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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 7, 2002

7 January 2002
President Pushes For Return Of Kazan Divine Mother Icon...
President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax that he hopes the Kazan Divine Mother icon will be returned from the Vatican to the capital of Tatarstan before the city's millennium celebrations. He said such a move would signal reconciliation between the Catholic and Orthodox churches and would result in their drawing closer. Shaimiev said he discussed the issue with Patriarch Aleksii II, who reportedly said he does not mind the icon being returned to Kazan but would like it to be a result of the pope's free will. Shaimiev said Pope John Paul II has a "strong desire to return the icon." He stressed that if the pontiff expresses his desire to come to Russia to deliver the icon, the issue "could be discussed in detail" with the Patriarchy. Shaimiev said he has not been informed of any invitation by Tatarstan Mufti Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov to the pope, as reported by some media.

...And Says Last Year Was Successful For Tatarstan
In the same interview, President Shaimiev said he would like 2002 to be as successful as 2001 for Tatarstan, adding that the republic reached all its goals in the social and industrial sectors and had a record harvest the previous year. Shaimiev said he is worried by the strong dependence of Tatarstan's economy on world oil prices. He also said, "Russia as a state has become more integral and more predictable" in the past year.

Former Tatarstan Speaker Says Power-Sharing Treaties Conform To Russian Constitution
In a telephone interview with "Respubika Tatarstan" on 5 January, Vasilii Likhachev, the Russian representative to Europe and a former Tatarstan State Council chairman, said that power-sharing treaties are a legal institution provided for in the Russian Constitution. A model of treaty-based relations meets with the general European trend in regional policies, he said.

Likhachev said the appointment of a "minister without portfolio" to deal with national policies in Russia "begs numerous questions," adding that inter-ethnic relations need to become a permanent and thorough concern for the president, the presidential administration, and the federal parliament. Likhachev said Russian regions, including Tatarstan, must more actively develop their direct ties with European countries. He noted that Tatarstan, with its experience in the peaceful coexistence of faiths, puts it in the Russian forefront.

Speaker Greets Orthodox Believers On Christmas
Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin sent greetings to the head of the Kazan Eparchy, Archbishop Anastasii, for Orthodox Christmas, Efir-Inform reported on 4 January. Mukhametshin praised the church's efforts to strengthen civil peace and concord and its enlightenment and charitable activities.

Russian Muslim Leaders Critical Of Tatarstan Mufti's Appeal To Pope
A number of Russian Muslim leaders have attacked unconfirmed reports of an invitation by Tatarstan Mufti Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov to Pope John Paul II, inviting the pontiff to take part in Kazan's millennium celebrations in 2005, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 4 January, citing the Independent Islamic information channel. Daghestan Mufti Akhmad Khadzhi Tagaev said "such steps should be agreed with the country's Muslim community, as they could lead to serious consequences." Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, said, Muslims "consider the point of view of the Russian Orthodox Church on this issue a priority," adding that, "Talks about a possible papal visit are not timely until relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church are settled."

Tatneft Signs Contract With Tehran
Tatneft and Iranian oil industry representatives signed a $1 million contract on the use of technologies to increase the productivity of wells in Iran, Tatar-inform reported from the city of Elmet on 4 January. Under the two-year project, Tatneft will also deliver equipment and materials to its counterparts.

Ak Bars Bank Begins Sales Of Euro
Ak Bars Bank was the only bank in Kazan to sell euros in the first week of January, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 5 January. Meanwhile, Ak Bars Bank was rated 13th in Russia based on retail lending and among the top 30 in the federation by total outstanding loans, Tatar-inform reported on 4 January.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

'Kyzyl Tang' Daily Calls September Attack, Russia-NATO Relations The Main Events Of 2001
"Kyzyl tang" on 29 December wrote that the biggest event of last year, the 11 September terrorist acts in the United States, destroyed the existing world order and its security principles. The publication also claimed it shows the dominance of technical progress over moral development leads to catastrophe. The tragedy resulted in fostering confrontation between the Christian and Islamic worlds, the paper said.

For Russia, 2001 has become a year of recognition of the United States' and NATO's military superiority, the daily continued. But Russia's widely lauded efforts to strengthen its "friendship" with NATO are nothing more than attempts to mask its contempt under an artificial smile, it said. Silence from Russia's senior military leadership is more eloquent than any criticism, it added.

Two Banks Begin Sales Of Euro
The euro currency is available in Bashkortostan's two banks, the local branch of Sberbank, and UralSibBank, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 4 January. Demand for the new European currency is low, bank employees said.

Chavash Representation Opens In Ufa
The official representation of Chavash Republic to Bashkortostan began work in the first week of January, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 4 January. The mission was arranged according to a presidential decree by Nikolai Fedorov on 20 September. Georgii Orlov heads the delegation.

Increased Alcohol Consumption On Holidays Results In More Accidents, Fatalities
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 6 January that 41 fires took place in the republic during New Year's celebrations, killing several residents. The number of homicides and suicides also sharply increased during those days, the republic's press reported.

Road Construction Faces Funding Problem
A government meeting on 3 January discussed sources for financing road construction in the republic, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The republic has faced troubles in the sector since control over its road construction funds was transferred to Moscow, which is now due to provide subsidies for the republic.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova