Friday, November 29, 2019

‘Tatarstan Defends Its Soldiers’ -- Kazan Fights Dedovshchina Against Tatars Throughout Russian Army, Rights Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 25 – Because the Tatars are the second largest nationality in the Russian Federation, because so many of them live beyond the borders of the Republic of Tatarstan, and because Kazan both officially and unofficially seeks to be a leader of the non-Russian nations as a whole, the ways in which it has extended its influence are critical.

            In the 1990s when Mintimir Shaymiyev was president, that effort received enormous attention; since then, its efforts have generally fallen below the radar screens of most.  But a new report suggests that Kazan continues to make them and with success on critical issues like dedovshchina, the mistreatment of Tatars by Russians and others in the Russian Army.

            Following a series of high-profile cases of the abuse of Tatar draftees, the Kazan Human Rights Center in February 2007 prepared a list of nine Russian military units in which it was dangerous for Tatar draftees to serve, Bulat Mukhamedzhanov, who worked in that office and now coordinates the Zone of Law organization, says (

                The government of the Republic of Tatarstan via the military commissariats then asked the Russian Army “not to send its draftees to units on this ‘black list,’” he continues, an effort that, together with the reduction in the time of service for draftees from two years to 18 months and then one year, significantly reduced the problem. 

            But the situation also improved, Mukhamedzhanov says, when republic activists gave cellphones to draftees with the possibility to make free calls to Tatarstan’s military commissariat to report cases of abuse. Military commanders sometimes confiscated these phones, but Shaymiyev intervened and Moscow ultimately ordered them to stop doing so.

            In addition, senior Tatarstan officials routinely travelled to nearby military units whenever they heard of problems; and beginning in 2010, when Sariya Saburskaya became human rights plenipotentiary for the republic, this increased. This impressed soldiers from other republics: “We see,” they said, what happens with your guys: Tatarstan defends them!”

            As a result of these actions by Tatarstan, the rights activist says, “step by step,” Kazan has “reduced to ‘nothing’ the problem of arbitrary treatment” of its soldiers in the army. This success,” Mukhamedzhanov continues, “could be used for the resolution of [other] serious problems such as home violence, medical mistakes and the like.”

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