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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 8, 1999

8 March 1999
Tatar Official Rebutts Language-Discrimination Charge
Tatarstan's minister of information and press, Islam Akhmetzyanov, refuted charges of discrimination against Russians in Tatarstan that were made in a 4 March "Nezavisimaya gazetta" article. The article claimed that "Shaimiev-Rakhimov's legislation infringed on the rights of hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens" and "Russian-speaking citizens in Bashkiria (sic) and Tataria (sic) were" forced into the background. Akhmetzyanov disagreed, saying that in Tatarstan "all the official meetings--including the sessions of the State Council--are held in Russian, the number of Russian newspapers exceeds the number of Tatar[-language] newspapers by three or four times, and Russian is the major language in 80-90 percent of schools."

Tatar Public Center In Challi Fomenting Fundamentalism?
Rafis Kashapov, the head of the Tatar Public Center (TPC) in Challi, told the Efir TV company that in December 1998 his organization received about 90 letters from people across Tatarstan offering to volunteer for the Iraqi military. He said 14 volunteers were already on their way to Iraq "to fight for Allah and Islam." Additionally, three teenagers recently left their families in Challi and Alabuga allegedly to join radical religious forces in Chechnya and with the aid of the TPC branch in Challi. The teens are known to be members of Islamic communities influenced by "Jihad" slogans from their spiritual leaders. Vagiz Sattarov, the prosecutor general in Alabuga, said in an interview with Efir TV that he considered such actions "unnecessary" and urged that such activities be practiced at "meetings and demonstrations [held] for expressing" such opinions.

Shaimiev Inaugurates New Cell Phone Network
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev attended the opening ceremony at the new offices of the state Tattelecom company on 3 March. During the ceremony, Shaimiev made the first phone call through the TAIF-Telecom venture's cellular network, using a GSM-900 standard. The cellular network was established through the partnership of TAIF-Telecom and the Ericsson Corporation. The reported cost of the project is $50 million.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi