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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 26, 2002

26 September 2002
Moscow's Tatar Community Protests Division Of Tatars On Census
The leaders of Moscow's Tatar community recently met with Russian minister without portfolio in charge of nationalities Vladimir Zorin and the deputy chairman of the State Statistics Committee, Sergei Kolesnikov, in Moscow to protest the division of the "Tatar nation" according to religion and place of residence during the national census to be held in October, the press service of Tatarstan's representative office in Russia reported on 25 September. According to the nationalities list to be used by the Russian State Statistics committee, such subethnic groups as Baptized Tatars and Siberian Tatars will be calculated as separate groups of Tatars, something that has been protested by the World Tatar Congress and other Tatar public organizations (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 August 2002, "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 30 August 2002, and "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 September 2002).

Zorin explained the federal government's decision to split the Tatars by saying that "numerous appeals from Tatar [sub]ethnic groups: Kryashen (Baptized Tatars), and Volga Bolgars [had been sent] to the census headquarters and the United Nations, asking that they be registered separately." Meanwhile, Baptized Tatars do not have a separate language and the Volga Bolgars are an ethnic identity promoted by the Bolgar National Congress, which considers modern Tatars to be ancestors of ancient Bolgars and not the Golden Horde tribes of Mongolia (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 December 1999, 7 April and 4 October 2000, and 24 August 2001).

Zorin emphasized that the "census does not pursue any political or repressive goals. Its only task is to use the answers [of those polled] for defining how many there are and who we are in order to pursue an effective ethnic policy. Anyone may call himself whatever he likes, there will be no pressure from the census officers."

Law Enforcers Discuss New Russian Criminal, Administrative Codes
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry and Prosecutor's Office held a joint conference on 25 September to discuss the problems that have arisen since introducing a new Russian Criminal Code and Administrative Violations Code in July 2002, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. According to chief prosecutor Kafil Amirov, who was speaking at the event, many of Tatarstan's law enforcers "do not possess sufficient knowledge of laws" to prevent violations in [performing] arrest and detainment procedures."

Deputy Interior Minister Andrei Vazanov told the meeting that the new Administrative Code created "favorable conditions" for minor criminals, such as pickpockets, because, for example, after stealing valuables worth some 1,000 rubles ($31.5) they only have to pay a 300 ruble ($9.5) fine before being released. "This created a situation in which the state is only imposing a tax on stolen property."

Officials at the meeting agreed on addressing Tatarstan's State Council later this year to request that it launch an appeal to the Russian State Duma and make some changes to the newly introduced codes.

Minister Outlines WTO Entry Perspectives For Tatarstan
The structure of Tatarstan's exports will not be subject to sufficient changes in the case of Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Khafiz Salikhov, the republic's minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation, told a governmental meeting on 24 September, the Intertat agency reported on 26 September. He said that the list of Tatarstan-made products that have the potential to enter foreign markets include only 10 to 15 items. Export-oriented petrochemical industries such as the Tatneft oil company, the Tuben Kama Petrochemical Plant, and TatAzot, reportedly have high expectations from Russia's entry into the WTO, while the Kazan Synthetic Rubber Plant, Tuben Kama Tire Plant, and Tatkhimpharmpreparati pharmaceutical company have "serious apprehensions" about a future rivalry with foreign companies on the domestic market. Salikhov also emphasized the necessity to adjust and modernize Tatarstan's industrial sector to future market conditions.

New Book Discusses Elections In Tatarstan's Modern History
Tatarstan's Political Sciences Academy and Kazan State University's Political Science Chair unveiled a new book called "Things that Tatarstan's voters would like to know about elections but don't know where to ask" on 25 September, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The book is a compilation of articles by well-known journalists, parliamentary deputies, and political experts dedicated to the elections, which first took place in Tatarstan in 1990.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Woman To Appeal To Russian Constitutional Court On Passport Issue
Nailya Saniekhmetova, a 46-year-old English-language teacher living in Ufa, is going to defend the right of Muslim women to wear headscarves in passport photos at the Russian Constitutional Court, RosBalt reported on 25 September. According to Saniekhmetova, the Russian Interior Ministry's 15 September 1998 order contradicts articles 19, 28, and 29 of the Russian Constitution. These articles guarantee the equality of rights and freedoms of Russia's residents regardless of faith, freedom of consciousness, as well as noncompulsion to express or refuse convictions. Saniekhmetova plans to appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court in several days. Her husband, Marat Saniekhmetov, appealed to the Ufa administration to get permission to hold a meeting on the rights of Muslim women to wear headscarves in passport photos.

The issue of wearing headscarves in passport photographs was first raised in July when Muslim women in Tatarstan were denied permission by the court.

Bashkir Airlines General Director Resigns
Bashkir Airlines General Director Nikolai Odegov tendered his resignation on 22 September "in accordance with his own free will," RosBalt reported on 25 September citing the airlines' trade union council. On 20 September, Odegov was hospitalized and received a visit the same day from Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Ramil Mirsaev, who is responsible for supervising Bashkir Airlines. According to the air company's trade union leaders, Odegov did not plan to leave his post, and representatives from the company believe that his resignation is directly linked to Mirsaev's visit. On 12 September, the air company's trade union appealed to Bashkortostan's leadership to postpone the cancellation of Odegov's contract until the completion of the official investigation of the 1 July air crash in southern Germany. Trade union leaders said his resignation was "unexpected and unnecessary." Company employees worry that Odegov's dismissal will threaten the airline's plans to overcome financial problems resulting from the plane crash. Bashkir Airlines Deputy General Director Vener Shakirov is considered likely to replace Odegov at his post, RosBalt said.

Bashkirenergo To Become Holding Company
Bashkirenergo, one of Russia's three independent energy companies, will be reorganized into an energy holding, RosBalt reported on 25 September citing the Bashkirenergo press service. The leadership of Bashkir and Anatolii Chubais, the head of Russia's Unified Energy System (EES), announced the division at their 20 September meeting in Ufa. The largest of the new divisions, Bashkir Heating Company, will be controlled by Bashkortostan, and Russia's EES, which previously owned 22 percent of Bashkirenergo shares, will gain ownership of the second-largest division of shares.

UralSib Increases Capital
The UralSib Bank issued some 1.4 billion rubles ($44.2 million) worth of stock to increase its capital from 4.3 billion rubles ($136 million) to 5.7 billion rubles ($180.2 million), Bashinform reported on 25 September. The bank plans to distribute shares by the end of 2002 at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange. The Bashkir government owns 66.28 percent of UralSib capital.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi