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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 23, 2001

23 October 2001
Milli Mejlis Pledges To Defend Tatarstan's Statehood
Milli Mejlis, the self-styled national parliament uniting moderate nationalist Tatar forces, on 20 October issued a statement on "the evident threat to Tatarstan's statehood" and its willingness "to defend it." Mejlis sharply criticized the political elite of the Tatarstan Republic for "choosing sovereignty without any ethnic identity and failing to create a single community of Tatarstan's citizens, just as the Soviet Union once failed to create a single Soviet civil identity." Milli Mejlis suggested that the republican government should hold a referendum on declaring Tatarstan's sovereignty and defending it from Moscow.

The Milli Mejlis meeting voted to expel its former leader, Tatar writer Aydar Khalim, who was allowed to join the session only after a special request by Indus Tahirov, executive committee chairman of the World Tatar Congress. The meeting blamed Khalim for failing to organize efficient work by the non-governing Tatar national congress.

Ilgiz Bariev, Milli Mejlis's nominee for prime minister, said in his speech that "since the mid '90s, Tatarstan's government and people have plunged into euphoria because of the republic's achievements, [then] retreated from the active positions they took -- letting Moscow cheat them."

A Milli Mejlis veteran, presidium member Gabdelbar Feyzrakhmanov, spoke about forecasts of territorial and administrative changes in Russia's ethnic republics like Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. He said the Russian government "had chauvinistic plans to abolish the republics by splitting them into smaller territories with different economic situations."

Aydar Khalim accused senior Tatarstan officials of "supporting Putin,...whose hierarchy of power had no common sense and only served the interests of Russian people." He said that, "Obviously this will soon raise a strong wave of protest from other peoples living in Russia."

Mejlis activist and a doctor of history, ethnologist Damir Iskhakov, said that, "Tatarstan's government is giving up [on] its commissions to Russia with every visit to Moscow, but it is we who are authorized to make such decisions, not them [the republican government]." He added that he was "bewildered by the fact that President Shaimiev frequently speaks in favor of cooperation with the pro-Kremlin Unity Party, while this party has no representatives in Tatarstan's State Council." Iskhakov said, "This is illogical. If these developments continue there is a risk that the republican parliament will be dominated by political parties controlled from Moscow."

Pro-Kremlin Paper Says Petition Against Latin Tatar Script Is No Forgery
On 23 October "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" protested a recent report in Tatarstan's "Wostochniy Ekspress" weekly asserting that a letter reportedly signed by 56 prominent Tatar personalities opposed to adopting the Latin Tatar script and published by "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" "was a fake." "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" interviewed Tatar singer Rinat Ibragimov; the leader of the Tatar ethnic-cultural autonomy in Moscow, Rasim Akchurin; and the Ufa-based leader of Russia's Central Muslim Board, Talgat Tajutdin. They confirmed that they had signed the petition. A number of Tatars living outside Tatarstan, including the former chairman of the Tatarstan Writer's Union, writer Rinat Mokhamadiev, told Tatar media that had not signed or were forced to sign. Razil Valeev, the Tatar State Council deputy in charge of script reform on 12 October said "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" had repeatedly refused to publish the statements of those people or to produce the original document.

Russian Foreign Ministry Opens Office In Tatarstan
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov endorsed a decree to establish territorial representation for the federal Foreign Ministry in Kazan on 22 October. The Russian Governmental Information Department reported the same day that Tatarstan's government is to provide the representation with equipped office premises, residences for employees, and transportation. Before this decree, local companies and individuals involved in international affairs had to contribute to the Foreign Ministry office in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of the neighboring Mari El Republic.

Retired Army Officers Demand Free Apartments In Kazan
Some 30 retired Russian Army officers who served in the Far East, Siberia, the Kuril Islands, or Komi Republic picketed a square near the Kazan Kremlin on 22 October, demanding that they be given free apartments in exchange for housing certificates issued by the Russian government. The picketers said they have been waiting for free apartments for 10 years. An official from Tatarstan's presidential staff, Farit Farziev, said the problem lies in the fact that Russia has failed to transfer any funds to back up the housing certificates. He told the demonstrators that "the Russian Duma is planning to discuss your problem, so you should participate in the Duma hearings."

Federal certificates stipulate housing prices of 5,100 rubles [$173.50] per square meter, while the price of state-owned apartments in Kazan is about 7,000 rubles [$238] per square meter.

KamAZ Seeks To Expand Affiliates Network
Danis Valeev, acting vice president of KamAZ in charge of strategic development at KamAZ, said on 22 October that the truck concern is planning to launch an assembly line in a northern province of China. So far Tatarstan's automotive giant has opened affiliates in Ethiopia [in 2000], Kazakhstan [in 2001], and Poland [in 2001]. Negotiations are reportedly underway to open similar production sites in Sudan, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Tuben Kama Tire Plant Recovering
Although Tatarstan's Tuben Kama Tire Plant has managed to control some 33 percent of Russia's tire market, its losses total 460 million rubles [$15.65 million] this year, the deputy prime minister for the economy and trade, Sergei Kogogin, said on 22 October. Tatneft oil company became the plant's major shareholder in 2000 after buying state shares from Tatarstan's government. According to the terms of the contract, Tatneft was to ensure production growth and increase wages to the plant's workers. "Tatneft only partially managed to fulfill these provisions after increasing annual output by 27 percent," Kogogin said.

About 20 Agricultural Producers Announce Bankruptcy
The Agricultural Ministry announced on 22 October that 19 of Tatarstan's 264 agricultural companies will undergo bankruptcy procedures due to the general management failures.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov's Son Takes Hard Line In Refinery Talks With Tatarstan Delegation
The Bashkir media has so far largely ignored a meeting of a meeting on 19 October between Bashkortostan's and Tatarstan's officials to discuss integration between the two republics' oil and chemical industries. Tatarstan's Efir TV reported that the Tatarstan delegation -- led by the deputy prime minister for the economy and industry, Sergei Kogogin -- was offered a PAZ bus to take representatives from the airport to Bashkortostan's government building. But both Kogogin and Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Midkhat Shakirov appeared surprised by a statement from Ural Rakhimov, the Bashneftekhim refinery's board chairman and the son of Bashkortostan's president, in which he rejected an offer from Tatarstan to swap shares and board seats within the industry. Ural Rakhimov added, "Moreover, in our opinion, Tatarstan doesn't have any decent experts in the oil/chemical industry for resuming such talks." Deferring to "the market," he equated the idea of integration as "some dogma."

Multi-Faith Public Organization Calls For Global Peace Conference
Ufa's inter-confessional center for supporting the peacemaking initiatives of President Vladimir Putin made a statement on 22 October calling on the religious faiths of the world, UN, and Russia to "hold an international conference against world terrorism, panic, and the blind fury it raises." The center unites Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist leaders in Bashkortostan.

Small Businesses To Get State Support In 2001
Bashkortostan's government on 22 October endorsed a republic-wide program to support small businesses in 2002. According to the document, entrepreneurs will be given the most favorable conditions for work in agriculture, industry, innovation, housing, fast food, tourism, crafts, and waste-recycling. The government is to spend 12.5 million rubles [$425,000] to implement the program.

Private businesses employ 11 percent of the republic's population, producing 7 percent of the region's gross domestic product.

Bashkortostan Forms Its Own Energy Commission
President Murtaza Rakhimov signed a decree on forming a republican regional energy commission on 22 October. The commission is to ensure the stable operation of power and heat supplying company Bashkirenergo and help settle disputes with its customers.

Swedish Community Discovered In BR
The AROMI information agency reported on 22 October that a 16-strong Swedish community resides in Tirlyan village, in the Beloretsk region of Bashkortostan. Their ancestors arrived in Bashkortostan in 1879. The village's administration is reportedly hopeful that the Swedish government or public organizations will help them to revive industrial facilities in Tirlyan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi