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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 2, 2003

2 September 2003
Tatar Official Says Russian Government's Support For Domestic Air Industries Insufficient
Nazir Kireev, the adviser to Tatarstan's prime minister on issues of machinery, defense industries, and conversion, told "Vechernyaya Kazan" in an interview published on 26 August that despite the wide choice of domestically produced aircraft presented at the recent Moscow International Air Show at Zhukovskii airfield, Russia's major airline, Aeroflot, demonstrated no interest in buying them. He said that Aeroflot's recent decision to purchase 18 airliners from Europe's Airbus and five from Boeing for a total of some $600 million violated the country's economic interests, because that money would be sufficient to design a number of new models of domestically made aircraft. He added that the Russian government approved the deal and freed the imported aircraft from customs taxes.

Kireev added that during the air show he heard federal officials say the 2004 state budget will reduce support for civilian aircraft producers from $100 million to $80 million.

'Baptized Tatars' Union Seeks Independent Status For Its People...
The interregional Union of Kryashen (Baptized Tatar) ethnic-cultural organizations appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin in seeking a separate ethnic status from Tatars, Interfax reported on 25 August. The letter reportedly claims that "Tatarstan's nationalist and chauvinist forces have been and are resuming to create obstacles for the implementation of the Kryashen people's will by stating that Kryashens are baptized Tatars and their desire for self-determination is provoked by Moscow." The union has also asked for "intercession" by the patriarch of Russia's Orthodox Church, Aleksii II, referring to the "open appeals to Kryashens urging them to reject Orthodoxy and adopt Islam."

The statement seems to have the backing of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who's representative told Interfax that Kryashens "had never practiced Islam and adopted Orthodoxy to replace heathenism [at the same time as] the people of ancient Russia." Meanwhile, Tatar ethnology researchers consider that Kryashens, which is the Tatar translation of the word "Baptized," emerged as a result of both the forcible and economic conversion of Tatars from Islam to Orthodoxy in the 16th century after the conquest of the Kazan khanate by Russian troops.

Roman Silantiev, representative of the Moscow Oblast's Orthodox cleric, told Interfax in the same interview that the Russian Orthodox Church supports the Kryashens' aspiration to obtain the status of a separate people.

...As Kazan Kryashen Community Head Denies Knowledge About The Move
In an interview with "Vremya i Dengi" published on 27 August, Gennadii Makarov, the head of the Kazan Kryashen community, said that he was not aware of the aforementioned appeal to Putin and "thought that the emergence of this document is explained by some underwater political streams on the eve of Republic Day celebrations [on 30 August] in Tatarstan."

However, he noted that the cultural needs of "Baptized Tatars" in the republic are not being satisfied in full. Makarov said, "we share the same roots with Tatars, but we have different cultural models."

Kazan Aircraft Plant To Remain On The 'Survivors List' Of Russia's Air Industries
The Russian minister of industry, science and technologies, Ilya Klebanov, told Ekho Moskvy radio on 25 August that "in the most recent perspective only three aviation plants will [remain] engaged in civilian aircraft production." The list reportedly includes the aircraft plants in Voronezh, Ulyanovsk, and the KAPO imeni Gorbunova in Kazan. He said that since "it is very expensive to maintain numerous competing aircraft producers," by 2005 the Russian aircraft industry will be one or two holdings that include all of the Russian aircraft companies.

Presidential Adviser Bewildered By Move Of Kryashen Organizations Union
Tatar presidential adviser Refeil Khekimov in an interview with Interfax on 26 August commented on the recent appeal of the Interregional Union of Kryashen National-Cultural Organizations to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksii II to grant Baptized Tatars the status of a "separate" ethnic group from the Tatar nation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 27 August 2003). Khekimov said: "Kryashens are the same as Tatars, but they are baptized ones. Tatar language and Tatar culture are native to them. Kryashens, especially in the rural areas, speak exclusively pure literary Tatar without dialects or accents." He emphasized that "many of the Kryashens don't know Russian or can hardly speak it." Khekimov also noted that Baptized Tatars have their own Orthodox churches, but services are held in Tatar. They use Tatar translations of the Bible and the Gospel.

Khekimov added that "the religious factor cannot serve as grounds for claims for defining Kryashens as a separate people. The [people's] culture and the language are the main criteria in this issue." He added that "by the 20th century, Tatars reached such a model of a nation which excludes the religious factor as forming an ethnic group.... Kryashens occupy high-ranking positions in the Tatarstan Republic, they are widely represented in the social, political, scientific, and cultural life and feel themselves equal among equals."

Khekimov also said that it's the official republican government's position that Kryashens have same rights as Russians, Tatars, Armenians, and other peoples living in the republic."

Moscow Researcher Says Unified Russia Maintains Unrivaled Ratings In Tatarstan
Dmitrii Olshanskii, head of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Analysis and Prognosis, told a press conference on 27 August that the top five most popular political parties in Tatarstan were Unified Russia, the Communist Party, the Union of Rightist Forces, Yabloko, and the People's Party. Behind them in the popularity stakes are the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the Agrarian Party, the Russian United Industrial Party, and the Pensioners' Party. Olshanskii emphasized that Unified Russia remained the most popular party in the republic. The Communists, he said, suffer from poor media coverage, lacking financial resources, and an uncreative leadership. Olshanskii said that the upcoming December elections for the Russian State Duma will not be a crucial turning point in the country's political life. According to Olshanskii, Unified Russia, which is expected to gain an overwhelming victory, will take on "the important mission of putting an end to revolution in the country." He also said that the party's leader, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, could soon be replaced with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev or Tuva Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev.

Turkish Finance Minister Promotes Bilateral Investments
Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan on 29-30 August visited Kazan and discussed mutual investment projects in Turkey and Tatarstan, reported. On 29 August, Unakitan met behind closed doors with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and held talks with Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov. At a press conference following the meeting with Shaimiev, Unakitan said that Tatarstan, which exports 3.5 million tons of oil a year to Turkey, could take part in the privatization of petrochemical companies in Turkey. In Tatarstan, he said, joint Turkish-Tatar ventures on the production of construction materials could be established. Unakitan also said that Minnikhanov is scheduled to visit Turkey in the near future. He said that he had agreed with the Tatar leaders that bilateral trade turnover is to be doubled.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Russia's Oil Industries Get New Tax Inspector
Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev on 27 August appointed Andrei Fedotov as head of the department responsible for taxes paid by major oil companies, the "Kommersant" daily wrote the next day. Bukaev was the former head of the ministry's department responsible for taxes paid by major transportation companies. The daily suggested that this appointment came as a reward for Fedotov's three-month long mission in Bashkortostan. He is said to have "reestablished the tax vertical" after the Tax Ministry's branch in Bashkortostan refused to force the repayment of some $400 million in taxes owed by Bashkir oil refineries, which attempted to evade taxes by registering their facilities in the Baykonur offshore zone in Kazakhstan.

Fire Damages Printing Shop Used By Opposition Press
Unidentified arsonists set alight a printing workshop in Zlatoust, Chelyuabinsk Oblast, which has been printing opposition newspapers banned in neighboring Bashkortostan, the "Rossiiskie Vesti" daily wrote on 28 August. The fire reportedly destroyed two new printing machines installed the day before the arson.

LDPR's Mitrofanov Still Uncertain About Running For President
Russian State Duma deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (ultra-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), who is currently visiting Bashkortostan, told reporters on 28 August that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov "should be inspired by the example of Boris Yeltsin, who voluntarily applied for retirement in December 1999," Rosbalt reported the same day. He said that during his meetings with Bashkortostan's residents he had heard such suggestions "many times." Mitrofanov confirmed his plans to run for the Bashkir presidency in December, although he also said that his party could put him forward for the seat of Moscow mayor.

Communist Deputy Cites Legal Violations In Privatization Of State Property...
The Russian State Duma deputy representing Bashkortostan, Valentin Nikitin (Communist), told Rosbalt on 23 August that the republic's state-owned industries "are being sold parliamentary deputies and the public remain unaware who, on what conditions, and for how much the state, that is the people's property, is being sold [for]." He referred to some cases when the Bashkir Property Affairs Ministry "underestimated" the actual price of state ventures undergoing privatization. Nikitin used the example of the Karlaman sugar plant, which was sold to a St. Petersburg-based firm for $500,000 and later resold for some $33 million. The deputy said that he would demand official comments from the Bashkir Property Affairs Ministry on each of the dubious privatization cases.

...Says That Votes Will Be Hard Won
Nikitin also told Rosbalt that the Bashkir Communists will put forward candidates in each of the six voting districts in the republic during this year's elections for the Russian State Duma. Eight Communist candidates will reportedly seek election, partially in the single-mandate districts and partially according to the party lists. He noted that his party "would manage" to gather the 10,000 people necessary for sending observers to monitor the elections

Unified Russia Pledges Ideological Backing For Rakhimov
The Bashkir branch of the Unified Russia party has said it intends to counter recent media reports in the local and federal opposition press that have put the republic in a bad light in the run-up to December elections, Rosbalt reported on 27 August citing a speech of Unified Russia secretary Mansur Ayupov at a meeting of party activists in Ufa. Ayupov warned his supporters that PR consultants hired by President Rakhimov's rivals "will pick you to pieces, stir up everything that has been done in the last 12 years, and even try to make zombies out of you." The regional branch of Unified Russia claims more than 12,000 members in 69 cities and regions of the republic; analysts estimate that a further 16,000 people support the party.

Russian Federation Council And State Duma Members Pledge Support For Polief Project
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met with Vladimir Gusev, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council's Economic Policy, Entrepreneurship, and Property Committee, and State Duma Deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov in Ufa on 25 August, to discuss a wide range of issues relating to Bashkortostan's economy, the presidential press service reported the next day. The discussion reportedly focused on the current situation at the Polief chemical plant, which plans a major sell-off of its shares to attract "serious investments." Ryzhkov told the Bashkir president that they have noticed significant improvements at the plant, "which is able to bring billions of rubles in profits to the country's economy." He said that "we are glad that the republic is investing enormous funds into the plant's construction but the republic will not be able to cope with such a project alone." Ryzhkov and Gusev pledged their support for obtaining extra investment in the project.

Greenpeace Highlights Environmental Violations At Yumagizin Reservoir
The construction of the Yumaguzin Reservoir is violating Russia's environmental laws, Rosbalt reported on 25 August, citing Mikhail Kneidlin, an activist from the Russian branch of Greenpeace. Kneidlin told a press conference in Nizhnii Novgorod that an inspection of the construction site by the Russian Natural Resources Ministry on 31 July-6 August "proved [the ministry's] absolute inability and unwillingness to effectively prevent and eliminate the most blatant and evident violations of environmental laws." The inspection, according to Kneidlin, failed to estimate the damage to the nature reserves in the construction area and the damage inflicted on areas of forest and rare animal species. After the construction is complete, several nature reserves will be flooded.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Muslim Cemetery Desecrated In Chelyabinsk
The Muslim cemetery near the Ismagil Mosque in Chelyabinsk was desecrated on 27 August, Uralinformbyuro reported the next day. Ural-Press-Inform reported on 29 August, citing RFE/RL, that several graves were destroyed and swastikas and calls for attacks against Muslims were painted on many of graves. RFE/RL cited a representative of the Chelyabinsk police as saying that the action was likely committed by local skinheads.

OSCE Protests Imprisonment Of Chelyabinsk Journalist
The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) media freedom's office, Freimut Duve, sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to appeal a verdict that convicted Chelyabinsk journalist German Galkin to a one-year sentence of hard labor (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 26 August 2003), reported on 28 August. Duve said he is afraid of the consequences of this verdict for the future of independent journalism in Russia. He further said that the OSCE believes that no journalist can be sentenced to jail for something he or she has reported. "In democratic conditions, journalists' professional duties include reporting about activities of those who work in a state and public sphere," he said, adding that "officials should not be given a special defense and they should be more tolerant toward criticism than ordinary people." The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has also protested the verdict against Galkin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 26 August 2003).

National-Bolsheviks Call For Expertise In Determining If Party Symbols Are Too 'Nazi'
The secretary of the National-Bolshevik Party in Nizhnii Novgorod, Dmitrii Yelkin, demanded that a heraldic test be held to determine if the party's official symbols resemble Nazi symbols and added that the Russian presidential Heraldic Council take part in the test, reported on 27 August. During a party meeting in Nizhnii Novgorod on 26 June, Yelkin was detained by police on the accusation of holding a meeting that displays symbols that can be confused with Nazi symbols. A Nizhnii Novgorod raion court has ruled that the symbols of the National-Bolshevik Party are similar to Nazi symbols but the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Court overturned the verdict and returned the case to the raion court.

One-Hundred Kilos Of Heroin Confiscated
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) together with the Kazakh National Security Committee seized 108 kilograms of heroin on the Russian-Kazakh border in Orenburg Oblast, reported on 26 August. The narcotic was being transported in a KamAZ truck filled with onion sacks. The head of the FSB's Orenburg Oblast Directorate, Yevgenii Ivliev, said the heroin has a street value of some $1 million. Directorate representatives also said that evidence of Afghan drug producers was discovered. Four drug traffickers were arrested and are under investigation, "Samara segodnya" reported on 29 August.

Fire On Oil Tanker Kills One, Causes $5 Million Damage In Samara Oblast
A fire that began in the early morning of 30 August on the oil tanker "Viktoriya," which was carrying 2,000 tons of oil near Oktyabrsk in Samara Oblast, was contained by 1 September, Russian agencies reported the same day, citing Samara Oblast Deputy Governor Viktor Kazakov. One tanker sailor died and two firemen were injured during the fire that caused $5 million in damage. The oil that leaked into the Volga River formed an 80-meter-wide and 1-kilometer-long spill. Kazakov said on 1 September that an environmental disaster was prevented and the rest of the oil containers were not punctured and present no threat. He added that there is no longer any threat to residents in Oktyabrsk or the nearby territories. He also said that work on absorbing the leaked oil are ongoing.

RNE Says Putin Plans To Bring U.S. Troops Into Russia
Thousands of Yekaterinburg residents found leaflets in their mailboxes on 1 September from the radical nationalist organization Russian National Unity (RNE), headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, which reported that President Vladimir Putin intends to bring some U.S. troops into Russia to guard strategic nuclear facilities, "Novyi Region" reported the same day. According to the leaflet, Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush signed a secret agreement in April on controlling the spread of nuclear arms and agreed to jointly guard Russia's strategic military potential. The leaflet goes on to say that the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces opposes the move and has reportedly prevented the official signing of the document, said to have been initially slated for 31 May in St. Petersburg. The authors of the leaflet claim that large financial groups controlling the export of raw materials from Russia and who are interested in international guarantees of stability for Russia promoted the measure. The signing of the agreement was purportedly postponed until 18 September when Putin is scheduled to visit the United States. To prepare public opinion for the signing, the leaflet claims, a plan is afoot to fake terrorist acts in several cities by Chechen rebels in order to provoke mass protests against people from the Caucasus region.

Volga District Entities Get Subsidies From Moscow
Six regions of the Volga Federal District were included on the list of 33 federation entities that faced a budget deficit in the first six months of the year and were therefore allocated subsidies from the federal budget, the Nizhnii Novgorod news service reported on 27 August. To compensate for the losses the regions experienced because of changing budget and tax legislation, the Republic of Marii El will be provided with 57.1 million rubles, Udmurtia will get 113.3 million rubles, the Kirov Oblast will receive 119.3 million rubles, the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast gets 193.7 million rubles, the Penza Oblast 79.8 million rubles, and the Ulyanovsk Oblast 75.2 million rubles. The federal budget allocated a total of 4 billion rubles for this aim.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova