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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 15, 2004

15 June 2004
Conference Seeks To Promote Official Status For Muslim Property In Russia
On the first work day of an international conference in Kazan on 14 June dedicated to the management of Islamic clerical property, Tatarstan Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman khazret Iskhaq told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau that the republic is the only region in Russia that has preserved property owned by the Muslim religious organizations before the 1917 Russian Revolution (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14 June 2004). Most of that property, comprising mosques and Muslim religious schools, has already been returned to the Islamic community by the Kazan city administration.

The rector of the Kazan-based Islamic University of Russia, Marat Mortazin, told reporters that under Shari'a, organizations may own donated industries and use their profits for religious and charitable activities. Unlike the law in Tatarstan, he added, Russian law currently has no regulations settling the handover and management of such enterprises.

The Islamic conference is expected to discuss ways of promoting the legal status of religious organizations' property management in the next several days. The event is joined by a representative of Saudi Arabia's Bank of Islamic Development, Feddat Layasi; the deputy general secretary of Kuwait's Muslim Funds Directorate, Abdewahab Al-Hoti; and a representative of the Badr Forte Bank's representative office in Moscow, Abalet Jebiev.

Rightist Parties Join Forces
A representative of the Development of Entrepreneurship Party in Tatarstan, Ivan Grachev, and the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces and Kazan business leader Aleksandr Tarkaev signed a cooperation agreement that is expected be joined by the leader of the local Yabloko Party branch, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 June. After their shocking defeats in both the December 2003 Duma elections and the March 2004 balloting for Tatarstan's parliament, the rightist parties decided to form an electoral bloc of "United Democrats" in hopes of winning seats in both legislatures.

Police Detain Kazan Human Rights Activist
"Vechernyaya Kazan" claimed on 15 June that a special police unit dealing with corruption within law-enforcement bodies recently detained Oleg Khabibrakhmanov. The report -- which was unconfirmed -- suggested that Khabibrakhmanov, who cooperates with the Kazan Human Rights Center maintained by the MacArthur Fund, was detained in the act of handing over a $2,000 bribe to a migration officer over the issuance of a passport for a Chechen refugee. The center recently published a series of books on human rights abuses by the police, relying on articles published among Tatarstan's media, while two unidentified perpetrators stormed the center's offices and destroyed several computers and audiovisual equipment on 27 May.

World-Renowned Musicians Visit Kazan
Opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya and husband and musician Mstislav Rostropovich arrived in Kazan on 13 June to hold concerts including young musicians from across Russia who have benefited from scholarships instituted by the couple, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 June. During their stay, the couple visited a monument to opera singer Fedor Shalyapin and met with senior republican officials. Tatarstan's government reportedly sponsored the concerts. The last time the two visited the Volga area was 30 years ago, before their emigration from Soviet Union.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Tuben Kama Reservoir Level To Be Raised
An intergovernmental working group of representatives of the Bashkir, Tatar, and Udmurt governments agreed at a meeting on 8 June in the Tatar city of Chally to raise the level of the Tuben Kama water reservoir by 1 meter to 63.3 meters, Den reported on 9 June, citing Tatar Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Pakhomov. A corresponding agreement is to be signed in a month by the prime ministers of the three republics as an extension of a similar document they signed in June 2003. The reservoir was designed to have an optimal depth of 66 and 68 meters. Decisions on raising its level are to be passed by federal authorities as it is a federal property. If the reservoir were to reach a level of 68 meters it would reach the territory of Perm Oblast, whose representatives would then have to join the working group. Raising the reservoir level will result in addition revenue, 40 percent of which is used for upkeep and the rest equally divided among the three regions.

Ufa Library Receives Gift From France
The French YMCA-Press publishing house has presented books worth an estimated 550,000 rubles ($19,000) to Bashkortostan's Ekhmet-Zeki Welidi National Library, Regnum reported on 11 June, citing the Vsya Ufa television company. About 450 books published in Russia and abroad and devoted to the Russian culture, history, philosophy, art, and science were delivered to Ufa by the publishing house's director.

Leaders Of Bashkir Women's Groups Call For Greater Representation
The leaders of several Bashkortostan's women's civic groups have written Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov complaining that women are underrepresented in Russia's new government, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 14 June. The authors referred to a declaration adopted at the 1995 Worldwide Women's Conference in China that stresses that women should have equal representation in leading posts. Heads of Bashkortostan's Bashkir, Tatar, Ukrainian, and other organizations signed the appeal.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova