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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 26, 2002

26 March 2002
Tatar President In Sweden
Mintimer Shaimiev held talks in Stockholm on 25 March with Swedish Minister of Trade and Baltic Sea Regional Policy Leif Pagrotsky to discuss prospects for bilateral economic cooperation, which is currently dominated by the export of oil products to Sweden. The two sides also are reported to agree on resuming projects for equipping a still-to-be-built deep oil processing plant in Tuben Kama, Tatarstan, with the help of ABB Lummus Global Company, a subdivision of the Swedish-Swiss ABB concern. Tatarstan's KamAZ automotive company recently signed a memorandum on mutual understanding with Sweden's Scania trucks group, while the republic's veneer furniture industry and the Bogelme porcelain factory are producing goods for the Swedish IKEA furniture company. Yet another Swedish automotive concern, Volvo, is also working on producing buses in the Alabuga free economic zone, where it established its "ScanTatAlabuga" venture.

Shaimiev and his Swedish hosts regretably acknowledged that cooperation between Swedish and Tatar industries has slumped in recent years and Pagrotsky told Shaimiev that "we politicians must eliminate all obstacles for expanding trade [and] economic cooperation between Sweden and Tatarstan, which is one of the most stable and highly developed regions in Russia."

Later that day, Shaimiev met with Sweden's director of foreign trade, Mats Ringborg, and then visited the production site of the Ericsson communications company. Shaimiev also gave a speech at the Swedish Foreign Policy Institute on the development of federalism and democracy in Russia, Tatarstan's role in building a federative state, its relations with Moscow, and the shape of Tatarstan's society during its transition towards a civil society.

Tajutdin Supporter Says Radical Islam Spreading In Tatarstan
The Muslim leader of Kirov Oblast, mufti Gabdelnur Kamaletdin, told reporters that Wahhabism, a radical branch of Islam, is spreading in Tatarstan, endangering other regions of Russia including Kirov Oblast, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 25 March. Kamaletdin is subordinate to the Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board chaired by Talgat Tajutdin, who previously made a number of statements accusing Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Boards of encouraging extremist branches of Islam. However, it has been reported that Tajutdin himself personally met one of Osama bin Laden's brothers during a visit to Russia.

Back Wages On The Rise
According to Tatarstan�s State Statistics Committee on 25 March, wages arrears to employees of state-owned and private companies has reached 935.7 million rubles ($30.2 million), while in January they were owed 761.7 million ($24.6 million) in back wages. The major portion of this debt is reportedly owed by companies not funded by the republican or federal budgets.

Chally Tpc Urges Un To Prevent Military Action Against Iraq
The Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center, led by Rafis Kashapov, and the newly established Russian Movement group, sent a message to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 25 March expressing their anxiety towards U.S. threats regarding Iraq. The message said: "We are worried observing how the United States has become a state that bears [obvious] evil to the entire world society." The TPC and the Russian Movement called on Annan to "take all measures possible to prevent military action against the independent Iraqi state and its lawful president."

Court Gives Strict Penalty To The 'Shaimiev Sons' Gang
The Vakhitov district court of Kazan found the the defendants Ilshat Zaynullin, Marat Akhmadiev, Valery Stekolshikov, and Rustem Bikeneev, guilty of fraud for obtaining some 1.2 million rubles (some $40,000) from a number of regional administration heads in Tatarstan in late 2001 as an "advance payment" for combine harvester machines by presenting themselves as the sons of President Mintimer Shaimiev. The administration heads, who refused to attend the court hearing, reportedly knew that the president's sons were involved in selling agricultural machinery and didn't ask for any verification before giving money to the four men. Relatives of the accused appeared deeply shocked by the court's ruling, which handed down sentences ranging from five to eight years in prison, punishments that will be appealed by the defense. Meanwhile, none of the regional officials, who allegedly planned to benefit from the transactions -- which were not recorded in their regions� bookkeeping -- were punished for the possible misuse of funds.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Congress Branch Unveils Population Statistics.
Officials at the World Bashkir Congress branch in the Kaltasi region of Bashkortostan announced on 25 March that some 20,000 Bashkirs lived in the region, constituting some 80 percent of the region's population, while the Tatar population was roughly 1,000 people, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. According to a statement released by the organization, there are some "historical documents" proving the accuracy of these figures. Nevertheless, data from the end of the Soviet era, the 1989 national census, considered to be more accurate than previous censuses showed that in that time Bashkirs represented 3.2 percent of the region�s population, while Tatars made up 20 percent.

Weekly: Bashkirs Denied Right To Learn Native Language
The Bashkir weekly "Yashlek" published an article by journalist Zeytune Khanova on 25 March commenting on the Bashkir people's rights in the republic based on the example of Bashkortostan's Ilesh region. Khanova is known as the author of the book "Ilekyem" (My country), which claims that the majority of Bashkortostan's population are Bashkirs who were misled through a Tatar education into considering themselves to be Tatars. In the latest article, Khanova wrote that although there were only two schools teaching in the Bashkir language in Ilesh a decade ago, some 544 students are currently taught Bashkir as their native language. However, she noted that there are 3,000 more Bashkir children in the region who are deprived of the possibility of learning their native tongue.

Bashkir Writer Says Moscow To Blame For Downturn In Tatar-Bashkir Relations
Bashkir playwriter Suleyman Latipov told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 25 March that Russian President Vladimir Putin's government has resumed the "old Russian policy for establishing a colonial regime by means of continuing the Chechen war, destroying its free people, and also intends to [create] confrontation between Bashkirs and Tatars [in order to eliminate] these peoples too."

Unexpected Twist In Case Of Bashkir Resident Freed In Chechnya
Minnigayaz Musin, the resident of Bashkortostan who was recently freed by federal security forces after being kept as a slave for 15 years in Chechnya recently had a private meeting with his Chechen "host," Adam Soltakhanov, who allegedly came to Bashkortostan in order to take Musin back, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 25 March. After this meeting, Musin changed the testimony he had filed with the police and claimed that it was his own decision to stay with the Chechen family and work for them free of charge, thus lifting slavery charges against Soltakhanov, who is a retired policeman whose son is attending police school in Volgograd. According to anonymous sources within law enforcement bodies, this U-turn in the slavery case can possibly be explained by the fact that slaveowners often blackmail their victims so that they don't cooperate with police. For example, it is possible that the slave was forced to commit a murder under the threat of losing his own life, and that evidence of this murder could have been taken in order to be able to blackmail. Soltakhanov reportedly returned home safely and was not detained by the police.

Russian Government Agency Issues Positive Outlook On Bashkir Economy
The income of the people of Bashkortostan grew by 11.6 percent in 2001, which is higher than Russia's average growth figures, reported on 22 March. The agency also claimed that the republic has no back wages to pay or overdue social subsidies or pension payments.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi