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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 12, 2002

12 March 2002
Government Meeting Focuses On Economic Realities For Tatarstan
President Mintimer Shaimiev chaired an 11 March meeting of Tatarstan's government and local business elite to discuss last year's economy and ways to develop Tatarstan's economy despite falling oil prices in 2002. Stable world oil prices reportedly helped increase greater agricultural production, improved industrial output, and to create a budget surplus. Shaimiev said that 2002 is expected to be a more difficult year for Tatarstan's economy because of the slump in the prices of oil and oil products on world and domestic markets. Other reasons that this year is expected to be more difficult economically is the implementation of the federal tax reform, which removed income tax concessions for republican companies and introduced higher taxes on oil producers, and the increase in utility tariffs. Shaimiev told the meeting that under theses circumstances, Tatarstan needs to reduce its dependence on external markets by diversifying its production and ensuring increased wages for its population.

Duma To Discuss Amendment To Legislation On Alphabet
Russian State Duma factional leaders and committee heads will consider on 12 March an amendment to the federal law on the languages of Russia's nationalities that will be proposed at the next plenary Duma session, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The amendment would oblige all nationalities residing in Russia to use the Russian Cyrillic alphabet as the basis for their language scripts with the stipulation that this obligation may be changed only by federal law. Surprisingly, the draft law is being supported by the Russian Regions faction, the only Russian Duma group led by a deputy from Tatarstan, Oleg Morozov.

Tatarstan To Freeze Funding For Subway
Premier Rustam Minnikhanov told reporters on 11 March that the Tatar government will not be able to fund further construction of the Kazan subway in 2002 because of plans to finish the Kama River bridge linking the southeastern and northwestern parts of Tatarstan. Subway construction is expected to be funded by the federal government, which has thus far confirmed that it will transfer only 313 million rubles ($11 million) out of a promised 900 million ($29.03 million), while the budget for subway construction for 2002 is estimated to be some 2.3 billion rubles ($67.74 million). The subway project is expected to cost taxpayers in Tatarstan and Russia a total of some 14.3 billion rubles ($461.3 million), of which 946 million ($30.52 million) has already been spent and 463 million ($14.9 million) has been transferred by the republican government.

Tatar Veterinary Official Says U.S. Chicken Meat Reserves To Be Sold In Weeks
Valerii Nikitin, the chief veterinary doctor in Tatarstan, said that the current stock of American chicken meat will sellout within one month after new imports were banned by Moscow, RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported on 11 March. Nikitin said the U.S. chicken is "of good quality and 15-20 percent cheaper" than domestically-produced chicken. Managers of Tatar chicken factories interviewed expressed satisfaction with the ban in interviews with Tatar media on the same day, adding that the move will allow them to increase their market, though several residents said that their families relied on the U.S. chicken because of its low price.

Federal Stock Commission Signs Agreement With Kazan
Igor Kostikov, chairman of the federal Stock Market Commission, arrived in Kazan on 12 March to meet with top Tatar officials and to sign an agreement on stock market development and corporate relations between the commission and the cabinet. The document will reportedly give investors more guarantees within the republic's economy while also increasing the capital of major Tatar companies such as Tatneft and KamAZ.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ethnographer On Baptized Tatars In Bashkortostan
Ildar Gabdrafikov, head of the Ethnic Policies Department at the ethnography center within Bashkortostan's Academy of Science, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 11 March that some 10,000 Baptized Tatars (Kryashen Tatars) live in the Bakali and Ilesh regions in the west of Bashkortostan. He said that during his ethnographic expeditions to villages in the Bakali region, he never heard any of these people say they were not Tatars -- or of a separate "Kryashen" nationality. (Some Kryashen Tatar organizations in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan are asserting separate ethnic status.) "There are many nationalities that have different religions, for example Latvians, Germans, or Czechs, who follow different streams in Christianity," he said, "but this doesn't mean that they are divided into different ethnic groups." He said, "Baptized Tatars, remembering the tragedy of forcible Baptism in the 16th century, shared the same ethnic origin and language with Tatar people; but some of them, being persons with political ambitions, are interested in splitting up the Tatars." Gabdrafikov added that if the October census offers "Baptized Tatars" as a separate nationality like other ethnic subgroups, "the integrity of the Tatar people will depend only on their ethnic self-identity."

Governments Ignore Salavat Mayor's Defenders
The citizens' group protesting the dismissal of Salavat Mayor Askhat GAliyev has received no response from federal or republican officials who were asked to reverse Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov's dismissal decree, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 11 March. Over 50,000 Salavat residents signed a petition in support of Galiev, and City Council deputies have appealed to Russia's president and prosecutor-general, the Volga district administration, and Bashkortostan's government demanding that mayors be appointed or replaced only through elections, as is stated in federal law. A protest is being planned to promote the mayor's reappointment.

Fedorovskii Chapter Of Bashkir Congress Elects Delegates
The Fedorovskii regional chapter of the Bashkir Congress held a meeting on 11 March to sum up the region's social achievements in 2001, consider a report by local representative Timerkazik Akhmerov on the group's activities, and elect delegates for the second World Bashkir Congress to be held in June. As with Bashkir Congress meetings in other regions of the republic, the gathering involved officials from various levels within the local administration. Although the Bashkir Congress has declared itself a public organization since its first forum in 1997, it still has not received a charter.

HIV Still Spreading At High Rate
Some 326 people have been infected with HIV in Bashkortostan in 2002, bringing to 3,044 the number of those infected in the republic, the Health Ministry announced on 11 March. Eleven people diagnosed with HIV have developed AIDS since the beginning of the year. Some 2,446 HIV carriers are between 15 and 30 years of age.

Power Companies' Frustration Threatens Agriculture Industry
While Bashkortostan's farms are keeping up with their current electricity payments, the existence of long-term debts from years past is endangering deliveries. More than 300 machinery repair shops have been cut off recently, seriously compromising preparations for the coming season, Bashinform reported on 11 March.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi