Saturday, June 15, 2019

Free Russia Forum Delegates Comment on Appeal by Tatar Government in Exile

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – Even though the Free Russia Forum in Lithuania passed over in silence an appeal from the Tatarstan government in exile for recognition or their republic’s independence (, many participants had more positive reactions.

            Ramazan Alpaut of the IdelReal portal which tracks developments in the Middle Volga, took part in the meeting and met with a number of the Forum participants.  He has now provided a summary of their comments which helps to put the meeting’s inaction in context and to suggest future strategies (

            Daniil Konstantinov, a leader of the Russian European Movement and member of the Forum’s permanent committee, said that the Forum did not have the authority to recognize or not recognize the independence of a region or republic. It did, however, put the appeal on its website for comment.

            Some supported it, others opposed it, but the delegates clearly felt, he continued, that they did not have sufficient information or authority to make a decision, Konstantinov said. We simply don’t know what the people of Tatarstan think, he continued. As for himself, he said he favors the preservation and development of federalism in Russia.

            Igor Yakovenko, the former secretary of the Union of  Russian Journalists and a commentator who has taken part in Forum meetings since the beginning, said that the people of various republics and regions must make the decision about whether to be independent or remain part of Russia.

            “I think,” he said, “that after the Putin empire will be destroyed, all its component parts must take a decision whether to continue to live in this single state or try to establish their own statehood.” Each of those decisions must be taken independently. Calling for this or that independent state from the outside would be “quite strange,” Yakovenko said.

            In addition, Yakovenko said, there is the question of “independence from whom?” The peoples of the country need independence “above all from their own authorities” who are every bit as much “colonizers” as Moscow is. He added that he favors “the transformation of the Russian empire into a large number of independent states.”

            The reason for that, he continued, is simple.  “The preservation of the Russian state in its current borders will inevitably lead to the restoration of the imperial syndrome, even if in place of the Russian empire there arises let us say, ‘the beautiful Russia of the future’ which Aleksey Navalny has outlined.” The imperial temptation will remain “enormous.”

And Aleksandr Morozov, a political scientist who also took part in the Forum, said that the appeal by the Tatarstan government in exile was “completely justified.”  But while such groups, just like the Crimean Tatars, are correct in making such appeals, the Forum is equally justified in not coming out in support of them.   That isn’t its proper role.

To do so would be to exceed the Forum’s authority, but at the same time, he continued, the Forum needs to invite more representatives of the regions and republics to its future meetings. At the first meetings of the Forum, regional and national questions were discussed actively. That approach needs to be restored. 

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