Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Tatars Ignoring Putin’s Orders and Intentions and Thereby Corroding His Authority

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 17 – The working assumption of most analyses of Russian political life is that living under Putin will obey his orders and even his intentions until they become so fed up that they explode. That is certainly the case most of the time, but it is not so in all. Instead, some who object to the Kremlin leader’s orders and desires may simply ignore him.

            Over time, such a response can be even more corrosive than the direct attacks on his position that most associate with opposition behavior because it highlights the reality that even the powerful Putin regime is not strong enough to insist that its position be followed on all things all the time. And that is not a message that the Kremlin can afford to live with for long.

            Two developments in Tatarstan highlight this reality, one having to do with Putin’s insistence that the head of that Middle Volga republic not be called president and the other his clear desire that young people should choose to study Russian rather than their native languages in school.

            In the first, Ramiz Latypov, editor of the Internet portal, says pointedly that whatever Putin and Moscow do, Tatarstan has a president. “By the constitution of Tatarstan, it is a state with its own attributes, a coat of arms, a flag, a hymn, a State Council and a President” (

            Moscow may order people to call the president of Tatarstan the head of a republic, but that doesn’t mean that Tatars must do so. As citizens of Tatarstan, we have a president, Latypov says; and we must continue to call him that regardless of what Putin wants or the government in Moscow decides – and regardless of whether the incumbent goes along or not.

            Mintimir Shaymiyev has said he will because “Tatars are a law-abiding nation,” but even he adds that this decision was made against the wishes of his people.

            And in the second, the Tatarstan education ministry reports that 63 percent of the pupils in the republic have declared that they want to study Tatar as a native language. Only 33 percent want to study Russian in that way (

            This means that slightly more children in Tatarstan will study in Tatar than there are Tatars in the republic and slightly fewer Russians than their number there will study in Russian, a clear victory for those pushing for the survival of Tatar and a loss for those who want all the non-Russians to give up their native languages.

            Since 2018, Putin has pushed hard to have non-Russians study Russian. But this is a clear indication that his campaign has run into a roadblock he himself created. Because he gave parents and children the right to make a choice, he now faced a decision where in Tatarstan, they have chosen to stay with Tatar rather than go over to Russian.


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