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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 24, 2004

24 February 2004
World Tatar Congress To Hold Special Meeting In Ufa
The leadership of the World Tatar Congress, including chief executive Rinat Zakirov and nationwide Tatar national-cultural autonomy Chairman Rimzil Weliev, headed to Bashkortostan's capital Ufa on 24 February for a special congress devoted to Tatar rights in the republic, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The congress will reportedly focus on the status of the Tatar language in the republic, where 1 million Tatars make up one-third of the population and the second-largest ethnic group after Russians.

The World Tatar Congress and the Tatar rights movement in Bashkortostan are expected to demand that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov fulfill his December election promise to grant official status to the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, where only Russian and Bashkir currently hold official status.

Elmet Administration Supports Religious Education In Schools
According to "Kazanskie Vedomosti" on 20 February, Reshit Abubakirov, the head of administration of Tatarstan's oil-rich Elmet Raion, approved the idea of teaching Islam and Orthodoxy in local schools, due to the "need to overcome the spiritual crisis currently afflicting youth and society in general." With the highest standard of living in the republic, Elmet also officially has the highest drug addiction rates in Tatarstan.

Antidrug Body Registers First Case Of Drug Promotion
For the first time in the Volga Federal District, the Tatar branch of the State Antidrug Committee shut down a kiosk selling T-shirts, labels, and stickers depicting cannabis in the center of Kazan, Intertat reported on 23 February. Kazan's Vakhitovskii Raion Court convicted the kiosk owner and fined him 2,000 rubles ($70), while the maximum penalty for promoting the use of drugs according to Russian law is 2,500 rubles ($90).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan's Tatar Leaders Appeal To Putin To Protect Tatar Rights
Leaders of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups have signed a letter addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which they highlight violations of Tatar rights in Bashkortostan and the "forcible" registration of Tatars as Bashkirs during the October 2002 census, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 22 February. The authors said that they respect Putin's support for the Russian-speaking population of the ex-Soviet republics. However, in Russia itself, the authors wrote, Tatars are subject to oppression, even though they are protected by the Russian president who is a guarantor of the Russian Constitution. They asked Putin to take resolving Tatars' problems in Bashkortostan under his personal supervision.

State Newspaper Raises Issue Of Status Of Tatar Language In Bashkortostan
In an article devoted to the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, "Komsomolskaya pravda" argued on 21 February that President Rakhimov, who promised during the December 2003 presidential election campaign to promote the status of Tatar, has so far done nothing in this respect. The daily cited Bashkir World Congress Chairman Ekhmet Soleimanov as saying that if ethnic minorities exceed the size of the indigenous population then a struggle for national liberation could turn into war.

Turnout In March Elections Expected To Be Over 80 Percent
According to a poll carried out by the Socioeconomic Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Ufa branch on 6-10 February, 82.1 percent of those questioned said they will definitely take part in the 14 March elections, while 5.1 percent said they will not, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 20 February. The poll surveyed 1,084 residents of Bashkortostan. Of the first group, 77.1 percent said they will vote for President Vladimir Putin, 2.4 percent for Nikolai Kharitonov, 1.9 percent for Sergei Glazev, and 0.9 percent for Irina Khakamada. In the poll, 70.1 percent of people expressed positive attitudes toward the socioeconomic situation in the republic, while 15.7 percent expressed a negative opinion.

50,000 Drug Addicts In Bashkortostan
Emir Nigmetjanov, the head of the Bashkir Directorate of the Russian State Narcotics Turnover Supervision Committee, said on 20 February that there are 50,000 drug addicts in Bashkortostan, of which only 7,000 are registered, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In Russia, there are 4 million drug addicts, Nigmetjanov said, adding that the spread of drug addiction in Bashkortostan is as dangerous as that of international terrorism.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova