Friday, October 15, 2021

Tatar President of Russia More Likely than a Russian President of Tatarstan, Living Central Asia Portal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – The Yandex page, “Living Central Asia,” poses two questions seldom raised in Russia: Could a Tatar become president of Russia? ( and Could a Russian become president of Tatarstan? (

            Not surprisingly, it suggests that neither outcome is all that likely; but very surprisingly, the portal says that the former may be even more likely than the latter given the way in which Russian political life in Moscow and in the federal subjects has evolved over the last two decades.

            The page points out that “Tatars have an incomparably high level of representation in the halls of power, one which is greater than their share of the total population of the Russian Federation,” the continuation of a pattern set five centuries ago and that means there are many Tatars in positions from which a rise to the presidency is not excluded.

            But it notes that half of these Tatars were not born in Tatarstan but elsewhere and especially in Moscow and so are Tatar in a very different manner than those who rise through the ranks in Kazan. But all that raises the question: “Could a Tatar (of either kind) become president of Russia?”

            “Theoretically,” the portal says, “there are no obstacles against that happening if the people vote for him. Marat Khusnullin, a deputy prime minister, certainly is a conceivable candidate if he does not blot his copybook before Vladimir Putin leaves the scene. And it is not unthinkable that Putin would tip his hand in favor of a Tatar if he felt the Tatar was a good ruler.

            The question – “Could an ethnic Russian become president of Tatarstan?” – is different and more complicated; and the obstacles to a Russian taking that position now or in the future are very long against. Since the 1920s, the head of Tatarstan has always been a Tatar, one of the most characteristic features of Soviet and now Russian nationality policy.

            “Theoretically,” of course, “everything is possible” and Moscow could impose an ethnic Russian on Tatarstan. But there are good reasons to think that it isn’t going to do that. On the one hand, only someone who really knows the situation in Tatarstan could rule it. And on the other, the only people with such knowledge are Tatars the current rulers in Kazan have promoted.

            And there is yet another reason for thinking that a Russian president of Tatarstan is something far-fetched. Kazan routinely allows Moscow policies it doesn’t like to stir up trouble in the republic and then argues that only its own people are capable of running things as the Kremlin would like.

There is no good reason to think Moscow would want to find itself in a position where a Russian in Kazan could not cope with such a game that his subordinates would undoubtedly continue to blame. And so it is highly unlikely that the center would ever take the risk of changing the game by inserting an ethnic Russian in the top job in Kazan. 

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