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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 20, 2004

20 September 2004
Shaimiev Receives Telephone Greeting From Turkish President
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is on vacation in Antalya, held a telephone conversation on 17 September with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the Tatar presidential press service reported the same day. Sezer praised dynamic development of cooperation between Turkey and Tatarstan and the success Turkish companies in Tatarstan. Sezer expressed his regret that a planned visit to Turkey by President Vladimir Putin was postponed recently because of the hostage crisis in North Ossetia. Sezer said the visit will take place at a later date and he looks forward to meeting with Shaimiev, who will be a member of the delegation accompanying Putin.

Tatar Political Analysts Criticize Putin's Proposed Reforms.
In an interview with the "Zvezda povolzhya" weekly on 16 September, the head of Kazan State University's Political Science Department, professor Midkhet Faruqshin, commented on President Putin's recent proposal for government reform. Faruqshin said the proposal, which calls for popular elections in Russia's regions to be eliminated and replaced with a system under which the president would propose regional leaders, is "a step backward in the democratic development and further reduction of federalism."

In an editorial titled "Vova's Day" in the outlet's same issue, "Zvezda povolzhya" Editor in Chief Reshit Ekhmetov said that Putin's proposal not only violates Tatarstan's Constitution but would directly lead to the annulment of the post of Tatarstan's president. Ekhmetov noted that Putin long ago said "there should be only one president in Russia."

Religious Leader Links Extremism To Corruption
In an interview published in "Vostochnyi ekspress" on 17 September, Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board First Deputy Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov said he considers corruption among bureaucrats to be one of the reasons for the spread of extremism under Islamist slogans. Yaqupov was commenting on a report released at Tatarstan's Security Council session on 10 September stating that "representatives of Wahhabi Islam operate in Tatarstan's several rural raions." Yaqupov said all madrasahs in the republic are licensed by the republic's Education Ministry, which inspects all of them several times a year. "In a 'peaceful' time, no violations are found here. But as soon as an act of terrorism takes place, Wahhabis are immediately recalled and a concrete place [showing their areas of operation] is shown." Yaqupov also said the republic's Muslim Religious Board is in a difficult financial situation that complicates its work in the sphere of Islamic education.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan's Opposition Unites In Public Chamber
Leaders and activists from some 20 Bashkir civic groups, national movements, and parties gathered in Ufa on 16 September to establish an independent Public Chamber capable of opposing the republic's government and protecting people's interests, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 September. The move was initiated by republican opposition parties and movements, including the Union of Tatar Groups of Bashkortostan, the Bashkir People's Congress, the Rus movement, and local branches of Yabloko, the Communist Party, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Speaking at the meeting, Rus leader Anatolii Dubovskii said the new Public Chamber has nothing to do with a public chamber proposed by President Vladimir Putin. Union of Tatar Organizations head Ramil Bignov said the worsening economic situation in Bashkortostan, harsh violations of human rights, and official corruption forced the republic's opposition to unite and establish the Public Chamber. Bignov said the chamber is not intended to replace the Bashkir government but to become an instrument of influencing the government's policy and defending human rights. Meeting participants elected Dubovskii chamber head.

BTK Criticized For Lack Of Effort In Defending Tatar Rights
Speaking at a meeting of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee on 17 September, sociology professor Jewdet Gyilajetdinov said the Russian authorities, instead of studying the reasons for terrorism, would rather restrict democracy. He said over 200,000 peaceful residents, including 35,000 children, have been killed in Chechnya. He also sharply criticized attempts in Russia to transform national republics into governorates. BTK Executive Committee Deputy Chairman and Union of Tatar Groups of Bashkortostan head Ramil Bignov criticized the BTK for its inability to defend the right and interests of Bashkortostan's Tatars, since it's a pro-government body, and said this is why the republic's Tatar organizations had to establish a union. He said the formation of Tatar national-cultural autonomies being promoted by the union is being hindered by local authorities but in spite of all obstacles, a forum will be held in November to establish a republic-wide Tatar national-cultural autonomy. He said the main task of Tatar organizations is promoting official status for the Tatar language. BTK Executive Committee Chairman Eduard Khemitov cited the introduction of teaching Bashkir in place of Tatar and closing Tatar classes in the republic's secondary schools. Durtoile Raion administration head Rawil Dewletov said conditions for teaching Tatar have been provided in the raion but his statement was refuted in speeches of numerous participants in the meeting.

Expert Says Authorities Use Religion As Instrument Of Power
At a roundtable titled "Religions and Political Processes in Contemporary Russia" organized in Ufa on 15 September by the Moscow Carnegie Center and Russian Academy of Sciences' Ufa Scientific Center Ethnological Research Center, Islam researcher and professor Aleksei Malashenko said Russia's authorities now treat religion as an instrument of power while some religious leaders try to influence the authorities. Malashenko said the dialogue between religions is another serious issue but added that there is little ground for optimism in this respect.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova