Staunton, Feb. 3 – In a sign that many non-Russians aren’t happy with the faceless name for the position of the leaders of their republics, the “head” of the Chuvash republic is calling for his government to retitle his position with the old Turkic word elteper. But because that word means “vassal,” Moscow will likely block such a change as dangerously revelatory.
Nikolay Fedorov’s proposal came as Chuvash marked the 30th anniversary of its post-Soviet government (idel-ural.org/archives/moskva-poschytala-chto-dolzhnost-glavy-chuvashyy-eto-slyshkom-gromko/#more-22700 and milliard.tatar/news/pervyi-prezident-cuvasii-predlozil-novoe-nazvanie-dlya-dolznosti-glavy-regiona-4923).
But it represents the consequences of two Moscow mistakes. On the one hand, when Moscow decided that there could be only one president in Russia, it insisted that the republics change the titles of their leaders. And on the other, while Moscow demanded they give up the president title, it did not impose a single new one and allowed Tatarstan to use “rais” instead.
(On Tatarstan’s ultimately failed effort to defend the title of president and then its compromise by the use of “rais,” see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/02/tatarstans-fight-for-rais-rather-than.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/01/neither-tatar-nor-non-tatar-telegram.html.)
What the Tatars did was ultimately acceptable because “rais” is a term used to designate presidents in Arab countries; but what the Chuvash are now proposing shows how Moscow’s acceptance of that Tatar compromise may have opened the floodgates to other republics to come up with other far less acceptable alternatives.