Monday, January 17, 2022

In 1952, Stalin Planned to Divide Tatarstan into Three Oblasts But Didn’t Live to Do So

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – In the murky last year of his rule, a time when Stalin appeared locked in a fight with Lavrenty Beria over the role of nations in the USSR, the Soviet dictator made plans to divide up the Republic of Tatarstan into three oblasts and to create three new CPSU obkoms, the Kazan, the Chistopol, and the Bugulminsk.

            Stalin had gone so far as to appoint 24-year-old Fikret Tabeyev to head the Bugulminsk oblast committee, but the future republic party head and Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan held the job only a few days before Stalin died and his plans for the destruction of Tatarstan were reversed.

            But Tabeyev’s remarkable elevation to such a senior party job so early in his life not only inspired his own propensity to appoint young people to key positions means that those long ago events continue to have an impact in Tatarstan where only in the last few years has the Tabeyev cohort, including Mintimir Shaymiyev, begun to leave the scene.

            That is just one of the many remarkable revelations found in a kind of article few are inclined to focus on now, despite their echoes in the present day: a 6200-word portrait of the career and character of Fikret Tabeyev by Kazan journalist Niyaz Akhmadullin (

            Anyone interested in Soviet politics in general and nationality issues in particular will want to read this article carefully. But among the many intriguing things Akhmadullin relates the following seem especially noteworthy:

·       Tabeyev got the top party job in Tatarstan despite his youth because his more prominent opponent was known to have changed his nationality from Bashkir to Tatar in hopes of advancing in Kazan.

·       He succeeded in convincing Leonid Brezhnev that Tatarstan’s production of oil would benefit rather than suffer if Moscow allowed Kazan to invest more in housing and infrastructure, something that made him popular in the republic even though he was not committed to advancing the Tatar language.

·       He dodged a bullet that could have proved fatal when he rejected a proposal by Politburo member Aleksandr Shelepin to become a party secretary in Moscow.

·       In 1979, Tabeyev was appointed Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan because the Afghan authorities had told Moscow that they didn’t want a Central Asian. Mikhail Suslov told Tabeyev that he was the perfect candidate in that he was both a Muslim and a member of the CPSU Central Committee.

·       On returning to Moscow in 1986, he was named a first deputy chairman of the Soviet council of ministers but he did not fit in with Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms and soon retired.

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