A court in the city of Neftekamsk in Bashkortostan on the Volga has ordered the closure of what is said to be the republic’s sole surviving independent newspaper, Vecherny Neftekamsk. The Russian-language newspaper has seven days in which to appeal against the ruling to Bashkortostan’s Supreme Court. Vecherny Neftekamsk incurred the anger of the republic authorities by campaigning against both the introduction of the Bashkir language in schools and the removal from their posts of officials unable to speak the language. The newspaper was accused of discrediting the policies of the leadership under regional legislation that the newspaper says violates the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Russian constitution. (RIA news agency, January 26)
The language issue is sensitive in Bashkortostan, where the titular nationality is outnumbered by ethnic Russians and Tatars. When the last census was taken in 1989, ethnic Russians made up 39.3 percent of the republic’s population; Tatars, 28.4 percent, and Bashkirs, only 22 percent. There are grounds for supposing that the number of Tatars is a good deal higher. Bashkirs in fact argue that their greatest threat as a nation is the "Tatarization" of the republic. The electoral law, however, ensures that Bashkirs are overrepresented in the republic’s governing bodies. (For details, see Igor Rotar, "Development, Bashkir-style," Jamestown Foundation Prism, January 23, 1998)
Senior Russian Expert Blasts Kazakhstan.