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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 28, 2002

28 November 2002
Federation Council Passes Pro-Cyrillic Amendment
The Russian Federation upheld the amendments to the law on "peoples' languages," declaring on 27 November that Cyrillic is the only script allowed for the state languages of Russia's republics, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. The draft amendments, which defy Tatarstan's earlier declared transition to the Latin alphabet, had sailed through the Russian State Duma on 15 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 November 2002). Russian President Vladimir Putin still must sign the bill before it becomes law. Valerii Kadokhov, chairman of the Federation Council's Commission on Federation Affairs and Regional Policies, said that the document "filled the legislation gap, preventing the possibility of nonconformities in the sphere of government, economy, and information, connected with the use of heterogeneous writing. The law is to lock in the existing uniformity of scripts and the way of writing official and business documents." Refget Altynbayev, a senator from Tatarstan, openly opposed the draft because it "violated the Russian Constitution, which says that the republics have a right of choosing their state languages." This opinion was reportedly supported by both senators from the Republic of Karelia, one of whom -- Yuri Ponomarev, stated that the Cyrillic script "did not have any letters for the sounds used by some of Russia's peoples" and therefore the discussed draft "would bring destruction to their ethnic languages." Nevertheless, the document prohibiting the use of non-Cyrillic scripts was passed with 122 votes in favor, three against, and five abstentions.

Tatar Senator Says The Cyrillic-Only Bill Infringes On Regional Jurisdiction
Speaking with Ekho Moskvi after the vote, Refget Altynbayev said that the amendments backed by the Russian Federation Council "represented an infringement into the affairs of Russia's regions." He reminded that Tatarstan had already adopted a law on the gradual transition to the Latin script in 1999 and began implementing the document two years later. Altynbayev said that the delay gave Tatarstan an opportunity to see if the law would affect "Russia's economic and political integrity." He added that after the law took force, it received no objections from federal legislators. "If someone thinks that the use of the Tatar-Latin script means distancing from Russia," he concluded, "he is deeply deluding himself." Altynbayev also said that Tatarstan would appeal to the Russian Supreme Court against the amendment.

Shaimiev Discusses Issues Of Russian Communities
President Mintimer Shaimiev met with members of the Russian Culture Society in Kazan, other Russian and Slavic communities, and administration heads from the cities and regions with large Russian populations on 27 November to discuss their problems, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. Aleksandr Salagaev, chairman of the Russian Culture Society and director of the Public Opinion Tatarstan organization, said during the event that the Russian community in Tatarstan is "concerned about the situation regarding Russian culture and the low activity of Russian organizations which, due to the imperial way of thinking, are more worried about the issue of the Kurile Islands than life in the republic." According to Salagaev's report, the Russian population of Tatarstan, being predominantly urban and representing 40 percent of the republic's total population, has a small representation in governmental bodies due to the "artificial interference of administrative resources." He cited as an example the Tatar State Council, where ethnic Russians constitute only 20 percent of the deputies. Shaimiev agreed with the statement that there are less Russians in the State Council than Tatars. "But," he noted, "what can we do? I have never seen anyone happy about having lost the elections."

Minister Announces Wages Arrears Total Of Tatarstan's Industries
Boris Zakharov, minister of labor and employment, told the republican coordinating board on wages and standard of living on 27 November that current wages arrears totaled more than 950 million rubles ($29.9 million) in Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. He commented on the amount by saying that it "was not the worst such figure in the Volga Federal District, as the situation is more complicated in Bashkortostan and Orenburg Oblast." Zakharov also noted that similar to previous years, collective farms "make up the majority of debtor enterprises, having to face growing prices on agricultural machinery spare parts and dropping prices for their produce."

Tatneft Expanding Its Gas Station Network
In light of the future launch of the Tuben Kama Oil Processing Plant, the Tatneft oil company signed an option contract for buying a 50 percent interest in Chuvashnefteprodukt, which runs the retail sale of gas and other oil products in the neighboring Chuvash Republic, Tatar-inform reported on 27 November. The Tatar oil company already owns a 30 percent stake in Chuvashnefteprodukt, together with more than 400 gas stations in the Nizhnii Novgorod, Ulyanovsk, Chelyabinsk, Moscow Oblasts and Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 November 2002). The agency also quoted Tatneft's general director, Shafagat Takhautdinov, as saying that beginning in 2003 his company will begin the development of stations for cars running on liquefied natural gas.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Parliamentary Committees Call For Preservation Of Presidency...
All seven of the Bashkir State Assembly's parliamentary committees unanimously recommended on 27 November that parliament pass a constitution maintaining the presidency as opposed to one calling for a change to a parliamentary republic, Interfax-Eurasia reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 October 2002). In an interview with Interfax-Eurasia, State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev said he was satisfied with the decision of the parliamentary committees. Tolkachev said that under the "presidential" draft, the highest-ranking official in the republic will be the president, who will be elected by the populace for a five-year term. The draft does not contain any restrictions on the age of a potential president or on the number of terms that a president can serve, though it does require that the president speak both of Bashkortostan's state languages, Bashkir and Russian, Tolkachev said. The next plenary session of the legislature is scheduled for 3 December, Bashinform reported the same day.

...As Does Head Of Constitutional Court
The chairman of the Bashkir Constitutional Court, Ildus Edehemov, told State Assembly deputies on 27 November that Bashkortostan needs a president to maintain the integrity of the system of executive power in the republic, Interfax-Eurasia reported the same day. Edehemov said controversies over power could arise if the republic switched to a parliamentary system of government, which has never existed in Bashkortostan. He added that in order to implement federal laws fully, it is necessary to establish a system of executive power that includes a government and a president to run that government.

Industrialists Back Rakhimov For Another Term
The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs in Bashkortostan has asked President Murtaza Rakhimov to run for one more term as president of the republic, RosBalt reported on 27 November. Bashkortostan's representatives in the union sent a letter to Rakhimov in which they said the union's regional branch supports the president and would like to nominate him for another presidential term if he were to agree. The letter mentioned that Rakhimov is "not only an outstanding state leader but also a competent manager of industry in the republic." The authors also expressed hope that the presidential staff will cooperate with their organization on industrial-policy issues, which, the letter read, "could positively influence the strengthening of the industrial, scientific, and technical potential of the republic."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasan