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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 4, 2002

4 April 2002
Tatarstan To Maintain Status Set By 1992 Referendum
The Tatarstan State Council on 3 April passed a constitutional amendment under which the republic's status can be changed only in accordance with a republic-level referendum, reported. The author of the amendment, Deputy Marat Galeev, said that the most important results of the 1992 referendum on the status of Tatarstan will be maintained in Article 1 of the new draft constitution of the republic, which describes the semi-sovereign republic as being united with Russia by the constitutions of the Russian Federation and Tatarstan, as well as by the 1994 power-sharing treaty.

Parliamentary Speaker Farid Mukhametshin supported the amendment, saying, "It is our debt to secure such a right for the people." commented the same day that the Tatarstan legislature gave Moscow the choice either to ignore the remaining contradictions between the draft constitution and federal legislation or, if it were to initiate any new protests against the document, to take upon itself the responsibility for holding a referendum in the republic.

Further work on amendments to the draft constitution will continue on 19 April.

FSB, Media Clarify Report On Chally Resident In Guantanamo Bay
The head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Tatarstan, General Aleksandr Gusev, told on 3 April that the Chally resident being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not Almaz Sharipov, as was reported yesterday, but Ravil Gumarov.

According to Gusev, Gumarov, who disappeared two years ago, has had ties to the Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center since 1997, as well as to students of the Chally Yoldyz madrasah that was later closed for promoting Wahhabism, a radical form of Islam. Two of those students were convicted of blowing up a gas pipeline in the Kirov Oblast near Tatarstan on 1 December 1999. Several of them were also allegedly trained at Shamil Basaev's field camps.

A report by the "Ephir" television station in Chally claims that another resident of the city, Airat Vakhitov, is also being held at Guantanamo Bay. Gusev stated, however, that the FSB has no evidence that this is the case. In a contradictory report, said that Vakhitov is actually being held in an Al-Qaeda prison in Kandahar.

TPC Chally Leader Lashes Out At Moscow's Policies On Islam
The leader of the Tatar Public Center (TPC) in Chally, Rafis Kashapov, told RFE/RL's Chally correspondent on 3 April that Russia's "incorrect" policy toward Islam has led to the participation of Tatarstan Muslims in military actions in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Albania, and other countries in order to "defend Islam".

He said that following the 1999 apartment-building explosions in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buinaksk, Russian government officials and the Federal Security Service looked for "a Chechen and Tatar trace" and increased pressure on Islam and Russia's 20 million Muslims.

Kashapov called reports that the Tatar Public Center in Chally recruited fighters for Afghanistan "a provocation". He stressed that the TPC has never been engaged in recruiting militants for any country or organization.

Russia's Media Minister Says Non-Russian Media Unprofitable
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 31 March, Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin quoted Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin as saying that, "The existence of TV and radio broadcasting in non-Russian languages is economically unprofitable."

Lesin, who was speaking in the Duma during "a government hour," answered Safiullin's question on why the licensing of mass media in languages other than Russian, as well as the tenders for the establishment of such media, face great difficulties. Safiullin also pointed out that non-Russian media are expected to compete as equals with Russian-language media that are sponsored by wealthy "oligarchs".

New Rector Chosen At Kazan University
The former deputy rector of Kazan University, Dr. Myakzyum Salakhov, 50, was elected as the university's new rector on 3 April, reported. Salakhov received 181 of 347 possible votes, while his closest competitor among four candidates, the dean of the Chemistry Faculty, Vladimir Galkin, received 99 votes. The search for a new rector has been ongoing since December 2000 when the former rector, Yurii Konoplev, submitted his resignation.

Kazan University, which is routinely rated as one of Russia's five leading universities, is to mark its 200th anniversary in 2004.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Russia, Bashkortostan Team Up On Nuclear Power Plant Project
Bashkortostan's Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov and Russia's Nuclear Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev signed on 30 March a bilateral declaration of intentions for constructing a nuclear power plant in Bashkortostan and also endorsed a cooperation agreement between the republic and the ministry, Bashkortostan media reported on 3 April.

The above-mentioned documents state that this is the right time to begin building a nuclear power plant in the republic because of the growing need for cheap electricity and plans to abolish more-expensive gas-operated power plants. According to preliminary plans, the Agidel nuclear power plant will produce its first power unit with an output of 1,000 megawatts by 2010, and a second unit of the same output is planned for 2012.

Bashkortostan Legislators Claim Small Victory In Battle Over Harmonization Of Laws
The Russian Supreme Court on 2 April upheld the recent ruling of Bashkortostan's Supreme Court that rejected protests by the republic's prosecutor against republic laws on safety measures at industrial facilities.

The Bashkortostan prosecutor, in trying to implement a directive from the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to harmonize republican and federal legislation, demanded that these Bashkortostan laws be abolished because federal legislative acts governing these areas already exist and therefore take precedence.

Several deputies of the Bashkortostan State Assembly opposed the prosecutor, claiming that the republic's laws "provide more details than the federal ones."

After failing to win the case in Bashkortostan's Supreme Court, the prosecutor appealed to the Russian Supreme Court and lost again.

Conference Reports Decline Of Urban Bashkir Population
According to reports compiled at an interregional conference devoted to the urban Bashkir population in Bashkortostan and the problems of its language, culture, health, and demographics released on 3 April, in 2000 Bashkir mothers gave birth to 18.8 percent of children born in cities, while 42.2 percent of newborns were ethnic Russians, 24.7 percent were ethnic Tatars, and 14.3 percent were of other ethnicities.

Meanwhile, state officials claimed that in rural areas, Bashkir newborns represented 41.3 percent of the total, Tatars 28.3 percent, and Russians 16.1 percent. The authors of the reports also noted that ethnic-Bashkir couples accounted for only 3.2 percent of marriages, while the majority of marriages involved ethnically mixed couples.

The conference also adopted a resolution asking the second World Bashkir Congress, to be held in June 2002, "to place more emphasis on the revival of ethnic self-identity through family traditions," possibly hinting at the promotion of ethnically pure marriages.

President Calls On Government To Promote Social Welfare, State Ideology
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov told a government meeting on 3 April that the main goal of Bashkortostan's state policies was to ensure the social welfare of the population. He said that the economic situation of recent years "generally assisted the implementation of social programs" within the republic.

Rakhimov also called for "more active use of state resources for promoting a healthy lifestyle and for defining new state ideology."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi