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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 30, 2002

30 August 2002
Tatar President Outlines Goals For Nation...
President Mintimer Shaimiev told the plenary session of World Tatar Congress in Kazan on 29 August that the forum's "main goal is to preserve the Tatar nation in the ongoing process of globalization" by uniting Tatars who live in different parts of the world, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 August. Shaimiev noted that the current trend of centralization in Russia will soon end, adding that "Russia has a future only as a true federative state."

The Tatar president emphasized that Tatarstan-New Century satellite television and Tatar websites will play a role in linking Tatars in communities outside Tatarstan with their historical motherland.

Referring to possible reforms to the Tatar script, Shaimiev urged congress delegates to consider thoroughly all the possible consequences of a switch to the Latin alphabet from the Cyrillic alphabet, ensuring that Tatar communities in Russia's regions outside Tatarstan are not cut off from the news media and literature written in the Latin script.

Shaimiev also said that Tatars should cooperate with Bashkirs to help preserve both nations, adding that the fact that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov headed the delegation to the congress from Bashkortostan was a sign that "such hopes would be realized."

In closing, Shaimiev thanked the Russian people and people of other nationalities living in Tatarstan for maintaining peaceful relations with Tatars during the postperestroika period.

...As Bashkir President Praises Friendship Between Nations...
President Rakhimov said in his speech at the Tatar congress on 29 August that the Bashkir nation values its lengthy relations with Tatars. Rakhimov also noted that both nations carry a heavy burden in the Russian state in terms of contributions to the federal budget. The Bashkir president also praised the friendship between the two nations, though he did not comment on complaints made by leaders of the Tatar-rights movement in Bashkortostan.

...While Congress Elects New Leader...
The Executive Committee of the World Tatar Congress elected Rinat Zakirov, head of the Kazan-based National Cultural Center and leader of the Tatarstan-New Century centrist movement's branch in Kazan, as the congress's new chairman on 29 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 August.

...And Announces Plans For Next Five Years...
The Tatar congress adopted a resolution on 29 August declaring that the Tatar people remain a single and indivisible nation despite what it noted as recent policies of the federal government aimed at dividing the nation. The resolution also said that the World Tatar Congress will respect the integrity of Russia, protect the rights of all nationalities living in the country, and promote democratic and market reforms. It also stated the congress's intention of cooperating with federal and regional authorities in Russia to provide for the cultural interests of Tatars across the country and to promote business activities, use of the Internet, and other forms of information technology.

...As Nationalists Express Disapproval Of Congress
Ferit Khabibullin of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center and Feusie Beiremova, chairwoman of the Ittifaq party, stated near the end of the Tatar congress on 29 August their disapproval with the fact that many of the delegates who wanted to discuss specific problems faced by the Tatar people, such as "[the treatment of Tatars by] the Bashkir government, the [Russian] government's order not to allow Muslim women to cover their heads in their passport photographs, and the need to establish an international committee to defend Tatar rights," were not allowed to speak at the congress, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 August.

Tatar State Council Chairman Ferit Mukhametshin, who chaired the congress's plenary session, replied by saying it was impossible to let all the delegates present speak. Instead, he said that anyone who was unable to speak at the congress should address the congress's Executive Committee directly to propose ideas for the congress's resolution.

During roundtable discussions on 28 August, nearly all the delegates had the opportunity to speak about the above-mentioned topics.

Federal Minister Comments On Russia's Nationalities Policy
Vladimir Zorin, the Russian minister who oversees nationalities policy, speaking as a guest at the World Tatar Congress, said that "the ethnic policy that Russia adopted in 1996 is subject to change, since some of its provisions have proven viable while others have not," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 August. During his speech, Zorin promoted more active participation by ethnic organizations in discussing and revising Russia's nationalities policy, saying that "on the threshold of a new century, we need new ideas." Zorin stressed that the federal government is not planning to "abolish ethnic republics...which are an important part of our life." He also praised the activities of national-cultural autonomies that allow the ethnic communities outside their republics to function effectively in various parts of the Russian Federation.

Zorin spoke of the upcoming national census in October as a "maturity test for the state and for [its] nationalities." He said that census officers will not use the list of nationalities worked out by Ethnology and Anthropology Institute in Moscow, but instead, each individual will be able to state the nationality he or she considers appropriate. Zorin was alluding to recent allegations that such a nationalities list that divided Tatars into subethnic groups based on dialect; geography, such as Misher Tatars, Tiptyer Tatars, or Siberian Tatars; and religion, in the case of Christian Tatars, in order for the federal government to decrease the official Tatar population.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Commission Discusses Situation With Wages, Housing Reform
The Bashkir commission in charge of labor relations involving the Bashkir government, the republican Federation of Trade Unions, and the republic's major industries met on 29 August to discuss growing wage arrears and housing reform, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 30 August.

Bashkir Minister of Labor and Employment Lev Bakusov told the meeting that local administrations are not doing enough to force companies to pay backwages.

Housing Minister Pavel Kachkaev told the meeting that 97 percent of urban residences are already being serviced on a contractual basis and that the average rent in the republic is 14 rubles ($0.44) per square meter, which is the lowest housing fee in the Volga and Ural federal districts. According to new housing contracts, residents have obtained more control over work being performed by local administrations to maintain urban residences.

Industries Pay Off Part Of Debt, Get Back To 2001 Level
Bashkir industries paid off more than 666 million rubles ($21.1 million) in debts for services and labor during the first half of 2002, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 29 August. Despite paying back this amount, industries in the republic still have a total debt of 3 billion rubles ($95.2 million), which is the same as it was in late 2001.

Republic Last In Volga Region In Unemployment Figures
Some 28,800 residents of Bashkortostan are officially unemployed, which is the highest such figure in the Volga Federal District, Bashinform reported on 29 August. Meanwhile, companies in the republic have some 18,600 positions available, the agency said, though the majority of them require higher technical education.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi