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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 18, 2001

18 October 2001
State Council Commission Discusses Switch To Latin-Tatar Script...
The Tatarstan State Council's commission on science, education, culture, and ethnic issues discussed the ongoing implementation of a republican law on restoring the Tatar alphabet based on Latin script, adopted in 1997. Kim Minnulin, chief of the languages-development department at the Cabinet of Ministers, told the meeting that within the 10 years beginning from 2000, five types of textbooks on Latin script have been published, one with a print run of 13,000 copies. Beginning from 2001, Tatarstan's Education Ministry is holding special courses of Latin script for teachers. Kazan and Chally are reportedly leading this process, and the ministry has reported no shortages of Tatar-language teachers so far.

...As Government Official Suggests Cautious Approach To The Reform...
Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Valeeva said during the same meeting that "the main purpose of script transition law was to protect the traditions and assist the reunion of the Tatar nation." She added that it was necessary to amend the law and sign an agreement with the federal Education Ministry allowing Tatar schools in Russian regions to switch to Latin Tatar. Valeeva emphasized that, "It is essential to obtain the approval of Tatars living outside Tatarstan for the switchover -- otherwise it would split the nation, which will lose a common system for graphically depicting the language."

...And Parliamentary Deputies Talk Of Resisting Moscow Pressure
State Council Deputy and Tatar writer Tufan Minnulin said that, in his opinion, "The law on script reform has not yet been put in force because the Russian government planned to bury it since it began its return to a totalitarian state." He urged Tatarstan's government to "finish the transition to Latin Tatar script as soon as possible." Minnulin added that the Tatar nation should defend itself, adding that more reforms than the one to Latin script have been subject to Moscow criticism -- "even Tatarstan's Constitution was tested," he said.

Razil Valeev, chairman of the State Council's commission on science, education, culture, and ethnic issues, said the "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" newspaper refused to publish the reactions of some high-profile Tatars insisting that they hadn't signed a petition against the script reform -- as "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" had reported.

Indus Tahirov, and academician and the executive committee chairman of the World Tatar Congress, suggested that this case of using people's names without their consent ought to be classified as a violation of human rights and should be taken to a court. He also pointed out that it "so far has been impossible to check whether the transition law is implemented or not."

In general, prominent Tatar politicians participating in the meeting expressed their concern about the Russian State Duma and government becoming interested in the Tatar alphabet, thus making it a political issue rather than a linguistic one that should be solved by Tatars.

The commission agreed on proposing the program of Latin Tatar script reform for discussion at a future plenary session of Tatarstan's State Council.

Prime Minister Pledges Crackdown Against Companies That Owe Back Wages
Speaking at a government meeting on 17 October, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov pledged that Tatarstan companies which fail to pay wage-arrears to their employees in full before the end of 2002 will be put into bankruptcy procedures. He explained this measure by saying that "back-wages payment statistics indicate the efficiency of state bodies." In the prime minister's words, Tatarstan residents are currently owed about 1 billion rubles [$34 million] --400 million rubles [$13.6 million] of which entails late wages owed to agricultural workers.

Shaimiev Optimistic On Merger Of Unity, Fatherland, And All Russia
President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 17 October that he assessed the possible merger of Unity, Fatherland parties and the All Russia movement as "a good opportunity to form a right-centrist party." He said that such a development would "demonstrate their aspirations toward further democratization of Russian society and the desire to make Russia a highly developed, democratic, federative state."

Beginning in 1999, when Vsya Rossiya was formed as a regional movement to oppose the Communist Party and pro-Kremlin forces during that year's elections to the Russian State Duma, Shaimiev has been a member of its presidium. After the bloc of Vsya Rossiya and Yuri Luzhkov's Fatherland party was defeated by the pro-Kremlin Unity party in December 1999 elections, Shaimiev abstained from participation in the bloc's activities.

Tatarstan's Muslim Board Wants Public Participation On Amended Charter
Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board addressed the republic's Muslim community on 17 October, asking people to offer their recommendations for the board's draft charter, "so that it reflects the interests of all Muslim religious organizations" in Tatarstan.

Commander Seeks 'Help From Home' For Military Servicemen From Tatarstan
The commander of a Russian Army detachment based in Tatarstan announced on 17 October that it "began collecting humanitarian aid for 200 soldiers from the Republic of Tatarstan serving in Chechnya." Five soldiers recruited in Tatarstan were reportedly wounded in a recent attack by militants. According to the commander, both soldiers and officers "would be glad to receive any kind of help from home" because they all live in the same conditions, in a tent camp in Gudermes.

Tatarstan's Credit Rating Among Top Five Regions
AK&M rating agency on 17 October listed Tatarstan as the fifth most-reliable borrower among Russian regions because of its low state debt and high budget surplus. Moscow, St. Petersburg, Khanti-Mansiysk, and Yamalo-Nenetsk autonomous okrugs were reportedly above Tatarstan on the list.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Government Battles Non-Payment Of State-Issued Loans
Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov said on 17 October that Bashkortostan's government faces a problem getting its loans paid back by companies in the republic. Industrial enterprises, most of them agricultural, have failed to repay a total of 6 billion rubles [$204 million] in debts, which represents 33 percent of Bashkortostan's budget. The republic's State Control Committee recently revealed numerous case of financial abuse by the managers of debtor companies, who used the loans for paying taxes and purchasing large shipments of tobacco and alcohol. Baydavletov said debtors will "be responsible for every kopeck spent, although they think that the state loans were free gifts."

German, Bashkir Experts To Discuss Federalism Issues
The Moscow branch of the Konrad Adenauer Fund (Germany) began a seminar on "Federalism in Focus" regarding relations between the central government and regions on 18 October in Ufa. The seminar will feature reports by German scientists and legal experts from Bashkortostan.

Tatar Minister Praises Bashkortostan's Achievements
Tatarstan's minister of agriculture, Marat Akhmetov, told Bashinform on 17 October that his republic "envied some of Bashkortostan's achievements in agriculture and its might."

Land Study To Probe Safety Of Nuclear Power Plant In Agidel
A special research group began testing the land around and under the construction site of Bashkortostan's nuclear power plant in Agidel on 17 October. The tests are to take 18 months and should determine whether it is safe to resume the project, which was put on hold in the early 1990s. A number of Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry and Bashkir officials have expressed their approval of continuing construction.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi