Vienna, August 31 – The arguments the Kremlin invoked first for intervening in Georgia and then for extending diplomatic recognition to Abkhazia and South Ossetia combine to create a precedent that supporters of independence for the Republic of Tatarstan say they plan to use against Moscow.
In a declaration timed to coincide with the 18th anniversary of the adoption of Tatarstan’s declaration of state sovereignty, the All-Tatar Social Center (TOTs) issued over the signature of its president Talgat Bareyev an appeal explaining why Moscow’s moves in Georgia give supporters of Tatar independence new hope (www.novayagazeta.ru/news/312431.html).
“The latest Caucasus war of August 2008,” the appeal says, “led Russia to recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Whatever goals Moscow was pursuing in taking this step, it is important to stress that for the first time in modern history, Russia has recognized the state independence of its own citizens.”
Prior to its introduction of forces into South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the declaration points out, the Russian government invoked the fact that many people in these two breakaway republics had Russian passports and as Russian citizens must be able to count on Moscow to defend them against oppression.
“Consequently,” the appeal continues, “Tatars too, whose Russian citizenship was forcibly imposed as a result of the colonial conquest of their state in the 16th century also have the right to count on rapid liberation and recognition [by Moscow and other states] of their independence.”
In reporting on this appeal, which has been posted on a number of Tatar websites but published so far only in “Novaya gazeta,” that Moscow paper’s reporter Boris Bronshteyn points out that official Kazan has not made any comment about Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, adding that “the word ‘sovereignty’ disappeared long ago from its lexicon.”
And it is certainly the case that relatively few Tatars at present are actively following TOTs in its pursuit of full independence for Tatarstan. But the legal theory that the TOTs declaration makes is an interesting example of the unintended consequences of Moscow’s actions and may have an impact on the thinking of Tatars and others as well.
An example of the kind of support the ideas contained in this declaration are receiving is provided by a Tatar blogger. In a LiveJournal posting, he writes that “after the leadership of Russia showed on August 27th its attitude toward the principle of territorial integrity, then it is possible to forget about such a state formation as the Russian Federation.”
“In front of our eyes,” he continues, “the last empire on earth – the evil empire – is rapidly coming apart” (http://www.margian.livejournal.com/36886.html).
Tatarstan does not need to issue any further declarations on this point, the Tatar blogger says. On August 30, 1990, it declared that it was “not a subject of the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire.” And consequently, all Kazan needs to do now is “to remind the international community about this document and ask for recognition.”
And he predicted that “there will be no small number of countries who will want to do so – a large part of the Islamic world and the countries of the West as well.” Tatarstan was the first in the parade of sovereignties 17 years ago, and now it will finally enjoy the fruits of that effort, one that will mean, the Tatar blogger says, that “the empire must burn!”