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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 27, 2001

27 December 2001
Tatarstan's Mufti Has Invited Pope To Kazan
The head of the Tatarstan Muslims Religious Board, Gusman Iskhakov, has invited Pope John Paul II to visit Kazan, which is going to celebrate a millennium of existence, Interfax reported on 26 December. The message was sent in November 2000, but was announced only now. Iskhakov thanked the pontiff for his "invaluable contribution to the cause of peace and humanization of human relations" and expressed hope that John Paul II will agree to visit Tatarstan and its capital. Iskhakov said he believes the pope's visit would be fruitful not only for Tatarstan's Catholics but also for all of the republic's residents and Tatars around the world.

President Says He Discussed Pardoning With Putin
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev told reporters on 25 December that the issue of pardons was on the agenda of his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, devoted to the harmonization of the Tatarstan Constitution with Russian law. Shaimiev said pardoning was within Tatarstan's powers under the power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Kazan, and he suggested that the majority of cases be passed to the respective regions.

Tatarstan To Spend 30 Million Rubles On Latinization In 2002 reported on 25 December that Tatarstan will allocate 29.2 million rubles ($1 million) in 2002 for the restoration of Latin-Tatar script. Another 8.9 million rubles ($300,000) will be spent on a state program for the preservation and development of the languages of Tatarstan's peoples. Social spending will consume 12.5 billion rubles ($417 million) of the republic's 19.5 billion rubles ($650 million) in total investment. More than 3 billion rubles ($100 million) will be allocated for road construction and 2.9 billion rubles to build apartments for people living in rundown housing areas. The federal budget will give Tatarstan 12.2 billion rubles ($407 million) "for the step-by-step [transition to] Russia's common budget space."

Unemployment Falls...
The unemployment rate fell by 9.5 percent to 17,500 residents in Tatarstan in the past year, reported on 26 December. The number of workers employed in Tatarstan's large and medium-sized companies declined in the same period by 0.7 percent to 1.34 million people, the agency said.

...As Salaries Rise...
The average nominal salary in Tatarstan grew by 41 percent to 3,155 rubles in the past year, reported on 26 December. Real (adjusted) incomes in Tatarstan increased during the same period by 16 percent. The Republic of Tatarstan is fourth among Volga district entities in terms of nominal salaries behind Sverdlovsk (3,792 rubles), Samara Oblast (3,649 rubles), and Bashkortostan (3,208 rubles).

...And Production Grows
Production increased by 7 percent in Tatarstan in the first 11 months of 2001, with the biggest growth in machine-building, metallurgy, and manufacturing of construction materials (14 percent) and the petrochemical sector and light industry (10 percent), reported on 26 December.

Russian Government Finances Aviation Leasing
President Shaimiev said the Russian government has earmarked 400 million rubles for the Tatarstan-based Finance-Leasing Company to develop aviation projects, Tatar-inform reported on 25 December. Shaimiev said the move will allow sufficient supplies in 2002 for Kazan's aviation plant. He added that republican authorities plan to give more support for the Finance-Leasing Company and increase its capital to promote other leasing projects.

Marii El's Minister of Economy And Industry Visits Kazan
Marii El Economy and Industry Minister Ilyas Yakupov visited Kazan to discuss bilateral cooperation, reported on 26 December. Yakupov was invited by Tatarstan's Economy and Industry Ministry. Tatarstan's presidential press service said Yakupov's visit provided new impetus for bilateral cooperation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Independent Paper Slams Bashkortostan For Violating Federal Laws...
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent quoted the latest issue of independent "Otechestvo" newspaper on 26 December as reporting that 184 laws and 179 decrees issued by the Cabinet of Ministers -- representing 72 percent of the Bashkortostan's legislation -- violate Russian federal law.

...And Oppressing Non-Ethnic Bashkirs
"Otechestvo" also charged that Tatar residents in Bashkortostan were given "little-brother status" in the multi-ethnic family of people living in the republic. The Tatar Public Center branch in Bashkortostan and an Otechestvo civic union are reportedly preparing a letter for Russian President Vladimir Putin, protesting the obligatory teaching of Bashkir language to all children regardless of their "nationality."

Government Works To 'Bashkirize' Rural Areas
"Respublika Bashkortostan" newspaper wrote on 24 December that, according to reports from Bashkir officials during a recent conference on teaching the state languages of Bashkortostan's regions, "although 50 percent of residents in the Ilesh, Durtile, Kushnarenko, Baltach, Boray, Aksin, and Teteshle regions are ethnic Bashkirs, they identify themselves as Tatars because of the Tatar language lesson taught in schools."

Lawyers Union Head Says Harmonization Represents Assault On Regions' Powers
The chairman of Bashkortostan's union of advocates, Rafik Giybadetov, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 24 December that 104 amendments have been added to the republic's constitution since Vladimir Putin was elected Russian president. Giybadetov said he was concerned that "there are still voices calling for more amendments and claiming that the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan threaten Russia's integrity." He added that the term "unified legal space" in Russia -- touting the supremacy of federal laws over republican legislation -- was being used to reduce the powers of both republics.

Bashkir Legislator Says Democratic Romanticism Already Gone For Russia
The "Vechernaya Ufa" daily quoted Bashkortostan State Assembly Deputy Zefer Yenikeyev on 24 December as saying that, in future, Russia will have to come to terms with a federal system similar to that of the United States. In the U.S., he added, states have the authority to decide on matters as serious as capital punishment and are not accused of separatism for adopting their own laws. Noting that the days of "democratic romanticism" have passed in Russia -- in favor of affront and concern -- he expressed hope for what he called "true democracy."

Moderate Bashkir Nationalist Calls Russia's Pressure On Bashkortostan 'Natural'
Bashkir Peoples Center leader Ehter Boskinov told RFE/RL on 24 December that he considers the current period of history to be the "period of restrictions" for Russia's ethnic republics. In his opinion, Moscow's pressure on republics like Bashkortostan and Tatarstan is "natural, because the Russian empire would never deliberately set its peoples free." Boskinov also said that, in such situation, "each ethnic group has to stand up for its own rights."

Just 4 Percent Dodging Conscription In Bashkortostan
Some 7,200 recruits from Bashkortostan joined the Russian Army this fall, RFE/RL reported on 26 December. Only 4 percent of recruitment-age men evaded draft, a figure that is several times bigger in other regions of the Volga federal district.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi