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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 18, 2001

18 December 2001
Parents, Ministry Officials Square Off Over Tatar Teaching
Parents and Education Ministry officials participated in a public discussion of obligatory Tatar-language and -literature lessons under the auspices of the daily "Vechernyaya Kazan." Many of the staunchest critics opposed the existing Tatar lessons, arguing that they distracted children from learning other languages and weakened their speaking and writing skills in Russian. Many of those who called the paper suggested that Tatarstan was not an independent state and therefore had no authority to introduce obligatory classes in Tatar, which is granted official status by the republic. Despite the use of Russian in all classes aside from Tatar language and literature, parents said the policy violated pupils' democratic freedoms. (Other subjects are taught in Tatar in only a few secondary schools in the republic.)

Education Ministry officials said during the discussion that there is a lack of highly qualified Tatar teachers and well-organized books but emphasized that current federal and republican legislation allowed for compulsory learning in Tatar.

Republican Security Official Regrets America's ABM Decision
Tatarstan Security Council Secretary Vener Salimov, a former republican KGB chief, said on 17 December that he does not welcome America's decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He added, though, that it "is not a sign of a new arms race because there is enough nuclear potential [at Russia's disposal] to resist acts of aggression from any country in the world.... I tend to trust the reserved and sensible statements of our president. I have only slightly unpleasant feelings just because the U.S. president unilaterally abrogated the agreement."

International Conference To Be Held In Kazan For Discussing Political Correctness In Ethnic Issues
A recent World Writers Congress in London accepted a proposal from Boris Panteleyev, the PEN center representative in Kazan, to hold an international conference on human rights and political correctness in the Tatar capital. The Kazan branch of the international PEN Club has already published a book of Tatar authors' views on the issue.

In its 2002 session in Macedonia, the Writers Congress is to discuss Tatarstan's transition to the Latin script, Tatar-inform reported on 17 December.

Tatarstan Companies Obtain High Rating Among Russia Industrial Giants
"Expert" magazine on 17 December placed Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company eighth among Russia's leading industrial companies, a list traditionally topped by raw material exporters. Tuben Kama Oil Chemical Plant and KamAZ automotive concern occupied the 25th and 26th positions, respectively. Tatenergo heat and power company was rated 37th and Kazan Helicopter Plant 141st.

Tatneft was named Russia's ninth most-profitable company, and Tuben Kama Oil Chemical Plant was named 20th most-profitable, by the same magazine.

HIV Reaches Rural Areas Of Tatarstan
Some 50 cases of HIV have been registered in Tatarstan so far in December. Most of those infected inhabited major cities like Kazan, Chally, and Tuben Kama. But rural areas like the Biyektau, Archa, and Oktyabsky regions each reported one new case during the same term. Some 3,703 Tatarstan residents are currently infected with the AIDS-inducing virus, 970 of them in Kazan.

Elderlies Board To Replace Chairman Amid Abuse Allegations
Tatarstan's Elderlies Board will call on its 17 January congress to elect a new chairman to replace Rafigulla Khamidullin, whom the organization accused of being "mainly interested in satisfying his personal ambitions, disregarding the opinions of the Elderlies Board" in a statement on 17 December. Khamidullin denies accusations of financial abuse and reportedly plans to file defamation suits against several media outlets.

Government Urges Better Hygiene In Markets
A government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov discussed hygiene among Tatarstan's markets and acknowledged that more controls should be imposed on merchants. Food, clothing, and household goods markets have made improvements, but the government believes more needs to be done. The minister of trade and foreign economic development, Khafiz Salikhov, said just one in four Tatarstan citizens prefers to buy from markets, while several years ago nearly half the population relied on them for cheap goods.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan Covers Budget Deficit With 1.3 Billion Rubles In Bonds
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Foat Khantimerov told the Bashkortostan Presidential Council on 17 December that, by the end of 2001, the republic's budget revealed a 1.3 billion ruble ($43 million) deficit for the year. Bashkortostan reportedly issued 1 billion rubles ($33 million) in bonds on the Russian stock market to bridge the gap. Khantimerov stressed in his report that by the end of the year there were no wage arrears to state employees in the republic.

Finance Minister Says Regions, Cities Not Meeting Financial Obligations
Khantimerov said during the same meeting that among the republic's 62 regions and cities, only the Kransnokamsky region managed to transfer its revenues both to federal and republican budgets while retaining sufficient funds for itself. Others, he said, preferred to keep the lion's share of revenues, fulfill obligations to the federal budget, then transfer the smallest portion of revenues to the republican government.

Kurgan Bashkirs Seek To Reestablish Ties With 'Motherland'
The Bashkir community in the Kurgan Oblast is planning to convene a Congress to resolve problems with native-language learning and preserve Bashkir culture with the help of Bashkortostan's government, Bashinform reported on 18 December.

Rakhimov Visits Serlitamaq And Gafuri Region
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov visited Sterlitamaq and the Gafuri region on 17 December to meet the directors of major industrial ventures there and inspect a number of health resorts.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi