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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 26, 2004

26 May 2004
Saban Tuye To Be Held In 53 Russian Regions
Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva told a cabinet briefing on 25 May that 53 Russian regions have asked the Tatar government to help organize the Tatar national festival Saban Tuye, while only 34 asked the year before, reported the same day. Saban Tuye will be held for the first time this summer in Vladivostok, Ryazan, Barnaul, Maikop, Gorno-Altaisk, and Kaliningrad. The festivities will be held abroad in Latvia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Germany, Australia, and Canada. The event will start on 29 May in Astrakhan and will finish in Moscow on 3 July. Welieva said a plan to include Saban Tuye on UNESCO's World Heritage List is under consideration.

Tatar Muslim Leaders Visit Turkey
A delegation of Muslim leaders from Tatarstan paid a visit to Turkey at the invitation of the Turkish Religious Affairs Ministry, Tatar-inform reported on 24 May. The trip came in response to the recent visit of Turkish Religious Affairs Minister Ali Bardak oglu to Tatarstan. Tatarstan's Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Gosman Iskhaqov, his first deputy Weliulla Yaqupov, Directorate chief of staff Ilyas Jihanshin, and Russian Islamic University First Deputy Rector Soleiman Zaripov are scheduled to meet with Turkish Muslim leaders.

Scholars Discuss Ways Of Reforming Islam
A seminar on the prospects of reforming Islam was held on 24 May in Kazan at the initiative of the Moscow-based Tatar NGO Watanym and the Tatarstan-based civic group Ihlas, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. A report delivered by Tatar presidential adviser Rafael Khekimov pushing the necessity of reforming Islam was severely criticized by imams. Tuben Kama Imam Ramil Yunysov said it is premature to discuss the necessity of reforming Islam, as the majority of Tatarstan's Muslims and even some religious leaders have not properly studied its principles. People should first know and understand the principles of Islam and observe its requirements. Yunysov said most of Tatarstan's Muslims and Muslim leaders cannot agree with Khekimov's proposals, which call on Tatars to stop considering Mecca a holy place and promote a Europe-oriented Islam. "We won't conduct hajj to Europe," Yunysov said.

Tatarstan's Muslim Spiritual Directorate Propaganda Department head Ildus Feiz said Islam shouldn't be reformed but rather the view of Islam by people who don't think they need to follow Islam's regulations. Feiz also said secular scholars must first properly study Islam before they speculate about its reformation. Religious and secular issues should not be mixed, he added. Ethnologist Damir Iskhaqov said Muslim leaders do not give adequate responses to issues of interest for Tatars, particularly, they do not have any position on the federalism issue.

Telephone Fees To Increase Sixfold
Kazan city telephone network General Director Ekhmet Fekhriev told reporters on 25 May that the subscriber's fee for a telephone line will be raised from the current 120 rubles ($4) to 700 rubles as of 1 June, and RosBalt reported. The per-minute fee, however, will be maintained at the level of 14 kopecks per minute, Fekhriev said. Under the federal law on communications that came into force on 1 January, subscribers can choose between the subscriber's fee and per-minute fee, whereas only the per-minute fee was previously possible. Fekhriev said that 1,446 subscribers, or 1 percent of the total, have so far changed to the subscriber's fee.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Former Deputy Minister Persecuted For Promoting Status For Tatar
Former Bashkir Deputy Economy Minister Renat Gataullin told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 25 May that he has not been reinstated to the position despite a 30 April court ruling that his dismissal was illegal. Gataullin was fired in early 2004 for promoting higher status for the Tatar language in Bashkortostan. Gataullin said that most Bashkir residents who fight for official status for the Tatar language in Bashkortostan have lost their jobs. He added that repression against the Tatar language in effect facilitates the Russification of Bashkortostan's Tatars, since Tatars who are deprived of studying their native language and are forced to study Bashkir opt instead for Russian.

Ufa Promotes Opening Bashkir School In Chally
Chally Deputy Administration Head Feiruze Mostafina met on 25 May with Bashkortostan's State Assembly Deputy Guzel Sitdyqova, Bashkir World Congress Kazan branch head Firdewes Beshirova, and Chally Bashkir Society head Feniye Sheripova to discuss opening a Bashkir school in Tatarstan's second city of Chally, an RFE/RL Ufa resident reported the same day. Mostafina said the Chally authorities will continue to work to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the problems faced by Tatarstan's Bashkirs were on the top of agenda of a roundtable held on 25 May at the People's Friendship Palace in Chally. Sitdyqova said that Bashkirs and Tatars comprise equal parts of the population of Bashkortostan, where there are 1,200 Tatar schools and 439 Tatar nursery schools as well as numerous Tatar-language newspapers and magazines. She called for the creation of similar conditions for the 10,000 Bashkirs living in Chally. It was said at the forum that if the Bashkir school opens in Chally, the Bashkir government will supply it with textbooks and literature and technical means of education and will provide quotas that would allow graduates to study in Bashkortostan's institutions of higher education. The opening of the Bashkir school in Chally has been hindered over the past years by the low number of ethnic Bashkirs who have expressed interest in sending their children there. Now, Bashkortostan's representatives argue that it is necessary to open the school first and then find students.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova