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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 22, 2003

22 May 2003
Parliamentary Commission Discusses Prosecutor's Protest Against Language Law...
The State Council Commission on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues discussed on 21 May the protest by the republic's prosecutor against several provisions of the republic's language law. The prosecutor had said that some provisions of the law, adopted in July 1992, contradict federal law, in particular those that specify that Tatar and Russian can be used in Tatarstan's industry, transport, communications, and engineering sectors. Under federal law, the use of the Russian language is mandatory in those sectors. The commission agreed with the prosecutor's complaints, with the exception of one referring to "Tatar citizens." The commission said, according to the Tatar Constitution, the republic has its own citizenship.

...Appeals Against Cyrillic-Only Law
The commission has appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court against the amendment to the federal law on languages, which mandates that all state languages use the Cyrillic script, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 21 May. Commission Chairman Razil Weliev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service the same day that the Cyrillic-only amendment, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2002, contradicts some four articles of the Russian Constitution and violates human rights. Weliev added that recent verdicts of the Russian Constitutional Court have been political rather than legal and said that if the ruling on the script issue is legal, Tatarstan would be able to introduce the Latin Tatar script. If that doesn't happen, he said, Tatarstan would appeal to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. In accordance with the controversial law (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report, 12 December 2002), Tatarstan must abolish within 12 months its September 1999 law calling for the restoration of the Latin Tatar script.

Duma Deputy Appeals To Prosecutor To Release Kashapov
State Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev appealed to Tatarstan's Prosecutor Kafil Amirov to release Rafis Kashapov, the leader of the Tatar Public Center in Chally, from custody, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 May. Kovalev said he will guarantee that Kashapov cooperates with investigators and takes part in court hearings. Kovalev added that keeping Kashapov in custody is a legal violation. A year ago Kashapov was severely beaten and has still not fully recovered (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30, 31 May, and 3 June 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Major Bashkir Communications Company Considering Merger With Svyazinvest
Bashkortostan's major communications company Bashinformsvyaz is considering the possibility of merging with Volgatelecom, the leading communications company in the Volga federal district, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 May. Bashinformsvyaz currently provides services for 850,000 telephone subscribers in Bashkortostan, satellite-based communication services, and maintaining fiber-optic and radio networks in the republic. Russia's Property Affairs Ministry owns 28.2 percent of the company's shares, while the Bashkir government has a 17.8 percent stake in the venture. According to on 21 May, Bashinformsvyaz incomes reached 2.2 billion rubles ($71.5 million) in 2002. Volgatelekom unites wire communications companies from most of the Volga regions. The company earned 1.5 billion rubles ($48.7 million) in 2002.

State Duma Speaker Visits Ufa
Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev arrived in Ufa on 21 May to join a plenary session at the annual Congress of Russia's Oil Industry, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 22 May. Right after his arrival, Seleznev met President Murtaza Rakhimov. On 22 May he spoke at the congress, presenting a report on legislative measures for developing Russia's oil and gas complex.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi