Accessibility links

Breaking News

Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 15, 2002

15 March 2002
Watan Party Activists Demonstrate Against Chechen War...
Seven activists from the People's-Democratic Party Watan and the Revolution-Contact Association staged a picket in Moscow's Pushkin Square on 8 March to call for a peaceful solution to the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported. Picketers held slogans such as "Genocide begun by Josef Stalin continues," "Down with the war, soldiers must be sent home," and "Down with the Russian occupation of Chechnya" and demanded an immediate halt to military actions in the republic. The agency quoted Ildus Khairullin from the Watan Party saying that "while the senseless war in Chechnya continues taking away lives from both Russian soldiers and the peaceful Chechen population, neither Tatars nor Russians nor representatives of other nationalities can remain indifferent."

...As Aushev Says Tatar President Might Mediate Peace Talks
In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 March, Ingushetia's former president and the republic's representative to the Federation Council, Ruslan Aushev, suggested that Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev be asked to mediate peace talks between Moscow and Chechnya in case such talks are held. Aushev said other regional leaders as well as new Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov can be also attracted. Aushev noted that any political model, including the one used to settle relations between Tatarstan and Moscow, might suit the existing situation �- if only talks are not made a show in advance.

Deputy Calls For Referendum On Key Issues Of Constitution...
In an article published in "Shehri Qazan" on 6 March, the head of the State Council's commission on culture, science, education, and national issues, Razil Valeev, said the new version of the Tatarstan Constitution appears to be "better than we expected." Valeev said republican leaders have done everything possible to maintain the constitution's backbone, including republican citizenship, dual state languages, and a requirement that presidential candidates speak both state languages. However, Valeev said he has neither the moral nor the legal right to revise paragraph 61of the former constitution, which defined Tatarstan to be a sovereign state and a subject of international law �- principles that enjoyed approval in a republican referendum. He stressed that the paragraph should be either maintained or voted on in a new referendum.

Valeev said Russian authorities during their two-year struggle against national republics have been insisting that Tatarstan is an integral part of Russia. But at the same time, he added, they do not trust the republic. He stressed that a ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court annulling republican sovereignty cannot be considered legal, as the right of sovereignty was approved in a Tatarstan referendum and the court does not have power to tread on the right of an entire people.

...As Another Deputy Promotes Democratic Reforms In Tatarstan
State Council Deputy Yusup Yakubov wrote in "Vostochnyi ekspress" on 8 March that a significant portion of Tatarstan residents do not fear Russian authoritarianism but rather support President Vladimir Putin's policy to limit republican rights. Yakubov said the reason for the phenomena is the fact that they do not view Tatarstan's state-political order as a democratic one and do not consider advantages of sovereignty as the general welfare but rather of people close to authorities. The deputy said democratic reforms in the republic are not carried out voluntarily but are forced by Moscow's political will, adding that democratic reforms provide the only possible solution for the crisis the republic is experiencing. He called on President Mintimer Shaimiev to use his "great political authority" to reform the system of authority in order to meet the interests of ordinary people rather than of privileged persons. He suggested that more powers be transferred from ministries to local administrations and authority bodies at all levels within the republic be given broader powers. Yakubov called for the establishment of a balance between all branches of power, decentralization of state power, elections for city mayors next fall, and the promotion of public control over authorities.

Tatneft Unable To Finance Construction Of Tuben Kama Refinery
Tatneft will be unable to invest the necessary funds into the construction of the Tuben Kama oil refinery (NNPZ) due to the fall in world oil prices, quoted Tatarstan Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister Sergei Kogogin as saying on 12 March. The NNPZ construction project is expected to cost more than $1 billion and has been promoted by Tatneft and the Tatar government as a way to overcome troubles with sales of high-sulfur oil mined in Tatarstan. In 2001, Tatneft purchased 63 percent of the plant's shares and has invested 5 billion rubles ($161 million) in the construction of a facility to produce bitumen. However, the company does not have the more than $800 million needed for the development of a processing complex to be finished in 2006, Kogogin said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Presidential Defends Treatment Of Non-Bashkirs
A number of Bashkortostan press outlets reprinted a 2 March interview with President Murtaza Rakhimov by the Russian national daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda," RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 10 March. The interview, entitled "We Are All Aboriginal In This Land," was reminiscent of a presidential campaign speech rather than a newspaper article. In it, Rakhimov disagreed with accusations by some critics that Bashkirs are given top priority compared to other ethnic groups in the republic. He rebutted such statements by saying that government posts are equally divided between ethnic Russians, Tatars and Bashkirs. In the president's words, 45 percent of immigrants from former Soviet republics to Bashkortostan have been ethnic Tatars, a quarter Russian, and just 16 percent ethnic Bashkirs.

...As Preparations For Census Become Key Media Topic
According to RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 2 March, Bashkortostan's media are thoroughly refocused from issues of federalism and state-building in Russia to preparations for the national census slated for October. Many articles and TV reports are dedicated to the importance of active participation in the event and "reminding" the population about the growing Bashkir population in the republic. In an effort to convince the Tatar population in Bashkortostan that their forefathers were Bashkir, local press recently published an article by historian Salavat Gallyamov, who claimed that Bashkir historical roots date back to ancient Indian civilization, also suggesting an Aryan origin of the Bashkir people.

'Moscow Times' On Census Prospects For Bashkortostan
"The Moscow Times" English-language weekly published an article on 11 March reporting that -- for populations in ethnic republics like Bashkortostan -- it will be harder to answer the future census poll questionnaire because there are three major nationalities and two state languages there. The paper quoted Bashkortostan's state statistics committee chairman, Ekram Ganiev, as saying that the 1989 census figures showing that there are 1.5 million Russians, 1.12 million Tatars, and 800,000 Bashkirs in the republic "are no longer correct." He said he cannot say how many representatives of each nationality reside in Bashkortostan.

Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Zufer Yenikeev told the paper that, unlike with other multi-ethnic regions of Russia, government posts in Bashkortostan are not proportionally distributed among the representatives of the main ethnic groups. In his words, many of the republic's residents will register themselves and their children as Bashkir in the upcoming census to "obtain more social benefits in the future, but this is wrong." [Editor's note: "The Moscow Times" quotes were translated from Russian sources.]

Paper's Effort To Boost Bashkir Population Falls Flat
Bashkortostan's "Yashlek" Bashkir youth newspaper has failed to receive any birth certificates for a lottery announced for its readers in December, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 11 March. The paper pledged valuable prizes for Bashkir families who have newborn children to promote "a natural way to increase the Bashkir population." After no letters with the required copies of children's birth certificates were received, "Yashlek" revised the rules and dropped the requirement of sending the copies, offering entry based on letters reporting new births.

Tatar, Bashkir Organizations Prepare Census-Related Activities
The coordinating board of Tatar rights organizations in Bashkortostan gathered on 12 March to consider preparations for the coming national census and combat what they call the incorrect registration of Tatar residents in the republic, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 11 March.

Meanwhile, Bashkir public organizations, supported by the republican government, are reported to have organized more activities than their Tatar counterparts.

The Tatar Public Center branch in Bashkortostan announced the same day that a forum planned for this month will be delayed due to difficulties finding a venue and "obstacles created by local authorities." The forum will reportedly be held in April.

Government Resumes Hard Line With Farmers
The Trade Unions Federation, major republican employers, and government officials gathered for a meeting on 12 March to discuss the current situation with wage payments to workers in major industries, RFE/RL reported from Ufa. State officials said back wages to workers in the agricultural industry, which produced 40 billion rubles' ($1.29 billion) worth of goods in 2001, were due to misuse of some 15 billion rubles ($484 million) of state subsidies. One official added that, "It is impossible to be jobless for farmers, so it is incorrect to complain about wage arrears."

Republican Census Body Holds Organizational Meeting
A republican state commission on census preparations convened on 14 March to discuss the process of establishing local census centers in the republic's regions and the use of the media to promote active participation by the public. According to statistics committee head Ekram Ganiyev, some 16,566 people will be hired to administer the poll, 40 percent of them students from local universities.

Russian Human Rights Commissioners To Gather In Ufa
Human rights commissions from throughout the Russian Federation will gather in Ufa on 18 March to consider reports on children's rights violations and meet with Russian and European human rights officials. Guests will reportedly visit Bashkortostan orphanages and prisons for juvenile delinquents.

Imam Offers To Fill Former Communist Niche
Imam Refis Mullagatdar, who is the Muslim religious leader of the Baltach Region in Bashkortostan, told Bashinform in 13 March that regional administrations should involve Muslim priests for "filling a niche formerly occupied by regional Communist Party Committee secretaries, who took on the moral education of rural residents." He referred to one example of such work being done in the Baltach region of Tatarstan (both Bashkortostan and neighboring Tatarstan have Baltach regions).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

ORT, RTR, And Cultura Switched Off In Chelyabinsk
Chelyabenergo on 13 March began disconnecting the Chelyabinsk Oblast radio and television transmission center, Ural-press-inform reported the same day. The energy company switched off energy supplies to major debtor-channels -- including ORT, RTR, and Cultura -- from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and plans to continue the measure every day until the VGTRK transmitter repays its 23 million ruble debt to Chelyabenergo.

Tatar Groups Support Marii Counterparts 'Defending' Culture
Tatarstan's national public organizations are supporting the activities of Marii El civic movements pledged to the defense of the Marii people, Rosbalt reported on 13 March. The Idel-Ural Tatar regional movement in its statement railed against "national discrimination, xenophobia, and genocide of minority groups" and called on Tatarstan's president and government to support the Marii Council and objectively evaluate the situation in Marii El. The Tatar Public Center has also criticized Marii El authorities, saying persecution of the Marii culture and education have been taking place under President Leonid Markelov.

The agency reported that some 1,000 Yoshkar-Ola residents took part in a protest meeting to defend Marii culture in late-February. Several critical texts in the Finnish "Helsingen Sanomat" newspaper in late 2001 about the national situation in Marii El enjoyed resonance in the republic, the agency said.

Animals Under Threat In Nizhnii Novgorod
The head of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast's Environment Committee, Nikolai Sokolov, told a government meeting on 7 March that half of the oblast's vertebrate species are on the verge of disappearing, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported. In the last century, seven species, or 2.4 percent of vertebrates, have disappeared, including reindeer and willow grouse, as 18 new species appeared, mainly those of southern and southwest origin.

Putin, Rossel Take Different Positions On Power-Sharing Treaties
During his meeting with President Vladimir Putin on 6 March, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said the annulment of bilateral treaties by federation entities with Moscow will result in numerous unregulated issues, reported. Putin said everything should be done in compliance with the constitution, adding that all issues of regional and federative joint powers are to be settled in corresponding federal laws. Rossel also proposed that tax breaks be introduced to stimulate investment and sales tax and roads usage tariffs be restored to cover losses in regional budgets. Putin requested that the government study the proposals.

GAZ Prepares For Assembly In Iran
GAZ is delivering to Iran the first 20 assembly sets for production of GAZel microbuses, reported on 12 March, quoting the GAZ press service. Iran's Khodro Diesel -- which signed an agreement with GAZ in August on the assembly of up to 20,000 vehicles in three years -- is studying the possibility of launching production of seven GAZel models, the agency said.

Perm Residents Don't Trust Interior Bodies, Polling Shows
Perm Oblast Deputy Governor Valerii Shchukin said 54 percent of Perm residents questioned said the state does not adequately protect people, while 60 percent of those who appealed to law-enforcement bodies in 2001 were dissatisfied with the resulting measures, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 6 March. Only one-third trusted the police, while 22 percent said they would appeal to criminals rather than to interior bodies if they were victims of a crime. Shchukin added that some heads of municipal bodies openly flaunt close ties with criminal leaders. The agency quoted deputy presidential envoy to the Volga district Valentin Stepankov as sharply criticizing the criminal situation in the oblast.

Former Tax Board Chief In Sverdlovsk Oblast Accused Of Taking $1 Million In Bribes
"Novyi region" reported on 6 March that the former head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Tax Police Board, Major General Aleksei Zakamaldin, received roughly $1 million in bribes in 1995-2001 from representatives of finance and industry groups. The publication cited Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office in leveling the allegations. Zakamaldin was dismissed from his post a month ago and is currently under criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, a Sverdlovsk Oblast court has sentenced two employees of the Tax Ministry Board in that oblast -- Sergei Yakimov and Maksim Kotenkov �- to seven years' in prison for repeatedly taking bribes from businessmen, Uralinformbureau reported on 11 March.

Russian Aircraft Wins European Tender
The Russian-made Tu-204 cargo aircraft has won a tender held by European freight company TNT, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 March, citing the Russian Transport Ministry. TNT has purchased one Tu-204 and said it will buy another in a month. The aircraft, produced at Ulyanovsk's Aviastar, meet requirements due to be introduced from 1 April by the world association of civil aviation airlines, the agency reported.

Great Britain, Norway Pledge $20 Million To Destroying Chemical Weapons
Great Britain and Norway signed a memorandum in Moscow to jointly help Russia annihilate chemical weapons, reported on 14 March. According to the document, Norway will allocate $2 million and Great Britain $18 million for the construction of a chemical-weapons-liquidation facility in Shchuchye in Kurgan Oblast.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova