Saturday, March 22, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Can It Be that Kazan is Not the Official Capital of Tatarstan?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 22 – Despite a requirement in Tatarstan’s constitution, that Middle Volga republic has never adopted a law officially making Kazan its capital, a shortcoming that likely reflects Moscow’s efforts to downgrade republic status but one that is infuriating many in the city because it is costing them revenue and underming their status.

            In a post on his blog yesterday, Irek Murtazin, a commentator who is also the publisher of the “Kazan News,” says this legal and political anomaly is increasingly agitating Kazan’s major, Ilsur Metshin, and that changing it has the potential to unsettle many of the Moscow-imposed arrangements there (

            The lack of such a law came up at a meeting of city officials earlier this year. Mayor Metshin turned to Ayrat Garipov, the head of the city’s financial administration for an explanation. Garipov said that without such a law, Kazan cannot get much of the money a capital would be owed from the republic and thus has been limited in its ability to grow.

            Metshin for his part noted that a draft law declaring Kazan the capital of Tatarstan had been sent to the republic’s State Council in 2005 just before the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the city, but that that body had not adopted it. Although Metshin doesn’t mention it, that probably reflected political calculations about how Moscow might react.

            According to the mayor, Russian tax laws are written in such a way that municipalities like Kazan retain only 11 percent of the taxes they collect and have to depend on subsidies and transfers for the rest of their budgets.  Capital cities can get more money by virtue of their status.  As a result, he insisted, “this is Kazan’s problem, but one at the federal level.”

            Officials at the State Council and the republic archives said they could not find a copy of the 2005 draft bill, but copies of it and of four decisions taken about it, including directives requiring that various shortcomings and anomalies be corrected concerning property arrangements, have been found on the web, Murtazin says.

            He points out that there are now 86 subjects in the Russian Federation, that 21 of them are called republics, but that only five of these do not have laws about the status of their capital cities – Tatarstan, Ingushetia, Karelia, Komi, and Chuvashia. Most of the oblasts and krays do have such laws.
            The 2005 Tatarstan draft law follows the “standard” pattern at its start but then includes paragraphs which very much set that republic apart and which probably were the source of political problems. Among these are provisions about the representation of the subjects of the Russian Federation in Kazan, control of land and other property, and statements about “the organs of state power of Tatarstan.”

            Unlike the current discussion about Kazan’s status, the 2005 measure says little about tax policy and funding.  According to Rafael Khakimov, vice president of the republic Academy of Sciences and a longtime advisor to former President Mintimir Shaymiyev, the earlier measure was all about status in the run up to the anniversary. He sees no need for a new law now.

            But others disagree, not only because of what the absence of a law means for Kazan but for all cities in the Russian Federation.  Marat Galeyev, a member of Tatarstan’s State Council, suggests that a new law is necessary but that it must not lead to “a violation of the balance” between the capital and other cities.

            Artem Prokofyev, another member of the republic State Council agrees, especially since this is about more than financing. “As long as there is no solution [to this problem],” he says, there will be budgetary and other problems, including issues of election of officials and their responsibility before the law.

            Rafgat Altynbayev, a longtime Tatarstan official involved with the development of the 2005 bill, put his finger on why any moves toward the adoption of a new law may be so difficult: “the adoption of this law could help the municipalities not only to be more independent from the center of the country but also to receive more money for their own development.”

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