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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 27, 2002

27 February 2002
Country-wide Pro-governmental Party Opens Branch In TR
The Tatarstan chapter of the United Russia Party, formed by the merger of the Unity party and the Fatherland-All Russia bloc, gathered at the Kazan National Culture Center on 26 February for its first meeting. The party elected Yurii Nazmeev, rector of the Kazan Energy Institute and the former leader of the Unity party in the republic, as chairman of the new party's political council. Speaking before the party's 240 members, Nazmeev said United Russia is backed by the majority of the Russian and Tatarstan population. A combined 10,000 republican residents supported the three former political parties. The new party's leadership declared its goal as "transfering" their support and work to "win even more supporters."

Two Russian State Duma deputies from Tatarstan, Farida Gaynullina and Nail Khusnutdinov, stated during the event that the new party is a "centrist political power, and its goal is to win the majority of votes in Tatarstan in the coming elections to the Tatar State Council and State Duma."

The presence of the chief of the Tatarstan presidential staff, Ekzam Gubaydullin, in addition to many Tatar officials and businessmen, appeared to hint at republican government support for the new party. After the event, Gubaydullin told reporters that "the party's platform and charter assure that it will exist for many years to come."

Baptized Tatar Professor Claims 'Kryashen' Nationality Is Invented
Vladimir Ivanov, professor of sociological sciences at the Kazan Financial Economic Institute, told Tatarstan State Radio on 27 February that he considered himself a Baptized Tatar, rather than a "Kryashen," echoing a trend among some members of Russia's baptized Tatar community. He said "there are no 'Kryashen' peoples," he said in a live interview. "We are Tatars who were forcibly Christianized during the last four centuries." He added that the thesis of the possible existence of Kryashens before the conquest of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible in 1552 is "absolutely ungrounded and politically motivated."

The Ethnology and Anthropology Institute has elaborated its list of nationalities to be used during the October national census, including listing "Kryashens" as a separate nationality, a point which has been disputed over by Tatar scientists and politicians for several months.

Poland's Tatars Protest Nationality Question In That Country's Census
The central board of Poland's Tatars Union issued a public statement protesting the inclusion of residents' nationalities on the questionnaire that is to be used during Poland's national census in June, agency reported on 26 February. Board Chairman Selim Khazbiyevich told reporters that, in his opinion, "answers to this question will be insincere and won't reflect the actual situation because people are afraid, especially elderly people who remember what they had to overcome after World War II." The Polish Tatars Union reportedly has 120 members and 800 supporters.

Chally TPC Urges End To Fighting In Chechnya
The Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center on 26 February urged the Russian government to stop military activities in Chechnya and begin peace talks. The appeal said the re-establishment of constitutional order in Chechnya has "dragged out into a permanent counterterrorist operation." The group noted that 23 February is the anniversary of the deportation of Chechens in the 1940s and that on 26 February 2000, 18-year-old Chechen Elza Kunchayeva was killed by Russian soldiers.

Tukay Regional Head Replaced
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov attended a session of the Tukay Region's People's Council on 26 February that upheld a presidential decree dismissing regional administration head Robert Shakurov. Shakurov was blamed for failing to organize the effective operation of farms in one of the leading rural regions of Tatarstan, and will head a Chally chicken factory. He was replaced by Tagir Kharmatullin, known as a director of the region's most successful agricultural company.

Tatenergo Production Slips, Sales Rise
Tatenergo Power produced 23 billion kilowatts of electricity in 2001, which is 1 percent less than the previous year, Tatar-inform reported on 26 February. At the same time, the company managed to sell 19 billion kilowatts of electric energy, exceeding the previous year's statistics by 1 percent.

Tatarstan Residents To See Higher Energy Tariffs
Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers on 26 February approved plans by the Republican Energy Commission to increase electricity and heat rates by 10 percent from 1 March. News of the plan appear to have already sparked increases in prices for natural gas, which is used as fuel at Tatarstan's power plants and heating stations. The last rise in energy rates took place in June, when electricity and heat became 38 and 33 percent more expensive, respectively.

Fire Kills Employee At Sergo Plant in Yashel Uzen
One man was killed and more than 10 injured as the result of a fire in the office building of the POZIS plant -- also know as the "Sergo" plant -- in Yashel Uzen on 26 February. According to interior officials at the emergency site, the fire was apparently caused by an accident during repairs inside the building. The POZIS defense industry plant, which managed to survive the country's economic crises by launching nonmilitary production, is a renowned producer of military and hunting cartridges and refrigerators.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Paper Claims Northwest Of Republic Is Dominated By Bashkirs
The "Bashkortostan" newspaper published an article by Bashkir journalist Zeytune Khanova and history professor Rais Kuziev claiming that the majority of residents in the northwest of the republic are ethnic Bashkirs but consider themselves Tatars because they were taught from Kazan-published books, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 26 February. Professor Kuziev states that between the 1979 census and the 1989 census, the number of Bashkirs has decreased by 130,000, mostly due to "assimilation" by the Tatar population. It is because of this decrease that many ethnic Bashkirs "wish to educated their children in Bashkir," he said.

Tatar politicians in Bashkortosan claim the "Gorbachev-era" census of 1989 was more democratic than the 1979 census, so Tatars were not afraid to register as Tatars. The difference in political climate between the two censuses, they claim, explains the difference in population numbers.

Kuziev said the upcoming October census should show that Bashkirs represent 35-40 percent of the republic's population, while local Tatar organizations claim that Bashkirs made up just 12 percent of residents.

Salavat City Council Protests Presidential Decree
At a meeting of the Salavat City Council on 26 Febuary attended by Prime Minister Rafeal Baydavletov, councilors protested the dismissal of Mayor Askhat Galiev, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. Many deputies reportedly appealed to Baydavletov in speeches urging the re-appointment of GAliyev -- some of them shunning the formal style of address in favor of the potentially insulting style of using only Baydavletov's family name. The prime minister later said he was grateful for Galiev's work in his post and added that he considered the city council speeches "plotted actions made on somebody's order."

Galiev, who was dismissed by presidential decree and replaced with Yurii Alimov, has received 30,000 votes of support from Salavat residents. According to Ufa reporter, it is the first time in Bashkortostan's history that residents and local council deputies have opposed a presidential decree firing or appointing a regional administration head. According to republican law, any new candidate for the post will have to win a majority of votes in Salavat to confirm his appointment.

Bashkir Oil Blamed For Reduced Finnish Purchase
Finnish company Fortrum reduced its purchases from Transneft Oil Company via the Baltic pipeline by five-sixths after declaring that Transneft's oil contains too much sulfur, "Vedomosti" daily reported on 26 February. Fortrum bought 300,000 tons of oil in January but purchased only 45,000 tons in February. The trade publication "Petroleum Argus" commented that Primorsk's oil was mixed with oil supplied from Bashkortostan and Udmurtia. Transneft has refused to lower its prices, claiming that its quality is fully compliant with Russian quality standards.

Agro-2002 Fair Begins In Ufa
Over 200 agricultural equipment companies from Russia and abroad are participating in the Agro-2002 fair in Ufa, some 40 percent of which will be dedicated to agricultural machinery and agricultural products of Bashkortostan.

Bashkirenergo Forced To Borrow To Keep Gas Supplies Coming
Bashkirenergo company is owed 5.61 billion rubles ($187 million) for power and heat consumed by Bashkortostan industry, republican media reported on 26 February. The company has been forced to take out further loans to pay Russian monopoly Gazprom to avoid a cut-off of gas supplies to the republic. In order to step up the debt repayment, Bashkirenergo is reportedly halting deliveries to major debtors, mostly industrial companies and farms.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi