Sunday, September 12, 2010

Window on Eurasia: ‘Tatar Model’ Continues to Influence Other Republics Despite Shaimiyev’s Retirement

Paul Goble

Staunton, September 12 – Despite the departure of Tatarstan’s longtime president Mintimir Shaimiyev, the political model he developed for dealing with Moscow – exchanging expressions of loyalty for concessions of various kinds to his republic – continues to animate the thinking of the leaders of other non-Russian republics.
“Tatar politicians [like Shaimiyev] understood,” according to a Mordvin commentary, “that in a period of political hiatus like the present one, to play the card of Tatarstan sovereignty and to struggle for each element of it not only serves no purpose but is politically dangerous”
And they have successfully traded “loyalty to Moscow” for a variety of benefits such as “the celebration of the 100th jubilee of Kazan, the holding of the Universiade games, the financing of ambitious -- by Russian standards -- innovation projects, and the development of new infrastructure.”
“Yes,” it concedes, “unfortunately, the president of Tatarstan is named by the Russian president rather than chosen by the citizens, but nevertheless, when this political off-season ends, the Tatars will come out of it not having been weakened by tilting at windmills but rather with a developed infrastructure and a high level of loyalty of the Tatars to their republic leadership.”
This is the model, the commentary continues that Mordvinia has chosen. It has been “going along the Tatarstan path: the maximum external demonstrated political loyalty in exchange for economic preferences and the support [by the central Russian government] of important social and infrastructure projects.”
This “Mordvinian pragmatism” means that the republic has “a unique chance to occupy more advanced positions in regional competition, to form a new image of the republic, and to move toward the re-profiling and diversification of its economy,” all the more so because it has been able, unlike its Finno-Ugric neighbors, to secure support from the European Union.
As an example of this approach, the commentary points to the “EMYa” – the Russian acronym for “a single Mordvinian language – which the republic has used to extract resources from the EU and from Moscow as well, even though it is “a fiction” and does not “threaten either the Eryza or Moksha languages.”
“But the most interesting thing,” the article says, “is that the establishment of a single Mordvinian people is an example of contemporary nation building which is taking places before our eyes and which does not have any analogies among the other Finno-Ugric peoples of the Russian Federation.”
And thus paradoxically, “this process of creating a single Mordvinian nation,” something Moscow wants, “has freed up enormous energy which could provide real support to the development of Eryza and Moksha cultures” rather than lead to their destruction and that of the Mordvins as a whole as some observers have concluded.
“A single language will not grow up, the self-designator will not disappear, but the self-consciousness among the Erzya and Moksha will be strengthened, and the local aboriginal population at last will raise its head.” And that will be possible because the drive to create it will be the source of funds for doing exactly the reverse.
That is exactly the kind of approach that the Tatarstan model suggests, and it is one, this Mordvinian commentary argues, will stand the Mordvins as a whole in good stead when more explicitly nationalist actions will have a chance to achieve their ends rather than become the occasion for the repression of those who support them.

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