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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 17, 2002

17 May 2002
Security Council Secretary Praises Tatarstan's Efforts To Ensure Public Safety...
Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo met with Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev at the Kremlin in Kazan on 16 May to discuss development of the defense industry and public safety, reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 16 May 2002). Following their meeting, Rushailo said that work toward the goal of ensuring public safety is being performed quite efficiently in the republic.

Rushailo then held another meeting at the Kremlin to discuss the activities of federal and regional bodies that are aimed at removing threats to public safety in Tatarstan, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Rushailo said that Tatarstan is very experienced at ensuring public safety and is "a rapidly developing region that symbolizes the tolerant coexistence of different peoples and faiths."

Rushailo stressed the efficient activity of the republic's leadership, and especially of President Shaimiev, in terms of eliminating threats to public safety. "We have reached the common conclusion in Tatarstan that we are able to counteract threats of religiously and ethnically motivated extremism," Rushailo said.

Deputy Security Council Secretary Nikolai Solovev said during the meeting that the crime rate is growing in the Volga Federal District, as it is in all of Russia, and that Tatarstan has the eighth-highest crime rate in the district. More than 71,000 crimes were committed in Tatarstan in 2001, some 20,000 of which have not been solved. Solovev placed emphasis on the relation of drug use to the criminal situation throughout the country.

President Shaimiev told on 16 May that the fight against crime and extremism should be more proactive. He said one cannot be satisfied with the efforts of state authorities on eliminating threats to public safety. He stressed that, "We have to provide more guarantees for public safety than exist today and we have to guard ourselves against any kind of extremism, [whether it be merely] hooliganism or serious crimes committed for ethnic or religious reasons."

...And Calls For Development Of Religious Education
While visiting the Russian Islamic University in Kazan on 16 May, Security Council Secretary Rushailo said the state of religious education in Russia does not provide an efficient barrier against extremism. Rushailo said: "I would like to underline the exceptional importance of your work [in the field of religious education], which is deserving of respect." Rushailo acknowledged that the establishment and development of a system of religious education in the country needs state support. He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin is aware of this issue and is giving it consideration.

Tatarstan Mufti and Russian Islamic University Rector Gusman Iskhakov said, "Only correct and well-thought-out religious education can help [the country] avoid extremism and fanaticism," though he did not explain what he meant by "correct" religious education.

The Russian Islamic University, which was established in 1998 by Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, the Council of Muftis of Russia, and the History Institute of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, has about 1,200 students in its faculties of the Koran and Sharia.

Tatarstan Religious Leaders Issue Joint Statement
After meeting with Security Council Secretary Rushailo at the Russian Islamic University on 16 May, Archbishop Anastasii delivered an appeal from the heads of Tatarstan's three traditional religions -- Islam, Russian Orthodox Christianity, and Judaism -- in which they called on all clear-thinking people to unite to defeat pseudo-religious sects and extremist and terrorist organizations that use religion as a cover.

The three religious leaders said that the 9 May bombing in Kaspiisk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10 May 2002) "was an extremely cruel act of terrorism that destroyed the lives of many compatriots during a ceremony on the great day of victory over fascism." They added that, "Such barbaric and cynical crimes have become possible because of society's denial of its traditional values and the poor state of moral and patriotic education." They also said that the experience of Tatarstan, where scores of ethnic groups live together tolerantly, could become a model for peaceful coexistence in other regions of the Russian Federation and other multiethnic and multireligious states.

Rushailo said the appeal was timely and that it will contribute to efforts being made to prevent the spread of various cults and sects.

Youth Organizations Protest Beer Advertising
The leaders of more than a dozen civic youth and student organizations appealed to the heads of Tatarstan's municipal and regional administrations and the mass media to abolish "beer holidays" and advertising of beer and alcohol on billboards in residential areas (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10, 14 May 2002). The groups also protested the advertising of beer on television, "Respublika Tatarstan" reported on 16 May. The authors of the appeal stated their concern with the increase in beer consumption by minors and the increase in crimes by youths who are under the influence of alcohol.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Parliament's Upper Chamber Nominates New Prosecutor
The Chamber of Representatives of the Bashkortostan State Assembly approved on 16 May the appointment of former Deputy Prosecutor Florid Baikov as the republic's chief prosecutor, the presidential press service reported the same day. Baikov was appointed acting prosecutor when his predecessor, Jeudet Turumtaev, retired on 16 April.

RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent quoted an unidentified source on 16 May as saying that Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov had agreed to Baikov's nomination during his 29 April meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The correspondent quoted the same source as saying that Rakhimov also met with Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov. Ustinov reportedly asked Rakhimov why he hadn't taken any measures against then-Bashkortostan Supreme Court Chairman Marat Vakilov who is facing corruption charges (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22, 24, 25, 29 April 2002).

Bashkir Congress Enjoying Successful Fundraising Campaign
President Rakhimov attended a meeting of the organizing committee of the second World Bashkir Congress on 16 May, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The committee stated that the government will not finance the forum since the congress has already collected 9 million rubles ($288,000) throughout the republic. The funds were raised through a campaign that was launched by President Rakhimov in early April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10, 18 April 2002).

University Teachers, Students Promote Youth Delegates For Bashkir Congress
A congress of teachers and students was held at the Bashkir Pedagogical University on 16 May to adopt proposals for the second World Bashkir Congress, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The forum drafted an appeal to the leaders of the World Bashkir Congress and Bashkir youth in which it stated that the congress will have no future without youth involvement and that it should not become a club for pensioners.

Youth delegates spoke out in favor of alternative civil service, stated their support for the Chechen people, called on republican leaders to establish a Bashkir national university, and criticized mixed marriages that lead to the assimilation of the Bashkir people.

The delegates also appealed to Bashkortostan's president to demand that one-third of the delegates at the second World Bashkir Congress be youth representatives.

They also criticized the "political blindness" of the congress's current leader, Niyaz Majitov, and suggested that Marat Kulsharipov, a history professor at the Bashkir Pedagogical University, be made head of the congress since he is very popular among Bashkirs.

Delegates also called for state support of the Bashkir youth Ittifaq party and promoted the establishment of its branches throughout the republic.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova