Saturday, December 26, 2020

Experience of Bashkir Republic Founder Critical for Those Seeking Federalism in Russia Now, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 24 – One of the consequences of the proclivity among people living within the current borders of the Russian Federation for marking the anniversaries of the births and deaths of figures from the past is that the past, as William Faulkner famously observed, is “not another country; it is not even the past.”

            Recently, Bashkirs marked the 130th anniversary of the birth of Akhmet-Zaki Validi Togan, the founder of their statehood; and Prague-based commentator Kharun Sidorov says that Validi Togan’s ideas not only informed the thinking of many in the 1920s but remain extremely relevant now and for the future (

            After detailing the complex history of the emergence of federalist ideas among Russian democratic parties and non-Russians not in a position to pursue independence and the suppression of both by the Bolsheviks who remained committed to centralization just as much as anti-Bolshevik groups, Sidorov says Validi Togan’s experience remains instructive.

            He argues that it shows that “hegemonist Russian forces regardless of their ideological color (white, red or whatever) can have only tactical relations with national and regional autonomists” and will, once they establish their power, seek to suppress these in the name of centralization and control.

            Those regions and republics that could then and may in the future be able to choose state independence are thus right to do so, Sidorov says Validi-Togan’s ideas and actions show but those lacking such opportunities for geographic or demographic reasons must pursue a different strategy.

            The risks involved are great, and even Validi-Togan made the mistake of not insisting on clarity about federalism in the Ufa meetings of September 1918 and on real guarantees instead of empty promises from the Bolsheviks about genuine autonomy, the Prague commentator continues.

            What this means now, Sidorov says, is that federalists in the Russian Federation, regardless of their nationality, must understand that “in Russias with its centralist traditions, one must not recognize the central powers without having limited them in advance … and thus guaranteed the inalienable rights of the latter.”

            “In other words,” he argues, “real federalism under Russian conditions can only be treaty-based, precisely the kind which the ideological follower of Validi-Togan, Ayrat Dilmukhametov, was [recently] condemned to nine years in prison.” (On Dilmukhametov’s program, see, and


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