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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 31, 2002

31 January 2002
Pope Wants To Return Kazan Icon
Interfax quoted Pope John Paul II on 30 January expressing his desire to meet the head of Russian Orthodox Church, Aleksii II, to give him the Kazan Holy Mother icon currently kept at the Vatican. During the pope's meeting with representatives of Moscow's Orthodox Church, representatives of Aleksii II characterized the current relations between the two Christian churches as "extremely unsatisfactory." About one year ago, in late 2000, Tatarstan officials met the pontiff at the Vatican to discuss the possible return of the icon -- a move that was frowned on by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Unemployed Youth Concern Government
Minister of Labor and Employment Boris Zakharov told a government session on 30 January that graduates of Tatarstan's universities and colleges represented over 30 percent of the republic's jobless population. He said 7,000 graduates annually joined the army of unemployed, blaming a lack of coordination between the Education and Labor ministries. Meanwhile, Tatarstan's industrial sector reportedly needs more than 100,000 specialists in 1,300 professions this year, which is 20,000 less than in 2000. Zakharov expressed high hopes for the state's "Youth Policy" program, first implemented in 1995 and aimed at enabling patronage from Tatarstan's major manufactures to schools and universities.

Government Urges Citizens To Drink Local Vodka
Idar Fattakhov, the head of Tatarstan's government staff, was appointed on 30 January to head a working group to halt counterfeit vodka imports and production in the republic. After a meeting of republican and Kazan city officials, Fattakhov told reporters that 45.5 percent of alcohol production sold in Tatarstan was illegally produced, causing about 1,000 deaths from poisoning. Fattakhov added that in 2001, the republic lost 650 million rubles because of cheap, illegally produced vodka that drove local distillers' products off the market. Before 2001, legislation included high excises on vodka imported from other regions, thereby creating favorable conditions for local alcohol industries. Such protectionist measures were abolished at Moscow's request as violating federal law.

Tatarstan To Spend Less To Support Young Families...
Minister of Youth and Sports Marat Bariev on 30 January said a republican program to support young families and granting interest-free, 15-year housing loans to couples under 30 with children was seriously undermined by budgetary restraints. Just 30 million rubles ($1 million) was allocated by Tatarstan's budget for the program in 2002. In late 2001, the ministry requested 120 million rubles for 2002, having already spent 100 million rubles in 1999-2001. Bariev said an absence of homes was the main reason for divorce rates in young families, while implementation of the support program brought a general decline in divorce figures. Fewer than 1,000 families have received apartments since 1997, when the program was launched, while 7,000 families have applied to join the program.

Minister Bariev told the same meeting that key provisions of the program in Tatarstan were used as a basis for a federal program to be launched in 2002.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Poet Hails Publication Of Tatar-Language Book
Tatar poet Salvat Rakhmatulla told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 30 January that he finally managed to have his Tatar-language book published by Bashkortostan's state publishing house at the age of 52. He had no difficulty publishing four of his books in Bashkir, he said. He added that the current lot of the Tatar intelligentsia in Bashkortostan reminded him of an old poem that says, "Being a Tatar in Kazan is easy, try being one in Ufa."

Bashkir, Turkish Businessmen Sum Up Cooperation Results In 2001
A Bashkir-Turkish business cooperation fund convened on 30 January to analyze its activities in 2001, republican media reported. Although there were no reports of joint industrial production launched by Bashkir and Turkish businessmen, both sides praised cooperation, dominated by the sale of Bashkir-made oil products in Turkey, an invitation to Turkish construction companies for work in Bashkortostan, and the sale of Turkish-made consumer goods in the republic.

Bashkir Scientists Assign Bashkortostan 'Great Role' In World History
The latest issue of "Respublika Bashkortostan" newspaper features an article quoting astrology experts saying the Bashkir capital, Ufa, and the Ural region will be the center of a new civilization and new ideas that will play a great role in world history. The publication appears to serve as the logical continuation of articles by Bashkir scientists claiming that ancient Bashkortostan was home to the first human civilization and the oldest philosophy in the world.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi