Russian State Duma outlaws Roman alphabet

curt fredric woolhiser cfwoolhiser at
Fri Nov 15 19:06:02 UTC 2002

Duma outlaws Roman alphabet


The State Duma has prohibited Tatars from using the Roman alphabet.
On Friday deputies passed a bill banning the use of any alphabet
other than Cyrillic in state languages throughout the Russian
	The State Duma reviewed and approved in the second, and the
third and final readings the draft bill envisaging amendments to the
law on languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation.
Henceforth, all Russian citizens will be prohibited from using the
Roman alphabet. The draft bill received the approval of the majority
of deputies - 336 deputies backed the document, while the liberal
Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko refused to take part in the
voting altogether, saying that the bill, in their opinion, is aimed
against the peoples of Russia.
	The debate, according to Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei, one of the
authors of the draft and chairman of the subcommittee for language
policy, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, proceeded ''quite
smoothly''. He said that during the debate 3 amendments submitted to
the bill following the 1st reading were approved and 14 rejected.
	Unity member Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei reportedly drew up the bill
setting out the amendments to the law on languages. However,
according to unofficial reports, the document was elaborated in the
Kremlin in response to the decision of Tatarstan's State Council on
the gradual restoration of the Roman alphabet in the mainly Muslim
republic by 2010. The group of deputies headed by Bicheldei
backed the document and submitted it to the State Duma. In June this
year the document received preliminary approval in the lower house.
	According to Bicheldei, now that the problem of the choice of
written language is settled, the State Duma has fully eliminated any
gaps in the legislation on languages. ''We have protected the right
of citizens to education and access to information,'' the deputy
said. ''For instance, if Tatarstan moves to restore Roman letters,
then only 2 million people, those who permanently reside in the
Republic will be able to use the Tatar language. While the other 4
million Tatars who live in other regions will not be able to use it -
since the law (on the use of the Roman alphabet) will be applicable
only on the territory of that region.''
	Tatar representatives, however, believe that the bill passed
by the State Duma on Friday amounts to a gross violation of their
people's rights.
As the deputy of the Regions of Russia Fandas Safiullin told Gazeta.Ru, the
document approved by the lower house on Friday, runs counter to seven
articles of the Russian Constitution, that enshrines the right of
preservation and
development of national languages, and violates international law, in
particular, the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities,
ratified by Russia.
	However, in the deputy's opinion, the bill is so weak that it
will hardly make any difference to Tatarstan. For example, the
republican authorities can change the status of the Tatar language to
that of a non-state language, and thus continue using Roman letters.
Or, they can simply ignore the bill. In any case, they will use the
letters they find more convenient.
	At the same time, holds Safiullin, the passing of the
amendments may undermine the position of pro-Russian forces in former
Soviet republics. Those who are willing to re-unite with Russia may
be scared off by a ban on any alphabet other than Cyrillic.
	Supporters of the new bill insist that once amended the law
on languages ''will help preserve the single cultural and education
space''. In particular, the government's envoy to the State Duma
Andrei Loginov, who backed Bicheldei's
draft, said that the law must regulate writing since this is an
element of a public treaty and if everyone invents his or her own
writing, it would lead to chaos in the state.

                              15 November 18:08

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