Staunton, December 23 – Having already opposed Moscow on Russia’s language law and the elimination of the office of republic president, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov has announced that despite tensions between Moscow and Ankara, Kazan will not break economic and cultural ties with Ankara as Russian officials had demanded.
Given the care with which Kazan has selected its battles with Moscow in the past, its tough new position suggests that the central Russian government faces more problems at home than many think -- especially since other republics are likely to take their lead from Tatarstan, something Sakha already has and that Buryatia is likely to follow shortly.
Speaking on Monday after what he said was “long reflection,” the Tatarstan leader said that his republic would not break ties with Turkey as Moscow officials had demanded because Turkey has invested heavily in Tatarstan and many would suffer were Kazan to do what Moscow wants (eadaily.com/news/2015/12/21/prezident-tatarstana-opredelilsya-my-hoteli-by-sohranit-svyazi-s-turciey).
Moreover, Minnikhanov pointed out, “the residents of Turkey are inclined in a friendly way to Russia, but for the Tatars, who form 53 percent of the population of Tatarstan, the Turks are a fraternal people. We are in one language group and have a common religious attachment,” he said.
Tatarstan has often been the bellwether for other non-Russian republics in the Russian Federation, and it may very well be in this case as well. Within the last month, for example, Kazan has taken an equally hard line against Moscow’s new language law which suggests that the use of non-Russian languages in schools represents a threat to Russia’s “national security.”
Officials in Sakha have echoed that position, and the republic leadership in Buryatia is under pressure to do the same, given that Ulan-Ude’s position on the use of Buryat in the schools is precisely the opposite of what the current leadership in Moscow apparently wants (asiarussia.ru/articles/10461/).