Tatarstan and Bashkortostan: A Political and Religious Test for Tsar Putin

Glauco D’Agostino


The process of institutional centralization launched by Mr. Putin in a Federation currently counting 85 entities (including the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol’) is likely to collide with the self-government aspirations, particularly by the 22 republics, because of a documented extensive presence of ethnic minority groups living in their territories. Each of them has its own constitution and legislation. But, according to the Russian Federal Law, all regional heads are to be nominated by Russian President. On the other hand, the Tatar Constitution, aimed to guarantee minority ethnic, religious, or linguistic rights, maintains President of the Republic has to be popularly elected. This situation is creating a framework, if not of legal uncertainty, at least of institutional tensions threatening to escalate unless it would be properly addressed, also due to the specific ethno-religious features of Republics, particularly Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Both republics are regarded as a model of winning multiethnic states, mainly for the ability to bring together Christians and Muslims to live peacefully.

Moscow concerns give substance to the ghost of never vanished pan-Turkism, since Tatarstan still has relevant independence movements, with a mix of nationalist ideals and religious revival, but all of them with features of peaceful struggle and never extremist. The traditional theological school of law among Muslims of the region is the Ḥanafī one, and the gradual presence of Salafis in the Ural region is regarded by many (though disputed by others) as a source of rampant extremism. TheRussian Federationshould undertake to recognize and to spread among Tatarstan and Bashkortostan population the value of ethnic and religious coexistence underpinning theRussian Federationconcept in the post-Communist era.

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