Sunday, February 8, 2015

Muslims Want a City Where They Form the Majority Shifted from Russian Region to Tatarstan

Paul Goble


            Staunton, February 8 – The residents of the city of Vyatskiye Polyany, a city of 33,000 in Kirov Oblast, have petitioned the region’s legislative assembly to allow them to transfer their territory to Tatarstan, a challenge from below to existing borders that is especially significant because it would involve a shift from a predominantly Russian region to a non-Russian republic.


            According to the residents, they want to make this shift because “the majority of the residents of the city and the district are followers of Islam and therefore they will live better in Tatarstan” ( and


            Neither the Kirov government nor Moscow are likely to agree, but both the fact of the appeal and the arguments it advances suggest that there will be more such requests in the future. Consequently, how the oblast and federal government treat this request will have a major impact on the internal stability of the Russian Federation.

           Nowhere is this challenge likely to be greater than in the Middle Volga where there are many places beyond the borders of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan which have Muslim majorities and which activists both in Kazan and Ufa and in these cities feel should be part of a larger Muslim-defined territory.

           But nowhere is such a challenge likely to have more resonance in Moscow and among Russians because it was with the carving up of the Muslim-dominated territories of the Middle Volga in 1920 that Stalin began his divide and rule nationality policy that has long been the basis for central control of the region.

          Thus, any calling of this practice into question opens a set of questions that most Russians do not want to have addressed and thus are likely to react with anger, a pattern that will have the unintended consequence of prompting even more residents of cities like Vyatskiye Polyany to decide that they can only live well in a Muslim-majority republic.

Cf. “A New and Most Dangerous Game in the Russian Federation – Border Changes from Below,” 5 February 2015 at

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