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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 18, 2002

18 November 2002
Duma Approves Cyrillic-Only Bill...
The Russian State Duma on 15 November passed in its second and third readings an amendment to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation, and other Russian news agencies reported. The amendment would mandate that the Cyrillic alphabet serve as the basis for the written languages of all peoples of the federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February and 6 June 2002). The use of any other alphabet would have to be approved by a special federal law in each case, Interfax reported. Deputy Fendes Safiullin (Russian Regions) from Tatarstan spoke out against the bill, saying that "national alphabets cannot be made uniform" and "there is no precedent [for such a bill] in the world." Last year, Tatarstan officially adopted an alphabet based on Latin script (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September and 19 October 2001).

The chairman of the Tatar State Council Committee on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues, Razil Weliev, said the prohibition of the Latin script is a political, rather than legal, decision. He said the amendment "contradicts Russia's international agreements and violates the Russian Constitution." Weliev said the Tatar parliament will discuss the amendment and will likely appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court.

...As Shaimiev Says Bill Violates Human Rights...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 17 November that the amendment is "defective from the legal point of view" and violates human rights. He said that arguments claiming that the introduction of the Tatar Latin script will result in language separatism are unfounded, adding that the issue has become overpoliticized.

Shaimiev said the prohibition against using non-Cyrillic scripts contradicts the 1991 Declaration on the Languages of the Peoples of the Russian Federation, which recognizes "the language sovereignty of every nation in [Russia]," and the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which has been signed by the Russian Federation. Shaimiev also said the amendment contradicts Article 68 of the Russian Constitution, which says that republics are empowered to establish their own state languages, while the Russian Federation guarantees all peoples the right of to preserve their native language and to create conditions for the study and development thereof.

Shaimiev added that an expert examination of the amendment will be carried out before it is considered by the Federation Council.

...And Comments On Chechen Issue
Shaimiev told Interfax on 17 November that Chechnya needs a leader who has unlimited authority among the population of the republic and who is very familiar with the republic and the mentality and traditions of the people. "This should be a person who would be able to consolidate the people, whom people trusted, and who could promote the interests of the people and strengthen, through his actions, trust in federal authorities," Shaimiev said.

The Tatar president opposed the point of view that there are currently no such figures among Chechens, saying that: "Such people exist both within and outside the republic. One should not fear them but should trust them." Shaimiev said such a person should promote the principle of preserving the territorial integrity of Russia and of Chechnya as a federation subject in any situation.

Shaimiev said Moscow should not be afraid of the appearance in the republic of a strong politician and warned against looking for a leader for Chechnya who would be completely loyal to Moscow.

Russian Court Overturns Decision Of Tatar Court On Constitution
The Russian Supreme Court overturned on 15 November the 10 September verdict of the Tatar Supreme Court refusing to satisfy the protest by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev against the Tatar State Council's alleged failure to implement court decisions (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 September, 3 October, and 12 November 2002), reported on 15 November. The Russian Supreme Court sent the case back to the Tatar Supreme Court for a new hearing.

TIU Leader Hit By Car, Suffers Concussion
The leader of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally, Refis Kashapov, was hit by a car in Chally on 15 November, reported on 17 November, citing the TIU in Chally. The TIU said that Kashapov suffered a concussion but has no claims against the driver of the car. The TIU added, however, that Kashapov had asked the driver to come to the TIU office "to clarify the cause of the incident."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Republic To Introduce Visitors' Fees For Nature Reserves
The Bashkir government has for the first time decided to introduce visitors' fees for entry into special zones in the republic's nature reserves, including Anli Kul, Qandri Kul, and Muradil Gorge, RIA-Novosti reported on 15 November. The average fee will be 1,000 rubles ($30), which will allow a visitor to travel by car through designated areas, as well as to take photographs and to use the services of a guide.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi