According to Tatarstan’s constitution, all laws passed by the republic’s State Council (its highest legislative body) and signed by the president come into force after their publication in the republic’s two official languages — Russian and Tatar. But although Tatars make up the overwhelming majority of the deputies in the republic’s parliament, only a few of them are sufficiently fluent in their native language. Therefore, draft laws are discussed and voted on in Russian. Only after they have already been passed are laws translated and published in the newspaper Vechernyaya Kazan.
At the last session of parliament, there arose the question of establishing identical texts in both languages — in order to avoid a situation in which courts could interpret laws in various ways due to different shades of meanings in the Russian and Tatar texts. But a proposal to create a special commission of deputies to reconcile texts of laws and resolutions written in the two languages was rejected by the deputies who would have become its members. The candidates did not believe that they would be able to cope with the task in a professional manner. A proposal to create an institution of official translators who would be given the statutory authority to verify that Russian- and Tatar-language texts were identical also failed. So the problem has still not been resolved and the Tatar-language texts of laws, strictly speaking, have no legal force, since the deputies did not vote for them.
Besides, as the newspaper Segodnya notes, there are more noticeable defects in the official policy of bilingualism. According to Article 108 of the republic’s constitution, a presidential candidate must be fluent in both official languages. And if there is only a handful of such people even in the State Council itself, more than half of which is made up of district heads of administration (almost all of them Tatars), only an insignificant percentage of the republic’s residents would be qualified to run for president. The State Council has not yet taken up this delicate theme. (Segodnya, December 8)
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