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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 28, 2003

28 August 2003
Presidential Adviser Bewildered By Move Of Kryashen Organizations Union...
Tatar presidential adviser Refeil Khekimov in an interview with Interfax on 26 August commented on the recent appeal of the Interregional Union of Kryashen National-Cultural Organizations to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksii II to grant Baptized Tatars the status of a "separate" ethnic group from the Tatar nation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 27 August 2003). Khekimov said: "Kryashens are the same as Tatars, but they are baptized ones. Tatar language and Tatar culture are native to them. Kryashens, especially in the rural areas, speak exclusively pure literary Tatar without dialects or accents." He emphasized that "many of the Kryashens don't know Russian or can hardly speak it." Khekimov also noted that Baptized Tatars have their own Orthodox churches, but services are held in Tatar. They use Tatar translations of the Bible and the Gospel.

Khekimov added that "the religious factor cannot serve as grounds for claims for defining Kryashens as a separate people. The [people's] culture and the language are the main criteria in this issue." He added that "by the 20th century, Tatars reached such a model of a nation which excludes the religious factor as forming an ethnic group.... Kryashens occupy high-ranking positions in the Tatarstan Republic, they are widely represented in the social, political, scientific, and cultural life and feel themselves equal among equals."

Khekimov also said that it's the official republican government's position that Kryashens have same rights as Russians, Tatars, Armenians, and other peoples living in the republic."

...As Tatarstan's Orthodox Leader Says His Religion Doesn't Divide By Nationality
Commenting on the same issue, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Tatarstan, Archbishop Anastasii, told reporters on 27 August that "for the Russian Orthodox Church the believer's nationality is not important." However, he noted, "there is information saying that the Kryashens adopted Christianity in the ninth century, before the Russians did." Anastasii confirmed that his church has created all the necessary conditions for Kryashens to hold their religious services in Tatar.

Foreign, Russian Reporters Meet With Tatarstan's Religious Leaders
A group of foreign journalists representing Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Germany accompanied by Russian Union of Journalists Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov, International Confederation of Journalist Unions Secretary-General Ashot Jazoyan, and Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television head Akram Khazam as well as correspondents of a number of Russian media arrived for an acquaintance visit in Kazan on 27 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. That day they visited the residences of Archbishop Anastasii, the head rabbi of Tatarstan's Jewish Communities, Itskhak Gorelik, and Tatarstan's Muslim Spiritual Board Chairman Gosman Iskhaq. Anastasii told the guests that Tatarstan's history demonstrates ongoing tolerance between Islam and Christianity and dialogue between leaders of different confessions.

In Kazan, Gorelik introduced the guests to the work of his organization, the Jewish hospital, drugstore, and the Jewish youth center.

Iskhaq told the visiting journalists in the Merjeni Mosque of Kazan that the frequently used term of "Islamic terrorism," "had no connection to Islam." He said that Islam had a "secular and tolerant character" in Tatarstan and that "it is especially important to support and study Islam in the present moment when we are facing the threat of terrorism which is clothing itself in religion."

KamAZ Hopes To Resume Deliveries To Iraq
KamAZ General Director Sergei Kogogin told a press conference during the sixth international automotive show in Moscow on 27 August that his concern "plans to be able to revive supplying its trucks to Iraq," Interfax reported the same day. He said that in 2003, Iraq signed a number of major contracts for KamAZ trucks and 75 percent of the contracts were approved by the UN. Kogogin admitted that it would likely not be possible to resume deliveries this year due to the current situation in that country.

He also added, "Currently we are working with U.S. companies and we are ready to install American component on our vehicles for supplying them to Iraq."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Possible Presidential Candidate Visits Bashkortostan
Russian State Duma deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (ultra-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) arrived in Ufa on 27 August to decide on his participation in the December presidential elections, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 August 2003). During his two-day visit, Mitrofanov is to meet with the leaders of the local Liberal Democratic Party branch and Salavat Kusimov, deputy chairman of the Bashkir State Assembly. He will also visit the cities of Sterlitamaq, Salavat, Meleuz, Kumertau, and villages in the region. The Bashkir presidential staff reportedly has not answered the deputy's proposal to meet with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov.

Unified Russia Pledges Ideological Backing For Rakhimov
The Bashkir branch of the Unified Russia party has said it intends to counter recent media reports in the local and federal opposition press that have put the republic in a bad light in the run-up to December elections, Rosbalt reported on 27 August citing a speech of Unified Russia secretary Mansur Ayupov at a meeting of party activists in Ufa. Ayupov warned his supporters that PR consultants hired by President Rakhimov's rivals "will pick you to pieces, stir up everything that has been done in the last 12 years, and even try to make zombies out of you." The regional branch of Unified Russia claims more than 12,000 members in 69 cities and regions of the republic; analysts estimate that a further 16,000 people support the party.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi