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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 14, 2002

14 May 2002
Iran, Tatarstan Seek To Increase Cooperation
Iranian Ambassador to the Russian Federation Golamreza Shaphei arrived in Kazan on 13 May for talks on a number of possible projects between his country and Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today.

Upon arrival in the Tatarstan capital, Shaphei met with Tatarstan Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Khafiz Salikhov. The Iranian ambassador told Salikhov that, "Iran is interested in purchasing about 20 Russian-made helicopters, and the Kazan Helicopter Plant is thought to be the preferred [plant] to [build the helicopters], in comparison with other helicopter producers [in Russia]."

According to Shaphei, Tatarstan's experience in the helicopter industry and its technologies "might also be required" by Iran, which is planning to launch its own helicopter-production plant.

During his three-day visit, Shaphei is also to meet with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, and State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin.

In March 2001, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met Shamiev in Kazan to express his country's interest in Tatarstan's oil-extraction technologies.

Kazan Administration Considers Fate Of Dormitory Residents
Kazan city-administration officials gathered on 13 May to discuss ways to assist more than 350 people who used to live in the Kazan Construction Academy dormitory that collapsed in the center of Kazan on 8 May, RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9, 10 May 2002).

A five-story section of the building, which was built in 1956, collapsed as a result of extensive water damage to its internal structure. Two people were killed in the incident and another was injured. Rescue workers said after the collapse that the death toll would have been much higher had it happened at night when more people would have been at home.

During the 13 May meeting, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov pledged to provide former dormitory residents with living space "of better quality than their previous residence."

Meanwhile, many former dormitory residents have been living with relatives instead of the temporary shelter set up by the city government in the gymnasium of the Mayakovskii Cultural Center.

Russian Duma Chairman To Visit Kazan
The Tatarstan State Council will host a seminar on 17 May titled "Lawmaking on Federative and Interethnic Relations," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 13 May. A delegation led by Chairman of the Russian State Duma Gennadii Seleznev and officials from a number of legislatures in the Volga Federal District will take part in the seminar.

Planned Beer Festival Raising Ire In Republic
The Tatar Public Center (TIU) and the Tatar People's Front (THF) issued a public statement on 13 May protesting the plans of Kazan's "Krasnyi Vostok" brewery to hold a beer festival on Yarmarochnaya Square in front of the Kazan Kremlin on 25 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 10 May 2002). Referring to the results of the previous beer festival in 2001, the statement said the event will "promote and encourage mass drunkenness among adolescents [and] will be a republic-wide booze-up [featuring] contests for the fastest beer drinking."

The TIU and the THF also stated that they were bewildered by the fact that Tatarstan's women's organizations "have maintained a neutral position toward such events...that affront the ethnic feelings and dignity of the Tatar people."

A meeting of officials from Tatarstan's Ministry on Youth Affairs and Sport and the Interior Ministry on 25 April condemned the beer festival and appealed to administration heads across the republic to prevent this event from taking place. On 7 May, a number of youth organizations in Tatarstan, including the Youth Ecology Movement, the Bodybuilding Federation, the Students League, and Otechestvo (Fatherland), also adopted a resolution condemning the festival.

On 13 May, Tatar-inform news agency quoted First Deputy Chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board Valiulla Khazret as saying such festivals "were improper in the republic, where half of the population is Tatar, whose traditional religion [Islam] prohibits [the consumption of] alcohol." Khazret added that Muslim leaders "especially look down upon the fact that this event is to be held near the Qol Sherif mosque, which is a sacred place for the Tatar people."

Tatarstan state television featured an interview on 12 May with Russian State Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin who said that he met with Kazan Mayor Iskhakov the previous day to ask that the festival be prohibited. The mayor reportedly replied that he still had not signed anything allowing the festival to go ahead.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Government Magazine Comments On 1989 Census...
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent quoted the 13 May issue of the Bashkir-language magazine "Watandash," which is published by Bashkortostan's Cabinet of Ministers, as saying the results of the 1989 Russian census were "the result of a successful misinformation campaign against the Bashkir people." This resulted in the fact that Tatars are listed as the second-largest ethnic group in Bashkortostan following Russians. The magazine also suggested that, during the national census in October, Bashkortostan's "people will not be the victims of such a political provocation."

...Accuses Bashkortostan Government Of Fixing Bashkir Population Figures
The same issue of "Watandash" published an article by Marat Kulsharipov, a history professor from Bashkir State University, in which he claimed that, according to the 1979 census, more than 13,000 Bashkirs were registered in the Chakmagush region of Bashkortostan, while the 1989 census resulted in the registration of only 6,000 Bashkirs in that region. Kulsharipov said this decrease in "Bashkortostan's native people" was the result of pressure from the government of Bashkortostan.

Historian Discusses Political Aspect Of Upcoming Census
Bashkir State University's Kulsharipov told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 13 May that, "According to the previous [1989] census, the Bashkir population is decreasing in Bashkortostan, and if this trend continues, the question could be raised as to why the republic is called Bashkortostan when Bashkirs represent a minority in it. In this respect, one can see the political importance of the forthcoming [October] census. The present demographic situation in Bashkortostan is very complicated."

Commenting on statements by Tatar organizations in Bashkortostan denouncing the republican government's policies to "convert" local Tatars into Bashkirs, especially during censuses, Kulsharipov said, "There haven't been any Bashkirization policies [used] in the republic. I know this very well because from one census to another, the size of the Tatar population is growing. There is no Bashkirization, but just the opposite: Bashkirs are being assimilated."

President Sends Condolences, Aid To Kaspiisk
In a message to the people of Daghestan on 13 May, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov expressed his deep condolences in connection with the 9 May bombing in the port city of Kaspiisk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10 May 2002). He also issued a resolution on donating 1 million rubles ($32,200) to the families of the victims of the bombing, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day, citing the presidential press service.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi