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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 3, 2004

3 February 2004
Security Council Focuses On Private Business Development
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev joined a Tatarstan Security Council meeting on 26 January to discuss business development in the republic and attempts to attract foreign investment, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Shaimiev said that his government is dissatisfied with the republic's economic performance in 2003, in which industrial output rose 4.7 percent compared to the previous year, but the growth was mainly powered by the petrochemical sector, while other industrial branches had little or no growth.

The president also mentioned that the republican budget annually loses 5 billion rubles ($172.4 million) to the "gray" employment market, which hired some 600,000 people without following legal employment practices and largely not paying taxes. Some 300,000 employees in companies in Tatarstan are said to work without contracts, while 500,000 more receive a portion of their salaries under the table.

Tatar First Deputy Premier Rawil Moratov told the same meeting that republican and federal governments should intensify efforts to protect domestic producers, especially in agriculture. He also noted that along with measures that simplify registration for private businesses, Tatarstan is developing a network of "Tekhnoparks" -- special facilities that offer office space and industrial equipment for businesses to rent.

Aleksandr Tarkaev, the chairman of the administrative board of Tatarstan's Chamber of Trade and Industry, suggested during the event that republican officials should provide more assistance for the development of high-tech industries in the republic by assisting researchers in local institutions of higher education.

Russia Reportedly Plans To Combine Russian Aircraft Manufacturers
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin has said that Russia plans to establish a single state-owned company combining the country's major aircraft manufacturers -- Ilyushin, Tupolev, MiG, and Sukhoi -- in two years' time, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 January. Moscow will reportedly publish a draft of the future merger by March. Such a merger would affect the Kazan's Gorbunov aircraft plant (KAPO), which traditionally has been an affiliate of Tupolev's aircraft-construction bureau.

Over 450 Candidates To Run For 100 Seats In Tatar Parliament
Tatarstan's Central Election Commission (USK) on 28 January finished the accepting candidate applications for the 14 March parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. A total of 187 candidates will contest 50 seats from party lists, while 155 party representatives and some 120 independent candidates will run for the 50 seats in single-mandate districts. The USK will announce the final list of candidates after verifying the applications on 7 February.

Tatar State Council Sets Punishments For Failure To Comply With Language Law...
The State Council approved revisions of the new language law on their third and final reading on 29 January, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. They stipulate that Tatar and Russian are to be taught on an equal basis in kindergartens, schools, and institutes of higher learning, and outline punishments for state officials who fail to comply with the language law. According to the document, all state television and radio outlets are required to provide equal airtime for Tatar- and Russian-language programming.

Deputies also approved a state program for 2004-13 that aims to preserve, research, and develop the languages spoken by Tatar citizens. Under the program, children of Chuvash, Mari, Udmurt, Mordva, and other ethnic communities will be given the opportunity to learn in their native language.

Nine Russia-wide Parties To Run In Tatar State Council Elections
Nine political parties will face off in the elections for Tatarstan's State Council, to be held concurrently with the Russian presidential election on 14 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 29 January. Two hundred eighty-two candidates will be competing for 100 seats in parliament. Unified Russia is fielding the largest number of candidates with 91, while the Communist Party is second with 68 candidates. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has 38 candidates; the Russian Party of Life, 45; the Development of Entrepreneurship party, 21; Russian Regions and Rodina, 16 nominees each; Union of Rightist Forces, 14; and Russia's Pensioners Party, five candidates. One hundred twenty-seven independent candidates are running in 49 districts.

As of 29 January, Tatarstan's Central Election Commission had officially registered just 33 candidates.

Muslim Religious Board Chairman Says Russian Muslims Are United
Central Muslim Religious Board (TsDUM) Chairman Telget Tajetdin in an interview with "Izvestiya" reiterated his denial of a public controversy with Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Rawil Gaintedin. Tajetdin said he met recently at the Kremlin in Moscow with Gaintedin and Muslims of North Caucasus coordination center head Ismail Berdyev. During that meeting, he said, the three exchanged opinions about the need for unity among Russia's Muslim communities. Tajetdin said there has been no split among Russian Muslims for the past 15 years.

Tajetdin also said Russia has quite a good chance of entering the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), noting that Russia has twice as many Muslims as Saudi Arabia. Any country whose population is partially Muslim can become an observer in the OIC, Tajetdin said.

In response to a question about foreign sponsorship, Tajetdin said TsDUM does not receive financing from any outside religious center. He said that in the early 1990s, TsDUM signed a $1.4-million agreement with the OIC's Islamic Bank for Development to support the construction of religious schools. However, TsDUM received only $410,000 of that sum, which it used to construct educational institutions in Moscow, Tatarstan's Elmet and Kazan, and Bashkortostan's Oktyabrskii and Ufa. No other money was received by TsDUM from abroad, Tajetdin said.

Doubles Running in Tatar Parliamentary Elections
Candidates running under similar or identical names as popular contenders have been entered in the State Council elections in several Tatar electoral districts, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 30 January. In Kazan's Derbyshki district, an Aleksandr Grachev will compete against former State Duma Deputy Ivan Grachev. In December, both Grachevs ran for the State Duma in Kazan's Volga district. In Kazan's Shalyapin district, Kazan Finance and Economy Institute student Lenar Ekhmetjyanov will oppose Firdinat Ekhmetjanov, the deputy director of the company Dan.

In Elmet district, brothers Nil Girfanov and Rawil Girfanov will run on the ticket of the Russian Party of Life. This tactic, the weekly speculated, is intended to obtain more television and radio air time and free space in print-media outlets for the family name, and one of the brothers would presumably withdraw his name prior to the elections.

In the southeastern district of Bogelme, Russian Party of Life candidate Nail Zaripov, the general director of Tatinvest holding will compete against Dinis Zaripov, a village council chairman. State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin is also running in this district. In Chistai's Gayaz district, Unified Russia candidate, Tatagrokhimservis general director Salikhjan Kelimullin, will face metalworker Nurgayaz Kelimullin.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Congress Opposes Improving Status Of Tatar
The World Bashkir Congress Executive Committee recently held a meeting to discuss results of the December republican presidential elections and to discuss the status of languages in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. Ildus Ileshev, the director of the Bashkir Academy of Sciences' History, Language, and Literature Institute, spoke against giving the Tatar language the status of state or official language in Bashkortostan, noting that the World Bashkir Congress and top Bashkir scholars strongly oppose the idea. The deputy chairman of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress, Radik Sibegetov, responded that Ileshev's comment is evidence that now that the presidential elections are over, Bashkortostan's leadership has reneged on its promise to revise the status of Tatar. Sibegetov said that it is unlikely Ileshev's comments were his own, and rather he must have been voicing the stance of the republican authorities. Such a shift would not contribute to the improvement of interethnic relations in the republic in the future, Sibegetov added. He said Tatars' hopes were once again unjustified, and they will learn not to trust the republican leadership.

Bashkir Congress Argues For Leaving Tatar Language's Status Unofficial
The Bashkir World Congress has issued a statement saying Tatar should not be given either state or official status in Bashkortostan, arguing that changing the status of languages in the republic requires a referendum and an amendment to the republican constitution, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ufa reported on 27 January. The group has suggested in the past that it would not oppose making Tatar an official, but not a state, language. It has also argued that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's pledge to raise the status of Tatar was misrepresented. Bashkir State Council Deputy Guzel Sitdyiqova told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 January that calls for a change in the status of Tatar language are "provocation." She added that Tatarstan, not Bashkortostan, should promote the development of Tatar.

Bashkir World Congress leaders criticized Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev for his appeal to Rakhimov during the Bashkir presidential campaign to revise the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, saying the move constituted interference in Bashkortostan's domestic affairs. Some Bashkir activists have charged that it is Tatarstan's political leadership, and not Bashkortostan's Tatars, who have pressed the issue.

Bashkir Leader Believes Bashkirs Should Be Given More Rights Than Republic's Other Peoples
Bashkir World Congress Executive Committee Chairman Ekhmet Soleimanov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 28 January that only the language of a titular people may be given state-language status in the republic. Soleimanov said differences should exist between rights of the titular people and rights of other peoples in the republic. Soleimanov also said if other peoples become dominant in the entity, they begin making territorial claims, which may lead to a Bosnia-like situation.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 28 January, ethnologist Ildar Geptrefiqov said that the results of the 7 December Bashkir presidential elections clearly showed the key role of the Tatar factor. President Murtaza Rakhimov understood this and made his statement promising to raise the status of the Tatar language in the republic, Geptrefiqov said. He added, however, that one should realize that Rakhimov will not be able to keep this promise. The reason for this is that Rakhimov is supported by the Bashkir ethnocracy, which will never agree to giving Tatar state-language status, as it sees the Tatar language as the main enemy of Bashkir statehood, Geptrefiqov said.

Safin Meets With Putin
Federation Council representative for Altai and former Bashkir presidential candidate Relif Safin had a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 28 January, citing Safin's campaign headquarters. During the meeting, Putin said Safin should stop his campaign activities in Bashkortostan. The president also said Safin will be able to run for the Bashkir presidency in the next elections. Meanwhile, Bashkortostan's courts continue to consider Safin's lawsuits contesting the election results.

Education Ministry Opposes Teaching Orthodoxy In Schools
Representatives of the Bashkir presidential administration and the Education Ministry oppose an initiative by Patriarch Aleksii II to see a requirement that secondary-school students complete a class on the principles of Orthodoxy, RosBalt reported on 27 January. The patriarch suggested on 25 January that the pre-revolutionary tradition of teaching hagiography to children should be revived in Russia. Russian Education Minister Vladimir Filippov stated his readiness to back the proposal.

Deputy Education Minister Natalya Golysheva told the news agency that such a move "would be short-sighted in such a multiconfessional republic as Bashkortostan." Golysheva said the introduction of teaching any religion "cannot be ordered from above or be [made] obligatory." Golysheva also said that if the Russian Education Ministry insists on the obligatory teaching of Orthodoxy in schools, its Bashkir counterpart will instead introduce a class on the "principles of religions," without any emphasis on Orthodoxy.

The head of the Bashkir presidential administration's information department, Marat Jamalov, told RosBalt that the obligatory teaching of orthodoxy in schools is unacceptable. "Russia is a multinational and multifaith country in which religion is separated from the state," Jamalov said. "How will a Muslim child who is forced to study the principles of Orthodoxy feel?"

Bashkir Interior Ministry Wins Defamation Suits Against Media
The Bashkir Interior Ministry has recently won six defamation suits in Moscow courts against mass-media outlets that alleged ministry heads and employees are linked to criminals, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported on 26 January, citing ministry official Leile Merzagulova. Lawyers for the republican Interior Ministry have filed approximately 30 lawsuits against various media outlets, including "Tribuna," "Rossiiskaya gazeta," and "Moskovskaya pravda." The ministry has thus far won six of the seven cases heard, and the newspaper "Rossiiskie vesti" proposed a settlement to the final case. According to courts' verdicts, the Bashkir Interior Ministry is to be paid 10,000 rubles ($350) for moral damages and an additional 41,000 rubles to cover court expenses. Meanwhile, the ministry has won an additional suit against the "Zvezda povolzhya" weekly filed in a raion court in Bashkortostan. The weekly was ordered to pay the ministry 30,000 rubles in damages, while the author of the article in question was ordered to pay 500 rubles.

Swiss Official Vows To Speed Up Compensations For Air Disaster
Switzerland intends to step up efforts to resolve the issue of paying compensations to the relatives of victims of the July 2002 midair crash near Ueberlingen, Germany, involving a Bashkir Airlines jet, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January. The midair collision between a Bashkir Airlines' Tu-154 and DHL Boeing 757 cargo jet killed 71 people, most of whom were children from Bashkortostan en route to Spain. According to one investigation, the crash was caused by an incorrect command given by an employee of the Swiss air-traffic controller Skyguide. The issue was on the agenda of a meeting that day between Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin and Swiss Federal Department of Finance head Hans-Rudolf Merz in Davos, Switzerland. Kudrin told reporters following the meeting that the investigation of the issue continues, and that "today we discussed the possibility of speeding up the payment of compensations." Kudrin said Merz assured him "that the Swiss government will do everything [it can] to speed up a solution to the issue."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Miners Independent Trade Union Threatens Election Boycott
Russian Miners Independent Trade Union (NPG) leader Aleksandr Sergeev said the trade union is ready to call for a boycott of the presidential elections if President Vladimir Putin does not make efforts to change the situation on Chelyabinsk Oblast's coal mines, reported on 30 January. Meanwhile, two leaders of the NPG's Chelyabinsk branch, Vladimir Rodyuk and Eduard Kinstler, are continuing their hunger strike in the oblast town of Kopeisk (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 27 January 2004). The strikers are demanding that the persecution of union members be stopped, a six-hour working day be restored, 35 illegally dismissed workers of the Komsomolskaya mine be restored, and heads of the company be held criminally responsible for the harsh violation of Russian labor legislation. Sergeev said the oblast's mining companies refused in December to pay wages to miners who are members of the union and to be paid, they had to sign a request to leave the union. NPG considers this to be in violation of the Russian Constitution, Sergeev added.

Switzerland Gives $12 Million For Destruction Of Russian Chemical Weapons
The Russian government and Switzerland's Federal Council on 28 January signed an agreement in Moscow on cooperation in the destruction of chemical weapons in Russia, under which Switzerland will allocate 15 million Swiss francs ($12 million) to Russia over the next five years, reported. Russian Ammunition Agency General Director Viktor Kholstov, who represented Russia in the talks, said the first stage of cooperation will include the creation of a system of sanitary-hygienic supervision over the chemical plant in the Kurgan Oblast village of Shchuchye. The plant is to begin operation in 2006. Under the Convention on Prohibition of Development, Production, Accumulation, and Use of Chemical Weapons and their Destruction, chemical weapons are to be destroyed by 2012.

Rossel Calls For Governors To Have Power To Pardon
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin suggesting that the power to pardon prisoners be given to governors, Novyi region reported on 29 January. Rossel referred to the experience of the United States, where governors have wide powers to grant pardons. He said there are currently tens of thousands pardon requests in Moscow and they cannot be considered quickly, so people kept in penitentiaries wait a long time for an answer. According to the Sverdlovsk Oblast Pardon Commission, out of 10 cases sent to the presidential administration for pardon, nine are rejected on unknown grounds. Instead, other people whose documents were never considered by regional pardon commissions are pardoned.

Human Rights Leaders Promote Immigration Amnesty...
A group of Russian human rights activists appealed on 28 January to President Putin to announce an immigration amnesty, Novyi region reported on 29 January. The activists said it is much more profitable for a state to collect taxes from working migrants than to persecute them with fines and deportations and to increase corruption among officials. They noted that such amnesties have been repeatedly used in different European countries.

According to data provided by the Sverdlovsk Oblast Migration Service, 20,379 refugees currently live in the Urals. Their real number, however, is dozens of times the official statistics, according to the report. The head of the Ural Fund for Social Support of Migrants, Natalya Tagiltseva, told the news agency that not a single person was given refugee status in Sverdlovsk Oblast in 2003. So refugees face a lack of social guarantees and the impossibility of gaining citizenship and employment. Tagiltseva said educated and useful people come to Russia from CIS countries but they cannot be of benefit to Russia because it is difficult for them to get registration.

...Concern About Slave Trade
Human rights activists on 27 January held a press conference devoted to the publication in Nizhnii Tagil of a brochure "The Slave Trade in Sverdlovsk Oblast," reported the same day. According to the brochure, Russia is the world's largest slave supplier and hundreds of people are taken out of Sverdlovsk Oblast every year to provide sexual services or heavy physical labor. Yekaterina Crisis Center President Lyudmila Yermakova said at the press conference that the majority of girls become slaves looking for ways to earn easy money or to marry abroad and fall into the clutches of international criminal organizations.

It was reported that a girl costs between $300 and $1,000 and earns for her owners $200,000 a year. At the same time, it was noted that it is impossible to free women from slavery and most of them refuse to tell the truth about their life. Russian girls are sent in most cases to third-world countries but sometimes they are also sold in developed countries like Germany, Sweden, and the United States. The mother of one girl who fell into slavery told the press conference that her daughter has been a slave in Sweden for three years. She said Russian authorities do nothing to help return her daughter, saying, as she "ran after easy fortune, now let her pay for it."

Meanwhile, the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Interior Ministry filed a criminal case against the organizers of a tour company that was involved in exporting prostitutes, Nizhnii Novgorod Telegraph Agency reported on 26 January, citing the ministry press service. The source provided no details about the company's name and activities in order not to hamper the investigation, according to the report.

Military Official Skeptical About Prospects Of Alternative Service
Sverdlovsk Oblast Military Commissioner Aleksandr Kudryavtsev said on 26 January that it will be difficult for draftees under current legislation to prove their right to alternative civil service, reported. The law, which came into force on 1 January, says young men can opt for alternative civil service according to their religious or moral beliefs. "However, not a single world religion prohibits taking up arms," Kudryavtsev said, noting the exception of Krishnaism. As for moral reasons, Kudryavtsev continued, candidates must "prove their beliefs in documentation. There is no similar mechanism, and alternative service will hardly become large," he added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova