Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 200

Conflict continues over Russia’s new passports. Distribution of the documents, which serve as obligatory proof of identity, was supposed to have begun as of October 1 and, at the end of September, President Boris Yeltsin ceremonially handed out the first 30 passports to 14-year-old orphans in a children’s home. But citizens of Russia’s national republics are objecting to the new format, which omits the entry for the bearer’s nationality that was routinely included in Soviet passports. Sentiment against the new documents is high in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. In Tatarstan, the State Council (the republic’s parliament) on October 16 ordered the republic’s Interior Ministry to stop issuing the new passports on republic territory until the entry for nationality is restored, information is written in Tatar as well as Russian, and new covers with Tatarstan’s crest are substituted for the present cover, which features Russia’s two-headed eagle. (Kommersant-daily, October 22) Moscow is said to have offered to print a special insert for passports issued in Tatarstan. However, this does not resolve the problem of the cover, and protest demonstrations against the passports were held in Kazan over the weekend. (NTV, October 25)

Fandas Safiullin, a member of Tatarstan’s State Council, explained in an emotional article in Kazan’s most popular daily that Tatars associate the two-headed eagle with Russian imperialism since it was borne on the banners of Ivan the Terrible’s troops who conquered Kazan in 1552. Saying that Soviet-era passports were bilingual and that Cyrillic script lacks letters for several sounds contained in Tatar, Safiullin said a passport written only in Russian would be "spiritual genocide" since it would deprive Tatars of the right to their own name. He said the Soviet Union tried and failed to create "a single Soviet people" and likened Moscow’s renewed attempt at russification to fascism. (Vechernyaya Kazan, October 23)

Federal Authorities Taken Aback by Strength of Popular Feeling on Passport Issue.