August 30 – the Independence Day of Tatarstan. But what is Independence? For a country and for a citizen?
I will try to explain it as simply as possible. It is when a Tatar is told that this option is the best, most successful and acceptable for him, and that path is the most optimal and promising, and that he just needs to trust the choice made for him (for our Tatar) and go forward cheerfully and energetically! And what is important, he does not even need to take on the burden of responsibility for the decision made – those who proposed and accepted this choice will be responsible. Here, like an obedient bull-calf, he goes directed by a shepherd – and he is always fed up, warmed in a warm barn, protected from wolves, diseases, and all sorts of other misfortunes! And moreover he, showing humility, according to the proverb, sucks two tits at once.
But our Tatar is not stupid enough to still show some interest in his future destiny, to take care of the paths that open in front of him and try to put himself in a position where he himself makes decisions! He would have managed to make the right choice one way or another, but he was betrayed by his fellows Tatars, the Tatar elite.
The events of recent decades have shown that the direction taken by the Tatars 33 years ago, on the eve of the collapse of the USSR, was correct: the Supreme Soviet of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic then adopted the Declaration on State Sovereignty of the Tatar Soviet Socialist Republic.
It resulted in the holding in 1992 of a referendum on the self-determination of Tatarstan, which, however, did not touch upon the issue of independence, but the issue of sovereignty.
But Tatarstan did not have time to really use this “privilege”, because the USSR soon collapsed.
The power elite of Tatarstan quickly separated from the rest of the people, exchanging the ideals of general freedom and independence for personal comfort. The Tatar democrats of the 90s, inspired by the ideals of the struggle for national development, turned out to be too naive. These people believed that it was enough to proclaim the independence of Tatarstan – and the free national state would blossom like an apple tree in spring. They could not understand that within the limits of one state two separate worlds can simultaneously coexist – for the power elite and for the rest of the society.
The democratic “visit” of the 90s quickly ended, and the precious time was lost. The era of Putin’s centralization began in the 2000s, and it became clear that August 30 is a sign of the lost things. The window of opportunity has been wasted.
Under Putin, the Russian Federation began to acquire more and more signs of the unitary state. From the Constitution of Tatarstan, first of all, they removed the mention of sovereignty, the right of the republic to manage natural resources and the primacy of local laws over federal ones. The first president of the republic, Mintimer Shaimiev, in different years, like a weather vane, caught the leitmotif of the era, clearly following it: supporting either Perestroika, or the State Emergency Committee, or the sovereignization of Tatarstan, and, in the end, the trend towards centralization.
The main beneficiaries of the sovereignization of Tatarstan were the political elites of the republic. This process was meant by them as an extension of their own rights to govern the region. The people of the republic did not receive anything from sovereignty – this explains their cool attitude to this issue, there were no serious protests about the curtailment of the rights and powers of Tatarstan.
Moscow managed to finally bury the remains of the independence of the republic in 2017. The Kremlin refused to renew the federal treaty with Tatarstan, and later launched a campaign to abolish the compulsory teaching of native languages in all national regions of Russia. The leadership of Tatarstan obeyed the will of Moscow here too. Then there were steps to nullify the Constitution and the post of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan.
Today, instead of the day of signing the Declaration, the Day of Kazan city is celebrated. I.e. the symbol of sovereignty is replaced by the city day, absolutely empty in its meaning. Now they do not talk about sovereignty on the day of the Declaration of Sovereignty, and Rustam Minnikhanov, the current Rais of the Republic of Tatarstan, congratulating the residents on the Day of the Republic, he tries not to mention the Declaration.
Therefore, even if now the republic is given the share of sovereignty that it had in the early 1990s, there will not be a big breakthrough. There is no politics as a phenomenon in Tatarstan, so there are no real levers of pressure on the Tatarstan elite.