Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tatar National Movement Needs to Follow Baltic Path Before and After Gaining Independence, Mirzayanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – Vil Mirzayanov, the leader of the Tatarstan government in exile, says that he believes the Tatar national movement must follow the Baltic path both before achieving independence by reaching out to the parliaments of the world for support and after achieving it by promoting the revival of the Tatar language and culture.

            In an interview with Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the Tallinn-based Region.Expert portal, the Tatarstan activist says it is unreasonable to expect governmetns with diplomatic ties with Moscow to openly back Tatarstan independence but contacts with parliaments will allow his organization to spread the word about their aspirations (

            Mirzayanov says that his government in exile has already achieved “positive results” I that regard with the Verhovna Rada of Ukraine.

            As far as developing contacts with and expecting support from the liberal movement in Russia or in the emigration in such groups as the Free Russia Forum, the Tatar leader says that “no liberal movement in Russia or its representatives can cooperate with us for they are themselves model imperialists; that is, they are always for the preservation of the empire.”

            And even if they are sympathetic to the aspirations of the Tatars or other non-Russians, Russian liberals know that they risk criminal charges and prison time if they support them and thus call the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation into question.

            Mirzayanov says that the movements for independence of the Middle Volga republics at the end of Soviet times failed because they were controlled by communist bosses who viewed sovereignty simply as a device to allow them to steal even more from the people than Moscow had. None of them was really interested in “full independence from Moscow.”

            “It is clear,” he continues, “that in the actual liquidation of the sovereignty of the republics, the main role was played by the neo-imperial policy of Moscow. But even the first president of sovereign Tatarstan, Mintimir Shaymmiyev later because Putin’s trusted figure and worked for his reelection in 2018.

            That can only be explained, Mirzayanov says, by the following fact: “Mintimir Shaymiyev is a convinced communist and never deviated from the approach of the CPSU. He and his student Minnikhanov understand friendship of the peoples in the form of a leading role of the elder brother, the Russian occupiers and the fulfillment of their orders by the Tatar people.”

            As a result, he continues, under Shaymiyev and Minnikhanov, “the speed of the assimilation of the Tatars and the destruction of their culture and language accelerated by many times” over what it was in Soviet times. Now most Tatars are Russian speakers, something Soviet obkom secretaries could never dream of.

            Shtepa asked Mirzayanov about his vision of the future of Tatarstan and its relations with its neighboring republics.  He said he favors following the Baltic model and promoting the revival of Tatar language and culture, but he suggested that he finds it difficult to imagine any Idel-Ural federation or confederation.

            That could happen over time, Mirzayanov says; but he adds that he wants “to stress that an independent Tatarstan does not want to become in any way a kind of metropolis of some future mini-empire.” It wants good relations with its neighbors just as the Baltic countries have with each other, but it wants to be an independent state.

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