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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 11, 2002

11 December 2002
Official Confirms Plans To Defreeze Nuclear Power Plant Construction In Tatarstan...
Alevtina Kudryavtseva, Tatarstan's deputy minister of Economy and Industry, told a press conference on 10 December that the Cabinet of Ministers plans to ask the State Council to lift a ban on nuclear energy research in the republic that was imposed by the Supreme Council of the Tatarstan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1989, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. By imposing this ban, Tatarstan's authorities stopped construction of the nuclear power plant in Kama Alani after receiving strong pressure from environmentalists and the public. The five year-old project has been frozen ever since then, leaving more than 17,000 residents of Kama Alani without jobs that they otherwise would have had and had been trained for. Kudryavtseva emphasized in her statement that the planned cabinet's appeal so far "concerns the need for extra seismological and environmental studies in the Kama Alani area, but not the construction of the nuclear power plant." A special commission consisting of representatives from Tatarstan, officials from the Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry, and foreign experts, will reportedly check the state of the foundation at the planned nuclear site and compare them with previous studies, which showed that the site is in a potentially dangerous location along an earthquake fault line.

...While Academy President Seems To Approve The Move
Mansur Khesenov, president of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, told a conference devoted to the republic's ecology-related on 10 December that "it is essential to take a serious, not an emotional" approach towards rethinking the issue of nuclear power plant construction in Tatarstan "taking state interests into considereation," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. However, he abstained from saying whether the Tatar scientists approved or criticized the government's plans to resume construction of the nuclear power plant in Kama Alani. Khesenov added that the current environmental situation in Tatarstan was considered stable. The academy and Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources have not yet finished a concept on the republic's ecological security, but discussed special environmental programs from 1996-2000 and 2001-2005.

Ban On Muslim Passport Photographs Reaches Tuymen
Following media reports on the controversial issue of Muslim women in Tatarstan being barred from wearing headscarves in their passport photos, Muslim women in Tyumen Oblast are also being restricted from wearing them in their passports photos, reported on 10 December. In November, the Russian Interior Ministry officially rejected a claim from a group of State Duma deputies requesting that Muslim women be permitted to cover their heads in their passport photographs (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4, 11 October, 22 November 2002). The claim was inspired by groups of Tatar Muslim women demanding that they be allowed to follow Islamic custom. According to, before the controversy in Tatarstan, Muslim women in Tyumen were allowed to wear headscarves in the photos for their passports. The website quoted Nesime Yankina, head of the Muslim organization under the Tyumen Tatar Center, as saying that none of the local Muslims have so far appealed to a court demanding the reinstatement of this right.

Tatarstan's First Oil-Processing Plant To Open
The unfinished Tuben Kama oil-processing plant produced its first 300 tons of jet engine fuel that meet European standards on 9 December, TatNews reported. Before this, the joint project of American ABB Lummus Global Inc., Tatneft oil company, and the Tuben Kama Oil Chemical Company (Nizhnekamskneftekhim) had already begun producing bitumen for building roads. Nonetheless the official presentation ceremony of the plant's first production complex will be held on 11 December and President Mintimer Shaimiev is expected to take part in the event. Planned annual production capacity of the Tuben Kama plant is 600,000 tons.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Says It's Too Soon To Think About Third Term...
In an interview published in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 11 December, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said it is too soon to talk about his participation in the next presidential elections in the republic, though the law does not forbid him doing so. Rakhimov said his main task is currently to finish the reform of the republic's political system, to preserve his main achievements, and to secure continuity in the development of Bashkortostan.

Answering a question on why he gave up on the idea of changing Bashkortostan to a parliamentary republic, Rakhimov said, "Detailed legal analysis showed that federal legislation excludes the possibility of the formation of a purely parliamentary republic." The second reason was that popular opinion backed preservation of the presidential republic, Rakhimov said. And finally, advice from Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as proposals by the presidential commission on power sharing between federal authority bodies, federation subjects, and local self-government bodies were taken into account, he added. Rakhimov said he still considers the idea of a parliamentary republic to be correct and believes the day will come when it will be realized.

...Censures Institution Of Federal Districts
"Trud" quoted President Rakhimov on 10 December as criticizing "the demeaning attitude" of federal authorities toward federation subjects. Rakhimov said there are not close relations between him and the Russian presidential and government administrations, adding that the establishment of federal districts made the order of resolving issues even more complex. He said there are now 10 times as many bureaucrats as during the Soviet period, while the system for managing the country was broken by the creation of the federal districts. Rakhimov criticized the institution of presidential envoys and the federal districts themselves as artificial phenomena. He opposed the separation of Bashkortostan from the Urals for ignoring existing interregional ties.

Education Official Denies Accusations Against Bashkir-Turkic Schools
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 10 December, Bashkir Deputy Education Minister Mindebai Yulmokhemmetov categorically rejected the report by "Moskovskii komsomolets," according to which the Turkish Serkhat company working in Bashkortostan is linked to the fundamentalist sect Nurjular, which was banned in Turkey in 2000, and takes part in promoting pan-Turkic policy through the Bashkir-Turkic lyceums it opened in the republic. The paper reported on 6 December that Nurjular is spreading its influence in all regions of Russia populated by Muslims or Turkic peoples or groups speaking Turkic languages, primarily through a network of Turkic lyceums opened in those regions.

Yulmokhemmetov said the article was likely ordered and reported untrue information in order to cast aspersions on countries with Islamic populations and to harm relations between Bashkortostan and Turkey, in particular. He said Bashkir-Turkic lyceums were opened in the republic after several meetings between Turkish government officials, representatives of the Serkhat company, and Bashkir government officials devoted to the issue. After all documents presented by Serkhat were thoroughly analyzed, the Bashkir Education Ministry and the Turkish Education Ministry signed an agreement on opening four Bashkir-Turkic lyceums. Several official Bashkir delegations visiting Turkey studied the charter and other constitutive documents and activities of the Serkhat company, which do not include any pan-Turkic or extremist ideas, Yulmokhemmetov continued. Directors of Bashkir-Turkic lyceums are representatives of Bashkortostan and lessons follow a standard curriculum, he added.

An RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 10 December quoted Education Minister Galie Mokhemmetjanova as saying that an inspection conducted recently in the Ufa Bashkir-Turkic lyceum by a ministry commission found no violations.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova