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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 2, 2004

2 April 2004
Kazan Hosts Islamic Conference
Rafail Khekimov, an adviser to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, delivered a report on the modernization of Islam at a conference in Kazan on 1 April titled "Islam: Identity and Politics in Post-Soviet Space: Comparative Analysis of Central Asia and European Russia," reported the same day. Khekimov said the concept of Euro-Islam, the modern version of Jadidism developed by Tatars in the 19th century, reflects a modern version of Islam in which cultural aspects dominate while the importance of rituals is reduced. Khekimov continued that the key principle of Euro-Islam is connected to the concept of ijtihad (the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the sources of Islamic law) as a method of critical comprehension of the Koran. Speaking at the same conference, Deputy Tatar Muslim Religious Board Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov said the concept of ijtihad is outdated. Yaqupov said there is no need to radically change principles of Islam, as this will only stimulate the birth of new faiths. Yaqupov called on Muslims to follow traditional branches of Islam.

Tatar Draftees Not To Be Sent To Chechnya
Tatarstan's Enlistment Office has said that approximately 4,000 Tatars are expected to be drafted into Russia's armed services during the spring recruiting campaign that began on 1 April, and RosBalt reported the same day. Draftees from the republic will not be sent to Chechnya, according to the report. An estimated 1,558 resident's of the republic are dodging their military service. Last year, 2,144 people were punished for avoiding military service, 37 criminal cases were filed, and nine people were convicted.

Drug-Related Deaths On The Rise
Fifty-six residents of Tatarstan have died of drug overdoses in the first two months of this year, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 2 April. One hundred forty-four people suffered drug-related deaths in 2003, about half of them in Kazan. The peak of such deaths was recorded in 2000, when 300 drug-related deaths were registered. The daily quoted Shamil Dewletgildiev, the head of the Russian State Narcotics Control's Tatarstan Board, as saying that 630 kilograms of drugs were seized in the republic in 2003 and the number of registered narcotics-related crimes rose by 33 percent.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Philosopher Laments Federative Policies
Prominent Bashkir philosopher Fenil Feizullin told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 1 April that the 12th anniversary of the signing of the federative treaty between Moscow and Russia's territorial entities was marked on 31 March amid a "collapse of the federative system and Russia's development towards a unitary state." He added: "Even the USSR had a Nationalities Chamber, while modern Russia -- as is well known -- has abolished the Ministry on Nationalities Affairs." Feizullin emphasized that the "Stalin-era Soviet constitution used to have a formal stipulation of nationalities' rights to self-determination, while these words are missing in the contemporary basic law."

Feizullin said President Vladimir Putin has the power to change the situation "if he remembers that he is not just the Russian president but Russia's president, which means that he is to take care of all nationalities living there." Feizullin also said Moscow politicians and Moscow-based media can be seen more and more frequently promoting the idea of merging the existing ethnic republic with Russian-populated area for "dissolving the ethnic component."

Former Russian President Visits Ufa
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin arrived in Ufa on 31 March to see eye surgeon Ernst Muldashev, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. Yeltsin was being accompanied by his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi