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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 7, 2002

7 March 2002
Watan Party Protests War In Chechnya
The Watan Party plans to stage a picket on 8 March in Moscow's Pushkin Square to protest the war in Chechnya and to call for peace talks and the withdrawal of the Russian Army from the republic, Tatar-inform reported on 6 March. Watan professes to support the rights not only of residents but of entire peoples. Party leaders said the Chechen conflict is not a fight against terrorism but rather a genocide of the Chechen people and called "criminal" an alleged practice of the Russian Army in Chechnya in which people can be declared "bandits" and arrested or killed.

Watan, together with the Fund for the Development of Muslim Peoples, also plans to hold a conference on the Status of Tatarstan on 24 March in Moscow's Asadullaev House, reported on 6 March.

U.S. Ambassador To Russia Visits Kazan
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said during a visit to Kazan on 6 March that relations between the United States and Tatarstan have developed in recent years in the culture, science, and education sectors and within non-profit projects, reported. But the potential for cooperation, primarily in the trade and economic sectors, he said, has not been exhausted. Vershbow said the American side is interested in the way federative relations are arranged in Russia during President Vladimir Putin's rule and how people in territorial entities evaluate these relations.

Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin asserted that the republic's leadership believes regions should be given definite powers in their relations with Moscow, adding that events in recent decades prove the correctness of that principle. Mukhametshin stressed that republican leaders in negotiations with Moscow refer to the experience of leading democratic states, including the United States, where states have different powers and different status.

Vershbow said Russia's future depends on the development of its regions. The ambassador said the U.S. government is ready to encourage American companies to invest in Russia but would like to reduce risks as much as possible. He praised Tatarstan's economic and intellectual potential. Mukhametshin said he believes American companies will occupy a fitting place in the republic's economy.

Candidates Named For New KamAZ Board
The management board at KamAZ approved a list of candidates to the board and to a review commission for election at an upcoming annual general meeting (AGM), reported on 6 March, citing the KamAZ press service. The list includes 24 candidates, including current General Manager Ivan Kostin; the vice president in charge of finances, Ildar Khalikov; and trade union leader Gumer Nuretdinov. The meeting -- chaired by Russian Industry, Science, and Technologies Minister and KamAZ board Chairman Ilya Klebanov -- discussed an agenda for the upcoming AGM.

State-Church Council Cites Outstanding Issues
Tatarstan's Council on State-Church Relations discussed the performance of republican presidential commissions on religious organizations, Tatar-inform reported on 6 March. President Mintimer Shaimiev, meeting with republican Orthodox and Muslim leaders a year ago, gave those commissions to the republican cabinet, the Council on Religious Affairs, and city and raion administrations. The deputy head of the Council on Religious Affairs, Venera Abdulkhaeva, told the meeting that educational programs for Islamic educational institutions were developed with the participation of the Tatarstan Muslim Religious Board and the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, adding that the introduction of tax breaks for Muslim organizations has been "partially satisfied." However, Abdulkhaeva said issues remain unresolved, including the establishment of an Islamic cemetery and reconstruction of the Usmania madrasah's historical buildings in Kazan.

Muslims Board Composes List Of Undesirable Books
The Central Religious Board of Muslims of Russia and CIS countries has established a commission to analyze whether Islamic literature imported or published in Russia promotes extremism, or incites violence or interfaith hostility, reported on 6 March. The commission has already composed a list of 90 books that were deemed to negatively affect the process of religious revival and inter-faith concord and to misrepresent Islamic dogmas. The list includes the works of 20 authors, including five Russian citizens.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Scientific Community Trades Claims About Bashkirs In Northwest
The series of assertions by Bashkir scientists that the northwest area of Bashkortostan is dominated by ethnic Bashkirs continues. Philology professor Meseliye Khairullina said that Askin, Birsk, Baltach, Ilesh, Boray, Kaltasi, Karaidel, Yanaul, and other rural regions in the areas are Bashkir despite being formerly considered Tatar, RFE/RL reported on 5 March. "Some people," she asserted, "consider that residents of the northwest region speak a dialect of Tatar language, thus compromising the existence of [a] northwestern dialect in the Bashkir language. Historical reality, documents and other evidence prove the opposite." She added that Bashkirs residing in the northwest of Bashkortostan are divided into three groups, "including the residents of Tatarstan's regions and Perm Oblast."

Discussion of the ethnic identity of peoples living in the northwest of Bashkortostan heated up after the federal government announced its plans to hold a national census, slated for October.

...While Government Appears To Back Effort With Threats To Withhold Subsidies
RFE/RL's correspondent in Birsk on 5 March quoted census figures from the first half of the 20th century indicating that the overwhelming majority of people living in the northwest of Bashkortostan reported their native language as Tatar. In his words, local regional administration heads recently received instructions from the republican government to "obtain" high figures of Bashkir population during the coming national census so that the former amount of over 1.5 million Tatars in the republic is replaced by a figure of 300,000-400,000. This policy is indicated by the current introduction of Bashkir language lessons in rural regions' schools, presumably to undermine the Tatar language. About 1,700 Bashkir teachers graduate every year from Bashkortostan universities, while there are about 400,000 Bashkirs in the republic. Some 300 teachers are offered to the entire Tatar community in Bashkortostan. Local administration heads interviewed by an RFE/RL correspondent explained that if they refused to replace Tatar language lessons with Bashkir it would be harder for them to get state subsidies for roads and gas-supply network construction.

A Historical Look Back Into History of Tatars In Bashkortostan
The leader of the World Tatar Congress and a Tatar historian and academician, Indus Tahirov, in a book called "The History Of The National Statehood Of Tatar People And Tatarstan" ("Istoria Natsionalnoy Gosudarstvennosti Tatarskogo Naroda i Tatarstana") quotes a telegram from People's Commissioner in Bashkir Republic Zeki Validi appealing to Vladimir Lenin in 1920 with an offer to name the republic uniting the territories of modern Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and calling it a "Tatar-Bashkir" republic to prevent affronting Bashkirs. The correspondence suggests there were over 300,000 Bashkirs living together with 1.3 million Tatars in the Ufa gubernia. According to Validi, who later emigrated from the Soviet Union and became a historian, it was impossible to form an autonomous Bashkir republic in place of the Ufa gubernia, because Bashkirs did not make up 60 percent of the population and were represented by only six Bashkir regions near the city of Sterlitamaq.

Bashkortostan Resident Released In Chechnya
A Bashkortostan resident from Sterlitamaq, ethnic Tatar Mingayaz Musin, was freed by federal armed forces after being kept as a slave for 15 years in Argun, Chechnya, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 6 March. Neighbors of the Soltakhanov family, which kept Musin and even local law-enforcement officials, reportedly knew of the slavery but did nothing to stop it. The family's son is a police academy student in Volgograd and an uncle is a retired militia major -- both reportedly were aware of the situation.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi