Sunday, May 12, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Needs Treaty Relations with Five Non-Russian Republics, Tatar Editor Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 12 – To save itself, Russia must end its excessive centralization, seek membership in both the European Union and NATO, and sign confederal treaties with the five non-Russian republics within its borders “which are really seeking a high level of autonomy and independence,” according to a leading Tatarstan editor.

            In a lead article in “Zvezda Povolzhya,” that paper’s editor, Rashit Akhmetov argues that the current level of “hyper-centralization” in the Russian Federation is “possibly only in states of an imperial type” and that its modernization will be impossible without a more equitable distribution of money and power (

            The need to decentralize, he says, involves not only the non-Russian republics which are demanding it but also many of the predominantly ethnic Russian regions in the central and northern portions of the country, whose increasing impoverishment is leading to radicalism and votes for Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s LDPR.

            Just how much Moscow’s approach has hurt these Russian regions, Akhmetov continues, can be seen if one compares the decaying Russian oblasts along the borders with the Baltic states and the flourishing situation in those countries who are in the same climatic zone but are divided by a state border and very different policies.

            Thus, these Russian regions should support a new Confederalist Party every bit as enthusiastically as the non-Russian republics can be expected to, the “Zvezda Povolzhya” editor suggests.

            Moscow’s latest round of flirtation with “great powerness” is “destroying Russia” by pushing it into “a dead end,” one that the USSR with its much greater wealth and power could not manage a way out. What is needed, Akhmedov argues, is a radical change of direction by the central government.

            Moscow must stop opposing itself to the West as if it could and should again play the role of “the gendarme of Europe.” That is achieving nothing except driving all of Russia’s neighbors into NATO. Instead, a new Confederalist Party will call for having Russia join the European Union.

            That should not be an insuperable problem: “already now millions of despairing [Russian] citizens believe only in the Strasbourg court but do not believe in Russian courts.” Moreover, it is time for Russians to begin to think about the possibility of having their country become a member of NATO.

            That organization is not, as some Russians think, “an anti-Russia bloc.” Its current goals are ones that Russia should share.  Unfortunately, that may not yet be the case: “The entire tragedy of Russia is that it is trying to conduct a policy in the 21st century based on feudal myths.”

            Whatever some may believe, “Russia is not the Byzantium of the 21st century.”  Acting as if it were can end in only one way, and consequently, “Tatarstan must soberly prepare itself for a repetition of the process of a new Russian ‘global catastrophe’” in which existing arrangements are completely overthrown.

            That is not an outcome sought by either the American or Chinese special services. Instead, it is one the country is being driven toward by internal forces.  It is time for Russians to recognize that “Moscow in essence has only one real enemy – the reactionary strata of its [own] population” which advances the slogan “Russia for the [ethnic] Russians.”

            The Russian Federation must come up with a better way of dealing with the non-Russian Republics or it will go the way of the USSR, Akhmedov suggests. And “attempts to drive the national movements into the framework of a cosmetic cultural autonomy, the so-called ‘sabantui policy,’ cannot deceive anyone” as being a real solution.”

            “Politics,” the Kazan editor says, “is a concentrated form of culture. More than that, as we see, economics is based on culture and not the other way around.  A people develops if it creates ‘a high culture,’ but if it doesn’t do so, it becomes degraded and is assimilated” by another.

The Tatars have such a high culture, and consequently, they are appalled by calls to “liquidate” their republic.  Republics have an objective existence, Akhmedov argues; they were not “the result of voluntarism or the subject of constructivist manipulations” as some Russian commentators appear to believe.
Lenin set up the republics because “otherwise the Bolsheviks would have lost the Civil War.” In that conflict, the editor notes, “the slogan ‘a single and indivisible Russia’ lost to the slogan of the equality of peoples.” And that remains true despite the ways in which the Bolsheviks themselves then subverted the status of the republics.

Everyone involved in this issue needs to recognize both that “a state is not an accidental invention” but rather “objectively an organ of the development of the culture of peoples” and that “nothing is eternal under the moon – states are created and destroyed; they like people have a spirit” that maintains them or not.

            The open pursuit of an imperialist agenda by the center against the republics will lead to “tragedies,” Akhmedov says, and he urges that Moscow change course before it is too late. Specifically, Moscow needs to conclude EU-style treaties with the five republics within its borders that seek greater autonomy: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya, Chuvashia, and Saka.

            “In an ideal case,” he writes, “the relations of Russia and these republics should be at the same level as among the countries of the European Union,” an arrangement that would give the greatest possible guarantees to human and ethnic rights. And it is “possible” that the membership of these republics in the UN should become the subject of discussion.

            Moscow’s current policy of “diktat” toward the republics” is “intolerable and does not have a future.”  To save itself, Russia “must be transformed into a Eurasian Union,” something that will help hold things together and equally important allow Russia to escape from the vicious cycle of “time of troubles and dictatorship.”

            “The peoples of the republics are not interested in the degradation of Russian culture. On the contrary,” Akhmedov suggests, “the development of Russian culture will help the development of other peoples as well” as long as Moscow refuses to play the role of a tsarist policeman returned to the 21st century.

            “Without a political party” committed to confederalism, the editor concludes, modernization in Russia will be “impossible.” That will be a tragedy not only for the non-Russians there but also for the Russians themselves. Today, more than ever, “Russia needs not a strong hand but strong brains.”

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