This paper explores the role of international language rights norms in the dispute over script reform in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. In the late 1990s, the authorities of Tatarstan initiated reform to change the orthographic base of the Tatar language from a Cyrillic- to a Latin-based script. However, this reform was subsequently banned by a Russian federal law that stipulated the mandatory use of the Cyrillic alphabet for all state languages in Russia. In protesting this decision, Tatar language activists referred to international human and minority rights provisions and used categories of international law to frame their case as a violation of international norms. However, it is not clear whether this case would really qualify as a violation of international norms and whether international instruments would have the power to overturn this state decision. Rather than being practically applicable, international language rights norms have shaped the strategies minorities employ in advocating their rights and contesting state decisions.