Staunton, January 31 – Many commentators have reduced the issue of continuation or replacement of the existing federative treaty between Moscow and Kazan -- an accord that runs out this year -- to the question of whether Tatarstan will be allowed to retain the post of republic president, despite Russian federation law to the contrary.
But in fact, Ilnar Garifullin, a Tatar political scientist, points out, a great deal more is riding on the fate of that document including the status of Tatars in Tatarstan and beyond its borders and that of all the non-Russian peoples in Russia, despite the fact that de facto Moscow now treats the accord as a dead letter. (idelreal.org/a/28262902.html).
A key to understanding what is at stake, the analyst says is the timing of a demand by the All-Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) that the new power-sharing treaty must include a provision guaranteeing Moscow’s recognition of Tatar as the state language of Tatarstan and of the right of Tatarstan to assist Tatars outside the borders of the republic.
The current accord, adopted in 2007 which will lapse this year, replaced an earlier one adopted in 1994, but the second unfortunately, Garifullin says, is only “the last ‘remnant’ of the era of sovereignization which is already far in the past.” It has little real force because while it exists “de jure,” it doesn’t “de facto.”
In thinking about what should be in a third edition of this arrangement, he continues, it is important that it not be limited to “guarantees to the power elite of Tatarstan” but rather include “guarantees both to residents of Tatarstan and to Tatars living elsewhere in other regions of Russia.”
That is a minimal requirement given that Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan already confirms that right, Garifullin continues. If a new treaty is in fact drafted and approved, it must grant to Tatarstaan the right to “promote the preservation of ethno-cultural and civic rights of Tatars” living beyond the borders of the republic.
The need for such a provision was highlighted by the recent events in a Tatar school in Mordvinia where authorities sought to impose a ban on school girls wearing the hijab, he says. (Another analyst suggests that Moscow causes this conflict in order to weaken Kazan’s position. See poistine.org/moskva-nepokrytaya-protiv-hidzhabov-belozerya#.WJBRuX90e-f).
Had Tatarstan been able to intervene effectively in this case, Moscow might have had to intervene, something that at least some officials at the Federal Agency for Nationality Policy might in fact support, Garifullin argues.
In addition, he says, the new accord should include a provision that the federal ministry of education and science must take into account ethnic issues not only at the level of schools but also at that of higher educational institutions. If the accord doesn’t do at least these three things, “the republic doesn’t need it” because it would have no significance at all.
Garifullin then turns his attention to the role of VTOTs in all this, arguing that that organization which arose at the end of 1988 was in fact behind most of the achievements of Tatarstan today, saying things republic officials could not and thereby mobilizing public opinion to promote change.
For any years, VTOTs played the role of “bad cop” to Kazan’s “good cop” in dealing with Moscow. Unfortunately, the analyst continues, the republic leadership “destroyed this arrangement” and preferred instead to “legitimate itself” on a religious basis which it viewed as “neutral and not politicized.”
But that shift, Garifullin argues, has led to “still greater problems,” not only opening the way for Moscow to condemn Kazan on religious grounds but also to lead Tatars out of politics where the old saying – “’if you don’t get involved in politics, politics will get involved with you” – proved all too true because it cost official Kazan the support of nationally thinking Tatars.
That has left the Kazan Kremlin without the kind of support in the republic that it used to have and used with such effectiveness in the 1990s. That makes moving forward harder, but it also means that the discussion of the power-sharing accord is much more important than just retaining the title of republic president – and not just for Tatarstan and Tatars.