- Tatarstan, Republic of
- An ethnic republic of the Russian Federation. With the exception of Chechnya, which gained its current status through two wars, Tatarstan is recognized as the most sovereign of all of Russia’s federal subjects and the paragon of Boris Yeltsin’s asymmetrical federalism. In nearly every way, the region functions as a country within a country.Relations between Muslim Tatars and Orthodox Russians date back centuries, and though interactions have often been plagued by mutual suspicion, cooperation and cultural exchange have also been evident. Tatarstan, then known as the Khanate of Kazan, was incorporated into Russia during the reign of the first tsar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible (1547–1584). The inclusion of a large non-Christian, Turkic nation into Russia secured the multicultural nature of the Romanov Empire for centuries. During the late 19th century, Tatarstan became an important center of education in the Muslim world due to the spread of the progressive Islamist ideology of Jadidism. Tatars, in turn, became agents of both Islamicization and Russification across Russian Central Asia. During the Russian Civil War, Tatar nationalists created a short-lived federation of Turkic and FinnoUralic peoples known as the Idel-Ural State. Once the Bolsheviks consolidated power in the Volga region, Tatarstan was organized into an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) on 27 May 1920, epitomizing the Leninist slogan of “nationalist in form but socialist in content.” The republic failed to include the majority of ethnic Tatars and purposefully created political divisions between the Tatars and their fellow Turkic Muslims in neighboring Bashkortostan. However, Tatarstan was unofficially bestowed with the position of primus inter pares among Russia’s ASSRs.Modern Tatarstan is part of the Volga Federal District and Economic Region. The republic covers an area of 68,000 square kilometers, and its mostly flat topography is defined by a mixture of forests and plains. The Volga River roughly divides the country along a north-south axis. The republic has a population of 3.7 million, thus ranking it eighth among federal subjects. Tatars represent a majority at 53 percent, while ethnic Russians are the largest minority (40 percent); Chuvash are the region’s other statistically significant national minority. Only one-quarter of all Tatars reside in the republic. Kazan (pop. 1.1 million) is the capital of the republic. The city served as capital of the Khanate of Kazan and the Idel-Ural State. During World War II, a sizable portion of the Soviet militaryindustrial complex was relocated to the city. Today, it is an important scientific, cultural, and educational center in the Volga region. Vladimir Lenin studied briefly at Kazan State University, as did Leo Tolstoy. In 2005, a single-line metro was opened in the city, as was Russia’s largest mosque, Qolşärif. Other important cities in the region are Nabrezhnye Chelny, Zelenodolsk, and Nizhnekamsk. The Tatarstan economy is well developed and diversified between agriculture, industry, and the export of hydrocarbons. Tatarstan accounts for more than half of Russia’s heavy oil production and nearly 10 percent of all oil extraction; there are more than 400 oil fields in the region, with reserves of more than 2 billion tons. Despite its oil wealth, the republic must import natural gas for heating and industrial purposes.Industrial sectors include petrochemicals, machine building, aircraft manufacture, and instrument making. The republic is also an international exporter of arms. Residential and industrial construction is also a key driver of the local economy. The automotive manufacturer Kamsky Motor Works is a major regional corporation, as are Tatneft, Kazan Helicopters, and Kazanorgsintez. Small businesses, joint stock companies, and other forms of private enterprise are an important part of the republican economy.Foreign investment is substantial, with injections of cash coming from General Motors, Hyundai, and other companies. The region’s “low risk” ratings from international auditors, local tax incentives, and special economic zones have proved particularly attractive to foreign capital. On a national level, the largest investors include Luxembourg, Ireland, Turkey, Great Britain, and the United States. Animal husbandry, beekeeping, and fishing are key parts of the agrarian economy. Major crops include grains, sugar beets, and potatoes. The region is an important transit zone for the Russian Federation and the Commonwealth of Independent States (which collectively account for more than a quarter of the region’s $20 billion foreign trade turnover) as well as for European-bound petroleum products. The republic also has a robust communications and media infrastructure, including the media companies Tatmedia, Novy Vek, and Efir. Under the leadership of Mintimer Shaymiyev, Tatarstan emerged as an early and vocal supporter of asymmetrical federalism during the Yeltsin era. As head of the Tatar ASSR’s Supreme Soviet, Shaymiyev declared Tatarstan to be a sovereign republic on 31 August 1990. The republic was the scene of unbridled nationalism during the first year of post-Soviet independence, prompting fear amongst the sizable Slavic population. Along with Chechnya, Tatarstan rejected the new Federation Treaty in 1992, opting instead for its own constitution, which was promulgated on 6 November 1992. While federal troops amassed on the border, no invasion of the republic occurred, as the local leadership, unlike in Chechnya, stopped short of declaring outright independence. In February 1994, the republic led the way in establishing bilateral relations with Moscow, which included full ownership of natural resources and much of its industrial base, as well as retention of 50 percent of all value-added tax (VAT), twice as much as its peers. Tatarstan also gained the right to conclude economic, cultural, and scientific-technical relations with foreign powers (to date, such agreements have been signed with Cuba, Poland, Germany, India, Turkey, the United States, most countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and others).Shaymiyev’s concessions to the Russians—though unpopular with Tatar nationalists—preserved peace within the region and allowed for better relations with the rest of the Russian Federation. During the 1990s, Tatarstan exerted sovereignty over nearly every aspect of its governance except foreign relations and external security (Tatar conscripts were even exempted from fighting in conflict zones). Controversially, the republic also introduced the institution of Tatar citizenship, separate from Russian citizenship.Along with this, came the notion of a Tatartstani or Tatarstanets, that is, a nonethnic categorization of residents of the republic similar to that employed in Russia at large and Kazakhstan. The “Tatarstan model” became an example for other ethnic republics and even oblasts to follow in the 1990s. Tatarstan also introduced extensive reforms to rehabilitate the Tatar language and culture, including the introduction of Tatar-language education, subsidies for Tatar media, elevation of Tatars within the governmental structure of Tatarstan at the expense of Russian cadres, economic support of Tatar cultural initiatives beyond the borders of Tatarstan, and other measures. With the ascent of Vladimir Putin, relations with the center came under new scrutiny. As part of his creation of a vertical of power, federal authorities declared dozens of articles of the Tatarstan constitution in violation of federal laws. While Shaymiyev’s government was forced to relent on some policies, such as the introduction of the Latin alphabet for the Tatar language in 2000, he was able to preserve much of the republic’s “special status” throughout Putin’s administration; however, the Kremlin was able to regain control of certain bodies in the region including the security services. Fearful of a backlash in a key republic and hoping to stave off international criticism for his abolition of popularly elected governors, Putin nominated Shaymiyev to keep his post in 2005.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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