Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bashkortostan has been Reduced to a Russian Oblast Like Any Other, Former President Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 11 -- On the 26th anniversary of Bashkortostan’s declaration of state sovereignty, Murtaza Rakhimov, its president between 1993 and 2010, says that the failure of Bashkirs to remember and defend that declaration and the power-sharing agreement has resulted in a tragedy, the reduction of the republic to little more than an oblast like any other.

            The powers enumerated in the agreement and in the Declaration of Sovereignty “allowed the republic to develop in a dynamic fashion over 20 years,” the former president says.  But “as soon as we began to forget about this, ceased to make use of these provisions, we were converted into an ordinary region” (turkist.org/2016/10/bashkortostan-rahimov.html).

He drew a sharp contrast between Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. “Our neighbors have preserved not simply the position of president of Tatarstan,” he says. That is after all “only a symbol,” but they also occupy “one of the leading places in the country. Others respect you to the extent you respect yourself.”Rakh

Because of the advantages its declaration of sovereignty gave it, Bashkortostan rose “from the last ten” of federal subjects on most measures to “the first ten,” Rakhimov continues.  “It is unfortunate that today the republic has lost its former positions and is gradually falling back to the level of an autonomous oblast.”

The former Bashkortostan president nevertheless sent his greeting to all Bashkirs on this Day of the Republic and declared that “we have a worthy past and we have every right to a worthy future.”

Rakhimov’s passionate statement is important for three reasons:

·         First, it suggests that he and other republic leaders have become so angry at their loss of status that they now feel they have no choice but to speak out. What Rakhimov did today is thus likely to be repeated by others in the future.

·         Second, it underscores the key role Tatarstan plays for all non-Russian republics. Regardless of the tensions that have sometimes marked the relationship between Ufa and Kazan, Rakhimov made it clear that he still takes the lead from Tatarstan and expects Tatarstan in turn to continue to defend its presidency and other rights.

·         And third, Rakhimov’s words are likely to trigger new tensions in Bashkortostan not only because of his intervention as a former leader but also because of the fact that in the current economic climate, Bashkortostan’s decline is certainly felt more deeply than in the past.

For all these reasons, his recollection of his republic’s declaration of sovereignty in 1990, a key step in the so-called parade of sovereignties in that year, may become the start of a new recollection by others of that parade and what the non-Russian peoples of the Russian Federation hoped for but have seen taken from them.

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