Staunton, August 30 – Today, Tatars mark the 31st anniversary of the Republic of Tatarstan; but it is not an entirely happy occasion, Ruslan Ablyakimov says, because over the last three decades, Tatarstan has been reduced from the status of a sovereign state to just one federal subject among others within Russia.
On August 30, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Tatar ASSR issued its Declaration of State Sovereignty called for a referendum on that issue but not on independence as some hoped. But Moscow opposed even the referendum. Nonetheless it happened on March 22, 1992, and more than 80 percent of Tatars voted in favor (idelreal.org/a/31433741.html).
Basing itself on that result, the Tatarstan government adopted a new constitution which decalred itself a subject of international law “associated with the Russian Federation on the basis of a Treaty on Mutual Delegation of Authority.” Kazan, like Chechnya, did not sign the federative agreement Boris Yeltsin had all other federal subjects agree to.
Everything Tatarstan tried to do in this regard began to be undone with the coming to power in Moscow of Vladimir Putin who sought to strengthen the center, weaken federal arrangements, and promote centralization in all things and a severe limitation of the rights of the regions.
The Kremlin leader was able to do this because he controlled the purse strings and because there was a significant ebbing of ethnic mobilization in Tatarstan and elsewhere, the IdelReal commentator says. Almost immediately after taking power, Putin created federal districts and put military men in charge of them, seriously reducing the powers of the subjects.
Under Putin, Ablyakimov continues, “the Russian Federation began to acquire ever more characteristics of a unitary state.” Tatarstan was forced to remove many things from its constitution and to sit still for attacks on the language of its titular nation, despite the anger this provoked among the population.
Another reason that Putin was able to do what he did is that the decentralization Kazan had promoted in the 1990s was designed to boost the power of the local rulers rather than the status of the republic’s population, some have suggested. As a result, when Moscow pushed back, those in power in Kazan had no one to rely on.