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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 28, 2002

28 January 2002
Native Language Seen As Major Ethnic Identity Factor For Tatars
The weekly Tatar press review by RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 26 January quoted the recent issue of "Tatarstan Yashlere" newspaper, which presented the opinion of psychologist Ramil Garifullin that the majority of Tatars, not knowing their native language, suffered from a strong inferiority complex and tried to hide their Tatar origin and assimilate to Russian nationality by means of changing their names into similar-sounding Russian ones.

Mafia Group Given Strict Punishment
Tatarstan's Supreme Court on 24 January finished the hearings on the case of the Khadi Taktash mafia group, named after the Kazan street in the neighborhood where it came from. Thirteen defendants were found guilty of organizing the gang, which ran drug dealing, prostitution, and swindling operations, and committed 15 murders over the last decade. Two gang leaders were sentenced to life in prison, while the others were given from 24 to seven years in prison. For the first time in the history of the Russian court, some 20 key witnesses, out of the total of more than 500, testified by means of a wire phone connection so that suspects couldn't see them during the hearings and couldn't recognize their voice distorted by special equipment.

After the verdict was announced, lawyers for the criminal group stated their intention to protest it in the Russian Supreme Court, claiming that the above-mentioned measures for protecting the witnesses were illegal. According to previous media reports, the suspects committed numerous self-injuries to drag out the multiyear trial, while the court was offered a $250,000 bribe for lenient verdicts for the gang.

Tatar Muslim Leader Expresses Tolerance Of Sufi Stream Of Islam quoted the chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, Gusman Khazrat Iskhaqi, as saying that he "wouldn't struggle" against the Sufi stream of Islam, which is becoming popular among believers in his republic because "it's human nature to searches for truth always." Iskhaqi himself is a follower of the Henefi stream of Islam which is traditional for Tatarstan.

KamAZ Trucks To Get Swedish Engines
General director of KamAZ automotive concern Ivan Kostin told the reporters on 25 January that during recent talks with the president of Swedish Scania trucks company, Leif Ostling, it was agreed on equipping some of the KamAZ truck models with Scania engines, so that the vehicles could enter the Russian automotive market niche currently occupied by imported trucks.

Opposition Unhappy About Russian Court's Decision
A roundtable of Tatarstan's opposition parties, dominated by the local branch of the Russian Communist Party, made a public statement on 25 January saying that they were bewildered by the Russian Constitutional Court decision which confirmed violations of federal laws by the present republican State Council but didn't demand its dissolution. The roundtable also requested that the text of the court's decision be published.

Russian, CIS Blue Ribbon Societies Gather For A Congress In Kazan
Regional temperance societies from Russia and the CIS countries gathered in Kazan on 26 January to hold a joint congress promoting the idea of abstention from alcohol and condemning the Soviet and Russian government for alcoholizing the common people. According to speakers during the event, all Russian rulers since the death of Joseph Stalin deliberately maintained high alcohol production in order to make their citizenry more obedient.

HIV Statistics Up
Tatarstan's Health Ministry registered 2,712 new cases of HIV infection in 2001, which is 5.3 times more than in the previous year. Currently, 4,122 HIV-positive cases live in the republic, 239 of whom are prisoners. Kazan, Chally, Bogelme, Elmet, and Leninogorsk regions are reported to have the highest HIV statistics in Tatarstan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan's Press Concentrates On Chechen Tragedy...
The "Vechernaya Ufa" newspaper resumed publishing articles by the republic's Chechen community head, journalist Lomali Israilov, who reports atrocities against Chechen civilians committed by federal troops in the breakaway republic, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 27 January. Another local newspaper, "Demokratichesky Vibor," also recently published a report from the location quoting Chechen civilians who were allowed to purchase the bodies of their relatives executed by the Russian army for about 1,000 rubles ($32.7). Meanwhile, a group of Bashkortostan militia servicemen was sent for service to the Urus-Martan region of the Chechen Republic.

...And Is Unanimous About Moscow's 'Power Vertical'
Bashkortostan's press is currently debating the thesis that compares Russia's modern regional policies to the policies in the 1920s, when Moscow granted the republics "decorative powers" which couldn't be implemented, RFE/RL reported from Ufa on 27 January.

Russian Residents Reported To Need Humanitarian Aid
According to the "Kizil Tang" newspaper, cited by RFE/RL's correspondent on 27 January, Russia is planning to spend large funds on aid to Afghanistan, while its own people need humanitarian aid because of insufficient wages. The newspaper also reported that this article attracted wide public interest and received many supportive phone calls from readers.

Bashkir Official Sure About Protection Of Ethnic Rights In Bashkortostan
State Secretary Shaukat Kidrasov told reporters that Bashkortostan's government was able to create sufficient legal basis for ensuring the rights of all ethnic groups living in the region, RFE/RL reported on 27 January.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi