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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 12, 2004

12 October 2004
Tatar President's Adviser Promotes Reform Of Islam
Speaking at the world forum on Dialogue of Civilizations in Rhodes, Greece, on 2 October, Rafael Khekimov, a state adviser to the Tatar president and director of the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, said it is now impossible to follow traditional directions of Islam in a secular state like Russia, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 4 October. In his report titled "Islam and Orthodoxy: the View From Tatarstan," Khekimov called for reforming Islam in a way that will bring it into conformity with the "spirit of the times." Meanwhile, Tatarstan's first deputy mufti, Weliulla Yaqupov, opposed Khekimov's thesis, saying that an attempt made in the 18th century to reform Islam resulted in the appearance of extremist forms of the religion. "Who knows, maybe a new fruit of the reform will be even worse," Yaqupov said. He also delivered a report titled "Universalism of the Islamic Tradition in the Terms of Globalization," Tatar-inform reported on 4 October. The deputy chairman of the Muslim Religious Board of European Russia, Ferid Esedullin, also spoke against reforming Islam, and warned against the "stereotypical understanding of Islamic canons."

Tatneft Develops Cooperation With Iran
Visiting adviser to the Iranian president and chairman of the Office for Technological Cooperation, R. Sajadi, said Tatneft has good chances of becoming the first Russian company working on Iran's large oil deposits, the Tatneft press service reported on 4 October. An Iranian delegation headed by Sajadi visited Tatneft in late September and met with the company's general director, Shefeget Takhawetdinov. Speeding up bilateral cooperation and determining further avenues of cooperation were among the topics on the agenda. Tatneft has completed 11 deals worth approximately $10 million with Iranian companies over the past years.

Tatar Script Case Goes To Russian Constitutional Court...
The Russian Constitutional Court on 5 October began hearing an appeal by the Tatar State Council and Tatarstan's Supreme Court that contests federal legislation making mandatory the use of the Cyrillic script for all state languages in Russia, Tatar and Russian media reported the same day. The Tatar bodies argued that under the Russian Constitution, federation entities are empowered to decide on their own which scripts should be used in the national languages of their peoples. They insisted in the appeal that the Latin script, introduced by a 1999 republican law, correctly reflects specific Tatar sounds.

State Duma representative to the Constitutional Court Yelena Mizulina strongly criticized Tatarstan's initiatives as a "veiled refusal" to comply with the constitution and called the entire dispute "far-fetched." She said that using the Latin script would restrict the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens and that "using the Latin script will alienate Russian citizens in Tatarstan from those in the whole federation."

Mikhail Mityukov, the Russian president's representative to the court, said he believes that the regulation of state languages is not an exclusive power of federation subjects but a power shared among the federation and its entities. He said that spoken language and written language are different issues. Mityukov expressed concern that "the use of the Latin script may result in ethnic and linguistic separation among the [Tatar] people" and "may create conditions for isolation of the Republic of Tatarstan within Russia." He also added that changing the alphabet would be very expensive. The Constitutional Court will make a ruling in three to four weeks.

...While Prominent Tatars Oppose Latinization Of Language
A group of over 30 prominent Tatars published on 5 October in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" an open letter in which they opposed the Tatar language's use of the Latin script. The authors expressed concern that the move could result in a threat to the unity and integrity of the Tatar people. They asked how the retraining of Tatars to use the Latin alphabet and re-equipping of printing houses will work and predicted that the transition to a Latin script would not increase but lessen interest in the Tatar language. Robert Nigmetullin, the chairman of the Russian Academy of Sciences presidium, released on 5 October an open letter in which he warned that "departure" from the Cyrillic script at a moment when Russian spirit is at a low ebb would be seen by many Russians as an attempt by Tatars to distance themselves from Russian culture.

Speaker Comments On Tatar-Language Hearings In Constitutional Court
Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin held a press conference in Kazan on 6 October to comment on an ongoing hearing in Russia's Constitutional Court on two appeals concerning the status of Tatar, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. One of the appeals was initiated by Tatar resident Sergei Khapugin, who contested the mandatory studying of Tatar at a level equal to that of Russian by all students in Tatar secondary schools. Khapugin argued that "the forcible studying of non-native culture, including language, could lead to tension in interethnic relations."

In the second appeal, the Tatar State Council defended the republic's right to regulate the language issue on its own (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 October 2004). Mukhametshin said he asked the court to consider the two appeals separately but the court rejected his request. The speaker also said he told the court that 75 percent of the coursework included in secondary schools' curriculum is reserved for subjects mandated by the federal government, and only 10 percent is reserved for regional topics, the content of which is determined by federation subjects. Tatarstan, he said, follows these guidelines in teaching Tatar as a state language. He also said representatives of the Federal Assembly and the Russian president present at the hearing "did not find any violation regarding this."

As regards the second appeal, Mukhametshin predicted that "taking into account the discussion, the court verdict may be issued in favor of the federal law." Mukhametshin refused to specify Tatarstan's possible future steps in this respect, saying he is already often accused of trying to "pressure the Constitutional Court through the mass media."

Tatarstan Negotiating $40 Million Helicopter Deal With Venezuela
Venezuela Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said on 5 October in Moscow that his country plans to purchase from Russia a large consignment of Mi-17 helicopters for use "in guarding borders, fighting fires, and for social needs," "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 6 October. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez had said that the contract is worth $40 million. Russia's Rosoboroneksport and the Kazan Helicopter Plant (KVZ) confirmed on 5 October that they are negotiating the deal. An unidentified source at KVZ told the daily that deliveries of up to 20 aircraft are expected.

KVZ is one of Russia's leading producers of Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters. It previously delivered 16 similar aircraft to Colombia.

Parliament Committee Head Says Tatarstan To Take Latin-Script Issue To Strasbourg
State Council Culture, Science, Education, and National Issues Committee Chairman Razil Weliev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 7 October that if the Russian Constitutional Court rules that the Tatar-script issue falls within the republic's authority and not Moscow's, then Tatarstan's 1999 law on restoration of the Latin Tatar script will take force. Weliev said money for it has been allocated in the draft 2005 budget and in the State Program for Development of Languages of Tatarstan's Peoples. If the court rules that Tatarstan cannot decide on the Tatar script on its own, Tatar parliament deputies will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Shaimiev Says No Shake-Up Will Occur In Tatarstan
President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 8 October that he does not foresee any changes in Tatarstan as a result of the proposal by President Vladimir Putin to appoint the heads of territorial entities instead of letting voters elect their leaders, reported the same day. Shaimiev said he will take measures to strengthen vertical power, responsibility, and discipline at all levels of state authority. Shaimiev added that "our adherence to establishing democratic institutions, the preservation and further development of freedom of speech, and other constitutional human rights remains unshakable."

Politician Proposes Abolishing Tatarstan's Presidential Post
In an article published in "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 7 October, former State Duma and Tatarstan State Council Deputy Fendes Safiullin called for the abolishment of the presidential post in Tatarstan. Safiullin argued that the elimination of direct elections to elect Russian regional leaders directly affects Tatarstan. Safiullin added that the measure would mean not only completely dismantling Tatarstan's state sovereignty but abolishing the status of republics as it is defined in Article 5 of the Russian Constitution. Safiullin continued that a regional head appointed from above cannot be a president, in principle, as he will not be representative of a republic and its people within the Russian Federation but, on the contrary, will represent the central authority and have the status of a "colonial governor-general." A prolongation of the powers of the current Tatar president's would not change this situation, he added. Safiullin also noted that the abolition of the post in Tatarstan should in no way mean a show of distrust in President Shaimiev.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Efes To Invest $50 Million In Ufa Brewery
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov and Anadolu Group Vice President Lutfi Firat signed on 4 October in Ufa a protocol of intentions, according to which Anadolu Group and its affiliate Efes Beverage Group will invest some $50 million in the Ufa Amstar brewery, Bashinform reported the same day. During the signing, Firat expressed his hope that the volume of beer production will increase fourfold from 10 to 40 deciliters a year. Anadolu Group will be responsible for establishing and launching additional industrial capacities at Amstar. For its part, the Bashkir authorities will promote the allocation of some 11 hectares of land for the brewery. Efes Beverage Group is made up of 14 breweries, four malt factories, and nine Coca-Cola bottling factories.

Opposition Media Face Problems In Bashkortostan
Bashkortostan's last opposition newspaper, the Communist Party's "Nash vybor," has ceased publication, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 4 October. Financial troubles were cited as the reason. Meanwhile, other newspapers have suffered other problems. Tatarstan's "Zvezda Povolzhya," which was distributed in Bashkortostan, now no longer appears in the republic. Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center leader Airat Gyinietullin, who was involved in distribution of the weekly in Bashkortostan, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 4 October that Bashkortostan's postal service has been refusing for the past two or three months to deliver the newspaper. Gyinietullin said that Bashkortostan's postal service often refuses to deliver publications, usually Moscow-based, which publish critical articles about Bashkortostan.

Former Interior Ministry Official In Court
Bashkortostan's Supreme Court began hearing the case of the murder of Sibai prosecutor Khenif Qarachurin on 5 October, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 6 October. Former Sibai State Traffic Safety Inspectorate head Nuryekhmet Shagiev, who had resigned from law enforcement by the time he was arrested, is accused of organizing the murder (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 December 2003, 5 April and 30 June 2004). Another three residents of Bashkortostan are also on trial -- two are accused of the contracted murder and one of illegally selling the pistol used in the killing. They face sentences from eight years to life in prison if found guilty.

Qarachurin, 55, who had headed the Sibai prosecutor's office for a decade, was shot dead in his apartment on 23 December. Investigators believe that Shagiev paid $10,000 for Qarachurin's killing. One possibility is that Shagiev sought revenge on Qarachurin. In 2000, Qarachurin filed a criminal case against Shagiev on accusations of bribe taking and abuse of power but Shagiev was released by a court. Then unknown people set fire to Qarachurin's house and his new house under construction was also repeatedly set on fire. Qarachurin personally investigated the arson cases and told a confidant shortly before the death that the investigation was about to end. Shagiev said in court that the case was fabricated and evidence was obtained through psychological and physical pressure.

Bashkir Companies Among World's Most Profitable Chemical Firms
Salawatnefteorgsintez and Ufaorgsintez have been listed among the world's most profitable chemical companies, Bashinform reported on 5 October, citing "Profil." According to a list by the Bloomberg agency, Salawatnefteorgsintez was rated ninth in terms of operation profitability at 16 percent and Ufaorgsintez was 10th with 15 percent profitability. Twelve out of 13 of the most profitable chemical companies are in Russia.

Bashkortostan Development Strategy Proposed
A proposed long-term strategy for Bashkortostan's socioeconomic development to 2015 was presented on 6 October in Ufa, Bashinform reported the same day. The plan, developed by a group of scholars representing the Bashkir Academy of State Service and Management, Bashkortostan's Academy of Sciences, and republican universities, predicts a reduction of the share of the fuel-and-energy sector in the gross regional product (GRP) from 35.6 percent in 2002 to 11.8 percent in 2015. In the mean time, they predict the share of the machine-building and metal-working industry in GRP will grow from 17.3 percent in 2002 to 34.2 percent in 2015. According to the proposal, the fall in oil production should be compensated by an increase in production in the machine-building sector, which grew in 2001 by 26 percent, in 2002 by 21 percent, and in 2003 by 20 percent. Bashkir National Bank Chairman Rostem Mergenov, however, said it is unclear what resources would allow the implementation of this strategy, as the mechanisms proposed by the authors are insufficient to achieve the planned growth. He said one of the mechanisms capable of spurring economic development is increasing the competitiveness of the banking sector.

Tatar Delegation Joins Celebrations Of Republic Day
A Tatar delegation headed by State Council deputy Indus Tahirov left for Ufa on 7 October to continue negotiations on cultural cooperation between the two republics, RFE/RL's Ufa and Kazan correspondents reported the same day. The visitors will take part in festivities devoted to Bashkortostan's Republic Day on 11 October. The sides are scheduled to sign a plan of bilateral cooperation.

On 11 October 1990, Bashkortostan declared itself a sovereign state and a subject of the USSR and the Russian Federation.

Heineken Representatives Elected To Bashkir Brewery's Board
Four representatives of the Dutch Heineken company were elected to the board of directors of the Sterletamaq Shikhan beer and beverages factory at a shareholders meeting on 7 October, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported the next day. In August, Heineken bought the Central European Beer Company (TsEPKO), which owns 95 percent of Shikhan. Three representatives of TsEPKO and its affiliates remained on the new board. The board's new chairman will be elected in several days. Heineken owns breweries in St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Sterletamaq, and Novosibirsk. Shikhan sells its products in Bashkortostan, Samara, Perm, Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, and Surgut and holds 1.4 percent of Russia's beer market. To increase the company's market share, a new line of bottled beer will be launched by 2005.

Rakhimov Discusses Centralization Of Power
Speaking at a meeting devoted to the celebration of the 14th anniversary of the adoption of Bashkortostan's Declaration of State Sovereignty on 8 October, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said that the republic's experience was different to some other regions and "demagogues, oligarch, and semi-criminal elements have not been let into power," "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 9 October. He also said that sliding privatization and shock therapy had not taken place. Rakhimov expressed his support for all initiatives by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his measures taken to reform the political system and strengthen security. At the same time, the Bashkir president expressed his concern about the excessive concentration of financial resources in Moscow. Rakhimov made critical comments on the situation where "federal bodies in federation subjects become more numerous than regional ones, something that results in expansion of the bureaucratic staff." "We also stand for strong authority but not on the account of its strong centralization," he added.

Ufa Promotes Appointment Of Mayors
Bashkortostan's State Assembly is supporting a draft law in the State Duma that would mean mayors, as well as governors, will be appointed by the Kremlin, rather than elected, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 October. Bashkir legislators have called for the abolishment of self-government in cities and regional raions, leaving it only in villages and city raions. However, the daily cited unidentified sources in the State Duma as saying the draft will be rejected since a similar legislative initiative will likely be introduced soon by the Russian president. The newspaper also quoted State Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov as saying it will be logical if city heads are appointed as thus a unified system of executive power would be formed. The publication doubted the proposal, saying under the Russian Constitution, local self-governance is separated from the state and is not included in the system of state authority bodies.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Unified Russia Wins Marii El Parliamentary Elections
In Marii El's parliamentary elections on 10 October, Unified Russia collected 32.44 percent of the vote and won 10 mandates on the party list, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 October. Another 19 mandates were won by party candidates in single-mandate districts. Unified Russia thus will control over half of the parliament's seats. Marii El presidential administration head Dmitrii Frolov told the daily that the republic's leadership expects "full mutual understanding and constructive cooperation with the State Assembly since the so-called opposition now has neither a social basis nor real force." The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) came in second with 18.46 percent, followed by the "against all" candidate (13.61 percent). Election debutante Party of Pensioners collected 12.38 percent, while the Agrarian Party was backed by 12.17 percent of the electorate. The number of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia supporters reduced by half to 5.91 percent as compared to the December 2003 State Duma elections. Unified Russia lost 2 percent compared to the December elections, while the Communists' share of the vote grew by 4 percent.

Opposition Stages Anti-Presidential Demonstration In Nizhnii Novgorod
Several thousand people took part in anti-presidential meetings arranged by the KPRF in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast's 30 raion centers on 4 October, Nizhnii Novgorod Telegraph Agency reported on 5 October, citing KPRF Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Committee Secretary Vladislav Yegorov. Demonstrations under the slogan "No to State Terror" were staged, specifically, in Kstovo, Dzerzhinsk, Sarov, Vyksa, Kulebaki, Arzamas, Vacha, Perevoz, and other locations. The Communists called for the dismissal of the Russian president, government, and other officials incapable of "defending citizens from a new wave of terrorism and having allowed" the deaths of many people.

Orenburg Oblast's Peasants To Receive First Wage In 15 Years
Peasants of the agricultural cooperative Qizil Tang in Orenburg Oblast's Totsk Raion have been paid wages for the first time since January 1989, reported on 7 October. The move came in the wake of 39 lawsuits filed by the raion prosecutor to defend the rights of cooperative workers. The biggest sum of due money collected within 15 years totals 14,182 rubles ($485).

Court Confirms Powers Of Samara Oblast's Titov...
The Samara Lenin Raion Court has confirmed the current powers of oblast Governor Konstantin Titov and rejected a lawsuit by the Samara Oblast prosecutor's office that claimed Titov's position was illegal, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 October. The court returned the lawsuit, saying that the case is not in its competence. The oblast prosecutor's office insisted that the current gubernatorial term has expired, since the 2000 amendment to the oblast charter extending it to five years does not apply to Titov. The prosecutor's office said it will appeal the decision in the oblast court. The oblast court fixed a date of 19 September for gubernatorial elections but the Russian Supreme Court on 27 September annulled the decision and returned the case for a new hearing.

...As TsIK Dissolves Oblast Election Body
The Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) has annulled its July decision on the formation of a provisional election commission in Samara Oblast, reported on 8 October. The measure came in the wake of the 27 September verdict by the Russian Supreme Court annulling the ruling by the Samara court scheduling gubernatorial elections for 19 September.

Sverdlovsk Oblast's Ethnic Minorities Complain Of Discrimination
Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) representatives, Rudolf Bindig and David Atkinson, visited Yekaterinburg on 9-10 October to prepare a report on Russia's fulfillment of its obligations it took when joining the Council of Europe, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 October. At a meeting with members of the oblast's national cultural autonomies, representatives of Tajik, Azerbaijani, and Bashkir communities cited cases of being detained in airports, searches, and police harassment. Women complained it was difficult to appear in the street in national dress.

Lack Of Heating Causes Five Deaths In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Five residents of Artemovskii, a town in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, died as their apartments were without heat, Novyi region reported on 7 October. All were drunk upon death, although alcohol poisoning was ruled out as the cause of death. The heating supply has been cut off in Artemovskii because of residents' excessive debts to energy suppliers.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova