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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 14, 2002

14 October 2002
Memorial Day Held In Kazan To Honor The Defenders Of Kazan...
Roughly 1,000 people gathered on Liberty Square in Kazan on 13 October to mark the 450th anniversary of the fall of Kazan to Russian rule. Ivan the Terrible's conquest of the city came in 1552 and was the culmination of more than a decade of fighting between Kazan and Moscow. The Memorial Day (Heter Koene) gathering came over the objections from officials of Kazan's Vakhitov district, who suggested moving the event to Gorky Park (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 October 2002).

Reshit Yegeferov, chairman of the nationalist Tatar Public Center (TIU) called Tatarstan's "Declaration of Sovereignty" adopted in 1990 a major step toward reviving Tatarstan statehood that was lost more than four centuries ago. He also cited "growing pressure" from Moscow on the republic's status. Yegeferov condemned Moscow's census policies, which he said are aimed at splitting the Tatar nation into a number of smaller ethnic groups (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 October 2002) and called for Tatar unity. He urged the Tatarstan government to preserve clauses in the new Tatar Constitution, adopted earlier this year, despite federal prosecutors' insistence on the amendment of about 50 of articles. Yegeferov also decried the "misuse [of] U.S. and Russian antiterrorism activities in order to wage war against Muslims of the world."

More than 100 militia and Federal Security Service (FSB) agents monitored and videotaped later meetings devoted to the defenders of Kazan near the Suyumbike Tower and near the Qol Sherif Mosque site. Neither meeting was attended by republican officials.

...And Those Who Conquered It
Orthodox priests held a memorial service on 12 October dedicated to tsarist soldiers lost during the storming of Kazan in 1552, reported on 13 October.

Muslim Leader Questions Timing Of New Church Plans In Chally...
Ravil Gaynetdin, chairman of Russia's Muftis Board, on 12 October condemned an attack on the construction site of the St. Tatyana Church committed on 1 October in Chally, Tatarstan, Interfax reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 October 2002). Gaynetdin said that his board "condemns any expressions of extremism and nationalism." He also called on the Russian Orthodox Church to take the opinion of local Muslim communities into consideration when building new temples, "so that steps that are not well thought out do not damage the interethnic peace and harmony in Russia." Gaynetdin noted that the church's construction began just as "the Tatar people are commemorating the sad anniversary [of] 450 years since the conquest of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible -- when there were rivers of blood, the whole male population was killed, and people were forcibly baptized. That's why the erection of an Orthodox Church this year was not quite correct and [was] even insulting to the religious feelings of the city's Muslim population."

...As Local TIU Branch Denies Involvement In Vandalism
Refis Kashapov, head of the Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center (TIU), on 10 October sent an open letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Aleksei II, reacting to the latter's statement of concern regarding the St. Tatyana Church of 9 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 October 2002), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 October. Kashapov's statement rejected speculation that his organization stood behind the attack and, at the same time, emphasized that the temple is being constructed in the city's Victory Park, "which is a sacred place for World War II veterans of different nationalities and faiths." The letter also claimed that the consequences of the attack were "exaggerated, while truly barbaric acts of vandalism were committed in Kazan gubernia after the fall of Kazan, when there was forced baptism and "some 1,000 mosques were destroyed." The TIU invited Aleksei II to visit Chally and see "that Orthodox Christians have an easier life here than Muslims."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Federation Council Head Says Only President Should Be In Russia
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said only the highest official in the country should be called president, reported on 11 October. "Only one president should be in Russia," Mironov said. Now someone, when they hear that a president says something, begins guessing which of the presidents did so, he added. At the same time, the issue on how to call the head of a region -- governor, administration head, or any other way -- is "an internal affair of a federation subject," Mironov said. It would be better for them to be called any other way than president, he said.

Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov has suggested that the post of the president be liquidated in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 October 2002). Some experts consider Rakhimov's proposal to be an attempt to obtain the possibility to be elected the head of the republic again, the agency reported. Mironov commented, "According to the ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court on the governors' third term, local legislative authorities are in charge of that issue, and it will be resolved as they decide in the republic."

Political Researchers Comment On Proposal To Abolish Post Of President In Republics
The director of the Institute for Political Studies, Sergei Markov, lauded the prospect of a possible move by Russia's republics to a parliamentary system, Interfax reported on 11 October. "A parliamentary system of authority, undoubtedly, creates significantly better competitiveness within elite groups and bigger possibilities for pluralism," Markov told the agency. Markov said: "The existence of regional leaders able to maintain power for two, tree, or four terms, was important during the period of chaos, when the main task was to provide a political and social stability, but now the so-called stability becomes harmful. Now it's important for a region to have sources for development, and in order to provide that, various forces are to be presented in a government and competitiveness is to exist between different groups within a regional elite."

Politika Foundation head Vyacheslav Nikonov told Interfax the same day that the possible change of the system of power in Bashkortostan will mean absolutely nothing for Moscow. "It is the same to deal with a head of the republic elected by the people or representing a majority in the parliament," Nikonov said.

Bashkir Agency Says Reports On Rakhimov's Possible Resignation Premature
Bashinform reported on 11 October that certain Russian mass media have hurried to report about the possible resignation of Bashkir President Rakhimov. The agency labeled as "unrestrained fantasy" headlines in those media reporting that "President of Bashkortostan Murtaza Rakhimov Is Ready to Resign," "Bashkir President Proposes to Abolish the Post of President in the Republic," "Bashkir President Seeks to Pass All Power to Parliament." "The Bashkir president, unlike Boris Yeltsin, who often used to work with documents in the Central Clinic Hospital, is in perfect health and excellent form. Almost everyday trips to the republic and an economy that functions like clockwork due to his efforts prove that," the agency said. But almost nobody paid attention to Rakhimov's call to improve democratic institutions of power and to consult the people, the agency said, adding that, "it is better to leave forecasts to astrologers."

Russian Officials Avoid Taking Part In Celebrations Of Bashkir Day Of Republic
Not a single federal official came to Bashkortostan to take part in celebrations on the Day of the Republic on 11 October devoted to the 12th anniversary of the adoption of the Bashkir Declaration of Sovereignty, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 13 October. Some Russian officials sent their greetings to President Rakhimov, among them State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, and Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin. Meanwhile, a similar event marked in Tatarstan on 30 August was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Matvienko, Minister without portfolio in charge of national policy Vladimir Zorin, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko, and other officials.

Rakhimov Appoints New Deputy Premier
President Rakhimov appointed on 12 October Sergei Yefremov deputy prime minister, Bashinform reported the next day citing the presidential press service. Yefremov, 44, worked previously as general director at the machine-tool concern Inmash in Sterletamaq.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova