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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 24, 2002

24 May 2002
Supreme Court Upholds Claims Against Law On Local Self-Government
The Tatarstan Supreme Court granted the claim by Tatarstan's chief prosecutor Kafil Amirov against the republican law on local self-government, reported on 17 May. The prosecutor claimed that Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev is not empowered to appoint or dismiss heads of local administrations, who are to be elected, while heads of city administrations are also not empowered to appoint or dismiss heads of raion administrations within cities. Amirov contested the provisions of the existing Tatarstan law that enable organs of local self-government to establish local taxes and city and raion administrations to introduce tax breaks on local taxes. The prosecutor also claimed in his suit that organs of local self-government are not allowed to vote on the issue of the immunity of deputies. He also asserted that local administrations do not have to approve the candidacies of the heads of state companies and organizations.

Vasilii Loginov, chairman of the State Council Committee on the State System, Local Self-Government, and Foreign Relations, said the State Council has already passed on first reading amendments to the law in question that will remove all contested provisions, but further work on the draft was postponed because the legislature was considering constitutional amendments.

Security Council Head Praises Support For Defense Companies In Tatarstan
During his visit to Kazan on 16-17 May, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo praised Tatarstan's leadership, which, he said, "supports defense-industry enterprises, while the entire defense sector in Russia is facing a crisis," reported on 17 May. Rushailo said the state cannot provide orders for all companies related to the defense industry in Russia, so inventories should be taken of all defense-related enterprises. Rushailo said that special attention should be paid to the establishment of large companies producing high-tech equipment and to the development of legislation regarding the defense industry. He said that at least some of the money received from arms exports should be spent on the development of modern, high-tech equipment. He also suggested the salaries of employees in the defense industry and scientific professions be raised and that measures be taken to prevent the outflow of personnel from the sector. Rushailo added that "the state of national security causes an uproar and demands that additional measures be taken."

Nationalities Minister Says Republic Example For Russia
During his visit to Kazan on 17-18 May, the Russian minister in charge of nationalities questions, Vladimir Zorin, lauded Tatarstan's experience in the harmonization of interethnic and interfaith relations, reported on 18 May. Zorin stressed that, "Everything will be fine in Russia as long as Tatarstan exists in Russia."

Zorin said the Russian Islamic University is a "big step and a symbol" for Russia. He stressed that the form of Islam that exists in Tatarstan is a "refined and tolerant one," adding that, "it is especially important to study [Islam] right now, while we are facing a threat of terrorism, which uses religion as a cover." Zorin said the Islamic University is a means of unifying Russian Muslims, who are currently facing a schism that damages the interests of all Muslims in Russia. Zorin said that cooperation between the state and religious institutions could be beneficial. He referred to an orphanage in the Raifa Russian Orthodox monastery near Kazan as a good example of such cooperation. He also called on state and religious bodies to unite to fight terrorism and extremism.

Poll Reveals Details About Petersburg's Tatars
"Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly published on 17 May the results of a poll conducted among Tatars and Russians living in St. Petersburg by the Laboratory of Ethnology Studies at St. Petersburg University (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 April 2002). Tatars, who have lived in the city since its foundation in 1703, are fourth-largest ethnic group in Russia's former imperial capital, following Russians, Ukrainians, and Jews.

According to the poll, 32.2 percent of Tatars think that being Tatar means being Muslim, while among Russians, only 10.9 percent believe that being Russian means being Orthodox Christian. The poll also revealed that national traditions are important for 51.7 percent of Tatars but only 20.6 percent of Russians.

Kazan Cancels Planned Beer Festival
The Kazan city administration canceled on 23 May a beer festival that was to be held by the Krasnyi Vostok brewery on 25 May, report, citing a representative of the brewery who asked not to be identified. A spokesperson for the Kazan administration said, however, that neither Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov nor any of his deputies issued such a resolution canceling the event, the agency reported (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 May 2002).

The planned festival has sparked protests from a number of organizations, who have called on the city administration to cancel the event in order to protect the physical and moral health of the population in general and youth in particular.

Nonetheless, Krasnyi Vostok still has not given up on the idea. Airat Khairullin, the company's general director, insisted that "similar events are held in all civilized countries in order to cultivate in people the culture of drinking."

Tatar Cemetery Vandalized In Nizhnii Novgorod
Monuments were destroyed and trees uprooted at the Tatar cemetery in Nizhnii Novgorod, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 17 May. The Tatar cemetery is located near Russian and Jewish cemeteries in the city. Eight years ago, the Jewish cemetery was also vandalized.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Republic Ready For World Bashkir Congress
RFE/RL Ufa correspondent quoted the organizing officials of the second World Bashkir Congress on 20 May as saying that "Bashkortostan is ready to hold the [congress] on 14-15 June." Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov and chief executive of the World Bashkir Congress Niyaz Majitov are to make opening addresses at the event outlining the recent activities of Bashkortostan's government and the congress and promoting the preservation of the Bashkir nation and its culture. The congress will host 776 delegates from across Bashkortostan, as well as from Bashkir communities in the Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, Perm, and Sverdlovsk oblasts, Tatarstan, other CIS countries, Hungary, Turkey, German, and the United States.

A number of conferences have already been held this year on the subject of Bashkir demographics, relations with the federal government, and preserving national traditions. It is expected that this congress will simply summarize the results of these conferences in its resolution, which is to be implemented until the next World Bashkir Congress in 2007.

Deputy Prime Minister Criticizes Republic's Economists
Speaking at a meeting of the Bashkortostan Academy of Sciences and the Ufa center of the Russian Academy of Sciences on 21 May, Bashkortostan First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Sigakov criticized economists in the republic for "taking part only in one-time governmental projects and [for] not reflecting the republic's economic achievements or failures in their work," Bashinform reported.

Robert Nigmatullin, president of the Bashkortostan Academy of Sciences, said during the meeting that, "The scientific reports presented by our experts are filled with meaningless phrases. This is especially the case regarding those in the sociological and economic spheres."

Statistics Committee Announces Growing Birth, Death Rates In Republic
The Bashkortostan State Statistics Committee announced on 22 May that the republic's birth and death rates increased in the first quarter of 2002 in comparison with the same period a year ago. The committee said that 11,118 babies were born in the republic during the first three months of this year, which is 457 more than during the same period of 2001. Meanwhile, 14,706 people died during the first three months of 2002, an increase of 1,174 over the same period last year.

Nearly 2,000 Companies Behind In Wage Payments
In its 22 May report, the State Statistics Committee announced that 1,800 Bashkortostan companies were behind in wage payments during the first quarter of 2002. The committee reported that 308,200 workers are owed 1.1 billion rubles ($35.4 million) in back wages in the republic. The majority of those employees work in the construction and agricultural industries.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Court Confirms Ban On Imports Of Hungarian Spent Nuclear Wastes To Chelyabinsk
The appeals board of the Russian Supreme Court rejected on 21 May the challenge by the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry against the court's 26 February ruling that annulled the 1998 Russian government resolution to import to Chelyabinsk Oblast spent nuclear fuel from Hungary, Urals-Press-Inform reported on 22 May. The government resolution was challenged by Natalya Mironova and Andrei Talevlin, activists of the Chelyabinsk Oblast movement For Nuclear Safety, with the support of the international environmental organization Greenpeace. They argued that the resolution allowing imports of nuclear waste without environmental expert review contradicts the Russian Constitution and federal law on protection of the environment, which require such an expert review to be held in similar cases. They said 23 tons of spent nuclear fuel from a scheduled total of 370 tons have already been imported to Chelyabinsk Oblast, RIA-Novosti reported on 21 May.

Ural-Press-Inform cited Russian Atomic Energy Ministry officials as saying that the court's 26 February ruling violated the principle of priority of international treaties over Russian legislation, and the plaintiffs did not prove what damage was caused to their rights and health by imports of Hungarian spent nuclear fuel. Ministry representatives also said the Supreme Court should have refused to hear the challenge against the government resolution since the latter was appealed three years after it was adopted. They stressed the court's ruling will not have any effect since deliveries of the Hungarian spent nuclear wastes were stopped in 1999 but it will shake faith in Russia as a business partner.

Kurgan Oblast Faces Bankruptcy
Viktor Basargin, deputy presidential envoy to the Ural Federal District, said on 22 May that external management, even if it is introduced in Kurgan Oblast, will not lead to dismissal of oblast leaders, Uralinformbureau reported the same day. Basargin said the current leadership will only lose some of their powers as regards distribution of subsidies from the federal budget. He said the situation in the oblast will be on the agenda at the government meeting, which will likely launch the procedure of Kurgan Oblast bankruptcy.

Ethnic Russians Predominate Among Muslims Attending Prayers In Kurgan
The majority of Muslims attending Friday prayers at the Muslim Cultural Center in Kurgan are ethnic Russians, although many ethnic Muslims live in the city, Adam Abdullah, editor in chief of the local "Musulmane zauralya" newspaper, told on 23 May. There is not a single mosque in Kurgan, so prayers are held in the Muslim Cultural Center.

Manual On Education Of Muslims Among Servicemen To Be Published
The Union of Russia's Muslims is preparing a manual for Russian armed forces officers to hold educational work with Muslim servicemen, reported on 22 May. The agency cited Sergei Melkov, an adviser to the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, as saying that it is necessary to educate Muslims serving in the army, who often do not have sufficient knowledge about Islam and the Koran. Meanwhile, officers are also not familiar with the Muslim religion and usually do not know how to educate servicemen.

One-Third Of Children's Houses Inmates Suffer From Dystrophy In Nizhnii
Children attending nurseries in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast are not fed enough due to insufficient budget financing, the Nizhnii Novgorod news service reported on 17 May. From seven rubles ($0.2) to between 12 ($0.4) and 15 rubles ($0.5) per child are spent a day in rural and urban nurseries respectively, while the minimum is 20 rubles ($0.64). As a result, children consume 30 percent less protein and fat than necessary, and 80 percent less vitamins and minerals. The rate of children who develop normally among those under school age fell in the past decade by 10 percent to 57.7 percent. One in five children is underweight. There is not a single healthy child among inmates of children's homes and boarding schools, who have four chronic diseases each on average. A third of them have dystrophy.

Perm Governor Critical Of Housing, Municipal-Sector Reform
Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev said no reform of the municipal-services sector is taking place in Russia and residents are burdened with payment for them instead of the state budget. No improvement of services accompanies the measure, Trutnev says, since this is not provided by the reform. Trutnev said the renewal of infrastructure and engineering communications is to be the most important measure of the reform in order to reduce residents' expenses.

Saratov Official Says Governor Ayatskov Threatened By Dismissal
The Federal Security Service (FSB) Board in Saratov Oblast filed a suit against the Saratov Oblast Economy Ministry accusing it of divulgence of state secrets, acting Saratov Deputy Mayor Dmitrii Udalov told a press conference on 20 May. Udalov said the board's challenge was caused by the appearance on the ministry's website of some information, which, he said, was very similar to the report that 6 million tons of grain were gathered in Saratov Oblast in 1997. Udalov, who formerly headed the ministry, admitted that the case was one of the reasons he resigned as minister but added that it is aimed more against oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov. He said the move is an experiment intended to test the mechanism allowing the Russian president to dismiss governors and other influential regional officials. Udalov assumed that the case will allow the dismissal of the Saratov governor, noting that "the investigation heads exactly in this direction."

Environmental Group Protests Construction Of Energy Block At Beloyarsk Nuclear Station
Members of the Sverdlovsk regional public group Ural Ecological Union protested construction of a fourth BN-800 energy block at the Beloyarsk nuclear power station, Uralinformbureau reported on 21 May. Group activist Olga Podosenova told the agency that 90 percent of Yekaterinburg residents questioned said that even though authorities had to take public opinion into account while making the decision on the construction, they did not. Podosenova said the BN-800 block was designed long before the last change of nuclear safety standards in Russia, so it is far from meeting them. There is no past experience in using this kind of reactor in the world since they have never been constructed anywhere, she added.

Cardiology Hospital Personnel Stage Hunger Strike In Udmurtia
Yevgenii Odiankov, head of the republic's cardiology hospital and Russian President Vladimir Putin's representative in Udmurtia in the last presidential elections, began a hunger strike on 18 May to protest the resolution by the Udmurtia government on the reorganization of the hospital, "Kupol-Media" reported on 20 May. Odiankov says the measure will result in the end of the hospital and destruction of its cardiology and heart surgery services. Other hospital employees also joined the hunger strike on 20 May.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova