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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 2, 2002

2 October 2002
Court Again Rejects Challenge To Powers Of State Council Deputies
The Tatar Supreme Court has rejected the complaint of Tatar State Council deputy Aleksandr Shtanin and two other applicants, Ildus Soltanov and Meshut Khafizov, against what they called the illegal actions of the Tatar Central Electoral Commission during registration of State Council deputies, reported on 1 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 September 2002). The applicants claimed that the constitutional principle of separating executive and legislative powers was violated in the Tatar State Council, as 49 of its 130 deputies still head regional administrations or other executive bodies.

The court rejected the same challenge by Shtanin, Soltanov, and Khafizov on 8 February 2001, and the Russian Supreme Court on 12 March 2001 left that decision unchanged. The three then appealed to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, and Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Davydov filed a protest on the case. The Russian Supreme Court Presidium on 24 July abolished two previous court decisions on the case and sent it for a new hearing to the Tatar Supreme Court.

On 5 September, the Tatar State Council passed a new law on parliamentary elections in the first reading to harmonize it with federal legislation, while its current form violates the latter. Speaker Farid Mukhametshin said the new draft would only apply to the new parliament to be elected in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 September 2002).

Russian Presidential Administration Sends Appeal By Tatar Muslim Women To Interior Ministry
Tatar Organization of Muslim Women leader Elmira Edietullina received a reply from the Russian presidential administration that the organization's appeal to the Russian president seeking permission to wear headscarves in passport photographs was addressed to the Russian Interior Ministry, Tatar-inform reported on 1 October. Several Muslim women have appealed to the Tatar Interior Ministry's Passport-Visa Service with the same demand and have received an answer from the federal Passport-Visa Service that instructions prohibit wearing headscarves. Tatar courts have issued similar rulings on the case.

Tatarstan's Gokhran Abolished
The Tatar government ruled that the existence of the department on forming and serving a state fund of precious metals and gems (Gokhran) is inexpedient and abolished the body, Tatar-inform reported on 1 October citing department head Yurii Semenov. Semenov told a briefing in the Cabinet of Ministers the same day that Gokhran was established in 1997 when barter operations were widespread between business partners. The same year, 150 kilograms of gold were delivered to Tatarstan from Chita Oblast in payment for 20 million rubles ($631,000) worth of vodka. In March 1999, Gokhran sold 100 kilograms of gold to repay the republic's foreign debt. The last 60 kilograms were sold in October for 15 million rubles ($473,000), Semenov said. He stressed that collection of reserve funds became more complicated as of 2001, when a significant part of the republic's income is sent to Moscow. He also said the Tatar leadership adopted the decision on the abolishment of Gokhran independently, without any pressure from Moscow.

Telephone Prices Up By A Quarter
Telephone communications tariffs in Tatarstan increased by 26.6 percent as of 1 October, reported the same day. The Russian Antimonopoly Policy Ministry issued corresponding permission for republican telephone-communications operators. Individuals will now pay 95 rubles ($3) a month, while companies and organizations will pay 160 rubles ($5) a month. Those who use telephones at a per-minute charges will pay 57 rubles ($1.8) (individuals) or 96 rubles ($3) (companies) in monthly subscription fees and 11 kopeks ($0.003) per minute of conversation.

Tatar Deputy Communications Minister Rawyl Fatykhov told a briefing of the Cabinet of Ministers on 1 October that even increased charges cover only 86 percent of expenses telephone companies face. Fatykhov said in neighboring regions -- Saratov, Samara, and Nizhnii Novgorod oblasts -- telephone subscription fees are 100 rubles ($3.15), while in Moscow Oblast they are 110 rubles ($3.47). He also said 32 categories of Tatarstan residents have privileges in using telephones and pay only half the fee.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Minister Of Press Slams Free Media Market
Bashkortostan's minister of press and mass information, Zoefer Timerbolatov, took part in a roundtable called "The Ethnic Mass Media of the Volga and Ural Region: Mass Media and Tolerance," as part of the Humanitarian Sciences Festival held in Ufa from 29 September-1 October. Timerbolatov gave a report on the ethnic media outlets in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspodent reported. The report said that from the start of the Soviet period, Bashkortostan was the only region in the Volga-Ural area which had newspapers and magazines published in six languages: Bashkir, Russian, Tatar, Chavash, Marii, and Udmurt. Beginning in the early 90s the former Chavash, Marii, and Udmurt newspapers, which used to represent only the translations of official Russian or Bashkir papers, were replaced by self-sufficient editions, though the government continued subsidizing them. Timerbolatov characterized this fact as "a key for implementing the government's interethnic tolerance policies." He claimed that the commercial model for the mass media was "absolutely unacceptable for the ethnic media and that's why, despite the strong psychological and ideological pressure from the [federal] center, Bashkorotstan chose a political model of financing the ethnic press. The gist of this model is that the state puts some definite duties before the editions and finances their operating expenses."

He criticized the free media market competition for "constantly bringing up the increasing gap between those who are provided with various information and those who experience 'information hunger.' A citizen's entry to the information market costs money, which some [of us] simply don't have and others cannot afford to spending on such purposes." Timerbolatov also slammed privately-run media organizations for "working for the benefit of those who are advertising [with them] and the business in the whole, but damaging the interests of citizens. Such media reduce the number of programs and editions reflecting minority interests...," he said.

Open Society Institute, Bashkortostan Establish Closer Ties
Ekaterina Genieva, president of the Open Society Institute in Russia, met Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov in Ufa on 1 October, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. During the meeting, Baydavletov thanked Genieva and the George Soros Foundation, which finances the institute, for supporting cultural, educational, and information technology development programs in Bashkortostan. More than $4 million has reportedly been allotted by the foundation for these purposes since 1997. In response, Genieva praised the republic as the "best place for the dialogue of cultures and religions in Russia" and suggested that Bashkortostan become a testing ground for her institute's tolerance program.

Later the same day, Genieva held a press conference to sum up the results of the three-day Humanitarian Sciences Festival in Ufa, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bashkir capital. She expressed satisfaction with the event and the fulfillment of the cooperation treaty signed by the republic's government and the Soros Foundation in 2001. She emphasized that with the help of the foundation, Ufa will host a nationwide forum in April-May to be called "Ufa -- educational capital of Russia." Andrei Kortunov, head of the "Education in Russia" project run by the Soros Foundation, acknowledged at the same conference that "Bashkortostan has gained interesting experience in the sphere of pedagogic science and it should become the possession of entire Russia."

Tajetdin Visits Yamalo-Nenetsk Okrug...
The chairman of Russia's Central Muslim Religious Board, Telget Tajetdin, returned from a trip to Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug on 1 October, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. On his visit, Tajetdin met the mayor of the city of Nadim, Vladimir Kovalchuk, to discuss the construction of a mosque and joined a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the mosque in the city of Urengoi. On behalf of his board, Tajetdin also signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with the Yamalo-Nenets administration.

...As His Aide Becomes A Muslim Organization Leader There
Meanwhile, reported on 30 September that on 27 September a regional Muslim Religious Board in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug was established at a congress in Salekhard. Telget Tajetdin's deputy, Ferit Salman, was elected to chair the board, which reportedly adopted appeals to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the presidential envoy to Ural Federal District, Petr Latishev, Yamalo-Nenets Governor Yurii Neelov, and a general one to Muslims in Yamal.

The other Muslim organization operating in Yamalo-Nenets is the local Kaziyat (Board of Elders) under the Muslim Religious Board in the Asian part of Russia led by Zakir Sagiitov. That Kaziyat was established in June 2001.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi