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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 18, 2002

18 February 2002
Duma Seeks To Prohibit Use Of Non-Cyrillic Scripts...
The State Duma's Nationalities Affairs Committee on 14 February held a roundtable to discuss draft amendments to the law on languages of the peoples of Russia, RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent reported on 15 February. Two drafts were on the agenda, one of which was proposed by a group of deputies while the other was initiated by deputy from Tatarstan Fandas Safiullin. The first draft prohibits the use of non-Cyrillic alphabets by state languages in Russia. The second one declares that peoples should be allowed to solve on their own issues concerning their languages.

Tyva deputy Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei, who proposed the first draft, said it was initiated by the presidential administration as a response to Tatarstan's decision to restore the Tatar Latin alphabet. He said the draft was discussed in Russia's 29 federation members, and only Tatarstan has not supported it. The first draft enjoyed approval by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko. However, Isakov, the head of the Duma staff, said it contradicts the Russian Constitution. The Safiullin-initiated draft was evaluated by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov as legally unfounded.

...As Tatarstan Deputies Criticize Duma Amendment
Duma deputy Fandas Safiullin, speaking at the roundtable, said that if the first proposal is passed, Tatars will be unable to use even their current Cyrillic script, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 16 February. If the use of the Latin script will be prohibited only for state languages in Russia's entities, he continued, Tatarstan can remove the state language status of Tatar, introduce Latin script, and then return the Tatar language its state status again.

Commenting on accusations that switching to the Tatar Latin script poses a threat to Russia's integrity, he said the USSR was broken up by leaders of the Slavic republics that used the Cyrillic alphabet. Safiullin said the draft demonstrates a suspicion of Tatars and anti-Tatar thinking.

Tatarstan State Council deputy Tufan Minnullin addressed the roundtable participants, saying the anti-Latin draft is not only anti-Tatar but rather anti-Russian, as it is dangerous for Russia itself. He stressed that there are almost no Russians among the initiators of the first draft acting on the behalf of Russians. However, he criticized the Russian intelligentsia keeping silent on the issue.

Scholar Calls Language Amendment 'Chauvinistic, Racist'
Speaking at the Duma roundtable, Tatarstan ethnologist Damir Iskhakov called the draft "chauvinistic," as it supposes that the Tatar alphabet's fate is to be resolved in Moscow by all Duma deputies, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 16 February. Tatars constitute 4 percent of Russia's population, so 96 percent of those who will decide on the Tatar language's future will be representatives of other nationalities, Iskhakov said. He asserted that the draft is "racist" since the Russian alphabet is given priority in it. Maintaining the united Russian cultural and educational space was listed as one of the most important reasons to adopt the amendments.

Iskhakov said if Tatarstan's parliament is unable to promote the introduction of the Tatar Latin script because of political pressure, the Tatar people can announce the Latin script "a national alphabet" and use it even if Moscow prohibits it. Iskhakov quoted recent survey data according to which national feelings of teenagers between 15 and 19 are much stronger than among elder generations, adding furthermore Moscow will face growing troubles in repressing peoples.

Shaimiev Promotes Alternative Civil Service
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev backed the introduction of alternative civil service, Tatar-inform reported on 16 February. Shaimiev said not more than 30 percent of draftees are called for military service in Tatarstan while others skip or are waived. Alternative service is to become an obligatory norm, he said. Shaimiev said the term of alternative service should be determined by thorough analysis of how many servicemen can be employed. Commenting on the General Staff's proposal of a four-year term of service, he said under such conditions, there will be too many civil servicemen to be provided with working places in Tatarstan.

Senator From Tatarstan Calls For Revision Of Inter-Budget Relations
Rafgat Altynbaev, senator from Tatarstan and the chairman of the Federation Council's Local Self-Administration Committee, told "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 15 February that inter-budget relations and order of formation of budgets should be changed. Altynbaev said income tax and property tax should be left in the regions to develop self-administration rather than be transferred to Moscow in order to be returned then back to the entities.

Tatarstan To Purchase Cows From Canada
Tatarstan will purchase 2,000 thoroughbred cows from Canada, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. The $16 million deal was signed at a meeting of President Shaimiev with Quebec Prime Minister Bernar Landri. The two also discussed prospects of cooperation in oil and oil bitumen refining, helicopter production, and subway construction. The Kazan KVZ helicopter plant purchased from the Canadian company Pratt&Witney 20 engines for its new Ansat helicopter in 2001.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Opposition Groups Call On Putin To Dismiss President Rakhimov
Bashkortostan's political movements Equality and Rus, along with the local chapter of the Yabloko party, appealed last month to President Vladimir Putin to dismiss Bashkortostan's president and dissolve the republican State Assembly, "Vek" weekly reported on 15 February. The initiators blame Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov and the legislature for inaction over legal harmonization with Russian Federation law. The opposition leaders said the republic's leadership failed to react to a Russian Constitutional Court ruling that struck down sovereignty for federation members in June 2000, and a deputy prosecutor-general's December 2000 protest against 50 paragraphs in the republican constitution.

Equality leader Aleksandr Arinin told the weekly that principles like equality before the law regardless of sex, nationality, or language -- as well as other human rights and freedoms -- are constantly violated in Bashkortostan. He said the republican leader's and legislature's conduct amounted to "deliberate political and legal sabotage" against decisions by the Russian Constitutional Court. Arinin said that as a result of this approach, Bashkortostan has been deprived of foreign and domestic investment. He cited the Russian Justice Ministry as reporting that more than 100 republican laws still contradict federal legislation.

Government Discusses Plight Of Homeless Children
Minister of Labor and Social Care Lev Bakusov called on employees at the ministry to make this year a turning point in the effort to combat child homelessness, Bashinform reported on 15 February. He said 4,000 children with parents are neglected in the republic. Bakusov told a ministry board meeting that the 15 existing children's asylums have a combined capacity of 490, while the republic needs facilities to house 3,000 minors.

The issue of minors and their rights was on the agenda of a government meeting on 15 February, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The number of homeless children has reportedly grown to the rate in the 1920s, with child beggars increasingly apparent in republican cities, participants said. Deputy Prime Minister Khalyaf Ishmuratov said 25,000 minors were registered for legal infractions in the republic.

Meanwhile, "Trud" reported on 16 February that 10-year-old schoolboy was believed to be drunk and delivered to a dry-out facility in Sibai. Roughly 250 minors were registered by that facility in 2001, the paper said.

Republic's Jobless Are Opening Businesses
Bashinform reported on 15 February that 441 unemployed people opened their own business in 2001, 205 of them in the services sector, 186 in agriculture, and 50 in the industrial production sector. Some 9.5 million rubles ($311,000) was allocated for support, with the average subsidy to each business reportedly totaling 21,500 rubles ($705).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova