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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 20, 2002

20 May 2002
Russian Officials Comment On Tatar Script
Speaking at a press conference in Kazan on 18 May, Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev said that he doesn't believe the introduction of the Tatar Latin script "presents a serious threat to the principles of federalism." Seleznev said there is nothing wrong with printing books in the Tatar Latin script. He stressed, however, that, "We should not forget about our statewide language [Russian], which is fixed in the Russian Constitution," adding that, "After all, there is only one national language in Russia."

The Russian minister in charge of nationalities questions, Vladimir Zorin, told a press conference on 17 May in Kazan that the transition to the Tatar Latin script "is a linguistic issue that is being made political." He added, however, that there are more reasons to think this is an inopportune measure rather than the opposite. Zorin said that older generations and Tatar disappears would have trouble with the change and that numerous works of literature will also be lost.

Duma Speaker Says Power-Sharing Treaties Obsolete�
Russian State Duma Chairman Seleznev said at the same press conference that power-sharing treaties are becoming obsolete. Seleznev said it is time to amend the Russian Constitution where relations between federation subjects and Moscow should be regulated in more detail.

Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said that Tatarstan's power-sharing treaty with Moscow is of a constituent nature, since no other document links Tatarstan with the Russian Federation. He also said the interests of peoples and ethnic groups are not always taken into account by federal legislative bodies. In this respect, he suggested that treaties defining the status of federation subjects become law after being ratified by the State Duma and the Federation Council.

...And Believes Merger Of Regions An Unlikely Event
At the same press conference on 18 May, Seleznev said the issue of a merger of federation subjects is not on the agenda in either the State Duma or the Federation Council, though he said that public opinion on the issue will likely be studied for some time. Seleznev said one-half of federation subjects depend on the federal budget for 60-80 percent of their funding, and some of them will never try to reduce their dependence.

Speaking at a regional seminar devoted to the development of the fundamental legislation of federative and interethnic relations, Seleznev said the statewide task of equalizing the living conditions in all the regions of Russia obliges Moscow to conduct a centralization policy whereby it redistributes money collected from the regions.

Nationalities Minister Addresses Kreshen Issue
The issue of dividing Tatars into several ethnic groups in the October Russian census has been artificially intensified, Russia's minister in charge of nationalities questions, Vladimir Zorin, told a press conference in Kazan on 17 May. Zorin said that the list of nationalities according to which Tatars are divided into several groups is an auxiliary one and won't be at the disposal of census registrars.

Zorin said that people will be able to choose their own nationality during the census and won't be given any list to choose from. For example, he said that anyone choosing Cossack will be counted as a Russian and anyone choosing Kreshen will be counted as a Tatar.

Valerii Tishkov, head of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which came up with the mentioned list, has said repeatedly that Kreshens will be counted separately from Tatars, unlike Astrakhan and Siberian Tatars who will be identified as ethnic groups within the Tatar nation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 16, 19 April, 9 May 2002, and "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Report," 29 March 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashneft Elects President's Son As Chairman
The board of directors of Bashkortostan's Bashneft oil company elected Ural Rakhimov, son of Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, as its chairman on 16 May, "Kommersant" reported the next day. The board was holding its first meeting since it was selected at a general shareholders meeting in late April.

Ural Rakhimov is also chairman of the board of directors of the Bashkirskaya Neftekhimicheskaya petrochemical company.

Scholars Comment On Tatar-Bashkir Relations...
During a roundtable on Tatar-Bashkir relations on 19 May, Tatar historian and ethnologist Damir Iskhakov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service that there is no distinct line between Tatars and Bashkirs in Bashkortostan since about one-third of Bashkirs live in mixed marriages with Tatars.

Bashkir sociologist Fail Safin said that surveys show an absence of appreciable controversies between ordinary Bashkir and Tatar residents of the republic, while such controversies do exist among the members of the Bashkir and Tatar intelligentsias. Presently, the most controversial issue facing Tatars and Bashkirs in Bashkortostan is the effort of republican officials to inculcate the teaching of Bashkir in the republic's western and northwestern regions, including the Chaqnagish, Dyurtoile, Ilesh, Tuimazy, Yangawyl, Krasnokama, Teteshle, Baltach, and Borai raions, which are predominantly populated by Tatars.

Safin argued with Bashkir scholars who claim that numerous Bashkirs forgot their native language because they were taught Tatar in schools in the 1920s and 1930s. Safin said that following the artificial creation of literary Bashkir in 1923, the 1926 census showed that 51 percent of Bashkirs called Bashkir their native language while 46 percent said Tatar was their native language. At present, only 25 percent of Bashkirs call Tatar their native language.

�As Ethnologist Says Bashkortostan Must Come To Terms With Tatar Population
Historian and ethnologist Iskhakov told the same roundtable that the Bashkortostan leadership would gain more if it worked toward promoting support for true Bashkirs and Bashkir culture, instead of trying to turn Tatars into Bashkirs. He said the smaller nation of Bashkirs will never be able to assimilate the larger one of Tatars and that it is impossible to force Tatars to become Bashkirs.

Iskhakov said that Bashkortostan will not develop properly as long as its leadership does not try to come to terms with its Tatar population, since democratic principles will inevitably be the victor one day.

Bashkortostan Muslims To Hold Congress
The plenum of the Bashkortostan Muslim Religious Board decided on 17 May in Ufa to hold the next congress of Bashkortostan's Muslims in November, board Deputy Chairman Ayup Bibarsov told Rosbalt the next day. The congress will elect a new mufti to the board, which has been headed for the past decade by Nurmukhammet Nigmatullin.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova