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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 17, 2004

17 November 2004
Constitution Court Confirms Ban On Latin-Script Reform...
The Russian Constitutional Court on 17 November rejected a claim by Tatarstan's parliament that sought to establish that republic's right to pursue Latin-script reform, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The court, chaired by Justice Valerii Zorkin, ruled that only federal legislators have the right to decide such linguistic matters. The verdict leaves in force the State Duma's amendment to the law on peoples' languages within the Russian Federation. The Tatar State Council previously sought to abolish that amendment as unconstitutional, claiming that Russia's Constitution gives republics the right to introduce state languages of their own.

According to the Constitutional Court, by introducing its own linguistic reform and rejecting the Cyrillic alphabet without special permission from federal legislative bodies, Tatarstan would violate the linguistic integrity of the Russian Federation.

Tatar parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin told reporters after the court hearing: "We will wait. I'm convinced that with the further development of Russian society we will express stronger interest in studying the Latin script. This process is unstoppable. It is connected with globalization as well as with our desire to reach the European level of life and development." Mukhametshin emphasized that when introducing the Latin script in 1997, the Tatar State Council was basing its move on the opinions of Tatar researchers "who showed that our society is moving toward the Latin script." In Mukhametshin's words, Tatarstan is not planning on removing street signs that have been made in the Latin script "because there is a similar situation in Moscow, [where] I saw several buildings and restaurants with signs in the Latin script." He added that Tatarstan's governmental bodies will not dispute the court's ruling in any other instances, because "time will be our judge, and it will show."

Also on 16 November, the Russian Constitutional Court confirmed the right of ethnic republics to introduce the teaching of non-Russian state languages to the same extent that Russian is taught in kindergartens and schools.

...Which Will Also Affect Karelians
The 16 November ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court also affects the native people of Kareliya, whose language utilizes the Latin script, "Kommersant-Daily" wrote the next day. The leader of the World Karelian Congress, Anatolii Grigoriev, told the daily that the verdict was "unjust, because it violates the rights of the federation's territorial entities." He said language is within the competences of the people and "if the people of Tatarstan decide that they are comfortable with Latin script, so that is the way it has to be." The chairman of Kareliya's state committee on ethnic policies, Yevgeniii Shorokhov, agreed with that statement, noting, "It is not the court's business, even the Constitutional Court's, to decide how a language should be expressed." He also confirmed that Karelians "will not switch to the Cyrillic script for expressing their own language under any circumstances."

Chally Police Looking Into The Radical Islamic Streams
Chally police is investigating the case of a local resident suspected in committing 9 murder and assaults, who is also thought to be the follower of the radical, Wahhabi stream of Islam, �Vremya i Dengi� wrote on 17 November. The investigation is reported to have already led to several arrests, which may also affect the former priest of Chally�s Teube mosque Ayrat Wekhiytov. Previously Wekhiytov had spent 2 years at the US Guantanamo military base facing charges of being part of Taliban movement, but later was freed, because his guilt was not proved. Ayrat told �Vremya i Dengi� that representatives of Chally police recently visited him to inform that he is also likely to be arrested within shortly. According to Wekhiytov, he is not familiar with those already arrested on terrorism charges, and he is afraid that the investigation is planning to �make a scapegoat� out of him.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Tatar Public Organizations remember Victimized Singer, Declare Plans To Move Forward
The Union of Tatar civic organizations in Bashkortostan held a press conference on 16 November, to remember the tragic death of singer Viner Mostafin (see �RFE/RL�s Tatar Bashkir Report,� 5, 16 November 2004) and announce its plans to hold a first congress of Tatar National-Cultural autonomy in Bashkortostan in Moscow on 27 November, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The conference involved the close ones of the diseased singer, who spoke about the pressure imposed on him by Bashkir authorities.

Meanwhile the autonomy congress is considered to be an important step towards obtaining an official status to Tatar language, which is native for the second major ethnic group in the republic.

Zyuganov�s Opponents Leave The Party Leadership In Bashkortostan
The recent plenum of Russia�s Communist Party (KPRF) committee in Bashkortostan approved the resignation appeals of its first secretary Valentin Nikitin, committee members Valerii Shiryaev, Rinat Gabidullin, Leonid Mikhailov and Vladimir Khilintsev, who openly disagreed with policies of the KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov and joined the ranks of Ivanovo governor Vladimir Tikhonov, . After the vote which confirmed the dismissals, Zyuganov�s opponents and their supporters left the conference hall. As a result Zyuganov�s supporters, who did not posses the majority in the committee, failed to elect their own representatives.

Drug Enforcement Agencies Acknowledge The Need For Better Cooperation
Bashkorotstan�s law enforcement bodies agree to join forces for opposing drug mafia, Vsya Ufa TV reported on 16 November, citing the joint conference of Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, Prosecutor�s Office, Customs and anti-drug Police. The mentioned agencies acknowledged at the conference that so far they have failed to establish a system of information exchanga, which is a major obstacle in conducting an effective struggle with drug cartels. Among other drawbacks in fork of the drug enforcers, participants mentioned frequent violations of drug confiscation procedures and often �losses� from police drug storages.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi