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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 6, 2003

6 January 2003
State Council Speaker Admits Early Elections
In an interview with Tatarinform published on 5 January, Tatar parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin admitted the possibility of early elections for the republican State Council before its term expires in 2005 "if we manage to adopt a full-fledged law on electing State Council deputies, which would regulate the future parliament's activities within the framework of new approaches practiced by federal government and taking into consideration the new [federal] law on political parties."

Mukhametshin said the new Tatar Constitution adopted in 2002 and the existing Russian laws make possible the existence of both unicameral and bicameral legislative bodies in the republic. Under the draft law on parliamentary elections in Tatarstan passed by the State Council in the first reading in late 2002, half of the deputies should represent political parties, while the other half represent the republic's regions. However, the new Tatar Constitution stipulates that the parliament is to include only 50 deputies instead of the present 130.

Shaimiev Discusses Orthodox Affairs In Tatarstan
President Mintimer Shaimiev met with Archbishop Anastasii, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Tatarstan, on 5 January on the event of Orthodox Christmas on 7 January, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 6 January.

During the meeting, Shaimiev said that all religious issues in Tatarstan can be resolved, as demonstrated by the situation with the St. Tatyana Orthodox church in Chally (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 December 2002). He added that religious tensions in the republic are "artificially thrust on us from without, on the federal level by some separate [state] bodies and short-sighted politicians."

Both Shaimiev and Anastasii agreed on the necessity of taking Tatarstan's ethnic peculiarities into consideration when discussing the introduction of Orthodoxy as a school subject.

Housing Costs To Rise By Almost 30 Percent
According to First Deputy Prime Minister of Economy and Industry Alevtina Kudryavtseva, speaking at a press conference on 4 January, housing charges are to rise by about 29 percent from 12 January in Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 6 January. Kudryavtseva said that the hike would draw the prices closer to the real cost of electric energy and gas. The current housing tariffs reportedly represent only 60 percent of their actual cost, while within the federal housing reform Moscow set this year's "reality margin" to 90 percent.

At the same time, the Tatar government pledged to compensate families whose expenses on housing services exceed 16 percent of their total income. Next year's republican budget contains 2.1 billion rubles ($66 million) for making these payments.

Tatar Oil Extraction Rises Slightly In 2002
Tatarstan produced 28.7 million tons of oil in 2002, 24.6 million of which was extracted by Tatneft, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 6 January. This is 1.6 percent more than the previous year's output.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Putin Meets With Rakhimov In Ufa...
Russian President Vladimir Putin took a break from his vacation at Bashkortostan's Abzakovo Mountain ski resort to meet with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov in Ufa on 4 January, Russian and Bashkir news agencies reported the same day. While meeting with Putin at the Ufa State Petroleum Technology University, Rakhimov told the Russian president about positive developments in the republic, in particular in the agricultural sector, and he added that Bashkortostan, unlike many other regions, has no problems with paying salaries and pensions. Putin, in turn, praised the republic's achievements in the machine-building sector. Putin also asked Rakhimov whether he agreed with Moscow's decision to give the responsibility for paying the salaries of secondary-school teachers from the municipal to the regional level of government. Rakhimov responded that such a procedure already exists in the republic.

...Promises Doubled Payments To Teachers, Students...
Putin also told the teaching staff at the university that their salaries, as well as those of other scientific workers, will be doubled by the end of 2003. Putin also said that a 15-year mortgage program will be launched in 2003 to provide young teachers with housing. While meeting with students at a dormitory, the Russian president also said that student grants will be doubled as of 1 September.

...And Meets With Supreme Mufti
Putin also visited Ufa's Lala-Tulpan mosque to meet with the chairman of the Central Muslim Religious Board, Supreme Mufti Telget Tajetdin. Though the meeting was not on Putin's official itinerary, the president said, "it would be a big mistake to be in Bashkortostan and not to visit [the Lala-Tulpan mosque]."

Sibai Schools Receive 64 Computers
Under the aegis of the Russian presidential program Children of Russia, 64 computers were delivered to secondary schools in Sibai on 31 December, Bashinform reported on 5 January. Moscow paid for 40 percent of the computers' total cost of 1.3 million rubles ($41,200), while the republican and local budgets covered 30 percent each.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova