Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tatarstan to Press after Duma Vote for Extension of Republic’s Special Status

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – Farid Mukhametshin, the speaker of Tatarstan’s State Council, says that after the upcoming Duma elections, Kazan will press for the extension of its power-sharing agreement with Moscow, an agreement that is due to expire in the summer of 2017, thus setting the stage for a serious political conflict with Moscow.

            According to a report on this in “Kommersant,” Tatarstan likely will not seek to negotiate a new treaty or seek any additional concessions from the center. It will simply seek to have the 2007 agreement extended.  If Kazan is not able to achieve at least that, it will suffer losses in both image and reality, Tatar experts say (

            But even that modest goal is already sparking anger in Moscow and concern about what such a power-sharing agreement means not only for Tatarstan but for all the regions and republics of the Russian Federation, with some in Moscow completely opposed to the treaty and others fearful that any change will rock the boat more than just going forward.

            As it often does about matters of controversy, the portal surveyed Russian parliamentarians about the Tatarstan agreement.  Nikolay Ryzhkov, a member of the federal relations committee of the Federation Council, said that Kazan’s hard line was only harming Tatarstan and that the treaty should be allowed to expire (

            Sergey Katanandov, a senator from Karelia who earlier headed that republic (2002-2010), agrees. According to him, the Moscow-Kazan accords are “morally and politically” indefensible now because they have already solved their chief task: “the preservation of the territorial integrity of the country.”

            At the same time, however, he is open to discussions about power-sharing and indicates that he is ready for talks with Kazan about that, even if that leads to conversations between Moscow and the capitals of other republics and regions.

            Viktor Shudegov, deputy head of the Duma committee on education, takes a hard line. He says that anything that seeks to make one republic “more equal than another” is constitutionally unacceptable.  And he expresses the fear that if Moscow concedes this to Tatarstan, others will demand similar treatment with unpredictable consequences.

            Gadzhimet Safaraliyev, chairman of the Duma’s nationalities committee, agrees with that position. He insists that “laws in the Russian Federation must be the same for all of its subjects.”  There can be talks but no concession on that fundamental principle.

            Aleksandr Sidyakin, deputy chairman of the Duma’s housing committee, in contrast argues that if other regions and republics can do as well as Tatarstan has, they too should get such power-sharing agreements. Given Tatarstan’s successes, the agreement is useful and fully justified.   

            And Oleg Kulikov, the deputy chairman of the Duma’s committee on health, says that whatever happens, Moscow and Kazan should move carefully lest problems arise from the talks themselves.  Tatarstan has shown it can operate in a good way with a multi-ethnic population; that should not be undermined by any rapid moves.

            But both Kazan and Moscow appear to be digging in in advance of any talks.  Tatarstan’s senator, Oleg Morozov, declared this week that “Russia can be made a unitary state only by killing it,” a position that suggests any retreat from the treaty is going to be vigorously opposed in that Middle Volga republic (

            And symbolizing Moscow’s position are two illustrations in’s report on this controversy. One pictured “the passport of a citizen of Tatarstan,” and the other displayed “a mosque in the Kremlin in Kazan,” pictures that express better than any words the fears in the Russian capital about what happens in Kazan.

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