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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 6, 2002

6 March 2002
Tatar Organizations Condemn President For Giving Away Hotel In Chally
The weekly "Novaya Vecherka" published a public statement made by the Azatliq Tatar Youth Union and the Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center (TPC) on 6 March that protests the recent handover of an unfinished, state-owned, 20-story hotel to a local businesswoman for a symbolic price of 1 ruble. The two organizations said that this move "shocked" the public in Chally, "just as the president's decision to revise plans for the switching [from Cyrillic] to the Latin Tatar script despite pre-election promises and his opposition to the erection of a monument to the defenders of Kazan in 1552." Opposed, as well, to the fact that the 25-year-old building will become a place of entertainment, Azatliq and TPC addressed the State Council and asked it to consider the legality of president's move and urged them to turn the building into an ethnic cultural center.

Tatar Women From Russian Regions Invited For Women's Day Celebrations In Kazan
State Council chairman Farit Mukhametshin and the chief executive of the World Tatar Congress, Indus Tahirov, met a group of women representing Tatar communities in Russia on 5 March as part of International Women's Day celebrations on 8 March. In their welcoming speeches to the delegation, Mukhametshin and Tahirov outlined the plans of the federal government to divide Tatars into subgroups according to the territory where they live as a main threat to interethnic harmony in Russia and the unity of Tatars. Guests from many of Russia's regions also voiced their opposition to attempts to divide the "Tatar nation." A special awards ceremony for the 750 most successful Tatar women will be held on 6 March.

Tatarstan's Foreign Trade Down, Though Investment Grows
Tatarstan's foreign trade turnover totaled $3.1 billion in 2001, which is 2 percent lower than the previous year, the State Statistics Committee reported on 5 March. Some 88.5 percent of the republic's trade was in exports, while imports totaled $357.6 million. Oil continued its domination of exports by making up 63 percent of the goods sold abroad. Machinery and equipment exports doubled compared to 2000 and reached 11 percent of exports. Switzerland, Germany, Ukraine, Finland, and Poland topped the list of Tatarstan's major foreign trade partners as investments totaled $651 million in 2001 -- six times more compared to the previous year. Swiss ($323.8 million), British ($162 million), German ($126 million), and Austrian ($28.5 million) companies were the republic's major investors in 2001.

Internet Users In Tatarstan
According to Deputy Communications Minister Ravil Fatikhov on 5 March, there are 17,175 Internet users in Tatarstan, though more than 16,000 of them live in Kazan, with only 1,049 users accessing the Internet from Tatarstan's regions.

U.S. Ambassador In Kazan
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, arrived in Kazan on 6 March. He met with State Council chairman Farit Mukhametshin. His wife, Lisa, met with Tatar women at an awards ceremony devoted to the 8 March holiday.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

World Tatar Congress Leader Discusses History Of Tatars In Bashkortostan
In response to recent publications by Bashkir historians claiming that the majority of people residing in the northwest of Bashkortostan are ethnic Bashkirs, World Tatar Congress Executive Committee leader Indus Tahirov on 5 March countered with some historical evidence of his own. Tahirov cited the works of Tatar historian Zeki Validi as saying that in 1919, before the Tatarstan and Bashkortostan autonomous republics were established, 1.3 million Tatars and 300,000 Bashkirs lived in Ufa gubernia, in his opinion indicating that Tatars have always represented the majority of modern Bashkortostan's population. According to earlier articles by Bashkir journalist Zeytune Khanova, the upcoming national census in Russia could reveal that Bashkirs constitute 40 or 50 percent of republic's population.

Bashkir Congress Leader Says Living Conditions In Russia Will Top June Agenda
According to the chief executive of the World Bashkir Congress, Niyz Majitov, the group's June congress will consider the living conditions of Bashkirs in Bashkortostan, Russian regions, and other countries, RFE/RL reported. Some media reports that preparations for the national census will in fact be the top issue, while the declared issue on living conditions has never been considered by the congress.

Bashneft Enters Russian Stock Trade System
The quoting committee of the Russian Trade System approved Bashneft oil company's shares for trading on the RTS Stock Exchange, republican media reported on 5 March. Experts of the Russian United Financial Group have promoted the stocks, suggesting they are no less profitable than the better-known Surgutneftegaz and Tatneft shares, although Bashneft's output has fallen from 17.7 million tons in 1995 to 11.9 million tons in 2001. Some 63.7 percent of Bashneft shares are owned by the Bashkir Fuel Company, which is controlled by the state. Although Bashneft profits reached $416 million in 2001, experts of the United Financial Group say that it is undervalued in comparison with similar oil companies that have similar risks but are more expensive.

Vietnamese Delegation Hears About Bashkir Energy Experience...
A delegation of the Vietnamese Embassy led by Ambassador Ngo Tat To met officials of Bashkirenergo company to learn about power and heat production and distribution in Bashkortostan with an emphasis on the construction of small hydroelectric plants, reported on 5 March.

...While Wider Cooperation Seen Between Bashkortostan and Vietnam
Prime Minister Rafael Baydaveltov is planning to visit Vietnam on 27-28 March within an official Russian delegation to resume bilateral talks on offering Bashkir technology to the Vietnamese oil-processing and agricultural industries. About 80 students from Vietnam study at the Ufa State Oil Institute, and there are prospects for Vietnamese students at Bashkir State Agricultural University.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi