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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 13, 2002

13 December 2002
Tatar Leader Says Cyrillic-Only Bill Threatens Russia's Security...
Reshit Yegeferov, chairman of the Tatar Public Center, said in reference to the recently passed amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2002) in an interview with an RFE/RL Kazan correspondent on 12 December that, "Moscow's policy of telling the peoples [of the Russian Federation] what [alphabet] to use to express their language threatens Russia's security, because this will plant [the seeds of] discontent between ethnic groups in the country."

...As Parliamentary Official Says Amendment Violates Federal Laws
Midkhet Kormanov, chairman of Tatarstan's parliamentary legislative committee, told Efir television on 12 December: "I'm sure that the passing of the [amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation] will be followed by protests by federal prosecutors, since this draft violates Russian laws by contradicting Article 68 of the [Russian] Constitution, which says that republics have the right to introduce their own state languages. This provision also enables the republics to decide on how to do this." Kormanov added that, "the sooner we [the Tatar [parliament] appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court on this issue, the better."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

TIU Says New Constitution Violates Tatars' Rights...
The Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Bashkortostan held a board meeting on 10 December to discuss claims that the director of the Tatar school in Belebei, Nurmokhemmet Khoseinov, is being persecuted by Bashkir authorities; the recently adopted Bashkir Constitution; and interethnic relations in the republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 December. Participants claimed that the constitution does not protect the rights of Bashkortostan's Tatars since, as the second-largest ethnic group in the republic, their language was not given official state status. Participants also noted that the new constitution maintained several provisions that they said restrict the national rights of nontitular peoples, such as the requirement that the president of the republic speak Bashkir. Members of the TIU's board called for protests in Nizhnii Novgorod and Moscow to defend the rights of the republic's Tatar population. Protests will not be held in Bashkortostan because it won't be possible to obtain permission to do so from Bashkir authorities, board members claimed.

...And Protests Cyrillic-Only Law
The TIU board also harshly criticized amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation making Cyrillic the mandatory alphabet for all state languages in Russia (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 and 27 November and 12 December 2002), an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 December. Instead, the TIU board said that the peoples themselves should be responsible for making decisions concerning their languages.

Board member Goldan Fetkhullin told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 11 December that imperialist tendencies are increasing in Russia and that people's rights and freedoms are being restricted more and more every day. He said the introduction of the Latin Tatar script poses no threat to the future of the Cyrillic alphabet in Russia, since everyone, including Tatars, is required to study the Cyrillic-based Russian language. In the meantime, the right of different national and ethnic groups to develop their own languages is guaranteed by Russian and international law, Fetkhullin added. Finally, he said the move to abolish non-Cyrillic scripts is reminiscent of Stalinist times.

European Court To Hear Suit Of Republican Resident
The European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, France, has agreed to hear a suit filed by Kumertau resident Mikhail Markin, who was fined and had his car confiscated after it was revealed that the customs certificate belonging to the car had been forged, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 December. Markin has appealed to a number of courts claiming that he received the forged certificate when he purchased the car from a previous owner. Nonetheless, his suit has been rejected by the Ufa Soviet Raion Court, the Bashkir Supreme Court, and the Russian Supreme Court.

Survey Reveals Attitude Toward State Symbols
A survey of 1,000 residents of Ufa concerning Russia's state symbols, which was conducted by Bashkortostan's Union of Democratic Youth earlier this month, revealed that 12.5 percent of respondents claimed they know the words of the Russian national anthem, whereas 23 percent said they still know the words of the Soviet national anthem, Bashinform reported on 12 December. In addition, 74 percent of respondents said they think the words of the current national anthem should be taught in schools, while 25 percent opposed this idea. Nearly 6 percent of those questioned said they do not need a passport at all, while 71 percent said that a passport is simply a form of identification, and another 20 percent said that its purpose is to indicate the bearer's citizenship. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said patriotism was connected with performing civic duties, military service, and taking part in elections, while nearly 30 percent said they are prepared to make many sacrifices for the sake of their motherland.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova