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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 15, 2002

15 April 2002
Federal Minister Promotes Tatarstan's Aviation, Automobile Industries...
The Russian federal government has high hopes that the Kazan Aviation Production Facility (KAPO) will help rejuvenate Russia's fleet of airliners, Russian Minister of Industry, Science, and Technology Ilya Klebanov said while visiting Kazan on 12 April, reported the same day.

Klebanov met with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev to discuss industrial development in Russia as a whole, as well as the defense industry and the production of aircraft and automobiles, in particular.

Klebanov said that the two Tatarstan-produced Tupolev 214 airliners leased by Khabarovsk Airlines were the only ones that airlines throughout Russia received the previous year, adding that those aircraft did a good job recommending themselves.

Klebanov said that KAPO, along with the Ulyanovsk and Voronezh aviation plants, will be "the backbone of the country's aviation industry in the future." He also said that the leasing company promoting Tu-214 airplanes will soon be allocated "a large sum of money" and that in the end it will receive a total of about 1.5 billion rubles ($48 million).

Klebanov also called for "more dynamic development" of the KamAZ automobile plant. Shaimiev stressed that, "The work that has been done to restructure the debts of KamAZ is unique" in Russia and also that, "Radically new ways for more dynamic development [of KamAZ] are to be found."

Commenting on rumors about the possible dismissal of KamAZ General Manager Ivan Kostin, Klebanov said, "The next board meeting will resolve the issue." A board meeting is slated for the end of April, reported.

...As Another Official Investigates Investment Opportunities
Russian First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev visited several of Tatarstan's leading companies on 13 April in order to look at possibilities for investment in the republic, reported the same day.

Ulyukaev visited the Kazan Aviation Production Facility, the Kazan Helicopter Factory, and the Kazan Motor-Building Factory in Kazan; the Tuben Kama oil refinery in Nizhnekamsk; and the KamAZ automobile plant in Chally.

Ulyukaev said that while Russian aircraft are restricted from entering foreign airspace, "Many of our expectations in the development of aviation are connected with Kazan enterprises."

Ulyukaev also inspected the Russian Finance Ministry's Federal Treasury Board in Tatarstan and said the board is likely the best of its kind in Russia in terms of working conditions, equipment, and results.

Kreshens Promise Not To Split Tatar Nation
President Mintimer Shaimiev met with Kreshen leaders at the Kremlin in Kazan on 11 April, "Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly reported the next day. Prospects of the Kreshens' ethnic and cultural development, preservation of their cultural traditions, and establishment of self-government were the main topics discussed at the meeting, while Kreshen leaders also promised not to divide the Tatar people in the republican census in the fall.

Shaimiev stressed that republic's authorities cannot avoid taking account of the problems of Kreshens. He said the republic did not have to deal with the issue of unity among believers of its two major religions -- Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity -- in the recent past, since "for eighty years, we lived in an atheistic society."

Aleksei Shabalin, the chairman of the council of the republic's National Cultural Center of Kreshens of Tatarstan, said following the meeting that, "We almost reached a consensus on the issue of the census. We suggested that we remain a part of the Tatar people and only have a separate code [for census reporting] to know the number of Kreshens."

The Kreshen leaders who initiated the meeting said they are 95 percent satisfied with its results. Shabalin said he was surprised how attentively President Shaimiev treated the problems of the Kreshens.

Rafail Khakimov, an adviser on political issues to Tatarstan's president, said, "All the participants agreed that the unity of the Tatar nation is to be maintained. Separate ethnic groups, with their cultural and religious peculiarities, can exist within a united Tatar people." reported that no statements were made at the meeting about the Kreshens being a separate ethnic group.

Meanwhile, "Respublika Tatarstan" daily reported on 13 April that Professor Vladimir Ivanov, head of the Sociology Department at the Kazan Institute of Economics and Finance and chairman of the Scientific Council on Sociology of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, who is ethnic Kreshen, said a separate ethnic group of Kreshens has never existed and does not exist now despite the fact that Christian Tatars have a history dating back at least 1,000 years. Ivanov was speaking at a council session devoted to the Kreshen issue.

Prosecutor-General's Office Interrogates Taliban Members
Igor Tkachev, an investigator from the Prosecutor-General's Office in the North Caucasus, who took part in the interrogation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of three Russian citizens accused of being members of the Taliban, told "Izvestia" daily on 11 April that charges have been filed against Ravil Gumarov, Rasul Kudaev, and Almaz Sharipov, accusing them of crossing state borders illegally, acting as mercenaries, and participating in a criminal community (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 April and 4 April).

Tkachev said Sharipov and Gumarov, both reportedly ethnic Tatars, went to Afghanistan in August 2000. The two men claimed they were not satisfied with the approach to Islam in Russia, and so they went to look for a "real Islamic state." They admitted to taking part in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a branch of the Taliban, but claimed they were forced to join it.

Of the three men, Gumarov, a former resident of Chally, was the only one who agreed to return to Russia, Tkachev said. While Gumarov and Kudaev, a former resident of Kabardino-Balkaria, have been positively identified, nothing is known about Sharipov. Tkachev said that Sharipov may not even be his real name. The address that he reported to be his in Bashkortostan does not even exist. Tkachev did not exclude that the United States may agree to extradite the men to Russia.

Meanwhile, "Zvezda Povolzhya" weekly on 11 April commented that, being inspired by a report about two Tatars who fought on the side of the Taliban, federal media have launched an information war against Tatarstan and have been disseminating propaganda about ties between Tatar national organizations and the Taliban. No one recalls that the Tatar Public Center repeatedly called for NATO troops to be deployed on Tatarstan's territory, but Tatarstan is persistently featured by federal television channels as a seat of terrorism, the weekly stressed.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Deputies Call For Improvement In Federal-Republic Relations
A group of nine State Duma deputies from Bashkortostan appealed on 12 April to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Federal Assembly, and the Russian government to state their dissatisfaction with the negative character of relations between the state bodies of the Russian Federation and the republic of Bashkortostan, reported.

In particular, the deputies criticized the protest by the Russian deputy prosecutor-general of the Volga federal district, Aleksandr Zvyagintsev (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 March), against the preamble of the Bashkortostan Constitution, which promotes treaty-based relations between the republic and Russia and says Bashkortostan joined the Russian Federation freely and on the basis of equal rights.

Those who implement the will and charges of the Russian president often do this with excessive zeal and exceed the limits of those charges, thus violating the Russian Constitution and federal legislation, the authors of the appeal said. The deputies called for Russian authorities to refuse legal challenges in their relations with Bashkortostan's authorities in favor of a constructive dialogue.

Tatarstan TPC Leader Comments On Congress In Ufa
Rifkat Kurmashev, a member of the presidium of the Tatarstan Tatar Public Center who took part in the 6 April congress of Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center (BTPC) in Ufa, told �Vostochnyi ekspress� weekly on 12 April that the BTPC restated at the congress that it will support Bashkortostan's sovereignty only if Tatar is recognized as a state language and all the rights of the Tatar population are guaranteed in the republic.

Congress participants predicted that, when a census is held in the fall, the Tatar-Bashkir issue will likely sharpen and a fight will ensue for each Tatar resident as authorities try to inflate the number of Bashkirs in the republic at the expense of Tatars (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 April). The BTPC appealed to Tatarstan's leadership to help print leaflets calling on Bashkortostan's Tatars to take a clear position during the census. Kurmashev stressed, however, that not a single Tatar businessman in Bashkortostan, even if he sympathizes with the TPC, will bear the expense of printing such leaflets, as they fear that they will be persecuted if they do so.

Kurmashev said that Tatarstan's TPC delegation held negotiations with Akhtar Buskunov, head of the Bashkir People's Center Ural (BPCU), on the eve of the congress. Buskunov said BPCU leaders realize that hostility between Tatars and Bashkirs has serious consequences. Buskunov also said at the BTPC congress that members of his organization understand the problems of Bashkortostan's Tatars.

Kurmashev said he was shocked after he read in Bashkortostan's media that some Bashkir scholars believe Tatars do not even exist as an ethnic group even in Tatarstan, since all Tatars are in fact Bashkirs. Kurmashev stressed that such a policy will lead to the assimilation of Tatars, while some of the Tatar intelligentsia in Bashkortostan already say they are Bashkirs since this position is advantageous for them.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova