Staunton, November 26 – Mudaris Galimzyanov, a Tatar activist, has asked a Kazan court to order the Tatarstan government to keep an official promise it met in 1999 to erect a statue in Kazan to those who lost their lives in 1552 in the defense of Kazan against the forces of Ivan the Terrible.
On February 26, 1999, the Tatarstan council of ministers issued an order for such a statue; and in 2002, the culture minister said that the rose stone needed for it had been imported from Spain. But as Moscow has put more pressure on Kazan to avoid taking such a step, the republic government has not acted (idelreal.org/a/30293742.html
Three things make this case worthy of note. First, it is an indication that national movements like those in Tatarstan are becoming legally sophisticated and are now turning to the courts to try to achieve their goals. Second, it shows the Tatars hope to mobilize people by calling attention to decisions Kazan made and then backed down in the face of Russian pressure.
And third and most important, it is a model of what national movements in other republics of the Russian Federation are likely to copy, using the courts to call attention to the ways in which their republic governments have reneged on their promises and using the embarrassment that will cause to force them to live up to more of them.
As Moscow’s pressure on the non-Russian republics intensifies, such legal actions may play an increasing part of the strategy of the national movements, allowing them to use the legal system itself against what Moscow wants. They may not win their cases; but even if they don’t, they may win the battle of public opinion – and that may matter more.