Staunton, May 2 – When Moscow and Kazan were negotiating in the early 1990s, Russian officials told the Tatars that “if Tatar had had several kilometers of a foreign border, the conversation [between them and the Russians] would have been entirely different,” Rafael Khakimov, a Tatar participant in those talks recalls.
In the 61st excerpt of his memoirs now being serialized by the Milliard.Tatar portal, the former director of the Kazan Institute of History and political advisor to Tatarstan president Mintimir Shaymiyev who said that Moscow had often asked him to fire Khakimov, makes a point that is important both for understanding the past and thinking about the future.
On the one hand, it explains why Tatarstan despite its large size and the commitment of its people to independence failed to achieve it. That republic was entirely surrounded by ethnic Russian territory, with the closest bridge out being the Orenburg Oblast or as it was sometimes called “corridor.”
And on the other, it is a reminder both to the Tatars and to all other peoples within the current borders of Russia why they almost certainly need foreign borders if they are to achieve independence (milliard.tatar/news/na-peregovorax-v-moskve-rossiiskaya-storona-zametila-cto-bud-u-tatarstana-neskolko-kilometrov-vnesnei-granicy-razgovor-byl-by-drugim-3385).
In the case of Tatarstan, that has led to discussions about whether or not Tatarstan or a larger Idel-Ural confederation could recover the Orenburg corridor and thus achieve independence (jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/orenburg-corridor-threatens-russia-more.html, prometheus.ngo/idel-ural-polyethnic-volcano-of-the-russian-federation/, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/ukrainian-interest-in-orenburg-corridor.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/02/tatars-and-bashkirs-must-recover.html).
But in the case of most of the other non-Russian peoples and their well-wishers abroad, the importance of having a border with a foreign state other than Russia if they are to have a reasonable chance at independence has largely been ignored, if one is to judge by the plethora of maps of a post-Russian Eurasia.
It is of course possible for countries to exist even if they are entirely surrounded by others, but it is far more difficult to achieve or sustain that state of affairs than if one has an external border. At the very least, those who are thinking about a future Eurasia should be sensitive to the point that Khakimov’s memoirs highlight.
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