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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 10, 2003

10 November 2003
Nizhnekamskneftekhim, Technimon Sign $5 Million Contract
Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Italy's Technimont signed a contract worth 150 million rubles ($5 million) during a visit made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Italy, reported on 7 November. The Italian company will develop a design for a plant capable of producing 120,000 tons of polypropylene a year and deliver equipment for its production. Nizhnekamskneftekhim General Director Vladimir Busygin and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev were both part of the Russian delegation.

Communists Demonstrate On October Revolution Anniversary
Some 1,000 residents of Kazan gathered on Gorky Square in Kazan to mark the 86th anniversary of the October socialist revolution on 7 November, reported the same day. Participants in the meeting organized by the Tatar branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation called for an end to inflation and the for the lowering of prices for foodstuffs, consumer goods, housing, and the rates for city transport and other consumer services, and to end the per-minute payment rate for telephones. They also demanded that salaries, pensions, grants, and allowances be raised, as well as allocations from the state budget for science, education, health care, culture, and defense. The participants also protested the sale and purchase of farmland and demanded that natural resources, forests, and reservoirs be returned to state control.

One In 10 Kreshens Register In Census Separately From Tatars
The State Statistics Committee announced that 25,000 Christian Tatars (Kreshens), less than 10 percent of their total estimated population, were registered in the 2002 census in Russia, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 6 November. Scholars estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 Christian Tatars live in Russia. Controversy arose on the eve of the census between those who advocate for separate registration of the Christian Tatars and those who believe they are an ethnic group within the Tatar people (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 16, 19 April, 9 May and 10 October 2002, and "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Report," 29 March and 4 October 2002).

Scholars Comment On Census Results
Commenting on the results of the 2002 census in a roundtable held by the RFE/RL Kazan bureau on 9 November, Valerii Tishkov, director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the population of Tatars in Russia grew by 36,000 or 0.6 percent, including: Christian Tatars, Siberian Tatars, and Nugaibeks.

Tishkov said that the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute promotes the separation of the latter groups from Tatars; however, distinguishing these groups from one another is strongly opposed by Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and the republic's other leaders. As a result, the census organizers decided to retain one general category for all Tatars. Tishkov said the growth of Bashkirs by 330,000, or 22 percent, may be explained either by Bashkortostan Tatars who now identify themselves as Bashkir or by other distortions. During the same roundtable, Damir Iskhaqov, history professor and head of the Kazan-based Ethnological Monitoring Center, said the small growth of Tatars registered in the 2002 census is also a result of migration. He cited unidentified experts who say that some 100,000 Tatars have come to Tatarstan from outside Russia in the past 10-15 years, while the number of officially registered Tatar migrants in Russia is only 35,000. At the same time, Iskhaqov said the significant growth of Bashkirs in Bashkortostan did not result from natural growth or migration. He said the growth can only be explained by some of Bashkortostan's Tatars registering as Bashkirs.

Tatars who have identifed as Bashkirs in the 2002 census have not necessarily changed their ethnic identity, but instead are using the administrative levers of power, Iskhaqov added. Such a sharp growth of Bashkirs breaks all trends registered in the past several censuses, making it artificial, Iskhaqov said.

Tishkov said that data taken from the census on native languages is also inaccurate. The question was added as a result of demands by representatives of regions populated by people of non-Russian ethnicities. Tishkov said the inaccuracies in reporting stemmed from nationalism. Mikhail Guboglo, head professor for the Moscow-based Ethnologic Research Center, said it is impossible to compare the results of the 2002 census with those of previous censuses because of the question on native language. Guboglo argues that a native language is not an individual's first learned language, nor the one that they might speak most often, but the one that is considered native. Guboglo said that "the most striking example" of this is the group of 230,000 Bashkirs living in Bashkortostan who reported their native language as Tatar.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Prime Minister Blames Bombing On Opposition...
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov made an official statement on 8 November saying that the bombing that shook the Bashkir capital on 5 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 November 2003) "was linked to the attempts to usurp the republican government's authority by some definite financial and industrial groups," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

Baydavletov claimed that "the tragic developments" were connected to the hotly contested presidential campaign under way in the republic. He cited the "information war" being waged against the republican authorities and to destabilize social and political life in Bashkortostan.

Two people were killed and three were injured when a car bomb exploded in Ufa on the night of 5 November near the residence of the son of the Bashkir president, Ural Rakhimov.

...As Daily Says Bombing Serves Rakhimov's Interests
On 6 November, claimed that the abandoned car containing the bomb in Ufa was ignored by Ural Rakhimov's security service for a long time until it was reported by an unnamed "vigilant citizen" and later was dealt with by a special bomb squad from the republican Interior Ministry and not by the local branch of the Federal Security Service, as required by official procedures. Also claiming that the car bomb was assembled using military equipment and had nothing in common with the "homemade" explosives usually used by terrorists, the website suggested that the explosion was plotted to create an atmosphere for "emphasizing the republican government's role before the federal authorities" and the electorate, and obtaining more funding for counterterrorism measures and "legalizing" the crackdown on President Murtaza Rakhimov's opponents in the December elections.

Bashkir USK To Consider Veremeenko's Reinstatement As Candidate
Following the 3 November ruling of the Russian Central Election Commission, Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission (USK) will discuss the reinstatement of Sergei Veremeenko as a presidential candidate on 10 November, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 November).

According to the correspondent, Bashkir authorities have recruited some 800 members of the nationalist Bashkir Youth Union from rural areas of the republic to stage demonstrations and acts of street violence against Veremeenko's registration in order to put pressure on the USK meeting.

Independent Radio Station Suffers Second Attack
Mikhail Shakhov, head of the Radio Bulgar's information service, told reporters on 9 November that that morning a group of unidentified people led by someone presenting himself as a deputy head of Ufa's Orjenikidze Raion administration attempted to dismantle the radio station's transmitting antenna, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 10 November.

The first policemen to arrive at the site, however, confirmed that those attempting to take the only independent FM station in Ufa off the air were not connected to that raion's administration. Considering the reaction time and heavy weapons of the machine-gun-carrying police who arrived on the scene, Shakhov presumed that they were possibly aware of the plans to disrupt the station's broadcasts. However, the station's employees said that the attackers were rather scared away by the video cameras of unexpected witnesses than the presence of police with dogs.

A similar attempt against Radio Bulgar by bogus Interior Ministry officials occurred on 5 November, right after the explosion near Ural Rakhimov's residence (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 November 2003).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi