Sunday, May 9, 2021

Competition for Being Second Nationality in Republics and Regions Intensifies in Middle Volga

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 7 – With the approach of the Russian census, many non-Russians are worried about what percentage of the population they will have in their own republics. But in the Middle Volga or Idel Ural as the peoples there refer to it, the Tatars are also concerned about retaining their status as the second largest nation in neighboring republics and regions.

            Such concerns are typically expressed with caution for two reasons. On the one hand, relations with neighboring federal subjects can be compromised if any one people talks too much about how many of its nationals are in others, something that parallels non-Russian concerns about how many ethnic Russians there are.

            And on the other hand, those who want to see their nation occupy a growing or at least stable share of the population of its republic often see co-nationals in other subjects as a resource on which they can draw to ensure or boost their presence at home as it were. But the Tatars of the Republic of Tatarstan are in a somewhat different position.

            Like all others, they want to ensure that they do not lose their majority in their own republic; but they also want to maintain their presence in the neighboring republics and oblasts so as to ensure that their influence in Russia as a whole is greater and so as to lay the ground work for the larger regional project of a united super region.

            Of the 12 federal subjects in the Volga Federal District other than Tatarstan itself, the Tatars are the second largest nation in five – Kirov Oblast, Nizhne-Novgorod Oblast, Penza Oblast, Perm Kray, and Orenburg Oblast – trail the Russians for second place in the others except for Saratov where they also trail the Kazakhs (

            If the Tatars make significant gains or suffer significant losses in this competition for “placing,” that will have a major impact on Kazan’s ability to maintain itself as the leader of the Middle Volga and as spokesman for the non-Russians of the Russian Federation as a whole. This may not be as fateful as a changed ranking of the Russians, but it could end by mattering at least as much.

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