Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Minnikhanov Slams Moscow’s Unilateral Grab of More Money from Donor Republics Like Tatarstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 28 – Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov has denounced the Russian government’s decision to take, without any consultation or approval, more of the profits of enterprises in donor republics like his, an action that some analysts see triggering a political crisis not only between Moscow and Kazan but between the center and the entire periphery.

            Speaking to his republic’s State Council, which unanimously supported him, Minnikhanov said that “we understand that it is necessary to support the recipient regions but not by making the situation which we have now still worse” in those regions and republics which are doing less badly than the others (

                “We have few donor regions,” Minnikhanov pointed out. “For the entire country there are fewer than ten, but it is precisely these which are the most influential and namely against htem the government has adopted an extremely dangerous measure: taking another one percent by means of the tax on profits.”

            “Earlier, they took two percent, and now they plan to take three percent. This involves a significant amount of money. In exchange, they promise support through consultations but all this means,” he said, “is ‘you give us money and we will say thank you back.’”

            “In a unilateral way, a decision is taken at the federal level. No agreements. Plus this is another attempt to change the rules on co-financing: those who work well aren’t to get federal subsidies. This in general is stupidity! Where is the country going? We are a federative state! How after this can we take part in federal programs?” (

            And then, having said that it is likely Russian officials had misrepresented what they were doing to the Kremlin, the Tatarstan president drew a comparison that is likely to wake some in the center up. He compared the current Moscow action with “’de-kulakization,’” Stalin’s program that led to the destruction of the peasantry.

            Moscow imposed that policy without any consultations, Minnikhanov pointed out, and “we saw the consequences.” That should be a reminder of how wrong it is for the center to adopt on a unilateral basis decisions in which all the federal subjects should be participants (

            Russian opposition politician and commentator Dmitry Gudkov pointed out the obvious: “The Russian Federation already for a long time has not been a federation. In its relations to the regions, it conducts itself as a typical empire: it arranges for money to come to the center and then it redistributes it … The majority of [regions] are quiet,” especially if they a recipients

            But “the ‘donors’ are already raising their voice,”  and their voice matters, Gudkov continues, because they give “not only money but – some of them – an electorate as well,” something that Moscow can’t afford to ignore given that 2018 and the presidential race is approaching  (

                Moscow, he continues, has found it easy to take rights away from individual citizens without giving back anything in exchange; but “regional elites are beginning to grumble.” 

            Meanwhile, Russian political scientist Andrey Serenko argues that what Minnikhanov has done by his remarks constitutes “the first serious test” for the new people running domestic politics in the Presidential Administration because his attitudes reflect those not only of his republic but of many others (

            Minnikhanov’s outburst, he says, “is a sign of the intensifying dissatisfaction of regional elites with Kremlin policy. Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov won a battle with Moscow on the budget, but if the Chechen episode can be considered an exception, based on the special status of this region, ‘the Kazan rising’ may turn out to be a more serious political event.”

            “Tatarstan,” Serenko continues, “is the only subject of the Russian Federation which has retained a treaty format in its relations with the center. Taking part of the republic’s income can be interpreted not only as ‘a cynical theft’ from the region but even as an attempt to change the special character of relations with Moscow, an attack on its ‘remaining sovereignty.’”

            It isn’t yet clear how far things will go and whether this will simply be a playing out of a behind-the-scenes bureaucratic fight or will spread to the public. But regardless, Minnikhanov’s protest will be used by those in Moscow who disagree with Sergey Kiriyenko, the new curator for domestic affairs in the Presidential Administration.

            And Serenko concludes with the following warning: “The sharpening conflicts between interest groups in the capital and the budget crisis is rapidly politicizing relations between Russian regions and Moscow. In 2017, this trend could become still more noteable.”

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