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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 18, 2002

18 September 2002
Rossiiskaya Gazeta' Opens Office In Kazan...
At the opening ceremony of a local office of Russia's official government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 17 September, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev thanked the federal government for opening the office in Kazan, pointing out that the paper has the largest distribution of any newspaper in the country. The new office will reportedly be responsible for covering events in the Volga region, including Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day.

The paper's general director, Aleksandr Gorbenko, said at the ceremony that Tatarstan had enormous cultural and spiritual potential and that free speech was an "inalienable" part of Tatar society.

...As Press Minister Visits Tatar Capital
Also on 17 September, Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, who was in Kazan for the "Rossiiskaya gazeta" opening, told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin had given him instructions regarding requests made at the World Tatar Congress on 29-30 August that Russia's national television and radio stations include Tatar-language programming. Lesin said that Tatarstan should submit to the federal government an official list of suggestions regarding such programming (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 September 2002 and "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 30 August 2002).

Lesin and Shaimiev met the same day to discuss the republic's media market and the establishment of Tatarstan-New Century satellite television in the republic.

Before departing, Lesin also visited Kazan State University where he promised "wide informational support" for its 200th anniversary in 2004.

TIU Asks Government To Clarify Census Questions
The Tatar Public Center (TIU) asked the Tatar government on 16 September to provide more information about the upcoming national census, which is scheduled for October, saying that the large number of frequently vague questions could create difficulties and ambiguous answers, which could be used to bias the census results, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 September. For example, TIU member Yunis Kamaltdinov said that the census question on language knowledge gave priority to Russian, whereas Tatar was not specifically mentioned despite the fact that it is an official language in the republic and therefore equal to Russian.

Congress Calls On Bolgars Not To Identify As Tatars
The political council of the Bolgar National Congress, which is headed by Gosman Khalilov, released a statement on 17 September urging Bolgars to identify themselves during the national census as Bolgars, and not as Tatars, "RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 18 September. The Bolgar congress promotes the revival of the ancient Bolgars, who are thought to be the ancestors of modern Tatars (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 December 1999, 7 April and 4 October 2000, and 24 August 2001).

Trade-Union Boss Says Tatars Need Higher Wages
The head of the Tatar Federation of Trade Unions, Tatyana Vodopyanova, told a virtual conference of leaders of Russian trade unions on 17 September that a decent wage should be between 6,000 rubles ($190) and 10,000 rubles per month, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 18 September. Vodopyanova added that many of Tatarstan's workers earn a monthly salary of $100, which makes it difficult to maintain a decent standard of living. At the same time, Tatarstan residents are owed 900 million rubles ($28.5 million) in back wages, half of which is owed in the agriculture sector.

The Tatar Federation of Trade Unions, which has 1.3 million members, plans to hold a meeting in Kazan's Gorkii Park on 17 October.

Suspects Arrested In Killing Of Regional Leader
The Tatar Interior Ministry has announced that it has arrested two residents of Izhevsk, capital of Udmurtiya, on suspicion of involvement in the killing of Refis Seyetov, head of the Egerce regional administration, who was killed outside his home on 31 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 September (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 13 September 2002). The suspects have been arrested on murder charges, as investigators claim that they were acting as part of an Izhevsk organized-crime group that was trying to establish its influence over the Egerce region.

Kazan To Begin Flights To China
Tatar Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Khafiz Salikhov said on 16 September that Tatarstan Airlines is planning to establish regular flights from Kazan International Airport to Urumchi, China, using Tupolev 214 aircraft produced by the Kazan Aircraft Plant, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 September.

On 8 September, Russia and China signed an agreement to supply China with five Tupolev 204-120C aircraft produced by Ulyanovsk's Aerostar company.

The Kazan Aircraft Plant had submitted a bid for the tender but lost out because it was unable to equip the aircraft with Rolls-Royce engines, reported on 16 September. Nonetheless, Salikhov said that Tatarstan still hoped to enter the Chinese aircraft market.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Airlines Seeking $28 Million In Compensation
A lawyer representing Bashkir Airlines, Elmar Giemulla, has said that he has filed a claim against the Swiss air-traffic-control company Skyguide for $28 million in moral and financial damages as a result of a midair collision over southern Germany on 1 July involving a Bashkir Airlines passenger jet and a DHL cargo plane, reported on 16 September (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002 and 16 September 2002). Giemulla said that he arrived at that figure after a thorough analysis of expert opinions and data related to the accident.

A lawyer for Skyguide, however, said Giemulla's claim is premature since the total damage has still not been calculated and Skyguide has not been proven liable for the crash, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September.

The ITAR-TASS report also cited Rudolf Teimurazov, deputy chairman of the Interstate Aviation Committee, who said the German commission in charge of investigating the collision won't complete its work for at least another month. He also said that a criminal investigation launched by the German prosecutor's office will also likely be completed at that time. Only then, Teimurazov said, will individuals and organizations be able to make claims relating to the crash.

Tatar-Bashkir National Cultural Autonomy Established In Perm Oblast
The leaders of a number of civic groups decided on 13 September to establish a national cultural autonomy of Tatars and Bashkirs in Chernushskii Raion of Perm Oblast, reported on 17 September. The meeting was chaired by Chernushskii Raion administration head Oleg Kharaskin and was also attended by Perm Oblast Mufti Mokhemmetgali Khujin.

Local organizations of the World Bashkir Congress, the Tatar Public Center, and the Miras club, as well as several arts groups will participate in the autonomy.

Khujin and Kharaskin also agreed to cooperate further in the moral education of the raion's residents and on completion of the construction of a mosque.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova