24 August 2004
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM TATARSTANNew Auditor Finds Same Old Problems At Tatneft
Auditing agency Ernst & Young have refused to endorse a Tatneft report on the company's management practices, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 21 August. Ernst & Young was hired in July after the PriceWaterhouseCoopers auditing company issued a report to Tatneft recommending that Tatarstan's major oil company introduce more transparent management practices. Clean audit reports are vital for the company, which has been listed by the New York Stock Exchange for nearly a decade. Ernst & Young also cited certain "unusual transactions" by the company.
Nearly Two Dozen Recruits Allowed To Perform Alternative Military Service
At least 23 army recruits from Tatarstan will be permitted to perform civil service instead of military service, in accordance with their religious beliefs, Aleksandr Gorshenev, the head of the Labor and Employment Ministry's department for military service affairs, told reporters on 20 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Meanwhile, 14 other applications for alternative service were rejected by the special commission under the republican recruitment office, which has the authority of assessing the true motive of each appeal. Unlike regular army service, which last two years, alternative service is 3 and 1/2 years long. Only two of Tatarstan's recruits with pacifist religious beliefs are currently known to be serving alternative service.
Federal Government Reform Reaches Tatarstan
As a result of federal government reforms, the Tatar branches of federal entities recently received instructions to restructure their organizations, which will create numerous vacancies for state officials, "Vechernyaya Kazan" wrote on 20 August. As an example, the daily cited the main federal department of natural resources and protection of environment in Tatarstan, which will be transformed into state timber, mineral resources, and water and control agencies, each with its own director. Unlike previously used appointment procedures in local offices of federal organizations, the candidacies for high posts in the new federal agencies will not have to be approved by the republican authorities.
Enrollment Figures Fall In Tatar Schools
Education Minister Reis Sheykelislamov said at a 17 August news conference that 474,000 students are expected to be enrolled when the new school year begins on 1 September, 29,000 fewer than last year, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 18 August. Twenty-two new schools hosting a total of 2,775 pupils will be opened in rural areas for the start of the school year. Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov frequently criticized Sheykelislamov's predecessor, Faris Kharisov, for the fact that the republic was building new schools while the number of students was on the wane. Sheykhelislamov acknowledged at the press conference that urban schools, especially in Kazan, are currently overcrowded and said new schools are needed in those areas.
Open Russia To Begin Work In Tatarstan
State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin and Open Russia representative Andrei Ilnitskii, who heads a program for regional schools of public politics, agreed on 16 August to establishing an affiliate office for the program in Kazan, Intertat reported. During the talks, Ilnitskii emphasized the importance of democratic processes in the regions, "because Russia can be strong only if the regions are strong." He also said Open Russia, which was created and funded by the Yukos oil company, appreciates Tatarstan's experience in federalism studies and plans to devote its first November 2004 seminar in Kazan to federalism and local self-government issues.
Compiled by Iskender Nurmi
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTANWeekly Claims Governing Elites Are Moving Assets Away From Bashkortostan And Tatarstan
The 13 August Bashkir edition of the weekly "Moskovskii Komsomolets" commented that although President Murtaza Rakhimov seems to have good relations with Moscow, the region is witnessing "a rise of internal tensions." The weekly claimed that in both Bashkortostan and Tatarstan the local governing elites are preparing for future changes in republican governments and are funneling their assets abroad to avoid property takeovers by future leaders.
Along with what the weekly called Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov?s failure to ensure the efficient operation of his cabinet, potential economic and political instability were listed as reasons for Russian President Vladimir Putin?s inability to implement reforms at the same pace as in 2000.
Meanwhile, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 13 August that rumors abound in the Bashkir capital that there will be early elections another term of office for Rakhimov, who began his third term in office in late 2003.
Bashkortostan's Tatars Accuse President Of Not Keeping His Promises
The 20 August conference of Tatar rights organizations in Bashkortostan adopted a public statement condemning the Bashkir government's failure to fulfill President Murtaza Rakhimov's decree on "additional measures for meeting the ethnic and cultural needs of Tatars in Bashkortostan" signed on 4 July 2003, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The document stipulated that Tatars should get more opportunities for learning their native language in schools and holding more cultural events.
In February, leaders of the Tatar civic movement in Bashkortostan sent a letter discussing the decree to Rakhimov, but have not received an answer.
The Tatar civil leaders also condemned the Education Ministry's unofficial, yet effective policy on introducing obligatory lessons of Bashkir language in all schools in the republic.
Tuymazi Mosque Offers Islamic Sermon In Russian
Seeking new ways to attract locals to Islam, the religious tutors of Al-Fatikha Mosque in Tuymazi added sermons in the Russian language to its traditional services held in Arabic and Tatar, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 23 August. The decision was reportedly made due to the falling number of people fluent in both Arabic and Tatar.
Bashkir Communist Executive Pessimistic About Party's Fund-Raising Campaign
Rinat Gabidullin, second secretary of the Russian Communist Party's committee in Bashkortostan, told Bashinform in an interview published on 20 August that the recent call for donations by Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov "is not likely improve the party's material situation." Semigin complained to the agency that he has paid the salaries of local party executives in the last several months from his personal savings and has yet to be repaid by the party.
Bashkortostan's Unified Russia To Promote Benefits Reform
Mansur Ayupov, secretary of the political council of the pro-governmental Unified Russia party in Bashkortostan, warned the 19 August meeting of the council of the possible fallout that could result from the government's failure to consult with public "when introducing the current social reform for monetizing the system of social benefits, which affects some 50 million of Russia's citizens, representing one-third of population," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 20 August. Ayupov said that to avoid misunderstandings of the reform and some possible public protests, the party's activists should meet with the people and organize media coverage for promoting the reform. An estimated 1.02 million people receive social security subsidies in Bashkortostan.
Rakhimov Outlines Proposal To Attract Students To Technical-Based Education
Speaking at a governmental meeting devoted to public education in Bashkortostan, President Murtaza Rakhimov offered a proposal to reduce the percentage of university students studying humanities and increasing the number of those studying in production-oriented fields. He suggest that those studying humanities be required to refund state money spent on their education in the event they fail to gain employment in their field, REGNUM reported on 19 August.
Clerical Leader Suggests Higher Titles For Muslim Spiritual Board Chairman
Ferit Salman, deputy chairman of the Ufa-based Muslim Spiritual Board of European Russia and the CIS, has proposed granting his superior, board Chairman Telget Tajeddin, with the titles of supreme mufti and sheikh of the sheikhs, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 18 August. Tajeddin became well-known for declaring jihad on the United States following its counterterrorist operation in Afghanistan in 2002. Tajeddin's Spiritual Board maintains a rivalry with the other Russia-wide Islamic organization, the Moscow-based Council of Muftis, led by Rawyl Gaynetdin.
Before entering into open confrontation with Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board in the late 1990s, Salman served as a Muslim cleric in a Kazan mosque.
Federal Interior Ministry's Commission Finishes Work In Ufa
A Russian Foreign Ministry commission headed by Ambassador Vladimir Boiko finished its inspection of the ministry's representation office in Ufa on 17 August, with special attention being paid to the office's interaction with Bashkortostan's governmental bodies, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 18 August. The ministry's office is intended to facilitate Bashkortostan's economic activities abroad and the expansion of its contacts abroad. The office will reportedly assist in organizing the official celebration of 450th anniversary since Bashkortostan's voluntary merger with Russia, as well as the opening of the republic's offices in Istanbul, Astana, and Tashkent. The commission praised the efficiency of the Foreign Ministry's office in Ufa and outlined its positive contribution to the foreign activities of Bashkortostan's government.
Compiled by Iskender Nurmi