Staunton, Nov. 6 – Today, on the 29th Day of the Constitution of Tatarstan, a document whose provisions Moscow continues to seek to gut, activists of the Azatlyk Union of Tatar Youth held a demonstration in Kazan under the slogan “if we can defend Tatarstan, we will be able to defend other republics as well.”
Azatlyk leader Nail Nabiullin
says that “today it is important to defend the Constitution of Tatarstan since the
republic is the last frontier and last foothold in defense of the
constitutional rights of the peoples of Russia. It is important that Tatarstan
struggle for its rights” when they are under attack as now (idelreal.org/a/31548857.html).
“We the Tatar youth call for defending the Constitution of Tatarstan, the institution of the presidency and thus support the republic. If we will be able to defend Tatarstan, then we will be able to defend other republics.” His words and this demonstration are important for Russia as a whole for three reasons.
First, Moscow has sought to define its effort to strip Tatarstan of the right to call its head a president as a fight for everyone else against Tatar selfishness and arrogance. The Azatlyk demonstration shows that the situation is exactly the reverse, that what Moscow is doing is directed against all republics and not just Tatarstan.
Second, more than perhaps at any other time recently, Tatarstan and its leaders view themselves as the defenders not just of themselves but of all the non-Russians, an attitude that helps to explain why Moscow has singled them out for particular attack but also one that makes the current policy debate much more important than many assume.
And third – and this may prove the most important – in recent years, many of the protests against Moscow’s interference in Tatarstan were dominated by members of older generations who were part of the glory days of Tatar nationalism at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.
The new leaders are members of a new generation, few of whom took part in those earlier events but all of whom seem committed to carrying on the struggle for the rights of the Tatars and all other non-Russians now within the borders of the Russian Federation.