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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 29, 2002

29 March 2002
PEN Center Calls For Tatar Unity, Defends Victimized Journalist
The Tatar PEN center appealed on 21 March to the Tatar people to do everything possible to keep the nation united in the 2002 census. Participants also called for the restoration of the Latin script for Tatar. Writers criticized Tatarstan's Prosecutors Office for persecuting journalist Talgat Bariev and his satirical publication "Polniy klizmets", saying that the actions by the prosecutors are repressive and harmful to freedom of speech. The center charged its executive, Akhat Mushinskii, with the public defense of Bariev.

Russian Scholar Promotes Identity Of The Kreshens
The director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute in Moscow, Valerii Tishkov, wrote in "Vremya novostei" on 27 March that some 30 new nationalities -- that were previously forcibly included with larger ethnic groups -- were added to a nationalities list that will be used in the 2002 census. Tishkov said Tatar authorities do not want for Kreshens to be identified separately from Tatars. According to Tishkov, historically Kreshens are a part of Tatars who did not accept Islam and remained pagans until they later accepted Christianity. Though Tatarstan's leaders say a division between the two groups is artificial, the Kreshen accent exists, and there were even Kreshen schools in the 1920s, Tishkov argued. And he concluded that Russians and not titular nations -- who are afraid of "losing their demographic share" -- are now the main assimilators.

Parliament Commission Promotes More Moral TV
The State Council Commission on Science, Culture, Education, and National Issues backed an appeal from the Tyumen Oblast Duma to Russian leaders for the promotion and adoption of a federal law to defend morality in TV and radio broadcasting, "Respublika Tatarstan" reported on 22 March. The appeal says the power of the mass media is used for entertainment and promotes the cult of money, laziness, violence, and individualism among youth. The appeal calls for authorities to take care not only of the physical but also the psychological health of young people.

Scholar Says Referendum Results Should Be Maintained While Amending Constitution
Political researcher Marat Khairullin wrote in "Vremya i dengi" on 28 March that constitutional amendments should not ignore a the people's will as it was expressed in the 21 March 1992 referendum. He stressed that the results of the referendum and not the Russian or Tatar Constitutions or the power-sharing treaty are the main juridical guarantee of the republic's self-dependence. He also noted that the constitutional process in Tatarstan cannot be isolated from the reforms of Russia's entire constitutional/legal system. He said that not only Tatarstan's Constitution but also numerous federal laws, Constitutional Court rulings, and the activity of federal executives contradict the Russian Constitution. It means that the Russian Constitution itself does not suit current political realities, Khairullin said. Amendments to Tatarstan's Constitution are to be discussed on second reading at a parliamentary plenary session on 29-30 March.

Tatar, Uzbek Muslims To Boost Ties
A delegation of Muslim leaders from Tatarstan left for Uzbekistan on 29 March to revive relations with the local Muslim Religious Board and Muslim educational institutions, Tatar-inform reported. Deputy Mufti Valiulla Yakubov told the agency that the two regions are the closest entities in the religious sphere, including the interpretation of the Koran and the implementation of Islamic rites.

Archbishop On His Relations With Muslim Leaders
Archbishop Anastasii of Kazan and Tatarstan told on 22 March that Tatarstan's Orthodox and Muslim leaders cooperate on a wide variety of activities, including charity projects, help for penal institutions, and preventing drug addiction. They try to avoid "painful issues," he added. Anastasii said he has good relations with Tatarstan's mufti and said they always invite each other to the opening ceremonies of new religious buildings and institutions. The archbishop said a Yeshel Uzen mullah was the first person who donated to the restoration of the Raifa Monastery, and that the monastery is now helping in the construction of a local mosque. Anastasii stressed that republican leaders are very attentive to traditional faiths and always help both Muslim and Orthodox believers. He added that the Tatarstan president has never ignored his requests. He said even in the early 1990s when the situation in the republic was heated, radical Tatar nationalist Fauziya Bairamova was the first person who backed the idea of returning the Peter and Paul Cathedral to the Orthodox church.

Collection Of Shaimiev Speeches, Articles Published
The collected articles, speeches, and interviews of President Mintimer Shaimiev were published by the Kazan Idel-Press publishing house, "Moskovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane" reported on 28 March. The book: "Tatarstan -- Progress Through Stability," covers the period of 1990-1992, the paper said.

Nizhnekamsk Airport Seeks To Maintain International Flights
The Tuben Kama Begishevo airport's general manager, Rafael Alimov, appealed to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to ensure that the airport maintains the status of an international airport, Al-inform reported on 20 March. Alimov said the airport recently increased the volume of passengers and currently provides flights to Turkey and CIS countries. The Russian government seeks to reduce the number of international airports in Russia -- there are now 78 -- and named Begishevo among those due to be downgraded.

Heroin Seized From Pensioner In Yeshel Uzen
More than 10 kilograms of heroin were seized from a retired woman living in Yeshel Uzen, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 March. "Vechernyaya Kazan" the same day wrote that the number of drug addicts in the republic exceeds 100,000 and that 279 residents had died of a drug overdose in Tatarstan last year. The fight against drug addiction undertaken by numerous ministries and boards is still insufficient, the daily asserted, adding that the republican cabinet is developing ways to make the fight more successful.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Congress Delegation Visits Samara
A World Bashkir Congress delegation visited Samara Oblast on 24 March, RFE/RL's Samara correspondent reported. Many of the 150 people invited to the meeting were Tatars, although guests reflected the oblast's Bashkir community of 7,500 members, 3,000 of whom lived in the city of Samara. Special questionnaires were distributed among those present featuring personal questions asking about the nationality of the polled person's wife or husband.

Most of the speeches by local Bashkir community leaders and the guest delegation at the event were made in Russian -- although the only Russian official at the meeting, city administration member Yurii Shishlov, urged the speakers to use their native language freely because he had an interpreter. Nevertheless, the Bashkortostan delegation stated that it would use Russian because of its state status within Russia.

The young imam of Samara's Jamil mosque, Ilshat Safin, blessed the meeting. But he added that, "It's very disappointing to hear news of growing confrontation between the Bashkir and Tatar peoples, who are now said to be sitting at opposite sides of the table."

Subsequent speeches did not expressly refer to the imam's words. But representatives from the Bashkir Congress condemned the Tatarstan government for a lack of Bashkir schools in the republic, where they claim some 25,000 ethnic Bashkirs live. The principle of one local school, Daut Shamgunov, said Bashkirs should not necessarily follow any example set by the Tatar nation, but rather should find their own way to preserve their ethnic heritage.

Russian Duma Deputy Ilsur Fatikhov (Samara) told RFE/RL on 25 March that, in his opinion, the native Bashkir community can only effectively preserve itself by joining forces with the Tatar community.

Ilesh Region's Bashkir Congress Official Speaks For Reserved Bashkir Language Policies
The Bashkir weekly "Yashlek" on 25 March quoted Radik Mokhametgaliev, World Bashkir Congress branch leader in the Ilesh Region of Bashkortostan, commenting on what he says is a growing number of ethnic Bashkirs unwilling to teach their children Bashkir. "If we put too much effort into our language and other ethnic issues, the effect will be just the opposite," he said. "The Bashkir language already possesses some authority in the republic, and the situation will improve in its own time because Bashkir ethnic self-identity is also growing." Like other Bashkir Congress branches, the Ilesh group said in a recent resolution that one of its main goals is to promote "the social and political importance" of the 2002 national census.

Education Ministry Official Says Tatarstan Experience Could Serve Bashkortostan
Bashkir Education Ministry representative Zilya Yapparova spoke to RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent about the falling popularity of Bashkir language lessons among Bashkortostan's population and what some consider the growing risk of its extinction. "Currently, we are unable to teach Bashkir -- which is one of the state languages -- in Bashkortostan to all pupils in our schools, although regional and school officials work hard to promote these lessons not only among ethnic Bashkirs but other nationalities also." She added: "Without a corresponding republican law, it is impossible to maintain a sufficient level of Bashkir language teaching.... There is no forcible Bashkir language teaching, it is taught only if pupils wish it." Yapparova suggested the republic could follow the example of Tatarstan's education system, according to which 90 percent of Tatar children learn their "native" language. In the Bashkir Republic, that figure is about 20 percent.

Preparations For World Bashkir Congress Continue
Ufa city officials, the Bashkir History and Language Institute, the Bashkir Academy of Science, and the World Bashkir Congress executive committee held an inter-regional scientific conference on 28 March, devoted to the 2nd World Bashkir Congress forum, to be held in June. The conference discussed the problems faced by ethnic Bashkirs in language, demography, and health. According to a resolution adopted during the event, the upcoming congress is seen as an essential measure for reviving and preserving the Bashkir nation.

Bashkortostan's Enlistment Statistics
Bashkortostan's recruitment commission summed up the results of the 2001 enlistment campaign on 26 March, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. Some 71,112 potential recruits were invited to the republic's enlistment offices during the year, and 13,123 of them joined. Volga-Ural military district commanders reportedly praised the republic for fulfilling its task, although 447 draftees passed by the regional enlistment offices were returned by the republican commission for poor health while 55 soldiers were returned by the federal military for the same reason.

Muslim Norouz Holiday Being Revived In Bashkortostan
For the first time in Bashkortostan's history, republican authorities approved of festivities devoted to the mostly Muslim holiday of Norouz, celebrated on 23 March with a monument to Bashkir national hero Salavat Yulaev in Ufa, RFE/RL reported. Members of the local Turkic communities reportedly took part in the event, together with Bashkir and Tatar communities. In 2001, the Tatar "Nur" Theater of Ufa revived the Norouz holiday tradition by holding a small event just for Ufa's Tatar community.

Ethnicity Rules Out Some Competitors At Poetry Contest
Bashkir officials organizing a poetry contest named after Ilham Chishmelere and held on 23 March in Belebey Region told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent that the best young poet award "always has and always will be awarded to ethnic Bashkirs, because it's the only way possible in Bashkortostan." This year, Zilya Gallyamova, a Bashkir girl from Chelyabinsk Oblast, received the top prize. Nominations, however, were also won by ethnic Tatar and Russian poets.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Mari People Holds Extraordinary Congress
A Marii Council plenum scheduled an extraordinary Marii congress to be held on 26 April, reported on 27 March. The forum is to mark the 450th anniversary since the territories where the Marii people live were included into Russia and to discuss Marii people's fate. Roughly 200 delegates from the republic and 150 from other regions are to gather in Yoshkar-Ola. The plenum appealed to Marii El President Leonid Markelov to officially support the event.

Britain To Give Nizhnii 10 Million Pounds
The International Development Ministry of the British government will allocate 10 million pounds for Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast in the next four years, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported on 25 March. The project aims to help reduce the poverty level by at least half.

Rossel To Run For Third Term
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel on 21 March announced that he will run for a third term, "Novyi region" reported. Rossel made the statement while speaking at a meeting of the oblast Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen. Rossel said though he is not a young person, he is ready to head the entity for four more years to maintain stability in the oblast. He added that order must be provided as well in the whole of Russia, so it is necessary to re-elect President Vladimir Putin for a second term. Rossel is 64. The Sverdlovsk gubernatorial elections are slated for the fall of 2003.

Rossel's press secretary, Aleksandr Levin, said the next day that Rossel, though he is an independent politician, consulted senior Moscow officials before making the decision. Commenting on Rossel's meeting with Putin on 6 March, Levin said, "The governor cannot have any secrets from the Russian president."

Pardon Commission Members Promote Death Penalty
Members of the Sverdlosk Oblast pardon commission called for the introduction of the death penalty, Uralinformbureau reported on 22 March. Commission head Yurii Demin called the issue political rather than juridical and said it is too early to introduce the measure in Russia. He stressed that extremely cruel crimes are committed in Russia and European residents cannot even imagine them. The commission's deputy head, oblast Deputy Prime Minister Semen Spektor, stressed the necessity to introduce the death penalty for drug traffickers. Sverdlovsk Oblast Human Rights Representative Tatyana Merzlyakova said she could personally shoot some of criminals she met while visiting penal institutions. Archpriest Phoma of the Yekaterinburg eparchy, who is a commission member, said the Orthodox church does not prohibit the death penalty.

Federal Officials Warn Against Violations In Sverdlovsk Duma Elections
On 22 March, presidential envoy to the Ural district Petr Latyshev met with the head of the Russian presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin, to discuss the situation in the Sverdlovsk Oblast on the threshold of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma elections. Voloshin said the elections are to be held in strict line with Russian legislation, calling use of "an administrative resource" impermissible.

Chechens Detained For Selling Arms Had Permit To City Producing Nuclear Weapons
Three Chechens were detained in Sverdlovsk Oblast as they were selling two Makarov pistols, Ural-Press-Inform reported on 22 March citing "Izvestia." One of them had a permit to the closed city of Lesnoi where nuclear warheads are produced, according to the agency. A search of their apartments found a store of arms including Kalashnikov machine carbines, two more Makarov pistols, eight high-explosive shells, and other items.

Tatar-Bashkir Sunday School Opens In Yamal-Nenets Okrug
A Sunday school for Turkic children opened in Nadym, "Sever-Press" reported on 26 March. Tatar and Bashkir languages and cultural traditions will be taught. Companies, businessmen, and representatives of the literary association Nadym promoted the initiative.

Ulyanovsk Civic Group Protests Plans To Construct Nuclear Station In Dimitrovgrad
Activists of the Ulyanovsk public group Center for Promotion of Civic Initiatives appealed to President Putin and Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov to protest construction of the nuclear power station in Dimitrovgrad, reported on 28 March. Recently Dimitrovgrad Mayor Sergei Morozov reported that the issue on the nuclear station construction is being currently developed. Public activists suggested that a referendum be held on the issue.

Nationalists Curse Putin For Union With NATO
Some 10 members of the Russian-Serbian Friendship Committee in Yekaterinburg staged a meeting to mark the third anniversary of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, reported on 22 March. Picketers demonstrated in front of the residence of the U.S. consulate to shout anti-American slogans and call on residents to refuse to buy dollars. They also damned President Putin for his aiding and abetting NATO.

Tadjuddin Joins Eurasia Party
The supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, Talgat Tadjuddin, said he will join the Eurasia party, reported on 25 March. Tadjuddin took part in a meeting of the Eurasia political council at which conversion of the movement into a party was discussed. Tadjuddin said that "from the very appearance of Eurasia we considered the Central Muslim Religious Board its organic part." But according to Russian legislation, religious organizations are unable to be party members, he noted. In order to let Russia's Muslims use their constitutional right of participation in political life, he said, the board leadership and the overwhelming majority of its members decided to enter Eurasia not as priests but rather as private persons.

Energy Suppliers Stop Trolley-Buses In Mordovia Capital
Ninety-five trolley-buses stopped in Saransk streets after Mordovenergo switched off Gorelektrotrans on 27 March, Rosbalt reported. The energy company, owed board 1 million rubles by the city transport company, restored the power supply after an hour, when the latter was paid 230,000 rubles of the debt.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova