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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 7, 2002

7 June 2002
Duma Passes First Reading Of Amendments To Language Law...
RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent reported on 6 June the results of voting in the State Duma the previous day on the first reading of proposed amendments to the Russian law on languages that would prohibit the use of non-Cyrillic scripts by state languages in the country. The draft was passed on its first reading by 343 votes to 15. Deputies from Tatarstan Farida Gainullina and Flyura Ziatdinova abstained from voting, while Nail Khusnutdinov from Tatarstan and Ragib Gimaev from Bashkortostan voted against the draft. The Communist Party and Unity factions unanimously backed the draft. The Fatherland-All Russia faction also backed the amendments, except for three members who abstained from voting. Three members of the Union of Rightist Forces faction voted for the draft and three against, while 26 deputies abstained. Two Yabloko deputies voted in favor, five against, and 10 abstained.

...As Deputies Argue Against Amendments
Of the six deputies who discussed the draft amendments to the law on languages, only two supported the proposal, while the other four opposed it, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 6 June.

Presidential representative to the State Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov said the adoption of the draft would result in the growth of nationalism in Russia.

Nail Khusnutdinov of the Russian Regions faction said the draft was a reaction to the conclusion made by a State Duma commission that the introduction of the Tatar Latin script in Tatarstan threatens the security and territorial integrity of Russia. He said those threats are actually a fabricated danger used to mask real dangers that exist in the country, such as corruption. He called on deputies to respect to the decision of the Tatar people to use the Latin script and to reject the draft. Khusnutdinov said that if one were to follow this logic, Muslims should also be prohibited from reading the Koran in Arabic script and forced to use a Cyrillic version.

Andrei Vulf of the Union of Rightist Forces said the proposed amendments would be harmful to the development of federalism in Russia. Vulf said the draft undoubtedly contradicts Article 68 of the Russian Constitution, which grants republics the right to choose their state languages and guarantees nationalities the right to preserve their languages. Recalling the process of Russification that was carried out in the Baltic states and Ukraine, Vulf said the amendments are dangerous to all non-Russian peoples in the country, especially those using non-Cyrillic alphabets. Vulf said the proposal is a means of suppressing national languages and national identities and will result only in bitterness toward Russians. He also added that the draft belongs in a book of world records because of the number of mistakes it contains.

Tyumen Oblast NKA Promotes Separation Of Siberian Tatars
The Tatar National Cultural Autonomy (NKA) of the Tyumen Oblast called on Siberian Tatars to register during the Russian census in October as a separate ethnic group, NKA head Faizulla Kamalov told on 30 May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10, 13, 24 May 2002). Kamalov said that, "Scholars recognize that Siberian Tatars constitute a separate ethnic group that has its own language, ethnic territory, and faith." Kamalov said the registration of Siberian Tatars as a separate ethnic group will allow them to obtain the status of an indigenous people in the future. He said that Siberian Tatars currently form a diaspora on their own land. He believes the status of an indigenous people will help Siberian Tatars get positions in governmental bodies that work on a quota system, as well as to get subsidies for the development of their culture and education in their native language.

The move by the Tyumen Oblast NKA is supported by the Tatar National Cultural Autonomy of the Omsk Oblast, the website reported. Their position contradicts that of the Council of Muftis of Russia, however, which calls on all Tatars to register in the census as "Tatars."

Academicians Ask Shaimiev To Support Science
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev met with a delegation of academicians of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) who inspected the Kazan Physical Technical Institute on 6 June, reported the same day. The scholars gave the institute high marks, saying it is in better condition than similar institutes in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Shaimiev agreed to a proposal by RAN Vice President Aleksandr Andreev to co-finance $900,000 in subsidies to the institute, with Tatarstan and RAN putting up $450,000 each.

Muslim Women Of Tatarstan Appeal To Shaimiev
The Tatarstan Union of Muslim Women have appealed to President Shaimiev, claiming that the prohibition against covering their faces while having passport photographs taken violates their religious beliefs, reported on 5 June. The union called on Shaimiev to resolve the issue at the official level, saying that the constitutions of Russia and Tatarstan guarantee freedom of religion.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Eyeing Third Term
With Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov about to enter the last year of his second term in office on 14 June, speculation has been raised as to whether he will try to run for a third term as president of the republic. RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent said on 6 June that Rakhimov could run for a third term because of the 2000 amendment to the 1997 federal law on regional state bodies passed by the Russian State Duma. The amendment stipulates that, though all regional leaders are limited two terms in office, the number of terms is to be calculated from 1997 when the corresponding federal law was adopted. This amendment already helped Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev run for a third term in office in 2001.

Bashkortostan Prosecutor Comments On Russian Taliban Prisoners
Following a report in "Izvestiya" daily on 5 June (See "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 June 2002) that two more Russian citizens have turned up at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Bashkortostan Deputy Prosecutor Rafael Zinnurov said the next day that the republic's prosecutors have not played a role in the current attempt to extradite three other Russian citizens detained at the base, Bashinform reported on 6 June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 June, 10 May, 3, 4, 15 and 23 April 2002). He confirmed, however, that republican officials are gathering data on the two accused Taliban militants from Bashkortostan, Ravil Gumarov and Shamil Khazhiev.

Reacting to a comment from Igor Tkachev, a special investigator from the Russian Prosecutor-General's office, that Bashkortostan has still not provided any information on the detainees, Zinnurov said that: "Collecting this data is not easy. It requires thorough work and [a lot of] time."

Paper Claims Shaimiev Paid Secret Visit To Ufa
Bashkortostan's "Ufimskaya gubernia" weekly claimed on 6 June that Tatarstan President Shaimiev recently paid a secret visit to the republic. The paper suggested that Shaimiev's visit was motivated by the possible ceasing of cooperation between the republics in the field of oil processing. In accordance with a 2001 agreement between the governments of the two republics, Tatarstan is to supply 6 million tons annually for processing at Bashkortostan's petrochemical plants. In return, Tatarstan asked for a long-term leasing contract with a Bashkortostan oil refinery, which the Bashkortostan government reportedly rejected.

The weekly added that the oil-processing contract signed on 15 January between Bashkortostan and Surgutneftegaz is an indication that Rakhimov "has turned his back on Tatarstan as a potential partner in oil refining" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 January 2002 and "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 18 January 2002)

Bashkir Congress Organizers Leave Out Tatar Congress Officials
In an interview in Kazan's "Zvezda povolzhya" weekly on 6 June, chief executive of the World Tatar Congress Indus Tahirov said organizers of the World Bashkir Congress didn't send an invitation to the Tatar congress officials and invited only President Shaimiev to the second World Bashkir Congress to be held on 14-15 June in Ufa.

Referring to plans to hold the World Tatar Congress in Kazan in August, Tahirov said the leaders of the Bashkir congress were pushing them to make a similar decision not to invite them to their own congress. He said, however, that congress leaders would think their decision over and would not take any actions based on emotion.

Minister Calls For Reduced Social Spending
Bashkortostan Minister of Economy and Antimonopoly Policy Valentin Vlasov told a government meeting on 5 June that the republic has 80 social programs to support strata of the population with little social protection and young people, as well as to advance the standard of living of the population in general, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. These programs will reportedly require more than 1 billion rubles ($32.2 million) in 2002, while the republican budget has allocated only 300 million rubles ($9.6 million) for this purpose. Vlasov suggested that all Bashkortostan ministries analyze the programs that they have proposed and revise them to reduce budget expenses as much as possible.

Tax Service Says Number Of Millionaires Growing
According to Bashkortostan Tax Service officials, the number of millionaires in the republic nearly tripled in 2001 in comparison with the previous year, Rosbalt news agency reported on 6 June. The tax officials said that 33 residents of Bashkortostan reported having an income in 2001 of between 1 million and 10 million rubles ($32,000-$320,000).

Ufa To Get A Present From Russian Hermitage
Murat Kuekbaev, director of the Ethnological Research Center of the Ufa Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told reporters on 5 June that the Russian State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg plans to give the center 279 gold items from its collection of archeological finds of Scythian and Sarmatian tribes, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The Hermitage will exhibit the entire 384-piece collection during the second World Bashkir Congress in Ufa on 14-15 June. The Scythian and Sarmatian tribes are believed to have lived in ancient times on the territory of modern Russian and to be the ancestors of modern Turkic peoples, including Bashkirs.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

District Official Says Census Becoming Political Issue
Leonid Gilchenko, deputy presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, said on 4 June that nationality-based republics are to be paid heightened attention in the course of preparations for the October Russian national census, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported the same day. Gilchenko said the leadership of these regions realize that the results of the census will become a basis for the formation of new interethnic and interbudget relations, so national issues should be paid special attention. He stressed that "the issue of the census has turned from a technical into a political one."

Meanwhile, State Statistics Committee Chairman Vladimir Sokolin said on 4 June that residents won't be asked about their native language during the census and will only be asked whether they speak Russian, reported the same day citing Ekho Moskvy radio. People also can select three more languages in addition to Russian that they can speak, including their native tongue.

Finno-Ugric Countries Ambassadors Visit Marii El
The of Hungarian, Estonian, and Finnish ambassadors to Russia visited Marii El on 1-3 June, reported. Hungarian Ambassador Erne Keshkene said the visit is aimed at familiarizing the ambassadors with the economy, way of life, and culture in Marii El. Finnish Ambassador Rene Nyberg said interest in Marii El is growing in Finno-Ugric countries, and the visit promotes the development of tourism in the republic. The ambassadors met with Marii El President Leonid Markelov to discuss economic and cultural cooperation. Markelov said the republican government is ready to provide guarantees for possible foreign investments in the republic's economy.

Nizhnii Novgorod Communists Expels Khodyrev From Party
The local Communist Party (KPRF) Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast committee expelled on 31 May Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev from the party, reported the same day. Members voted unanimously to expel Khodyrev for "actions which are incompatible with the name Communist and harm the KPRF's reputation." Khodyrev said on 28 May that he is leaving KPRF to declare his support for State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Duma committee heads Nikolai Gubenko and Svetlana Goryacheva.

Armenian Family Faces Pogrom In Samara Oblast
A house of an Armenian family was destroyed on 1 June by a group of 50-60 youths in the village of Kinel in Samara Oblast, reported on 5 June. The group of youths came from a neighboring disco and attacked the house after 14-year-old family member Vaginak Agayan refused to give a young man a cigarette. Agayans called police but they were unable to stop the aggressive crowd. The Agayans left their apartment and spent the night at a neighbor's house. The mob did not take money or property.

Some 50 Graves Of Muslims Destroyed In Novosibirsk
An act of vandalism was committed at the Novosibirsk Muslim cemetery, reported on 4 June citing Ekho Moskvy radio in Novosibirsk. Unknown persons desecrated 47 graves of Muslims at the Zayeltsovskii cemetery. The radio quoted employees of Novosibirsk law enforcement bodies as saying that no "hidden ethnic motive" but rather hooliganism is likely behind the event. However, the website recalled several similar events that previously took place in Siberian Muslim cemeteries, including in Omsk, Asbest, and Berezovskii.

Human Rights Representatives Defend Rights Of Ural Nuclear-Disaster Victims
Sverdlovsk Oblast human rights representative Tatyana Merzlyakova held a meeting on 4 June to discuss the problems related to dealing with the consequences of the 1957 nuclear disaster at the Mayak industrial park, Region-Inform reported on 5 June. It was reported that according to the 1995 report on the influence of the environment on the health of the population in Sverdlovsk Oblast, more than 335,000 residents of 391 communities in the oblast were exposed to radiation as a result of the disaster. Residents of 23 communities were evacuated in 1957-60. A 10-year federal program on dealing with the effects of radiation accidents adopted in 2001 and a federal law on the social care of citizens who were affected by radiation during the 1957 accident at the Mayak company are currently in effect in Russia.

Merzlyakova said ministries and other bodies "cope with distribution of due privileges and residents know where they should appeal. The main issue is to obtain the status of a disaster victim." The Chelyabinsk Oblast ombudsman told the meeting that he receives numerous complaints concerning the issue. Meanwhile, "Novyi Region" reported on 3 June that Ural Federal District Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Zolotov has protested four verdicts of the Chelyabinsk Oblast Court that refused to give residents disaster-victim status after studying 24 similar cases.

Residents of Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, and Kurgan oblasts were exposed to radiation as a result of the 1957 accident.

Businessman Killed In Yekaterinburg
Uralbiznesneft Vice President Vladimir Reftov died seven hours after two bikers shot into his car in Yekaterinburg at 12 a.m. on 4 June, agencies reported the next day. Uralbiznesneft, created in 1995, is a company independent from all federal oil companies. It purchases oil products in Bashkortostan and Perm from LUKoil enterprises. Uralbiznesneft owns 26 filling stations throughout Sverdlovsk Oblast and ranks fourth on the oil-products market in the oblast.

Municipal Services Prices Double In Ulyanovsk
The tariffs of municipal services doubled as of 1 June in Ulyanovsk, reported. The new tariffs make up 80 percent of municipal services' costs and are to be brought up to 90 percent this year. In passing the decision to raise prices, the Ulyanovsk City Duma explained it as necessary because the city will not be given subsidies from the federal budget.

Chechen Administration Head Claims Wahhabism Spreading In Tatarstan, Russia
Chechnya Mufti Akhmad Shamaev called on federal authorities to strengthen the ideological struggle against religious extremism, reported on 5 June citing "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Shamaev claimed that Wahhabis are about to win the ideological war in Russia. The website cited the Chechnya administration head and former mufti of the republic, Akhmad Kadyrov, as saying that Wahhabism is setting deep roots in many Russian regions, including Tatarstan and central Russia. Kadyrov said the centralization of Russian Islam and a single mufti for Russia's Muslims are needed to counteract Wahhabism.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova