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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 11, 2002

11 February 2002
Deputy Says Census May Be Postponed In Tatarstan...
Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin told Tatarstan Radio on 9 February that Moscow's plan to divide Tatars into several ethnic groups in the 2002 census is aimed at eliminating the Republic of Tatarstan. He said that if federal authorities do not give up on the idea, he will appeal to Tatarstan's State Council to postpone the census in the republic. Safiullin assumes the division of Tatars in the census will likely result in their totaling less than 50 percent of the population in Tatarstan. The Duma will then definitely pass legislation to annul national republics where titular nations constitute less than half of the population, he asserted. Tatars currently entail some 52 percent of Tatarstan's inhabitants.

...As Another Deputy Calls For Elimination Of Republics
Meanwhile, speaking at Duma hearings on state national policy on 7 February, Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky called for the elimination of national republics in Russia to resolve the national issue. He said the best way is "to eliminate territories with national names -- the very object causing such complexities." He said Russia is to remain a federative state but become a union of territories, including "Ufa Gubernia," "Kazan Gubernia," "Gorskaya Republic" and others.

President Says Future Depends On Children's Health
In an interview published by "Respublika Tatarstan" on 7 February, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said improving the health of younger generations is among the priorities of Tatarstan's leadership. He stressed the importance of mass sport events. Shaimiev said one in three draftees is not fit for military service in Tatarstan. He noted that references to permanent undernourishment are "strange," since he claims even the poorest families in the republic have enough provisions. He added that the main reason of children's poor health is a sedentary lifestyle.

Kazan Businessman Represents Kalmykia In Federation Council
Kazan businessmen Rustem Iskhakov was appointed representative from Kalmykia to the Federation Council, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 8 February. The daily commented that the nomination caused a "controversial reaction" in Tatarstan, since the republican Interior Affairs Ministry initiated criminal proceeding against Iskhakov and his company several years ago. Iskhakov's personal case was then closed, but the case against his company continues, the paper said. Iskhakov controls several companies in Kazan, including Aerostan airline, whose pilots spent roughly a year in Taliban captivity several years ago. Iskhakov reportedly has friendly relations and joint business projects with Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Nizhnekamskneftekhim's Profit Falls
Nizhnekamskneftekhim posted 2.5 billion rubles ($82 million) in profit in 2001, half the previous year's rate, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 8 February, quoting AK&M. According to the agency, the decline is connected to a worsening situation on the chemicals market. The petrochemical company's 2002 budget was approved with losses, and a project for modernizing synthetic-rubber production was postponed.

Alcohol Sales Decline
Alcohol sales brought 670 million rubles ($22 million) to Tatarstan's budget in 2001, compared to 2 billion rubles ($65.5 million) the previous year, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 9 February. According to Tatspirtprom, the republican state alcohol monopoly, 45 percent of alcohol sold in the republic is produced illegally (in Russia, the figure is 50 percent). Roughly eight liters of alcohol were consumed in Tatarstan per capita in 2001, a half-liter more than a year ago (versus 5.1 liters in Russia). Drinking home-distilled vodka has tripled in the republic since 1999, the paper said.

Political Science Academy Formed In Tatarstan
Tatarstan's Academy of Political Science has been established in Kazan, "Respublika Tatarstan" reported on 8 February. Political researcher Midkhat Farukshin was elected the institution's president. A roundtable on a new version of the Tatarstan Constitution and launching a new political research journal are among the immediate plans for the organization.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Construction Minister Promotes Needs Of Disabled
Construction, Architecture, and Roads Minister Ramil Mirsaev criticized planning organizations along with city and raion authorities for ignoring the needs of the disabled when designing, constructing, and repairing buildings and streets, Bashinform reported on 8 February. He said local authorities should not issue licenses to planning and construction companies if they do not install facilities for the disabled. Access for disabled children to schools is also being disregarded, Mirsaev added.

Investment Growth Reported
The Foreign Relations and Trade Ministry said exports totaled 32 percent of Bashkortostan's gross regional product and 40 percent of its industrial production in 2001, Bashinform reported on 8 February. The republic's foreign-trade turnover fell by 12 percent to $2.5 billion, while investments grew by 43 percent to $33 million.

Judge Debarred, Setting Back Start Date Of Major Embezzlement Case
The Bashkortostan Judges' Board of Experts on 8 February excluded Judge Zilya Gabidullina from hearing a much-publicized embezzlement case in the Ufa raion court after charging the judge with "violating professional honor rules," strana.ur reported the same day. The move was taken in connection with an unrelated case of embezzlement at Bashneft in 1997, when one of the accused -- Moscow-based Gaver General Manager Valerii Sukhanov -- was discovered to have visited Gabidullina in the judge's chambers, which is prohibited. The current case is of seven people accused in the embezzlement of 5 billion rubles in 1999. The former general managers of Bashkir Airlines, Vilmir Gaziev, and of Bashimpeks, Nadir Valeev, are among those accused. The trial was scheduled to begin soon, but will be postponed at least until summer as a result of the board's decision to seat a new judge.

Authorities Concern About Support For Young Families...
The State Youth Policy Committee said on 8 February that 613 young families received long-term loans for the construction and purchase of apartments in 2001, Bashinform reported. Over the past five years, the number of such young families has totaled 12,000, committee officials told their body's annual board meeting. Committee members called for the adoption of a law on state support for young families and of a similar republican program designed to last until 2010.

...And Physical Culture, Sports
Financing the physical culture, sports, and tourism sector from the Bashkortostan budget increased by 30 percent to 316 million rubles ($10.3 million) in 2001, Bashinform reported on 8 February. Roughly half of the sum was spent to finance sport teams and clubs, while some 132 million rubles was allocated for the construction or reconstruction of sport facilities.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova