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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 11, 2002

11 October 2002
Prime Minister Meets Turkey's New Consul General
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov met on 10 October with recently appointed consul general to Tatarstan Ismail Sefa Yudzheer, reported the same day. The consulate that was opened in Kazan in 1996 administers to diplomatic ties with the Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chavash, Mordovia, and Marii El republics, along with Samara Oblast. Both sides confirmed the need for developing bilateral projects between Tatarstan and Turkey in the economic, trade, cultural, and educational sectors. Turkish-run businesses currently work in Kazan in the construction, trade, education, and foodstuff sectors. Turks constructed two plants that manufacture diary products and furniture.

Tandem Of Sibneft, Tatneft Takes Over Controlling Interest In MNPZ
The Moscow administration lost a controlling interest in Moscow oil refinery MNPZ after Sibneft and Tatneft converted their extraordinary shares into ordinary shares and thereby obtained a majority, "Kommersant" daily reported on 10 October. Sibneft President Yevgenii Shvidler told the daily that his company, together with Tatneft, now holds a 56 percent stake in MNPZ, while the Moscow administration owns just 38 percent. The latter does not recognize the redistribution and plans to contest it in court, according to the paper (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 October 2002).

Tatars Divided Into 45 Ethnic Groups
A manual for census takers entitled "A List of Peoples" in which Tatars were divided into 45 subgroups was delivered to the Tatar State Council, "Zvezda Povolzhya" weekly reported on 10 October. All will be grouped into three categories -- "Tatars," "Kreshens," and "Mishers." In Bashkortostan, Mishers and Tipters will be counted as Bashkirs, the paper reported.

Kreshens Allege Violations In Census
The Executive Committee of the National Cultural Center for Tatarstan's Christian Tatars said it will "likely be impossible to obtain accurate information about the number of Kreshens in the Russia-wide census under conditions of permanent administrative pressure on national-movement participants and the Kreshen population," Regnum reported on 11 October. According to the committee, census takers "have been ordered to register Kreshens as Tatars." In Mendeleevsk, Alabuga, and Chally census takers reportedly will neither accept the term "Kreshens" as a national identity nor leave that space blank. In other places, census takers are reportedly entering data into notebooks, not directly into census forms. The director of the Staroe Grishkino secondary school in the Mendeleevskii Raion, Yurii Kamashev, was reportedly dismissed for urging Kreshens not to identify themselves as "Tatars." Residents of Kreshen residential areas are being threatened with gas outages, delays in pension payments, and the breakup of collective farms, according to the committee. The committee has appealed to President Putin and federal authority bodies to take what they describe as measures to defend citizens' constitutional rights, including as far as halting the census in Tatarstan.

Jewish Journalist Says He Will Declare Himself Tatar In Census
Lev Ovrutskii, a correspondent for "Moskovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane," said he will identify himself as an ethnic Tatar in the current census, "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 10 October. "For Jews, it will be all the same, while Tatars will [gain from] this," he reportedly said. Ovrutskii recently led a signature drive against the amendment to the federal law on languages that obliges all state languages in Russia to use the Cyrillic script (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 14 June 2002).

Muslim Women Continue Protest Action To Demand Putin Apologies
A group of mostly elderly Muslim women continue to picket the city hall building in Tuben Kama, demanding that they be permitted to cover their heads in passport photographs, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" daily reported on 9 October. They are also demanding that Russian President Vladimir Putin apologize for a comment he made during a visit to Kazan on 30 August. Putin said the problem is connected to "a fashion that exists today and won't exist tomorrow." Picketers, after suits were lost in Tatarstan's courts, vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court -- adding that if their efforts are unsuccessful, they will refuse Russian citizenship. The protest action began on 4 October, when pickets were held simultaneously in Tuben Kama, Chally, and Udmurtia's capital, Izhevsk (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 7 October).

Police Unit Leaves For North Caucasus
A unit of 50 policemen is scheduled to depart for Chechnya on 11 October to partly replace a group of 100 interior-force members currently serving in the North Caucasus, reported.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

TIU Report Says Violations Began On First Day Of Census In Bashkortostan
Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center (TIU) Chairman Ayrat Ginietullin made a public statement on 10 October reporting a number of cases where census officers prevented residents from stating their nationality correctly, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 10 October. The TIU report says that in the Sharanbash village of Sharan district, census officer Teslime Timergalieva didn't fill in the nationality section when polling citizens, explaining that this was by Sharan district administration request. She said this was necessary for "filling in the section later." After receiving numerous demands from the residents to register them as Tatars, she reportedly ran away.

Census officers in the village of Chaqmagush in Chaqmagush district were said to be using notebooks during the poll, something that they commented on by saying that they would later rewrite the data in the official census questionnaires. In the city of Oktyabrskii, the census officers were reportedly filling in the polling sheets with pencils, while in the cities of Sterlitamaq and Ufa a number of residents also complained that despite their being of Tatar nationality, the officers registered them as Bashkirs. In most of the cases the census officials asked the individuals to identify themselves as Bashkirs, saying that it is necessary for preserving the republic's sovereignty or explaining that they were ordered to increase the percentage of the Bashkir population to 30 percent.

Meanwhile, Bashkir State Statistics Committee Chairman Ekrem Ganiev told Bashinform on 9 October that no violations had so far been registered during the national census.

Rakhimov Repeats Proposal To Abolish Presidency In Bashkortostan...
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, speaking at the ceremonial meeting devoted to the 12th anniversary of Bashkortostan's Sovereignty Declaration on 10 October, said that his republic "would most obviously refuse the institution of the presidency," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Rakhimov said: "We needed the presidency during the transition period. Now that the conditions have changed and the republic's economy is working stable and so is the political atmosphere, so there is an opportunity to switch to the other political system -- the parliamentary republic."

Rakhimov had previously stated his unwillingness to run for a third presidential term in office and promoted the idea of establishing a parliamentary republic in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 September 2002).

...Hints At The Achievements Of 12 Years Of New Status...
President Rakhimov told the 10 October meeting that "looking back to what we have achieved, one can confidently say that our parliament made a timely, brave, and wise decision" by adopting the declaration of the republic's sovereignty in 1990, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. He added that that in those times, "federal legislators involved in political conflicts were unable to react to the processes taking place. I want to stress that it was not about taking over the [federal] center's functions in any way. All our moves were inspired by the spirit of Russian Constitution and Russia's Sovereignty Declaration, the Federative Treaty." Later in his speech Rakhimov praised Bashkortostan's economic development, which was reflected in the "constantly increasing monetary incomes of the population," several times addressing his audience as "comrades" in old, Soviet-style fashion.

...And His Concerns...
Rakhimov also said: "Today we are concerned about the cynical and dangerous attempts to plant discord between the Tatar and Bashkir peoples or between the Russians and the Muslims of the republic. Our analysts say that such provocations have a single explanation -- the approaching presidential elections."

...While Other Top Officials Follow His Line
Bashkir parliamentary Speaker Konstantin Tolkachev and Ufa Mayor Reuf Nogmanov also made public statements on 10 October, praising such results of Bashkortostan's declared sovereignty as industrial development and "changes in the minds and hearts of the people, whose desire to live better has become a strong stimulation in their work and study."

Also on 10 October, Rakhimov, Tolkachev, and Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov laid a bouquet of flowers at the Monument of Friendship in the Bashkir capital. The bouquet was wrapped with a band with a note saying "Forever with Russia" in the Russian and Bashkir languages. The monument, built in 1965, commemorates the voluntary entry of Bashkiria to Russia in 1557.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi