Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Compromise with Moscow in 1990s has Not Proved to Have Been a Good Choice for Middle Volga Republics over the Longer Term, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 19 – One of the axioms of most analyses of center-periphery relations is that Tatarstan which compromised with Moscow over most of the last three decades made a far better choice than Chechnya which openly resisted and fought and then lost two wars against Moscow, Kharun Sidorov says.

            But whatever tactical advantages such compromises gave Kazan and the other capitals in the Middle Volga earlier, the decision to compromise with Moscow has cost them far more, the Prague commentator says. In the 1990s, they could object to fighting in Chechnya; but now they are fully integrated into Moscow’s war in Ukraine (idelreal.org/a/32552830.html).

            After 20 years of Putin’s rule, Sidorov continues, “it has become obvious that the seemingly optimal and profitable compromises [the Middle Volga republics made] were tactical and the well-being generated by such a cooperative and compromising position was at best temporary.”

            “Today,” he continues, “deprived of their former even limited sovereignty, the Middle Volga republics, unlike in the 1990s, can no longer affort to shirt participation in the war unleashed by Moscow,, not to mention issuing any calls for its termination which Shaymiyev and Rakhimov allowed themselves to make” in the 1990s.

            Instead, these republics and their governments are “forced to get involved” in the Kremlin’s war, suffering “tangible human losses as well as all it socio-economic costs.” And that raises the obvious question: were the Middle Volga republics right to make a compromise or should they have resisted?

            Many would say that Chechnya suffered far more than Tatarstan in the 1990s and early 2000s by its active resistance; and that is certainly true. But today, Grozny has far more freedom of action than Kazan or Ufa not to mention the other Middle Volga capitals; and the events surrounding the war in Ukraine have thrown that into high relief.

            Sidorov does not explicitly draw the obvious conclusion that the Middle Volga would have been better off to resist more forcefully than it did in the 1990s, but his words certainly point in that direction, a conclusion that is certainly not lost on the minds of elites and peoples in that region and elites and peoples elsewhere in the Russian Federation as well.  

            Indeed, Sidorov’s suggestion that resistance rather than compromise is the best way forward for the non-Russian republics is likely to gain support as the non-Russians consider what has happened to those who compromised versus what has happened to those who resisted, long-term as well as short-term.   

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