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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 12, 2004

12 July 2004
Vatican To Return Kazan Icon To Russia
The Vatican announced on 10 July that it will return the Mother of God of Kazan (Madonna of Kazan) icon to Russia during a 28 August ceremony, international news agencies reported. The return of the sacred wooden icon has long been the center of a dispute between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, and Vatican representatives have expressed their hope that the icon's return will help warm relations. Pope John Paul II sought last year to personally return the icon during a trip to Russia, but failed to receive the Russian Orthodox Church's official approval for his visit. Instead, a cardinal will reportedly hand over the icon during a ceremony marking the Assumption of the Virgin holiday, RosBalt reported, citing the BBC. The icon was taken from the Soviet Union some time after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. It was purchased in Western Europe by a Catholic group in the 1970s and later presented to the pope as a gift. It usually hangs in the pope's private chapel. The discovery of the icon among the ruins of Kazan in 1579 was deemed a miracle, and it is believed to have helped Russia win numerous battles against foreign enemies.

Watan Party Promotes Status Of State Language For Tatar
The Watan People's Democratic Party held a roundtable on 8 July in Moscow on bilingualism in European states and to promote state language status for Tatar in Russia, an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent reported on 11 July. Watan has held six rallies in Moscow to promote granting state language status for Tatar. Despite an active advertising campaign, the event drew only about 20 people. In his speech, Tatar deputy plenipotentiary representative to Moscow Almaz Feizullin said the Russian Constitutional Court has pressured Tatarstan to withdraw the Tatar State Council's appeal against an amendment to the federal law on languages that would make Cyrillic script mandatory for all state languages. Feizullin said the low turnout was because federal authorities who opposed the introduction of the Latin alphabet in Tatarstan are now taking measures to block initiatives pertaining to state-language status for Tatar.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Expert Says 2002 Census Results Show Sharp Fall In Bashkortostan's Tatar Population
In an article published in "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 8 July, ethnology professor Damir Iskhakov wrote that under the results of the 2002 census, which have not yet been officially published, the number of ethnic Bashkirs in Bashkortostan increased to 1.2 million, or 29.5 percent of the republic's population, while that of Tatars fell to 940,000, or some 23 percent.

Bilateral Commission Between Kazan, Ufa Develops Action Plan
In an interview with RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 9 July, Tatar State Council Deputy Indus Tahirov, who is a member of the Tatar-Bashkir bilateral commission on improving relations between Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, said the body includes five officials from each side. Tahirov said the commission has developed a one-year plan to improve bilateral relations. The next meeting of the commission will be devoted to signing this document. He said the commission will also be responsible for supervising the fulfillment of those measures.

French Concern Buys Stake In Ufa Confectionery Factory
On 9 July, Harry's SNG purchased 20 percent of the Ufa confectionery factory Kondi, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 10 July. Harry's SNG is a part of the French industrial group Harry's producing pre-packaged baked goods. The company has an annual trade turnover of 530 million euros ($657 million). The stake was sold for 14.3 million rubles ($491,000). Currently Kondi, 74 percent of which is owned by the Siberian Grain Corporation, covers 35 percent of Bashkortostan's confectionery market.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova