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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 7, 2002

7 May 2002
Republic Celebrates Delivery Of One-Millionth Passport...
A special ceremony was held in Kazan on 6 May in honor of Gulsina Zantemirova from the Kazan Organic Synthesis Plant, the one-millionth resident of Tatarstan to receive a new Russian passport, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported.

In light of the upcoming Victory Day celebrations to be held on 9 May, a group of World War II veterans were also given new passports at the ceremony, along with Tatar artists, singers, hockey players, and decorated workers from various Kazan industries.

Tatarstan Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Valeeva and State Council Deputy Chairman Robert Minnulin distributed the passports, noting the achievements of Tatarstan's passport-and-visa service over the past 11 months.

In the meantime, another 2 million passports still need to be handed out among Tatarstan residents by the 2003 deadline.

...As Republican State Television Comments On Insert Pages
The day before the 6 May ceremony, state-owned TRT television featured a report demonstrating how residents of the republic can apply for passports without additional pages in Tatar or Tatarstan state symbols. Prior to this television report, only the pro-Moscow "Vechernyaya Kazan" and "Novaya Vecherka" newspapers and the private Efir television station had produced reports promoting the right of citizens to reject the Tatarstan insert in their passports, saying that it would create difficulties for citizens traveling outside the republic.

Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau quoted Galina Fakhretdinova, head of Tatarstan's passport-and-visa service, on 6 May as saying that a number of Russia's regions have become acquainted with the design of the Tatarstan pages in order to introduce similar ones for their own residents. Fakhretdinova denied that there would be problems for Tatarstan residents traveling outside the republic because of the extra pages, but admitted that some Interior Ministry officials "may be unaware that the insert was approved by the Heraldic Board under the Russian president and is absolutely legal."

Raion Court Rejects Appeal For Alternative Service
Kazan Aviastroitelnyi Raion Court rejected on 6 May the appeal of 18-year-old Vladislav Shubin for alternative civilian service, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Shubin sought to avoid obligatory military service, claiming that he was simply unwilling to bear arms.

Shubin's lawyer German Aretkin, head of the Tatarstan Center for Peacemaking and Protection of Human Rights, said during the trial that his client's position was also a result of "the ongoing [combat] developments in Chechnya and the Middle East."

The judge backed the district's military officials, however, saying that Shubin's reasons "carried insufficient weight" to grant the right of alternative civilian service, which is stipulated by the Russian Constitution, but is still not supported by a corresponding federal law.

FSB Celebrates 80th Anniversary In Tatarstan
The Tatarstan branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), formerly known as Committee for State Security, or KGB, celebrated its 80th anniversary in the republic on 6 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

According to the FSB's spokesman in Tatarstan, Rovel Kashapov, on 6 May, his organization first had to oppose "terrorism" in 1953 when a group of individuals expressed their discontent with the Soviet regime by causing a train to derail.

More recently, in December 2000, a group of people from Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and the Kirov Oblast blew up a gas pipeline in the Kukmor region of Tatarstan in an effort to bring the plight of Chechens in the current conflict in the breakaway Russian republic to the attention of authorities in Moscow and Western countries. The FSB arrested the perpetrators before they were able to blow up a second pipeline in the Tatarstan village of Shemordan.

According to Kashapov, the FSB in Tatarstan recently finished what he called a six-year "spy game" with British intelligence, which he claimed was interested in a defense-industry research institute in Kazan. Kashapov said the FSB allowed one of the institute's employees to serve as a double agent, providing British agents with false information.

Youth Club Discusses Tatar Communities Outside Tatarstan
The Shereq Club of young Tatar-rights activists held a roundtable discussion on 4 May devoted to the Tatar community in Siberia, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 6 May.

Participants discussed the upcoming congress of Siberian Tatars planned for the middle of May in Tyumen. Another topic of discussion was whether Siberian Tatars wanted to register in the October nationwide census as "Siberian Tatars" rather than simply as "Tatars."

The club plans to devote its next meeting to the 1 million Tatars residing in the neighboring republic of Bashkortostan, as well as legislative means for protecting their ethnic rights.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Former Industrial Giant Closes Its Doors
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 6 May that the closure of the 240-year-old Beloretsk metallurgy plant means an end to the foundry industry in Bashkortostan, since Beloretsk was the only such enterprise in the republic.

Production prospered there during the Soviet period, when the plant employed 18,000 workers, while this number had been reduced to some 2,000 employees in recent times. The plant's ovens were extinguished only twice throughout its history: during the Pugachev rebellion in 1773-1775 and during the civil war following the 1917 Revolution.

Dismissed workers have already appealed to the Bashkortostan government, asking that they be allowed to return to work. Bashkortostan Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov replied, however, that the plant needs to be closed because its production and safety equipment are too old.

Activist Calls For Joint Efforts With Bashkir People
Nurmukhammet Khoseinov, head of the Tatar gymnasium in Belebey and an activist from the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Bashkortostan, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 6 May that, "The time has come to gather all the people -- Tatars and Bashkirs -- to defend the sovereignty of the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan." He added that "President [Murtaza] Rakhimov wouldn't oppose it, especially if we can find a common language, develop a joint strategy, and found a joint body with Bashkirs."

The leadership of the Tatar-rights movement in Bashkortostan did not, however, share this opinion, reportedly saying that joint efforts for defending Bashkortostan's state status would be possible only after Bashkir and Tatar nations become equal in the republic.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi