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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 28, 2004

28 May 2004
Tatar President Says Duma Majority Should Consult Regional Party Branches
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 27 May that Unified Russia's Supreme Council during its meeting the previous day came out in favor of developing a unified position within the party on draft laws of vital importance to the citizens of Russia that are passed by the State Duma. Shaimiev said that the Duma majority should consult party organizations and the electorate in regions regarding socially-oriented laws proposed by the government or on laws initiated by deputies of the Unified Russia faction. Shaimiev continued that there are several laws due to be heard soon in the Duma that are of great importance to the people, citing the possible exchange of privileges with monetary compensations, the provision of medial services, and proper education for the needy.

State Council Speaker Elected Vice President Of Council Of Europe Committee
State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin took part in the 11th session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in Strasbourg, where he was elected chairman of a regional commission and vice president of the Culture and Education Committee, the State Council press service reported on 27 May. Delivering a report to the 26 May committee session, Mukhametshin emphasized the necessity of preserving cultural traditions and values and called for Europe-wide cooperation at the regional and local levels in education of youth, ensuring safety, fighting terrorism, promoting interethnic tolerance, and overcoming fear of Islam. Mukhametshin also said that the task of reaching European lifestyle standards includes the establishment of conditions for the development of civil society, securing human rights, and freedom of speech and press.

Russian Minister Promotes Teaching Religious History
Russian Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko said on 25 May that the history of religions should be taught in secondary schools as an mandatory subject, reported on 26 May. Speaking during a roundtable on science, education, and religion, Fursenko stressed that the courses should include history of all religions, not only of Orthodoxy. Otherwise, "what shall we say to, for example, Mintimer Sharipovich [Shaimiev] if we only teach the history of Orthodoxy?" he asked. Fursenko also said a textbook on history of religions will be issued in about five months, but was unable to specify exactly when the teaching of such courses could begin. The main issue is training teachers, as they should take the issue on from a secular standpoint, he said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

New Bashkir Election Commission Formed
Only five of 12 seats in the new Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) nominated by the Bashkir parliament and president on 27 May were filled by representatives of parties, despite the stipulation by federal law that at least half of the commission should be made up members of political parties, RosBalt reported on 27 May. The Communist Party, Unified Russia, the Agrarian Party of Russia, the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, and Motherland are represented on the commission and will serve four-year terms. Bashkir presidential administration official Ural Khesenov told RosBalt that the structure of the commission does not violate federal law. "Proposals from two parties were made to the Bashkir presidential administration and both were satisfied," he said. Alongside parties' envoys, the commission includes three representatives of municipal bodies, two members proposed by the Russian Central Election Commission, and two members of the former Bashkir USK. The latter's chairman, Baryi Kinjegulov, and secretary Naile Altynova were elected to the new commission. The election of a commission head will top the agenda at the commission's first meeting scheduled to be held within two weeks.

Parliament Appeals To Russian Premier To Promote Construction Of Nuclear Plant
The Bashkir State Assembly appealed on 27 May to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to resolve the issue of financing the construction of the Bashkir nuclear power plant and to help launch in 2011 its first block capable to generating 1 million kilowatts of electricity, RosBalt reported. The Bashkir government appealed to the Russian government to release funds to continue construction of the plant, which will cost an estimated 802 million rubles per year. Construction of the plant in Agidel started in 1989-90 but was suspended due to environmental concerns. The suspension helped push the unemployment rate in Agidel to 27 percent. Deputies said "the completion of the construction of the nuclear plant will contribute to...the implementation of the task of doubling Russia's gross domestic product, as called for by the Russian president."

Deputies offered assurances that starting up the plant will help overcome the region's energy shortages and will save 4 million tons of oil a year. The chairman of the State Assembly Industry, Construction, Transport, and Communications Committee, Nail Qotlogildin, told "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 May that "Tatarstan, not only [Bashkortostan], needs the station." The final decision on restarting construction of the plant is to be made by the Russian government. The Bashkir authorities hope the entire procedure will be finished by 2006.
"Kommersant-Daily" quoted Tatar State Council Economy Committee Chairman Marat Galiev as saying the issue of the safety of nuclear power plants, including that of the Bashkir plant, remains one of the most controversial. He said the Bashkir government's statements that the station project meets environmental protection standards are questionable. He added that the belief that the region suffers from energy shortages is wrong, saying the republic has an energy surplus.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova