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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 22, 2002

22 February 2002
Tatarstan's Media Explores Passports Issue
Some of Tatarstan's media, including Efir TV of Kazan and "Konets Nedely" weekly, have this week featured reports devoted to the right of republican residents to demand that their new Russian passports not contain special pages with state symbols of their republic and notes in Tatar language. According to a previous agreement between Russian presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, Sergei Kirienko, and the republic's government, such pages will be inserted only at the passport holder's request.

Efir TV and "Konets Nedely" focused on the difficulty of obtaining passports without the Tatar inlay, claiming that interior bodies in many Russian regions were unaware of their existence and tended to detain the bearers of "strange passports." Tatarstan's militia confirmed the problem and instructed traveling residents of Tatarstan to stay calm and tell the Russian militia that the extra pages were agreed on with special bodies of federal government.

Despite the high media profile of the issue, only 213 Tatarstan residents have so far claimed and received passports without the Tatar inlay -- while 700,000 people have received new documents. A total of 3.9 million new passports are to be distributed in the republic by the deadline of 31 December 2003.

Paper Slams Tatarstan State TV, Radio Chief
The "Zvezda Povolzhya" weekly on 21 February reported that the head of Tatarstan state TV and radio, Ilshat Aminov, so far has proven to be an ineffective manager, failing to win audience share for state TV despite extensive financial support from the republican budget. The paper said Aminov did better when working for the privately owned Efir TV but then became an "average-level functionary" when he began working for the state, adding that Aminov owned 50 percent of Efir's shares. "Zvezda" also said Aminov has a chance to regain his professional skills after he becomes head of Tatarstan New Century satellite TV (TNC), sponsored by Tatar American Investments and Finance group.

Tatarstan's state TV is reportedly preparing for a split involving division of equipment, property, and staff, which will result in a Tatarstan branch of Russian State TV and the republic's own TV channel -- TNC, which is currently test broadcasting.

The weekly suggested that Aminov's ineffectiveness in his post can be explained by his growing "loyalty" to Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov, who is supported by Efir TV, rather than to Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev.

New Constitutional Draft To Be Discussed By March
The State Council's Culture, Education, and Ethnic Issues Commission, which includes major personalities from the Tatar intelligentsia, has the most cautious viewpoint regarding the new draft of the Tatarstan Constitution compared to other parliamentary commissions, "Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly reported on 22 February. Commission Chairman Razil Valeev told the weekly that he "was expecting a worse draft than it really turned out to be," suggesting he thought the document would involve more limitations on Tatarstan's state status. Commission member, academician, and World Tatar Congress Chairman Indus Tahirov expressed a slightly different viewpoint, saying the draft should not contain any stipulations of the republic's being Russia's territorial entity except one article stating Tatarstan is "associated with the Russian Federation." The current draft characterizes Tatarstan's status as "a state united with the Russian Federation." Tahirov added that the new constitution should be also offered for a republic-wide referendum, like the first constitution adopted in 1992. The broader public will reportedly be allowed to offer its opinion on the draft after it passes its first reading in the State Council's plenary session, where debate will begin on 28 February.

Communists Complain That Tatar Prosecutors Exceed Powers
The Russian State Duma deputy from Tatarstan, Communist Aleksandr Saliy, appealed to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on 19 February, complaining that Tatarstan prosecutors ordered subordinates in cities and regions of the republic to "check the use of legislation on public organizations and political parties." Saliy believes this is an infringement on the powers of the Justice Ministry. The Chistopol Prosecutor-General's Office reportedly requested that the local Communist Party branch present a list of its members to ensure it was not recruiting minors into its ranks. A federal law on political parties empowers the Justice Ministry to monitor the operations of public and political organizations.

Kurban Bayram Celebrated In Tatarstan
President Mintimer Shaimiev and Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman Iskhakov greeted the republic's Muslim community in connection with the Kurban Bayram holiday, celebrated on 22 February, reminding believers that this holiday together with other postulates of Islam, promotes tolerance and respect for people of other faiths and nationalities. On the morning of 22 February, Iskhakov participated in the Gayit Namaz ceremonial prayer at the Bolgar mosque in Kazan, an event that was broadcast by Tatarstan state television.

Tatarstan Seeks Environmental Consultations With Moscow
Tatarstan's Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources will be merged with the republican branch of Russia's Natural Resources Committee, Tatar media reported on 19 February. President Mintimer Shaimiev recently met the Russian minister of natural resources, Vitalii Atyukhov, in Moscow to discuss the issue and ways for improving Tatar laws regulating the use of natural resources.

Orthodox Leader Decries UNESCO Sign On Church
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Tatarstan, Archbishop Anastasii of Kazan and Tatarstan, informed visitors to the website on 18 February that Kazan city officials decided to decorate a church at the Kazan Kremlin with a UNESCO logo without consulting church leaders. Anastasii said this decision was "absurd," adding that officials disagreed on replacing the logo with a cross or any other Orthodox Christian sign.

Government To Concentrate Efforts To Aid Private Business
Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Valeeva told RIA-Novosti on 16 February that Tatarstan's government expects small and mid-sized businesses to contribute a 30-40 percent share to the republican budget in the future. She said government policies will gradually switch their focus from defense industry plants, oil and chemistry giants, and automotive industries to small and medium-sized privately owned ventures. Federal authorities reportedly have decided to use Tatarstan's private-businesses development program in other regions of Russia and, beginning from 2006, it is to be launched in all territorial entities.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Constitution Debate Likely To Continue For Some Time
The head of the chief state judicial board within Bashkortostan's presidential administration, Mars Abubakirov, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 17 February that trials on the republican constitution will likely continue for some time. Specifically, lawyers representing the president and parliament are debating with Bashkortostan Prosecutor Jevdet Turumtaev the power of the republic's president to declare emergencies, he said.

War Of Words Over Alleged Aims Of Census
"Watandash" magazine in January published an article by an American political researcher, Khafiz Malik, titled "The Awakening Of Bashkir Patriotism." The piece asserts that Bashkirs are concerned over "relations with Tatars who threaten the Bashkir culture, language, and faith." Malik claims that Tatars assimilate Bashkirs and wonders why Bashkortostan's Tatars demand official-language status for Tatar, which is very close to Bashkir.

The same issue of "Watandash" also published a speech by Niyaz Mazhitov, the chairman of the Bashkir World Congress' Executive Committee, saying "Mishers" are not Tatars but an ethnographic group within the Bashkir people. Mazhitov claimed that in the raions neighboring Tatarstan, Mishers are erroneously called Tatars. He said in the republic's northwestern raions, the Tatar language began to be taught in place of the Bashkir language in the late 1980s. The magazine notes that teaching Bashkir was forcibly introduced in those raions in the late 1970s. The author said the main aim of preparations for the census is explaining to "untrue" Tatars that they are in fact Bashkirs.

Political scientist Ildus Ileshev wrote in the same issue of "Watandash" that "equalizing the number of Bashkirs with that of Tatars is a strategic aim of the census." He said if the number of Bashkirs declines or remains unchanged in the census, then the political tensions in the republic will be heightened.

Meanwhile, Bashkortostan TV on 12 February showed a meeting of schoolchildren in the heavily Tatar Yangawil Raion's village of Kisek Qaen in which children are told that they are Bashkirs.

Tatar Public Movements Establish Body To Monitor Census...
Some of Bashkortostan's Tatar national organizations have designated a staff to monitor the course and results of the upcoming census, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 19 February. Member Tahir Zubairov told RFE/RL that the staff is intended to prevent falsification, along with attempts to divide Tatars or to register them as Bashkirs.

...And To Distribute Tatar Press
Poet Radik Nuretdinov, a resident of the Bashkortostan city of Birsk, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service on 20 February that a policy of exclusion of the Tatar language from schools, radio, and TV by republican authorities deeply concerns Tatars living in Bashkortostan. He said that constant efforts are made to understate the official number of Tatars, and that distribution of Tatar media is prevented in the republic. He added that Tatar public activists have begun creating an alternative network for distributing Tatar press and books.

Imports Up, Exports Down
Roughly 40 percent of the republic's industrial production is bound for export, and exports provide one-third of the gross regional product, Bashinform reported on 13 February, quoting the Foreign Relations and Trade Ministry. Exports totaled $2.2 billion in 2001, 14 percent less the previous year's level. Raw materials dominate exports, and the decrease was blamed on low oil prices. Imports grew by 7 percent to $300 million. Foreign-trade turnover with former Soviet republics grew, while that with states further abroad declined. Bashkortostan has the eighth-largest export volume in Russia and is 23rd in import volumes.

Housing Construction Effort Hailed
"Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 16 February reported that 1.1 million square meters of housing have been constructed since 1997 in Bashkortostan under the republican housing construction program. Some 5,000 apartments are constructed annually, with 14,000 families reportedly improving their living conditions over the period. The paper asserted that the figures were a unique result among federative entities.

Charity Organization Plans To Educate Prisoners
The center for the rehabilitation of prisoners and ex-prisoners has launched a non-profit project to provide correspondence courses for convicts, Bashinform reported on 14 February. Project head Ilgiz Sadykov said initiators plan to establish a group of 40 prisoners who wish to receive such an education -- which is not free of charge -- and have already identified 90 interested people. The project costs some 29,500 euros, 9,000 euros of which is planned to be invested by backers, Sadykov said.

Demographic Growth Reported
Rashida Sultanova, the head of the registry offices board, said on 15 February that the demographic situation has been improving over the past two years in Bashkortostan. In 2001, 42,832 babies were born in the republic, more than the previous year. A growth in the birth rate took place in 23 raions and 18 cities and urban areas. Still, she said, in some raions mortality rates are up to 45 percent higher than birth rates. In Ufa, deaths exceeded births by some 30 percent. The number of deaths in accidents increased by 14 percent, while 2,478 residents committed suicide. The marriage rate increased by 11 percent to 29,977, while the divorce rate grew by 19 percent to 19,409.

Air Pollution Increases
The State Environmental Protection Committee said on 14 February that 1.2 million tons of airborne waste was produced in the republic in 2001, Bashinform reported. The volume of waste produced by the industrial and consumer sectors increased by 1 percent to 23 million tons, the body said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Cheboksary Mayor Resigns Again
Cheboksary Mayor Anatolii Igumnov has offered his resignation, reported on 15 February. His deputy, Leonid Shimin, was appointed acting administration head. A month earlier, Igumnov made a similar declaration, saying his decision was due to the low support for Nikolai Fedorov in the presidential elections in Cheboksary. At that time, Fedorov said he had not exerted any pressure on Igumnov but was apparently satisfied, the agency said. However, Igumnov soon changed his decision, referring to numerous citizens' requests.

Corruption In Educational Institutions Grows in Mordovia
Mordovia's Prosecutor Sergei Kudeneev told reporters that the bribery rate in the educational sector grew in 2001 by 109 percent, reported on 17 February. He said that "widespread corruption in educational institutions causes great indignation" among local residents, adding that law enforcement bodies are going to strengthen their fight against criminality in the educational sector.

Seven Percent Of Draftees In Mordovia Have Criminal Records
Mordovia's Enlistment Office said 7 percent of draftees called up for military service in 2001 had previous convictions, reported on 16 February. Office representatives said only 12 percent of all draftees in the republic were called up, adding that only 35 percent of draftees are healthy enough to serve in the army.

Hearings Detail Official Corruption In Nizhnii, Marii El
A high level of corruption in the state and municipal bodies of the Volga federal district was reported at anticorruption hearings in Nizhnii Novgorod, the local telegraph agency reported on 14 February. Experts questioned listed the Interior Affairs Board, customs, enlistment offices, the city administration, the Traffic Safety Board, administrations of higher educational institutions, and tax bodies as the most corrupt offices in Nizhnii Novgorod. In Marii El, the Traffic Safety Board, heads of military units, the State Property Committee, heads of regional banks and higher educational institutions, the Yoshkar-Ola Prosecutor's Office, and customs top the list of most corruption official bodies.

Court Announces Alternative Civil Service Illegal
A Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast court on 15 February announced invalid and abolished an alternative civil service experiment being held in the city, "Kommersant" reported the next day. Prosecutors said the city mayor has exceeded his powers by launching the alternative service, as the procedure was not allowed by federal legislation. However, a mayoral representative argued in the court that the right of civil service is provided by the Russian Constitution. They added that the first detachment of civil servicemen was formed by the decision of the city enlistment office rather than by mayoral resolution, and that the enlistment office move had not encountered protests.

On 16 January, a Nizhnii Novgorod raion court rejected a similar challenge by prosecutors against alternative service.

Forum Discusses Ways To Employ, Educate Roma
An international seminar discussed the integration of Roma communities in contemporary society in Samara, Russian agencies reported. The civil rights, social and civil defense of Roma were on the agenda of the forum organized by the Romany organization Romani Duma and the Volga Humanitarian Fund with the support of the Samara Oblast authorities. Participants discussed ways of employment and education of Roma, whose traditional sectors of activity are drug trafficking and begging. Representatives of Roma communities from Central and Eastern Europe, the CIS countries, and the Baltic states attended.

Udmurtia's Constitution Harmonized
The Udmurtia State Council passed amendments to the republic's constitution to harmonize it with federal legislation, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 February. Paragraphs on the president, government, State Council, and deputies were changed. Specifically, the interior affairs minister will be appointed without the agreement of the republic's leader and the president will be unable to contest in the Russian Constitution Court resolutions by the republican government and parliament, or to appoint members of the republican electoral committee.

Government To Promote Aircraft Production, Leasing
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 19 February in Ulyanovsk that the government will promote aircraft leasing, including that of the Ulyanovsk-produced Tu-203, RIA-Novosti reported. Kasyanov said production of 4 to 6 Tu-204 annually should be arranged to replace Russia's outdated middle-distance air fleet. In 2002, production of 20 such aircraft could be begun, he said.

Chechen War Veterans From Marii El Cannot Receive Money Due
Valentina Kozhevnikova, the leader of the Marii El Soldiers' Mothers Committee, said 116 veterans of the North Caucasus military operations had appealed in the past two years to the committee to help them obtain money owed them. Kozhevnikova said her committee often is unable to help many of them despite repeated trips to Chechnya.

Perm Journalist Questioned By Military Prosecutors
Nina Shafutdinova, a reporter with "Permskiye novosti," was invited to the military prosecutors' office of the Perm garrison to testify on her publication about "dedovshchina" in a local military unit that resulted in the suicide of a serviceman, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 20 February. Shafutdinova told the agency that she links the move against her to "the case of Colonel Danilov" she referred to in her article. Last fall, two servicemen sued Perm Oblast Commissioner Yevgenii Danilov for beating them.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova