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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 6, 2004

6 October 2004
Tatar Script Case Goes To Russian Constitutional Court...
The Russian Constitutional Court on 5 October began hearing an appeal by the Tatar State Council and Tatarstan's Supreme Court that contests federal legislation making mandatory the use of the Cyrillic script for all state languages in Russia, Tatar and Russian media reported the same day. The Tatar bodies argued that under the Russian Constitution, federation entities are empowered to decide on their own which scripts should be used in the national languages of their peoples. They insisted in the appeal that the Latin script, introduced by a 1999 republican law, correctly reflects specific Tatar sounds.

State Duma representative to the Constitutional Court Yelena Mizulina strongly criticized Tatarstan's initiatives as a "veiled refusal" to comply with the constitution and called the entire dispute "far-fetched." She said that using the Latin script would restrict the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens and that "using the Latin script will alienate Russian citizens in Tatarstan from those in the whole federation."

Mikhail Mityukov, the Russian president's representative to the court, said he believes that the regulation of state languages is not an exclusive power of federation subjects but a power shared among the federation and its entities. He said that spoken language and written language are different issues. Mityukov expressed concern that "the use of the Latin script may result in ethnic and linguistic separation among the [Tatar] people" and "may create conditions for isolation of the Republic of Tatarstan within Russia." He also added that changing the alphabet would be very expensive. The Constitutional Court will make a ruling in three to four weeks.

...While Prominent Tatars Oppose Latinization Of Language...
A group of over 30 prominent Tatars published on 5 October in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" an open letter in which they opposed the Tatar language's use of the Latin script. The authors expressed concern that the move could result in a threat to the unity and integrity of the Tatar people. They asked how the retraining of Tatars to use the Latin alphabet and re-equipping of printing houses will work and predicted that the transition to a Latin script would not increase but lessen interest in the Tatar language. Robert Nigmetullin, the chairman of the Russian Academy of Sciences presidium, released on 5 October an open letter in which he warned that "departure" from the Cyrillic script at a moment when Russian spirit is at a low ebb would be seen by many Russians as an attempt by Tatars to distance themselves from Russian culture.

...As Public Considers Language Issue To Be Republics' Prerogative
Meanwhile, 52 percent of respondents in an interactive poll conducted by Ekho Moskvy on 5 October said federation subjects should have the right to choose their alphabets, while 48 percent of participants said entities should not be given such power.

Politician Predicts Court's Anti-Latin Verdict
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 5 October, Mikhail Stolyarov, Tatarstan's acting plenipotentiary representative to Moscow, said the right to decide the fate of languages should belong to the people themselves. Stolyarov, however, predicted that the Constitutional Court will take into account the strict position of the federal authorities expressed during the hearing and is unlikely to annul the Cyrillic-only provision of the federal law.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Former Interior Ministry Official In Court
Bashkortostan's Supreme Court began hearing the case of the murder of Sibai prosecutor Khenif Qarachurin on 5 October, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 6 October. Former Sibai State Traffic Safety Inspectorate head Nuryekhmet Shagiev, who had resigned from law enforcement by the time he was arrested, is accused of organizing the murder (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 December 2003, 5 April and 30 June 2004). Another three residents of Bashkortostan are also on trial -- two are accused of the contracted murder and one of illegally selling the pistol used in the killing. They face sentences from eight years to life in prison if found guilty.

Qarachurin, 55, who had headed the Sibai prosecutor's office for a decade, was shot dead in his apartment on 23 December. Investigators believe that Shagiev paid $10,000 for Qarachurin's killing. One possibility is that Shagiev sought revenge on Qarachurin. In 2000, Qarachurin filed a criminal case against Shagiev on accusations of bribe taking and abuse of power but Shagiev was released by a court. Then unknown people set fire to Qarachurin's house and his new house under construction was also repeatedly set on fire. Qarachurin personally investigated the arson cases and told a confidant shortly before the death that the investigation was about to end. Shagiev said in court that the case was fabricated and evidence was obtained through psychological and physical pressure.

Bashkir Companies Among World's Most Profitable Chemical Firms
Salawatnefteorgsintez and Ufaorgsintez have been listed among the world's most profitable chemical companies, Bashinform reported on 5 October, citing "Profil." According to a list by the Bloomberg agency, Salawatnefteorgsintez was rated ninth in terms of operation profitability at 16 percent and Ufaorgsintez was 10th with 15 percent profitability. Twelve out of 13 of the most profitable chemical companies are in Russia.

Local Authorities To Control Alcohol Sales
The Bashkir government passed a resolution on 4 October introducing measures regulating the sale of products containing alcohol in the republic, Bashinform and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 4 and 6 October, respectively. The resolution charges the republic's cities', towns', and raions' administrations with supervising the retail sale of goods containing spirits.

In 2003, 571 people in Bashkortostan died of accidents related to poisoning from alcohol substitutes, 439 of them people of working age. The death rate has tripled comparing to the 1991 rate.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova