Sunday, November 15, 2020

Attacks on Kazan Paper Backing Azerbaijan Reflect Moscow’s Deepest Fears and Presage New Moves against Republics, Commentators Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 13 – Russian media demands that a Kazan paper which declared that Tatar hearts are with Azerbaijan be punished and possibly shut down reflect Moscow’s deepest fears about the way in which expanding Turkish influence among the population of the Russian Federation may lead to the disintegration of the country, some Russian observers say.

            But they add that the attacks on the Turkic View paper, which featured a headline “Azerbaijan, Our Hearts are With You! are clearly intended to send a message to the leaders of the Turkic republics that they and others face a crackdown if they don’t hew the Kremlin line more closely (

      The attacks on the paper and its editor Nail Nabiullin, who is also the leader of the Azatlyk Union of Tatar Youth, IdelReal commentator Ramazan Alpaut, say that the Russian security services should have been taking steps against him for his earlier advocacy of the Tatars and the Tatar language.

            But they suggest that his expression of support for Baku in the course of fighting against Armenia is a move “’against the Russian Federation and Russians’” and thus is especially wrong and should be stopped, a warning not just to the paper and its editor but to the leaders of Tatarstan and other non-Russian republics.

            Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter and now a Moscow commentator, said that had he been editor of the Kazan paper, he would not have published the headline. But at the same time, he argued, there is no basis for bringing charges or reacting in such an extreme fashion to these words.

            He suggested that this clash of opinions reflects the simple fact that “when protest attitudes are growing” as now, “then the situation in the national republics always gets worse.” And both Russian nationalists and behind them the people in the Kremlin are fearful of what this may lead to.

            Igor Yakovenko, another Moscow commentator, said that he doesn’t see anything criminal in the publication of the headline but argued that it touches on “the nightmare of the Russian authorities, the disintegration of the Russian Federation along lines recalling the events of 1991.

            And Moscow is especially alarmed because in this case, the Russian leadership sees a linking up of Turkic ethnicity and Islam in any expression of solidarity between Tatarstan and Azerbaijan. But the reaction of the center would likely have been different if recent events had not been so at odds with what it is claiming.

            “The official media all say that Putin won” with the armistice declaration in the southern Caucasus, Yakovenko said. “But in fact, he of course, lost.” As a result, anything that calls attention to the victory of Baku and Ankara over him is something that must be attacked and, where possible, stamped out.

            According to the Moscow commentator, Russia has “not simply a unitary state; it has a unitary autocratic one; and therefore the regions tend to distance themselves from the center” when they can. Declaring “Azerbaijan, Our Hearts are with You!” is one way to do that,  at least from Moscow’s point of view.

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