Staunton, August 30 – Twenty-nine years ago, the Supreme Soviet of the Tatar ASSR adopted a declaration of state sovereignty which declared that from then on, Tatarstan would be a union republic rather than an autonomous one, a declaration that represented a continuation of Tatar strivings from the earliest Soviet period but one that was never realized.
The Soviet Union collapsed a year later, Ilnar Garifulllin says; and as a result, Tatarstan was never able to make use of that status – or even defend what it contained after the RSFSR became the Russian Federation and Tatarstan was again reduced to being an autonomous unit within it (idelreal.org/a/30138048.html).
What occurred in 1990-1991, the Idel.Real commentator argues, was an attempt by the Tatars to “jump on the last car of a departing train by using to the maximum the possibilities which Perestroika had given them” in much the same way in 1920, it sought to use the possibilities created by the weakening of the Moscow-centered state.
Immediately after the establishment of the Tatar ASSR, Garifullin continues, “the national republics were divided into ‘first class’ entities – the union republics – and ‘second class’ ones, the autonomous republics. And people in the latter began their struggle to be included among the former.
Tatar elites were no exception – indeed, they were the leader of this trend -- and they, led by remarkable figures like Muslim national communist Mirsaid Sultan-Galiyev, worked in that direction until they were wiped out in the Great Terror. What happened in 1990 was an effort to revive and continue their work.
But that effort fell short not because of terror but because hopes for democracy in 1990 were never realized and the Russian Federation returned to its traditions of authoritarianism and centralism, Garifullin says; and Tatar elites were gradually forced into going along in the naïve expectations that they could save something by cooperating.
The supposed,” he writes, “that it was sufficient to declare sovereignty and everything else would follow. This was logical, since they were educated in the Soviet spirit and could not understand that in the framework of a single state could exist at one and the same time two separate worlds, one for the power elite and a second for the rest.”
“The limited independence of the 1990s rapidly ended, and valuable time was lost,” Garifullin continues. “Then in the naughts, the era of centralization began;” and it became “inconvenient” even to recall the 1990 declaration of sovereignty or even the word itself. Instead, Tatar officials began to mark on August 30 the Day of the City of Kazan.
What this means is that “even if the republic were given the amount of sovereignty it had in the early 1990s, this would not represent a major breakthrough. In Tatarstan, politics as such doesn’t exist. Therefore, there are no real levers on the Tatarstan elite;” and major issues like the status of the state language or the fate of Tatars outside the republic can’t be addressed.
Under these conditions, Tatars need to think about what they will do if and when “Perestroika 2.0” begins. They need to reflect upon “’the Tatar world’” which at present they think about only on occasion and they need to have a plan prepared to better exploit a new window of opportunity than they were in 1920 or 1990.
(With regard to Tatars outside of Tatarstan, one of the most useful publications on this anniversary is a detailed guide to the people and issues of the ten largest Tatar diasporas around the world, people who will help make plans for the future, that was published by Kazan’s Business-Gazeta at business-gazeta.ru/article/436912.)
Echoing Garifullin’s concerns but in even more impassioned language, the émigré-based Free Idel-Ural organization says that “with each passing year, Tatarstan is losing ever more attributes of statehood,” with its constitution having been amended to its detriment 17 times (facebook.com/Free.IdelUral/posts/483145208908710).
In today’s Tatarstan, it declares, republic laws are no longer superior to federal ones, there is no power delimitation agreement with Moscow, and there is no obligatory study of Tatar in schools. Moreover, the Tatars no longer control the natural resources of their land: Moscow does.
The last thing that Tatars are proud about is a self-deception, Idel-Ural says. They are proud that they are a rich republic that gives more to the center than it receives, forgetting that their money finances Russian aggression in Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic and at Moscow’s direction, “dictatorial regimes around the globe.”
Money from Tatarstan also helps finance “the daily searches, arrests, and puppet judicial processes” in Russia itself as well as “the kidnaping and murder of Muslims in occupied Crimea.” Tatar money isn’t going to develop Tatar culture and language, but for purposes, most Tatars don’t approve of – and have no voice over.
If one must live within the Russian Federation, the organization says, it is better not to be a donor region but a recipient one. “Let Moscow pay for everything” and ensure that Tatars and others like them don’t pay for what they don’t want.
To that end, Free Idel-Ural calls ono the citizens of Tatarstan to minimize their declared incomes and thus transfers to the federal budget Think about the future of the republic! Tatarstan needs your money; not the Russian occupation forces in Idlib.”