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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 24, 1998

24 December 1998
Tatar Language To Be Rejected As State Language In Bashkortostan
On December 23rd, the State Assembly of the Republic of Bashkortostan passed a draft law on languages in Bashkortostan in the first reading. According to the law, Russian and Bashkir will become the state languages of the Republic of Bashkortostan. Pickets near the State Assembly protested the violation of rights of the Tatar-speaking population, which constitutes 1.5 million people -- about one-third of total population of Bashkortostan.

According to the recent census, Tatars are the second largest ethnic group after Russians. Baskirs represent 20% of the population. The draft law on languages of the Republic of Bashkortostan was submitted by President Murtaza Rakhimov, who is often criticized by the opposition for Bashkir ethnocentrism. On December 22, the executive committee of the Tatar Congress in Bashkortostan made a public statement saying that "ignoring the rights of the one-third of Bashkortostan's population would bring about a destabilization of inter-ethnic relations". In June 1997, the Tatar Congress meeting chaired by President Rakhimov adopted a resolution stipulating the future state status of the Tatar language.

The President of the World Congress of Tatars, Indus Tagirov, addressed a letter to President Rakhimov and State Assembly Chairman Rif Latipov on December 22 asking for a protection of the rights of all ethnic groups in Bashkortostan when considering the draft law. Tagirov stated in his letter that Tatars in the Republic of Bashkortostan were concerned about the unwillingness of Bashkir legislators to classify the Tatar language as one of the state languages.

President Shaimiev Says Federal Draft Budget Violates The Rights Of Russian Regions
On December 23, President Shaimiev told the Interfax news agency that he "will not under any circumstances support the current federal draft budget for 1999". Shaimiev said that it would be necessary to redistribute taxes between the federal and republican governments. He said that according to the draft budget, federal authorities would have the the right to collect VAT and income tax, which represent the major money flow in comparison with other taxes. Shaimiev emphasized that according to the draft budget, republics of the Russian Federation would levy only minor and hardly collectable taxes. "This would bring the Russian regions to extreme poverty," he said.

Tatneft Pays Its Eurobonds Interest
The republican press reported that on December 18-19 the Tatneft company paid 13.5 million US dollars in interest in accordance with its Eurobonds issued in the second half of 1997. The payment was made beyond the deadline of October 28 set by the board of investors. The press service of Tatneft announced that the administration of the company was negotiating to refund the remaining debt to creditors and investors. In his statement, the Deputy General Director of Tatneft, Shagafat Takhautdinov, said the main agreement on restructuring the debts of Tatneft will be signed in the first half of 1999.

Compiled by I.Nurmi