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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 10, 2004

10 February 2004
Russian Education Ministry To Include Study Of Orthodoxy In School Curriculum...
Russian Deputy Education Minister Leonid Grebnev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 4 February that Russian can only be taught in secondary schools by studying the Orthodox Christian basis of Russian culture, so the subject will now be included in the curriculum. As to why studying the classics of Russian literature like Aleksandr Pushkin or Yurii Lermontov is not enough to know Russian, Grebnev said their works are also based on the principles of Orthodox Christianity. In republics where two state languages exist, the principles of the religions linked to both languages should be studied, Grebnev said. He denied suggestions that only one language will be promoted and one religion will be implanted from above. Grebnev also promoted the creation of new textbooks and teaching methods to fulfill this idea, adding that the textbooks will be used everywhere in Russia, including in ethnic republics. Commenting on schools working on the basis of ethnocultural programs, Grebnev said he considers them "positive" as a whole but expressed concern that such schools can create ghetto-like environments.

...As Religious Leaders Comment On Proposal
Commenting on the Grebnev's proposal, Russian Council of Muftis Chairman Rawil Gainetdin said he was not aware of it but backed the idea of teaching the religious principles of different cultures. Gainetdin said the heads of Russia's leading faiths are have similar opinions on the issue. He said if any similar proposals are made, they must be approved by the leaders of all of Russia's religions who work in the Interfaith Council. Gainetdin said the teaching of Orthodox, Muslim, and Judaic cultures in schools can be jointly considered and approved by the council. This measure would contribute to the education of children to respect other religions and faiths. Russian Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich said Russian officials often proclaim slogans like "Russia for Russians" and no attention should be paid to the position of one official.

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.

New Program Adopted On Development Of Gas And Petrochemical Industry
The Tatar government has passed a new five-year, $5.1 billion development plan for the petrochemical and gas industry, "Kommersant v Kazani" reported on 4 February. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said the program represents a "new era" in the development of the republic's economy. Shaimiev argued that if Tatarstan were to continue exporting oil in its current volumes, it would remain dependant on international oil prices. Tatarstan completed implementation last year of a similar program that saw a 30 percent increase in production and growth of trade turnover from $2.2 billion to $5.6 billion. Some 100 billion rubles ($3.5 billion) was invested under the program -- more than 66 billion rubles of it from Tatneft. The new program is aimed at raising oil production to 30 million tons a year and oil processing to 14 million tons a year by 2008. The volume of processed oil is expected to reach nearly four times its current level, while that in the chemical and petrochemical sector should more than double. Tatneftekhiminvest Holding General Director Rafinat Yarullin, who presented the program, predicted that Tatarstan's economy will reduce its dependence on global oil prices as a result of the program. Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov meanwhile said he opposes the program, arguing that it is missing key technical and economic elements.

Tatarstan's Interior Criticized For Strict Measures Toward Basketball Fans
Representatives of Moscow's TsSKA basketball club filed a protest against an incident involving its fans that took place in Kazan during a 31 January game between TsSKA and Kazan's UNIKS, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 February. Russian Basketball Federation President Sergei Chernov told "Izvestiya" that he "is deeply concerned by what happened before the game." Chernov was expected to travel to Kazan on 4 February to meet with Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov and UNIKS President Yevgenii Bogachev. The event requires a response, Chernov said, as similar incidents have never occurred during the Russian championships. The daily reported that on 31 January, many of the 400 TsSKA fans who came to Kazan from Moscow were prevented by police from seeing the game; the 40 who managed to enter the arena in which the game was to be played were said to have been strip-searched. A UNIKS representative told the daily that strict measures were taken to avoid events like that in Perm, where TsSKA fans recently initiated a scuffle with security forces during a game with the local Ural-Great and threw petards on the basketball pitch. Tatar Interior Ministry spokeswoman Irina Nizhelskaya suggested that the ministry had information that fans were planning on bringing pyrotechnics within them into the arena.

The Interior Ministry's press department issued a statement on 3 February saying that police took adequate measures to prevent a mass disturbance and hooliganism by both teams during the 31 January match between UNIKS and TsSKA, reported. The ministry confirmed that security checks and an examination of fans' belongings at the entrance to the arena resulted in 11 intoxicated people being barred from entering. The ministry said its security measures are normal for major cultural events and will continue in the future.

Chally Residents Hold Picket To Protest Anti-Muslim Publication
Some 50 people staged a picket in front of the building of the Chally city administration on 29 January to protest the publication in local media calling on residents to be vigilant toward young Muslim women, reported on 4 February, citing Kama-press. The 20 January article titled "Are Islamic Female Suicide Warriors Trained in Chally?" said the Federal Security Service (FSB) recommends people to pay special attention to Muslim women whose dresses are made of dense cloth and whose headscarves are knotted behind the head (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 January 2004). The picketers carried slogans saying, "A headscarf is our pride" and "Islam is our religion." Unidentified Moscow human rights activists said that the above-mentioned publication contains "motives for inspiring interethnic and interfaith hatred." Such calls contradict legislation and may result in negative attitude toward Muslims, human rights leaders said.

Crimean Tatars Hold Protest In Sudak
Some 300 Crimean Tatars protested in Sudak on 4 February, reported the same day. The protesters gathered near a monument commemorating deported people. They carried slogans protesting genocide, land sales, and ethnic persecution in Crimea. Meanwhile, some 150 Crimean Tatars protested outside a police building in Sudak on 1 February after the arrest of a Tatar who reportedly beat up a resident in a neighboring village, "Trud-7" reported on 5 February. Special police units were deployed to deal with the protests. Sergei Kunitsyn, the head of the Crimean government, said the action is "a provocation with a political tinge." He said Sudak Raion has recently become "a source of this kind of conflict." Many conflicts stem from Crimean Tatars' claims on lands on Crimea's southern coast.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Presidential Staff Official: Media Ministry Blamed For Rakhimov's Poor Presidential Campaign
President Murtaza Rakhimov's decision to abolish the republican Ministry of Press and Mass Media was the result of an ongoing discussion within the presidential staff on who is responsible for the failure of the republican media to oppose criticism from opposition media, according to Rakhimov's rivals, presidential candidates Sergei Veremeenko and Relif Safin, an unnamed official on the Bashkir presidential staff told an RFE/RL Kazan correspondent on 2 February. According to the official, who worked on Rakhimov's political campaign, the Bashkir elite "chose" the journalists of state-owned media "to bear the blame for the loss in the information war." After the election, most of the Bashkir press was criticized by the government for publishing so few articles in Rakhimov's favor, having instead reprinted articles from the state Bashinform agency. "On the other hand," the official said, "one can see that Bashkortostan decided to follow the example of Tatarstan, which had already abolished its Media Ministry, thus demonstrating that the government is loosening its grip on the mass media." Bashkortostan's Ministry of Press and Media will soon undergo major cuts and be transformed into a board on media and publishing (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 February).

RFE/RL Ufa Correspondent 'Invited' For An Interview With FSB
An RFE/RL Ufa correspondent was contacted by a local Federal Security Service (FSB) officer on 2 February who invited him "to discuss" the reporter's coverage of the December 2003 presidential elections in Bashkortostan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The correspondent reportedly used his constitutional right to turn down the invitation. Before and after the elections, RFE/RL freelancers in Bashkortostan have covered the campaigns of incumbent President Rakhimov and his opponents, reporting on developments and statements by him and the opposition candidates.

Ufa Roundtable Focuses On Corruption
The European Commission's representation in Russia and Bashkortostan's government held a roundtable on the problems of regional anticorruption policies on 3 February, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. European Commission expert Uha Keranen said in his report that Russia has much in common concerning corruption with many other countries and the adoption of anticorruption laws was a good beginning. The other EU expert at the roundtable, Garry Van Boxmeyer, said that Russia needed to implement a policy of full transparency and accessibility of information on its activities. The roundtable adopted a resolution saying that Russian legislators should pass a law on basic anticorruption policies to enable further development of such acts by the regional legislatures. Russia was also urged to ratify the European Council's convention on criminal punishment for corruption, the UN's convention against transnational organized crime, and the UN's convention against corruption, which stipulates the principles of dividing property obtained by means of corrupt practices.

During the event, Bashkir officials led by chief of presidential staff Radii Khebirov, spoke about the general negative impact of corruption on Russia's economy and political situation, without reference to examples in Bashkortostan. Khebirov also said that Russian legislation "did not meet the anticorruption requirements" stipulated by the European Union, emphasizing that so far Bashkortstan has remained the only region in Russia that has adopted a law on corruption enforcement. After the event, Bashkir State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev said that the Bashkir parliament is ready to follow the recommendations of the EU experts.

Famous Surgeon Upbeat About Transition To Latin Script
Marat Aznabaev, a prominent Bashkir eye surgeon, supports the idea of a gradual transition from the Cyrillic Bashkir script to the Latin one, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 2 February. Aznabaev said that in pursuing the goal of proper expression of its ethnic language Bashkortostan should follow the example of other Turkic peoples, which already use Latin.

Tatar, Bashkir Leaders Demonstrate Different Approaches To Tatar-Bashkir Issue
Russian Tatar National Cultural Autonomy co-Chairman Ferit Urazaev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 8 February that the recent presidential elections in Bashkortostan clearly showed that the republic's population has been divided along ethnic lines. Urazaev said Tatar-Bashkir relations are complicated by myths existing on both sides. If some articles in Tatarstan's media outlets promoted the idea that there is not in fact any Bashkir nation, in Bashkortostan there were people who declared that the Tatar people are one of the Bashkirs' main enemies. Urazaev also said the growth of the Tatar people is currently impossible without qualitative changes in Bashkirs' mode of thinking, primarily in their culture and ethnic environment, and on the other hand, the development of the Bashkir people is impossible without a change in Tatars' attitude toward the Bashkir people.

Meanwhile, the Bashkir World Congress Executive Committee stated at its meeting in late January that to improve relations between Bashkirs and Tatars in Bashkortostan, it is necessary to form respect among Tatars for the Bashkirs who gave them refuge in their land, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 8 February. Specifically, committee members criticized Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev for his statements calling for giving the Tatar language official status in Bashkortostan, calling them "interference in Bashkortostan's internal affairs."

Italy's Technimont To Construct Polyethylene Plant In Salawat
The Italian Technimont company and the Bashkir Salavatnefteorgsintez (SNOS) petrochemical company signed a $100 million contract on the construction of a polyethylene production line, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 February. The line will be assembled at the SNOS subsidiary Monomer. The new production line expected to be set up within 30 months and will produce 120,000 tons of polyethylene a year. Currently, SNOS produces 44,000 tons of polyethylene a year. In the late 1990s, Technimont constructed in Bashkortostan a plant at Ufaorgsintez capable of producing 100,000 tons of polypropylene a year. Recently, Technimont and Tatarstan's Nizhnekamskneftekhim signed a $130 million contract on beginning polypropylene production in Tuben Kama (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 November 2003).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Opposition TV Company Off The Air In Nizhnii Tagil
Telekon, an opposition television company in the city of Nizhnii Tagil, stopped broadcasting on 2 February after its transmission cables were destroyed, Novyi region reported on 3 February. The damage was found in the transmission center, which is located in the city administration building. The station's management says that the cables were sabotaged by the city authorities. The police are investigating the incident. Telekon General Director Aleksei Skomorokhov told a press conference on 9 February that three unnamed police officers detained three Telekon workers as they were repairing the cables thus preventing the station from resuming transmission. Skomorokhov said that Telekon will sue police representatives and the Nizhnii Tagil administration for the damage, amounting to some 300,000 rubles ($10,544). In December 2003, Telekon was told by the city authorities it could not prolong its rental agreement and must vacate the premises by 3 February. On 3 February, the company proposed a referendum to defend independent mass media in the region.

Synagogue, Jewish Library Set On Fire In Chelyabinsk
Unknown perpetrators tried on 5 February to set fire to a synagogue and Jewish library in Chelyabinsk, reported the same day. Three bottles with an incendiary mixture were thrown into the synagogue and one into the library that is located on the second floor of the two-story wood building. Neighbors who noticed the fire managed to extinguish it before fire officers came. Police are investigating whether the incident was hooliganism or an anti-Semitic action.

Karabash Residents Hope Presidential Elections Will Solve Environmental Problems
A group of residents from Karabash, in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, collected several hundred signatures in an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin about local environmental problems, reported on 5 February. People said they will boycott the Russian presidential elections if no measures are taken by the Russian government to resolve them. Environmentalists say that a local copper plant in Karabash pollutes the area with copper, lead, zinc, and arsenic. The Karabash Copper Plant was launched in 1910 and shut down in 1990 by the Soviet government because of environment concerns. That decision was reversed in 1998. Activists say that the plant has caused high rates of disease and death in the region.

Workers End Hunger Strike In Kurgan Oblast
On 9 February, three workers from Kurgan Oblast's Kataisk Pump Plant ended a hunger strike after five days, Novyi region reported on 9 February. Vladimir Khudyakov, Andrei Shaidurov, and Petr Kuznetsov demanded that the closure of the plant be stopped and back wages for the last four months be paid to all the plant's employees. The strikers also backed an initiative by a group of Kataisk residents to merge Kataisk with the Sverdlovsk Oblast. By 2 February, 1,000 signatures had been collected in Kataisk, which has a population of 15,000, Novyi region reported on 2 February.

Samara Resident Sees Hunger Strike As A Chance To Receive Medical Treatment
Human rights activist and writer Tatyana Kuznetsova has been holding a hunger strike in Samara since 30 January, "Samara Segodnya" reported on 3 February. Kuznetsova is demanding that the authorities carry out an audit of the Asko-Med insurance company, which is responsible for covering medical treatment of Samara residents in city hospitals. According to Kuznetsova, she has been refused treatment for a chronic illness over 50 times in the past six months.

Police Major Arrested For Taking Bribes In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The former head of the Chkalovskii police department's counter-narcotics taskforce Major Nazir Salimov was detained on 5 February by the Federal Security Service (FSB) after allegedly taking a 200,000 rubles ($7,024) bribe, reported the same day. According to police sources, the lawyer of an alleged drug trafficker gave Salimov the money in a bid to have his client's case closed. The FSB reportedly recorded the transaction. If convicted, Salimov could face between seven and 12 years in prison. The Azerbaijani community within the Sverdlovsk Oblast is raising money to bail out Salimov, an ethnic Azeri, Novyi region reported on 9 February, citing an unidentified source within the FSB's Sverdlovsk Directorate. Recently, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel launched a campaign against corruption and the black economy and named several "inefficient owners" who would soon become a target of law enforcers.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova