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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 19, 2004

19 May 2004
Education Minister Reports On Effects Of Perestroika-Induced Birth-Rate Slump
Education Minister Faris Kharisov told reporters on 18 May that some 50,000 high-school students will graduate this year, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Kharisov said the numbers show that Tatarstan is encountering the same demographic trend seen throughout the Russian Federation, where the number of graduates is annually falling by some 4 percent. This is attributed to the fall of birth rates that occurred in during the first years of perestroika in the early 1990s.

The gradual fall in the number of students has already resulted in the closure of many schools in rural Tatarstan. It is estimated that in 10 years only about 37,500 students will graduate from Tatarstan's schools, based on the number of new schoolchildren who were enrolled last fall.

Tatar Internet Promoters Make Their Organization Official
The international public organization of "Tatar Internet" held its first official meeting and a roundtable on 18 May in Kazan with the support of the World Tatar Congress and Russia's Federal National Cultural Tatar Autonomy, RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported the same day. The organization, which has been unofficially operating for the last two years, was established to promote Tatar resources on the web and solving technical problems pertaining to the publication of material in the Tatar language.

Aside from discussing organizational issues, Tatar web promoters decided to appeal to Tatarstan's government to create the republic's first domains -- .ts and .tat.

According to Rimzil Weli, the chairman of Russia's Tatar national-cultural autonomy organization, "besides the existing technical difficulties with finding a single Tatar script for web publications, the Tatar segment of the Internet is also experiencing a lack of high-quality ethnic content."

The Tatar Internet organization also resolved to elect its leader by means of an Internet vote. The founder of the online publication "Tatar Gazette," Irek Bikkinin, and the Tatar editor of the republican-government owned, Elfie Minnullina, are considered the top candidates for this seat.

Parliament Discusses Housing Reform
On 18 May, Tatarstan's State Council discussed the republican program of housing-sector reforms in 2004-10, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 19 May. According to the Construction, Architecture, and Housing Ministry, the reforms will necessitate in higher fees but the provision of services will be improved. State Council chairman Farid Mukhametshin acknowledged in his statement that over the last decade the federal center has achieved little progress in reforming the housing sector. He also emphasized that aside from the necessity of reforms, the republican government realizes the need to protect the population from the possible negative consequences of introducing liberalizing the housing-services sector.

Meanwhile, the general director of the republican agency for private-businesses development, Igor Privalov, told parliament that private businessmen are currently "being pushed away" from the housing-services sector by ministries and state agencies.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

International Oil And Gas Exhibition Opens In Ufa
Over 250 domestic and foreign companies are taking part in an international exhibition titled "Gas. Oil. Technologies" that opened in Ufa on 18 May, RosBalt reported the same day. Thirteen foreign companies from Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and other countries are represented at the forum aimed at exposing new achievements in oil production and processing, advances in the petrochemical and energy sectors, and in oil and gas transportation. President Murtaza Rakhimov, Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov, and Russian Oil and Gas Industrialists Union President Gennadii Shmal took part in the opening ceremony. On 19 May, Linda Cross, the United Kingdom's consul-general to Yekaterinburg, is to arrive in Ufa to attend the exhibition. Cross is scheduled to meet with Minister of Foreign Economic Affairs and Trade Boris Kolbin.

Bashkir President Becomes Honorary Citizen Of Ufa
President Rakhimov was awarded the title of honorary citizen of Ufa, Bashinform and RosBalt reported on 14 May. The decision was passed at a city council meeting the same day. The title is awarded to people who have made an extraordinary contribution to the city's development. In the past, 26 people have been awarded the title, and another two residents joined the list on 14 May together with Rakhimov. Honorary citizens are entitled to use public transport for free and have extra privileges in the payment of housing and municipal services.

AIDS Memorial Opens In Ufa
A memorial alley to commemorate people who have died of AIDS was opened in the Ufa Kalinin Raion, RosBalt reported on 18 May. The tree planting was initiated by government and local bodies, the Mothers Against Narcotics committee, and the republic's Center for the Prevention of AIDS. Some 25 percent of Ufa's 1,800 HIV carriers reside in Kalinin Raion. Forty-six HIV carriers have died in Bashkortostan so far this year.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova