Friday, December 1, 2017

Where Will Putin Strike Next in His Hybrid War Against Tatarstan? Tatars Must Ponder How to Resist

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 1 – In the minds of most Tatars and their supporters, Vladimir Putin is conducting “an undeclared hybrid war” at their republic, one that consists of apparently unconnected actions designed to weaken and possibly destroy Tatarstan and that has been extremely effective up to now.

            Having failed to secure the Kremlin’s agreement to the extension of the power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Kazan and having been forced to concede defeat in Putin’s campaign against the required study of Tatar in the republic’s schools, Tatars are now considering where Putin may strike next and what they should do to oppose him.

            In a 2400-word article today in Kazan’s Business-Gazeta provocatively entitled “The Hybrid War Against Tatarstan: Is It Time to Get Prepared for the Next Round?” Tatars say that they now feel bitter at their recent defeats, expect another strike against them, but do not as yet know what it will involve or how they can resist (

            According to the paper, there is widespread agreement in the Kazan establishment that Moscow has been conducting a war against Tatarstan over the last two years, attacking first the banks, then the power-sharing accord, and most recently the requirement that Tatar be a required subject in republic schools.

            The question “what will be the next stroke?” is one everyone’s mind, the paper continues. Will it involve the financial system or conflicts with the siloviki or a scandal about the elections or corruption charges or another attempt to split the Tatars into several sub-ethnoses?  Moscow has experience in using all these tactics, but no one knows what it will do next.

            And the situation has become so “Orwellian,” the paper continues, that it is entirely possible that those who are making concessions today will gain enough time and authority from Moscow to reverse those concessions rather than simply continue to do whatever the center orders.

            Clearly, as a result of Putin’s hybrid war, the paper says, the situation in Tatarstan has changed fundamentally but up to now the Tatar establishment has not yet done so. It is still acting as if it can operate without being challenged. It does not have good analysis or intelligence about what is going on. And it is always reactive regarding both Moscow and the Tatars.

            The situation is not good but it is not hopeless, the paper suggests.  And some in Tatarstan even recognize this, arguing that the moves against the Tatar language will require that the Tatars focus on developing their national movement in new and more effective ways rather than simply assuming that everything will go on as before.

                The establishment must find a way to reach out to the population but not do so in a way that sparks “hot heads” into take the kind of actions that the Russian and Tatar authorities will find it easy to crush.  They must be cleverer than that engaging in wide-ranging discussion and reflection. 

            On September 15, the paper carried a lead article arguing that “No one will save the Tatar language except the Tatars themselves” ( But in the intervening period, Kazan has done little. That shows that “the entire system of political management is out of date.”

            It has not proved itself capable of working “in a competitive milieu” or “even more under conditions of information war. Instead, the illusion is still alive” that just holding on is enough. Now there has been an obvious defeat, but that need not be the end of everything. Armies that have lost immediately start thinking how to change in order to win in the next war.

            That is the task of Tatarstan’s leadership and the Tatar nation, the paper says. If Kazan takes this up and works hard, then it is just possible that the future of the republic will not be written by Aleksey Kudrin who wants to split up the republic between Ulyanovsk and Samara but by Tatars thinking for themselves and being more creative than their opponents.

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