanova to head Bashkortostan's Education Ministry, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 30 January. Rakhimov has also signed a decree transforming the Housing, Architecture, and Transportation Ministry into a similarly named state committee. Former Minister Reshit Sattarov reportedly has not been offered an appointment within that state committee. Bashkortostan's Industry Ministry was converted into the Economic Development and Industry Ministry.

...As Media Ministry Faces Restructuring
Another presidential decree has been issued dismissing republican Media Minister Zoefer Timerbolatov and, according to the sources within the Bashkir government, the ministry itself will undergo serious reductions and be transformed into a board on the media and publishing, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 30 January. The same sources said the republican administration will drastically reduce the number of state-owned media and leave only a few outlets that are sponsored by the government.

Ufa's Only Private TV Channel Forced Off The Air
Ufa city officials have shut down the Stolitsa television station in the Bashkir capital, saying the building that houses that broadcaster interfered with the electricity cables, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 30 January. Stolitsa was established by potential presidential rival Sergei Veremeenko and has been the only local private television channel in Ufa. It was generally known for its independent coverage of republican political policies.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi