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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 6, 2004

6 February 2004
Russian Education Ministry To Include Study Of Orthodoxy In School Curriculum...
Russian Deputy Education Minister Leonid Grebnev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 4 February that Russian can only be taught in secondary schools by studying the Orthodox Christian basis of Russian culture, so the subject will now be included in the curriculum. As to why studying the classics of Russian literature like Aleksandr Pushkin or Yurii Lermontov is not enough to know Russian, Grebnev said their works are also based on the principles of Orthodox Christianity. In republics where two state languages exist, the principles of the religions linked to both languages should be studied, Grebnev said. He denied suggestions that only one language will be promoted and one religion will be implanted from above. Grebnev also promoted the creation of new textbooks and teaching methods to fulfill this idea, adding that the textbooks will be used everywhere in Russia, including in ethnic republics. Commenting on schools working on the basis of ethnocultural programs, Grebnev said he considers them "positive" as a whole but expressed concern that such schools can create ghetto-like environments.

...As Religious Leaders Comment On Proposal
Commenting on the Grebnev's proposal, Russian Council of Muftis Chairman Rawil Gainetdin said he was not aware of it but backed the idea of teaching the religious principles of different cultures. Gainetdin said the heads of Russia's leading faiths are have similar opinions on the issue. He said if any similar proposals are made, they must be approved by the leaders of all of Russia's religions who work in the Interfaith Council. Gainetdin said the teaching of Orthodox, Muslim, and Judaic cultures in schools can be jointly considered and approved by the council. This measure would contribute to the education of children to respect other religions and faiths. Russian Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich said Russian officials often proclaim slogans like "Russia for Russians" and no attention should be paid to the position of one official.

Water Company Head Killed In Kazan
State-owned Vodokanal General Director Grigorii Arutyunov was shot dead on 5 February morning while leaving his apartment,, RosBalt and other Russian and Tatar news agencies reported the same day. Vodokanal is responsible for running the water and sewage system in Kazan. Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov told "Vechernyaya Kazan" on 6 February that the killing is linked "only to [Arutyunov's] official duties on issuing technical conditions [for connecting to systems] and his uncompromising position on the issue." In the past, Arutyunov was linked to several scandals that could be behind his shooting, "Kommersant v Kazani" speculated on 6 February.

Arutyunov was once dismissed from the post of Vodokanal director following a July 2001 cholera outbreak in Kazan when 70 residents were infected but was restored to the post by Kazan's Wakhitov Raion Court in December 2001. Last fall, Arutyunov was subject to sharp criticism by local businessmen who said he took too much money from businesses for connecting them to water and sewage systems. The issue attracted the attention of President Mintimer Shaimiev, who said he would take it under his personal supervision.

In October, an interdepartmental commission was set up to develop appropriate tariffs for Vodokanal services, suggesting a fee of 6,900 rubles ($242) for 1 cubic meter of running water and 8,000 rubles for connection to the sewage system. However, Arutyunov turned down these figures, saying they covered only about half the cost of the services. Meanwhile, in mid-September the Tatar Interior Ministry launched criminal investigations against several officials of Vodokanal who were accused of not paying taxes and abuse of office. Vodokanal allegedly overpaid fourfold for equipment purchased and transferred the difference to accounts of unknown companies. The transactions have caused losses of 1 million rubles, according to investigators.

Charity Action Fails To Raise Much Money
Only 100,000 rubles were collected during a charity action held on 31 January-3 February to raise money for surgery for children with congenital heart diseases, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 6 February. Meanwhile, such an operation costs between 150,000 rubles and 210,000 rubles, while there are 80 children in Kazan who need one. In the last such event in August, enough money for 11 operations was raised, the paper said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Appoints New Government
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov signed a decree on forming the new republican cabinet on 5 February, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. According to the document, Rafael Baydavletov will remain as Bashkir prime minister along with six deputy prime ministers instead of the previous seven. The Bashkir government will consist of 15 ministries and various state committees. The cabinet also includes boards on media and publishing, veterinary medicine, state archives, and agricultural machinery.

Government Plans To Double GRP By 2010
Prime Minister Baydvlatov told a government meeting on 4 February that Bashkortostan will double its gross regional product (GRP) by 2010, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. The prime minister said that in 2003 Bashkortostan's produce grew by 7.5 percent and the future growth for 2004 was estimated at least at 6.2 percent. Also in 2003, the average income in Bashkortostan increased by 16.8 percent, higher than Russia's average increase of 13 percent. Inflation was reported at 11.1 percent, below Russia's average of 12 percent.

Flu Epidemic Said To Have Reached Its Peak
On the fifth week of the flu epidemic in Bashkortostan, the number of those infected increased by 4 percent among adults and 9 percent among children, RosBalt reported on 5 February. More than 25,000 people, 59 percent of them children, were hit by the flu in Bashkortostan in the last seven days, while the republic's capital Ufa is already reporting a slight decrease in the number of flu cases. In 2003, the flu epidemic lasted for six weeks in the February-March period and affected some 250,000 of the republic's residents.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi