MOSCOW, JANUARY 13, RIA NOVOSTI - Federal President Vladimir Putin held conference today with President Nikolai Merkushkin of Mordovia, Russia's constituent republic on the Volga, to sum up its economic achievements of last year and discuss self-government.
Mr. Merkushkin reported sweeping progress-a 124 per cent increase of industrial output, Russia's greatest, and spectacular success in other fields: 114% for meat output, 106% milk production, and 26% housing construction.
President Putin wondered whether there were any wage and pension arrears in the republic. To that, Mordovia's President said there were none in the government-financed field. Things were quite different in industrial companies. Total arrears there made 242 million roubles at last year's start to shrink to 140 million, roughly US$4.5 million, by the year's end.
The federal President pointed out dynamic progress of self-government in Mordovia, whose agencies are developing into actual ruling bodies. To that, President Merkushkin highlighted the republic's concerted efforts of the previous six years.
He told about a programme the republic is implementing for young families' house mortgages. 358 married couples, each with two children, received new dwellings on it throughout the year. The programme is encouraging procreation. Birth rates came 17-18 per cent up last year.
As the federal President wondered about interethnic relations in Mordovia, his republican counterpart said its ethnic entities were good neighbours. Russians account for 61% of the republican population, while Mordvinians make up a mere 32%. President Putin called, in that connection, to preserve ethnic minorities' language and culture in efforts of regional and federal scope alike.