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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 3, 2001

3 December 2001
Tatarstan President To Co-Chair New Russian Party
President Mintimer Shaimiev was elected a co-chairman of the united Unity, Fatherland, and All-Russia party at that national party's constituent congress on 1 December, agencies reported. The other co-chairmen of the new "Unite and Fatherland" party are Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov.

Shaimiev told "Vek" on 30 November that the newly formed party should be right-centrist, as it must become an "engine" of economic reforms. He said the organization plans to support the course taken by President Vladimir Putin, but without being restricted by a need to have activities confirmed from above. It will develop its own position, he stressed. Shaimiev said Putin's pro-Western foreign policy suits the party's leaders.

The Tatarstan president stressed Communists are the new party's main rivals, while right-wing parties like the Union of Rightist Forces or the Democratic Party are allies rather than rivals. He added that his party should promote social programs and called for a change in the party's draft charter to moderate its initially strong vertical principles. Shaimiev said the party is not considered a way to prepare for 2003-04 elections. He said the party will promote market liberalization, equal conditions for competition, small businesses, and domestic manufacturers. Moreover, it will push for ideas of federalism, freedom of speech and democratic institutions, and a rise in living standards.

Tatarstan Ombudsman Calls On State Leaders To Boost Human Rights...
The ombudsmen of Russia's 15 territorial entities appealed to President Putin to meet with them, reported on 30 November. Tatarstan's human rights representative, Rashid Vagizov, told the agency that the institution of ombudsmen must be developed in Russia; and state officials must first grant it respect. Mechanisms protecting violations of prisoners' rights, rehabilitation of victims of political oppression, and protection of women and children' rights are among the most important human rights issues in Russia, Vagizov said.

...As Forum Discusses Rights Of The Politically Oppressed
Representatives of federal bodies, Mordovia, Bashkortostan, and Chuvashia gathered in Kazan on 30 November to discuss promoting the legal rights of victims of political oppression, Tatar-inform reported. Officials from the Russian presidential administration, the Russian Supreme Court, the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the Labor and Social Development Ministry, and officials in charge of rehabilitating such victims from neighboring republics were in attendance.

Aleksandr Kosakovskii, a Russian presidential administration representative, praised Tatarstan for its efforts defending the rights of the politically persecuted. An official from the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, Galina Vesnovskaya, called Tatarstan a pleasant exception among Russia's many regions due to its attention to the issue.

Some of the news that emerged from the forum included reports that Russian prosecutors reviewed 530,000 cases against 750,000 convicted criminals during the past decade and confirmed the verdicts in 89,500 cases. Some 79,000 cases still are to be revised, 500 of them in Tatarstan. Kosakovskii said only one-third of the mass graves containing victims of political oppression have been found so far in Russia. He said President Putin has ordered a thorough count of those oppressed during the Soviet era -- a figure that has been estimated somewhere between several hundred thousand and 95 million, and is the topic of persistent speculation.

Moscow Accused Of 'Divide And Rule' Strategy Concerning Tatars
Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin told Tatar-inform on 30 November that dividing Tatars into six groups in the 2002 census is aimed at dividing a major Russian population in order to dissolve it and ease its assimilation. He charged that the second goal is to reduce such groups to smaller ethnic minorities and eliminate any legal basis for maintaining national republics. The third purpose, Safiullin said, is to remove controversial national issues from the federal level to that of inter-ethnic conflicts. Safiullin said the list of nationalities where Tatars are divided into six groups was developed by the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the order of the Russian State Statistics Committee.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Membership Dissatisfied With Journalists Union Work...
Participants at a Journalists Union congress on 30 November accused it of failing in its duties and continuing to work in an old-fashioned manner amid changing conditions, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Meanwhile, Union Chairman Marsel Salimov praised the organization's activities.

Some speakers criticized the Union for doing nothing to defend journalists publicly or financially or to protect them from pressure exerted by the authorities. Before the congress, several mass-media publications sharply criticized the Union's activities, saying it was "in the pocket" of ruling republican institutions.

"People's Poet" Mustai Karim told the assembly that Bashkortostan's leaders "work very well and cannot be the subject of any criticism."

...As Official Pleads For The 'Purity' Of Bashkortostan's Information Environment
Bashkortostan Secretary of State Faukat Kidrasov said at the Journalists Union republican congress that freedom of speech is now widely treated as a synonym for journalists' rights, including a right to spread untrue information, Bashinform reported on 30 November. Accountability and competence should be the main concern of journalists' organizations, he said. Kidrasov expressed concern with the falling popularity of publications in Bashkortostan, saying that one in six residents does not read any of them. Kidrasov called on the republican media to maintain the "purity" of the Bashkortostan's information sector and make it a "standard" for Russia.

Salaries of Budget Employees Up
President Murtaza Rakhimov on 30 November issued a decree sanctioning a rise in the salaries of budget-sector employees from 1 December, Bashinform reported. The move was aimed at implementing similar federal legislation, the agency added. Teachers and doctors will receive the biggest pay hikes.

Businesses Increasingly Falling Into 'Foreign' Hands
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 2 December that the number of companies facing losses is on the rise in Bashkortostan, encouraging more takeovers by representatives from other regions, particularly Moscow. Meanwhile, Chelyabinsk metal works has reportedly purchased a controlling interest in the Beloretsk group.

Bashkir Organizations Boost Ties With Diaspora
Bashkir national organizations are preparing New Year's presents including Bashkir literature, calendars, and music for Bashkir communities in the Chelyabinsk and Orenburg oblasts, Bashinform reported on 30 November.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova