Monday, January 2, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Russia Will Not Survive if Putin Returns to Power, Kazan Analyst Warns

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 2 – The Russian Federation will not survive if Vladimir Putin is able to return to the presidency through falsified elections, and Russia’s Muslims -- and especially the leaders of the country’s Muslim republics -- have a moral responsibility to struggle with the evil he and his system represent, according to a leading Kazan analyst.

            In the current issue of the Tatarstan weekly, “Zvezda Povolzhya,” Zulfiya Kadir argues that if Russia has Putin as its president again, then the country has “no future” because it will fall ever further behind the continuations of a modern interconnected world and find itself  “degraded” into a “Stalinist” past.

            Demonstrations by Russia’s population in December against Putin and his system, Kadir writes, were “an SOS” to the international community which “for a long time already has had enough with Munich speeches [like the ones Putin has delivered and which that community believe show that Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev who banged his show at the UN was a more adequate” man.

            Moreover, she continues, these world leaders are furious at Putin for his use of gas and oil as political weapons, for his attempts at “the restoration of the socialist camp,” and for his “small victorious wars in Georgia’s regions.”  These leaders “do not behave that way in the era of globalization,” and they do not accept Putin’s doing so either.

            “If [citizens of the Russian Federation] do not want that [their country] again to be declared ‘the evil empire,’ and if [they] don’t want a new wave of knights who ‘will struggle with this evil’ and declare a crusade against this bastion of totalitarianism,” Kadir argues, then they “must not allow Putin to come to power again.”

            In her essay, the Kazan political scientist casts her argument in moral terms.  She says that “the struggle with evil must be the main slogan of the next elections,” especially among Muslim citizens and the leaders of Muslim republics who portray themselves as fervent believers and supporters of the faith.

            This obligation lies especially on the people and leadership of Tatarstan, she continues.  In the last presidential poll, the Kazan leadership forced the Tatars to give 77.8 percent of their votes to Putin’s system, an outcome showed the Tatars were “a peasantry without freedom who lacked the freedom of choice.”

            That vote, of course, was “a shame for Tatarstan,” Kadir suggests.  In order to overcome this mistake, the Tatars need to deliver “99 percent” of their vote “AGAINST” Putin and what he represents, even though they can be sure that their votes will be “falsified” by officials who are only interested in keeping their jobs.

            But Kadir says that the burden for overcoming the deference of the past lies even more heavily on the leaders of the Muslim republics.  Noting that the Ingush have appealed the results of the latest parliamentary election to a shariat court, she warns that Muslim leaders abroad may issue a fetwa against Muslim republic leaders who seek to block the will of the people.

            If such a Muslim legal ruling is issued, Kadir points out, they will find themselves “on the list of the damned.” Their prayers will be “blocked,” their names won’t be recalled in common prayers, they will be prohibited from travelling to Mecca, and they will be designated as munafiq,” that is as “hypocrites.”

            These are only “the softest measures” that might be visited on Muslim republic leaders, she warns.  Consequently, the leaders of Tatarstan and other Muslim republics are going to be forced to make “a choice,” are they Muslims as they like to pretend or are they in fact “United Russia cosmopolitans.” 

            The Kazan political scientist says she not want to believe that the Tatar people or the Tatar leaders will make the wrong choice in the upcoming elections, a choice that would involve approving “evil.”  That is because the Tatars were “one of the first peoples to declare their freedom and independence in the 1990s” and will not tolerate “a return to totalitarianism.”

            Kadir’s article is significant for three reasons.  First, it underscores the increasing tendency of opponents of Putin to cast their struggle in moral rather than simply political terms. Second, it suggests the increasingly precarious positions Muslim republic leaders find themselves in.

            And third, it highlights a reality that Putin and his supporters have sought to deny: His return to the Kremlin would not maintain stability as he and they claim but rather would almost certainly spark a new wave of nationalism across the country and possibly reignite drives for republic sovereignty or even independence.

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