Staunton, June 18 – Moscow’s plan to amalgamate federal subjects by means of the agglomeration of cities in various regions and republics around major metropolitan centers is generating intense negative reaction in Mari El where the center appears ready to shift smaller cities from the former into an agglomeration based on Kazan in the latter.
Indeed, some Maris are now so angry that ethnic organizations are calling on the population to resist lest the shift in relations between the two Mari cities and Tatarstan destabilize the republic as a whole and threaten the survival of the Finno-Ugric nation as a whole.
Some ethnic Tatars in Mari El have welcomed the plan, seeing it as the first stage of movement toward the unification of the two republics, precisely what the ethnic Maris fear. But most Tatars in Kazan are opposed, viewing this latest Moscow effort as a way for the center to shift the financing of impoverished Mari El onto their better off republic.
Cities in Mari El have been under attack from Moscow since Vladimir Putin came to power with these places retaining ever less of their tax revenues, losing the right to elect their mayors, and forced to accept outsiders from Moscow for the republic and its capital and officials from Tatarstan for its smaller cities (idelreal.org/a/31310994.html).
The two cities in Mari El that Moscow is talking about including in a Kazan agglomeration thus already have Tatarstan officials in charge and little control over their own lives and many people who live in these cities work in Tatarstan or travel to Kazan for shopping or entertainment. But that doesn’t mean they want amalgamation.
Ethnic Maris are already calling for all-out resistance to any change in the status of the two cities. One leading activist, Konstantin Strokin, published in the Ioshkar-Ola version of Moskovsky komsomolets an article entitled “Resist! Or the Death Knell for Mari El will Soon Sound” (mk-mari.ru/social/2021/06/15/soprotivlyaytes-ili-v-mariy-el-pora-bit-v-kolokol.html).
And Igor Kudryavstsev, head of the nationalist Mari Ushem organization, said that all Maris must recognize and oppose Moscow’s salami-tactics, which may not seem so bad now but will eventually destroy the Mari nation and its statehood (mariuver.com/2021/06/18/kudrjavcev-protiv-aglomeracij/).
Ethnic Tatars in Mari El do support the idea, however, AmirShakirov of the National-Cultural Autonomy of Tatars of Mari El, is among them. He backs the idea in the hopes that it is only the beginning of what the Maris fear, a move to disband the Finno-Ugric republic entirely (business-gazeta.ru/article/513135).
Tatars in Tatarstan are also skeptical and opposed. They say that this is just another way Moscow is trying to make them pay to help their poorer neighbors and that Tatarstan will be the loser. Some would welcome combining the two republics but not this partial step that will add to their burdens without giving them any new advantages (business-gazeta.ru/article/513135).
Moscow analysts with whom Kazan’s Business-Gazeta portal spoke are also skeptical about the idea. Dmitry Zhuravlyev of the Institute of Regional Problems and Ilya Grashchenkov of the Center for the Development of Regional Policy both warn that any moves in this direction could create ethnic clashes where none have existed before (business-gazeta.ru/article/513135).
Consequently, they warn nothing should be done in the direction of amalgamation via agglomeration, especially between or among ethnic federal subjects, without a great deal of additional careful study.