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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 25, 2002

25 September 2002
Tatar Rights Organizations Urged To Oppose Federal Ethnic Policies, Law Harmonization
The moderate nationalist organization Tatar Public Center (TIU) and the Idel-Ural integration movement the Tatar People's Front (THF) issued a statement on 24 September about the 450th anniversary of the conquest of Kazan by Tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1552, which will be marked on 13 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. According to the document the annual event called Heter Koene (Memory Day) will be held at a time when "the Russian government is not acknowledging Tatarstan's sovereignty declaration and has annulled Tatarstan's [power-sharing] treaty with Russia, [and at the same time] ... bringing Tatarstan's Constitution and other laws into conformity with Russian ones."

The rights organizations urged Tatar people to "come out against these dangerous processes" during this year's Memory Day events and to deliver this opinion to Russian and international society. The statement also expressed hope for closer interaction by Tatars with "Russians, Bashkirs, Chavash, and other peoples residing in the Idel-Ural region (Volga-Ural mountains) for many centuries."

Moscow, Kazan Discuss Next Year's Budget
RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today that Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov met with Russian Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref and Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin in Moscow on 23-24 September to discuss the country's 2003 budget. The news was relayed by Tatar Minister of Economy and Industry Aleksei Pakhomov at a meeting of his ministry and the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation on 24 September.

Pakhomov asserted that federal government officials were interested in learning about Tatarstan's position toward the budget's planned expenses and revenues.

Tatarstan To Establish Closer Ties With Saratov Oblast
A Tatar governmental delegation led by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov plans to visit Saratov Oblast on 26 September to promote trade relations with the oblast and to meet with Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov and top managers from key local industries, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 25 September, citing the governmental press service. The Tatar delegation, which includes a number of industrial leaders, will also visit a Tatar high school and the Balakovo nuclear-power plant.

Residents Facing Hike In Telephone Costs
The Tatar Communications Ministry announced on 24 September that it will increase tariffs by 30 percent as of 1 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 25 September. Beginning next month, residents will have to pay a monthly fee of 59.85 rubles ($1.90) and local calls will cost 11.6 kopeks per minute. An unidentified ministry official told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau that the hike is to allow telephone service providers to earn enough in revenues to match production costs, which is something they were unable to do in the past.

Muslim School Marks 120th Anniversary
The Mokhammadie madrasah in Kazan will celebrate its 120th anniversary on 25 September, Tatar-inform reported on 24 September. The Muslim school was closed in 1918 following the Bolshevik Revolution and was reopened in 1998. The school has an enrollment of 820 students, and its graduates work in Muslim communities throughout Russia.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ministry In Legal Battle With Gazprom Over Control Of Petrochemical Company
The Bashkir Property Ministry has asked a court to void an agreement under which the ministry handed Gazprom a controlling stake in Russian petrochemical giant Salavatnefteorgsintez in 1998 as payment for 50.3 million ($1.6 million) in debts, "Vedomosti" daily reported on 24 September. Some analysts have commented that the suit is the result of the Bashkir government's plans to privatize the republic's oil sector.

Bashkir Deputy Property Minister Eldar Eminev told the daily that the government wants to nullify the agreement because its terms have not been fulfilled. He added that the first hearing on the case was scheduled for 23 September, but it has been postponed until mid-October. Eminev said that there were problems regarding the delivery of raw materials to Salavatnefteorgsintez, adding that "We were nervous every day working with Gazprom."

Valerii Nesterov from Troika Dialog investment bank opined that the Bashkir government is trying to gather its assets in order to sell them at a later date, and that it is trying to maintain control over the oil-and-gas sector.

Turkish Delegation Discusses Business In Ufa
A delegation of Turkish businessmen and government officials held negotiations in Ufa on 24 September with members of the Bashkir government, including Deputy Prime Ministers Engels Qolmokhemetov and Khelef Ishmoratov, in order to advance cooperation and promote business contacts between the two sides, Bashinform reported the same day. The meeting was conducted under the auspices of the Russian-Turkish Business Council.

The Bashkir representatives mostly promoted joint ventures with Turkey, while the Turkish delegation said it was interested in importing from the republic raw materials, petrochemical products, and various types of equipment.

Turkey is one of Bashkortostan's leading trade partners, having exported more than $1.8 million worth of goods to the republic in 2001.

The delegation also plans to visit Beloretsk, Salavat, and Sterletamaq during its six-day trip.

TIU Leader Says Pre-Census Lobbying Resembles Electoral Campaign
The leader of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Bashkortostan, Airat Ginietullin, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 23 September that Bashkir civic groups, scholars, officials, and broadcast media are broadening their campaign to increase the number of Bashkirs registered in the October census. Ginietullin said this resembles an electoral campaign, but instead of being asked to vote for a particular candidate, residents are being asked to claim a particular ethnicity.

Ginietullin added that he was disappointed with the lack of a question regarding one's native language on the census questionnaire. He said this point is especially important for Bashkortostan, which, in accordance with the last census held in 1989, has about 320,000 Tatar-speaking Bashkirs. The TIU leader said that such information would be helpful when planning to publish newspapers or magazines or produce radio and television shows in national languages, adding that the lack of such information will deprive a large percentage of the population of the opportunity to meet its cultural needs.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova