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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 1, 2002

1 November 2002
Russian Supreme Court Hearing Tatarstan Cabinet Case
The Russian Supreme Court is slated to hear an appeal on 1 November by the Tatar Prosecutor-General's Office that could alter the way Tatarstan's cabinet is structured and functions, reported early the same day. Republican prosecutors are challenging an 11 May 2001 resolution by the Tatarstan State Council concerning the organization and responsibilities of the cabinet on the grounds that it contradicts federal law. The Prosecutor-General's Office appealed to the State Council, saying the cabinet's structure should be determined by republican law, not by a resolution. On 19 April, Tatarstan's parliament agreed with prosecutors and suggested that the Tatar president propose a corresponding draft law to submit to the legislature. The president charged the government with developing the draft, but the cabinet still has not begun that task. Prosecutors then appealed to the Tatar Supreme Court, where justices agreed with the challenge on 3 September. The Tatar presidential administration subsequently appealed to the Russian Supreme Court.

Presidential Adviser Praises Kremlin's Distinctions In Hostage Crisis
A political adviser to the Tatarstan president told "Zvezda povolzhya" on 31 October that Russian President Vladimir Putin displayed "exemplary conduct" toward Muslims during the 23-26 October Moscow hostage crisis. Rafael Khekimov said Putin properly distinguished between terrorism, on the one hand, and both Islam and Chechens on the other -- a fact that "raises hopes in our breasts." Khekimov also decried terrorism and fear of Islam, and he called for a peaceful solution to the Chechen problem. He said Russia should be mindful of the U.S. experience in Vietnam and that of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Tatar Group Says Tatars Are Pained, Alarmed By Hostage Tragedy
The Federal Tatar National Cultural Autonomy Council issued a statement concerning the 23-26 October Moscow hostage crisis and conflict in the North Caucasus, reported on 30 October. The council said representatives of the Tatar communities in Russian felt pain and alarm at innocent people being taken hostage and turned to the council with offers of help. It said it is impossible to stop bloodshed in Chechnya through either cruelty or the murder of women, children, and peaceful residents in Russia's capital. "Taking hostages has become a 'present' to adherents of a violent solution of political issues, Islamophobes, and opponents of people's national origin. The complex and difficult fate of the Tatar people shows that common sense, knowledge, ability to find mutually acceptable solutions, and the development and implementation of fair laws are more efficient measures than the use of arms," the statement said. "Russia, a historical Motherland to Russians, Tatars, and numerous other peoples, is tired of wars and crises. National cultures, languages, traditions can be only preserved in peaceful conditions. Tatars of the Russian Federation deeply grieve for victims of terror and hope for peace and concord," the document said.

Tatar Leader Says Plight Of National Movement Made Tougher By Moscow Hostage Crisis
The head of the Tatar Public Center in Chally, Rafis Kashapov, told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 31 October that pressure on the national movement by law enforcement bodies increased in the wake of the 23-26 October Moscow hostage crisis. Kashapov said the apartments of about 15 national activists have been searched and two elderly women arrested in recent days in Chally (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 and 31 October 2002) in what he described as measures to frighten the national movement. Kashapov said investigators of the 29 May attack against TIU headquarters in Chally ignored the fact that the assailants destroyed Tatarstan state symbols, and refused to recognize the political motive for the action but rather qualified it as an ordinary criminal case (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 May 2002). Kashapov claimed the action was directed against Tatars and was intended to frighten the Tatar national movement.

KamAZ Joins Belrusavto Financial Group
KamAZ joined the MFPG Belrusavto interstate finance and industrial group at an extraordinary meeting on 29 October in Moscow, reported. The move is viewed as a result of a visit to Tatarstan by Russia-Belarus Union Secretary Pavel Borodin, during which it was agreed to set up $130 million worth of joint production between KamAZ and MAZ. MFPG Belrusavto was established in October 1997 and united Yaroslavl plants for fuel and diesel equipment, Yaroslavl and Tutaev engine plants, Minsk and Mogilev automobile plants, and several other Belarusian and Russian defense companies.

Orthodox Group Protests Construction Of Mosque In Moscow Oblast
The Union of Orthodox Citizens of Russia appealed to Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov to immediately ban the construction of a mosque and Muslim cultural center in Sergiev Posad, "Vermya novostei" reported on 25 October. The head of the Sergievposadskii Raion administration, Vasilii Goncharov, told reporters that no decision on the construction of a mosque has been passed yet, adding that the possible allocation of land for such a project is still under consideration. The appeal's authors said the construction of a mosque should be possible only once "the segregation of Orthodox adherents in Tatarstan ends." They refer to the destruction of the foundation of the St. Tatyana Church's chapel in Chally on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 October 2002). Union members accused the head of the Moscow-based Muslim Religious Board for European Russia and the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Ravil Gainutdin, of approving that act of vandalism. Council of Muftis representative Ferit Esedullin told "Vremya novostei" that Gainutdin said the 450th anniversary of the Kazan's conquest by Ivan the Terrible is not the best time to begin construction of the church.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Citizens Call For End To War In Chechnya
A majority of Ufa residents who were interviewed by an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent during the recent hostage situation in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 25, 26, 29, and 30 October 2002) condemned the hostage taking but also said they thought the hostage takers "were driven [to commit the act] by the war in Chechnya," RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 27 October.

The chairwoman of Bashkortostan's Union of Women, Reshide Soltanova, said on 25 October that she thought the hostage taking didn't make any sense, though she also promoted negotiations between Russian authorities and Chechen rebels in order to put an end to the war and to free the hostages in Moscow.

Official Says Census Revealed Population's Trust In Government
The chairman of the Bashkir State Statistics Committee, Ekrem Ganiev, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 29 October that 17,000 census takers interviewed more than 4.1 million people in the republic during the recent national census from 9 to 16 October. Ganiev claimed that the active participation of the republic's citizens reflected a high level of trust in government agencies in the republic.

Bashkir Press Struggling To Maintain Subscribers For 2003
Bashkir Media Minister Zoefer Timerbolatov said on 29 October that media outlets in the republic are facing a dramatic decrease in subscribers for 2003, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. Timerbolatov said that only one publication, the "Istoki" weekly, has so far managed to retain for next year 55 percent of the subscriptions that it had in early 2002.

Several of the republic's major publications, including "Bashkortostan," "Respublika Bashkortostan," and "Kyzyl Tang," have so far managed to secure from 4 to 19 percent of their regular subscribers, while the popular "Omet" weekly has retained only 39.3 percent of its readers.

The editors in chief of the republic's print-media publications, all of which are state-owned, have promised the minister to improve the situation by the end of the ongoing subscription campaign at the end of December.

Ufa Regional Administration Explaining Constitutional Changes To The Masses
The administration of Bashkortostan's Ufa region has organized five so-called "information groups" to explain proposed changes to the Bashkir Constitution, a draft of which was published for public discussion on 29 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 October 2002), "Respublika Bashkortostan" daily reported on 31 October. The groups, which are led by administration head Mikhail Mineev and his four deputies, have reportedly been visiting the workers of farms and regional companies, where the employees have reportedly been more interested in getting answers to their questions about public transportation, stores, and the timely payment of social subsidies than they are about the constitution.

Committee Reveals Corruption Statistics
Twenty Bashkir officials have been convicted of violating the republic's anticorruption law so far this year, RosBalt reported on 26 October. The Bashkir State Monitoring Committee announced that 53 officials have violated the law so far in 2002, about twice as many as the previous year. In addition, the committee announced that 538 officials have been charged with financial abuse this year, with 126 of them being demoted or dismissed, while others were handed "disciplinary punishments" or warnings.

Conference Of Bashkortostan's Tatars Cancelled Again
Bashkir authorities have cancelled for a second time a planned conference on national and cultural problems that Tatars face in Bashkortostan, which had previously been slated for 17 September and then postponed to 29 October, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 30 October. Although the Bashkir government didn't explain its reasons for the cancellation of the planned 17 September conference, this time it said that the cancellation was because of the hostage-taking incident in Moscow.

The conference was planned as the second part of this year's Congress of Tatars in Bashkortostan, the first part of which was held in Ufa in early August (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 August 2002).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

People From Caucasus To Be Checked In Nizhnii
Heads of the Interior Ministry's Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Directorate appealed to its employees to check persons who are native to the Caucasus republics, NTA Privolzhe reported on 29 October. The directorate leadership as well called to hold an explanatory work among residents to prevent interethnic conflicts, since "one of the terrorists' main tasks is to rouse discord between representatives of different ethnic groups and faiths."

Penza Resident Poisoned By Substance Contained In Letter
A resident of Penza was hospitalized in the intensive therapy ward after being poisoned by a substance that was contained in a letter he received, NTA Privolzhe reported on 31 October citing the Interior Ministry's Penza Oblast Directorate's press service. The letter was sent from Tver by the Club-Post Rus organization. Another similar envelope sent from the Club-Post Rus was found in a Penza postal department, the agency said.

Zorin Says Hobbits, Elves Registered During Census May Signal Youth Protest...
The fact that some young people in Perm Oblast registered in the recent census as hobbits and elves is a signal that "we are losing our youth not only to skinheads," Minister without portfolio in charge of national policy Vladimir Zorin said in Perm on 29 October, Region-Inform-Perm reported the same day. Zorin said: "Identifying as a hobbit, elf, or Scythian may be a sign of hooliganism or a protest. It is possible that youth are not finding reference points in traditional ethnic groups."

...Comments On Merger Of Perm Oblast, Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug
Minister Zorin said on 29 October that a plan for the merger of Perm Oblast and Komi-Premyak Autonomous Okrug should be supported by the public, Region-Inform-Perm reported the same day. Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev has said that a referendum will be held in the oblast and the okrug prior to the merger.

Meanwhile, deputy director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Sergei Cheshko, said he doubts that the interests of Komi-Permyaks can be efficiently realized in the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 29 October. Cheshko said, "I am not sure that the status of an autonomous okrug provides privileges in national development."

Chechen Diaspora In Perm Condemns Terrorism
The representation of the Chechen Republic to Perm Oblast issued a statement on 28 October condemning terrorism and the rousing of interethnic discord, Region-Inform-Perm reported the same day. Representation head Saidkhusain Kanaev said Chechens, in both Chechnya and Perm Oblast, similarly condemn terrorism and hope nothing similar will occur in the oblast. Kanaev said the roots of terrorism are connected to "the war in Chechnya that is our common misfortune."

Saratov Oblast's Ayatskov Threatens To Initiate Mayor's Dismissal
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told a meeting of the oblast government that he will appeal to the Russian president to dismiss Saratov Mayor Yurii Aksenenko if he does not fully provide Saratov with heat this week, NTA Privolzhe reported on 28 October. It was reported at the meeting that 700 apartment buildings with 153,500 residents, as well as 15 hospitals, 40 educational institutions, and 30 cultural objects are still not connected to heating. Two days earlier, Saratov Oblast Deputy Governor Aleksandr Miroshin appealed to the oblast prosecutors' office to file a criminal case against Aksenenko, and dismiss him for failure to implement his duties, which ruined the heating works in Saratov, the agency said.

Sverdlovsk Oblast's Rossel Promotes Revival Of Secret Informers Network
The hostage taking in Moscow on 23 October was the natural result of the process of destruction of the Russian special services, the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry, that has been going on for several years, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said at a press conference on 28 October, Uralinformbureau reported. Rossel called for a radical reform of the Russian special services to strengthen them. Rossel suggested that the system of informers that existed already in tsarist Russia be revived.

Rossel also said that nuclear facilities could be the next target for terrorists as they are guarded by civilians, often unarmed, "Novyi region" reported on 28 October. Rossel further called for a return of closed territorial entities to their former status and guard. Rossel said he would like the former attitude toward strategic objects that existed during Josef Stalin's rule to be revived. "Under Stalin, everything was guarded by the army, not only nuclear objects but there wasn't a single bridge without supervision by a military unit," he said.

Solzhenitsyn Says Russian Democracy 'For Show'
In an interview with the Volga Region Journalists League published by "Nizhegorodskie novosti" on 28 October, Noble Prize Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn labeled the current political system in Russia as "democracy for show" characterized by "the worst features of the Soviet system -- the absence of control and the impenetrability of decisions and activity by authorities." Asked whether minorities in Russia should be given independence, Solzhenitsyn said it is difficult, almost impossible, for minorities to maintain the existence of separate states. The writer said the Russian Empire maintained all the 150 peoples that lived in it, and there was nothing similar to the total annihilation of North American Indians. Solzhenitsyn said in many autonomous entities representatives of "titular nations" have privileges compared to those who speak only Russian. He said it is the fault of the state that the trade and service sectors are occupied by migrants from the south, mainly by Azerbaijanis. This is a painful phenomenon that causes a feeling of depression in Russians, Solzhenitsyn added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova