Globalization Paradigm as Seen From Tatarstan

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Globalization Paradigm as Seen From Tatarstan

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Globalization Paradigm as Seen From Tatarstan

On the one hand, President Shaimiev repeatedly underlines that the federal authorities ought to be primarily busy with taking strategic positions and defending globally the Russian national interests, presuming that the stronger are international engagements of the central authorities, the lesser would be their involvement in the plethora of regional issues.
On the other hand, Shaimiev himself strongly adheres to globalization approaches and is in no mood to give up the sphere of international relations to the Kremlin. In his words, the world consists not of governments but primarily of nations and ethnic groups whose interests ought to overweight the interests of states. The concepts of “nations beyond states” and “global federalism” are rather popular in Tatarstani ruling circles. Some local scholars deem that “national sovereignty of Tatars is more important than the state sovereignty of the republic”, since the territory of Tatarstan was fixed arbitrarily, while the Tatar nation is well integrated phenomenon1721 (which is not exactly the case since the bulk of Tatars reside outside Tatarstan).
As viewed from Tatarstan, globalization gives it direct access to international cultural and social milieus. Global norms and institutions are important for Tatarstan since they might internationally justify its strategic aspirations for autonomy and self-rule1722. International community, in Shaimiev’s words, is committed to preserving cultural diversity of the humankind and defending the rights of each of the ethnic groups. As Rafael Khakim admits, without such internationally accepted values as human rights, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and democratic governance, the very survival of Tatarstan could have been put under question1723.
Yet the current state of international law does not satisfy completely Tatarstani leaders. Thus, according to Rafael Khakim, “pleading the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, the international community prefers to leave the solution of self-determination problems to the discretion of the states involved… The most radical step towards a renewal of international relations would be to establish a second chamber of the United Nations, one which would represent peoples and not states. This would change the structure of many international organizations, including the International Court of Justice”1724.
In his foreign policy President Shaimiev tries to maintain a balance between “West” and “East”. Authorities of Tatarstan keep ‘special relations’ with the Muslim countries that focus basically on cultural and political issues, while relations with non-Muslim countries are mainly aimed at improving economic ties. A good continuation of Tatarstan’s policy of balance was the project of restoring the “Great Volga Road” that historically has proven its efficacy in connecting the northern and western parts of Russia with Caspian and Black Sea ports1725.
President Shaimiev has pointed out that “Western Europe is the landmark for Tatarstan”. Tatarstani leaders have expressed their dissatisfaction with incremental anti-Western attitudes among Russian policymakers. At the same time, political and intellectual leaders of Tatarstan have repeatedly expressed their disappointment with the Western countries policies. Thus, Western-style reforms as implemented by Yegor Gaidar government in early 1990s and the shock therapy modeled after American advises were rebuffed in Kazan’. In view of local experts, the West sticks to selective support to the human rights by ignoring the bloodshed in Chechnia and refusing to recognize politically the separatists1726. In spite of the Western policy of economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein regime, Tatarstan is intensively cooperating with Iraq in oil extraction and reprocessing1727.
Opinion polls in the city of Naberezhnie Chelny had shown that only 10,9% of its population would applaud fostering market reforms on the basis of political rapprochement with the West. In minds of many Tatars, pro-Western policy attitudes might lead to strengthening of Christian influence in the republic1728.
Inside Tatarstan there are more radical foreign policy attitudes (of course, we should not exaggerate the political importance of those radical viewpoints for Tatarstan, since the governing elite is much more moderate and pragmatic). For example, activists of the “Tatar Public Center” (one of nationalist groups) call for boycotting the federal ministries in Tatarstan as “institutions of foreign state”1729. The Kurultai (Convention) of the Tatar People appealed to international community claiming that Tatarstan is Russia’s colony (local nationalists commemorate October 15, the day when the army of Ivan the Terrible militarily subdued Kazan’ in 1552, as national mourning), and has to be allowed full-fledged international participation. Among the most radical proposals of the Kurultai delegates were stigmatizing inter-ethnic marriages, establishing contacts with national liberation movements all across the globe and application for Tatarstan’s membership in NATO1730. Some radical extremists (frequently called “non-traditional Islam groups” backed by likely-minded sponsors from Pakistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon and other countries) are practically implementing some of those theories – recruiting volunteers for Chechen rebels and preparing terrorist attacks1731.

The table below illustrates some of those divergent assessments.


Radical Nationalists

Republic of Tatarstan government

Russian federal center authorities


Transition from “colonial dependency” to full-fledged independence which was interrupted by Russia’s military interference in 1552

Sovereignty is flexible and divisible (it might be shared between Tatarstan and Russian Federation)

Sovereignty belongs to Russia as a whole

Territorial integrity of Russia

The principle of territorial integrity might strain ethnic and regional development

Tatarstan does not seek full separation from Russia

Territorial integrity is unconditional political principle

Foreign policy

Completely independent foreign policy (up to application for NATO membership)

Republic of Tatarstan is the state associated with Russia (and is equal to Russia), and in this capacity is the subject of international relations

Tatarstan’s “foreign connections” (as different from the “foreign relations” of the federal center) are based on the treaty of division of powers between the regional and the federal authorities

Legal collisions

Tatarstan ought to have its own legal system

Laws of Tatarstan have priority over Russian federal legislation (as ruled by Tatarstan’s Constitutional Court)

Coherency and indivisibility of the legal foundations of the Russian Federation


Independent of Russia citizenship

Gradual acceptance of double (Russian and Tatarstani) citizenship

Single Russian citizenship (Tatarstan is allowed to issue additional inset for its residents)

War in Chechnia

Tatarstan ought to follow the Chechnia drive for independence, yet be better prepared

Appeal to stop the violence and military actions in the Caucasus, and start negotiations with the Chechen leaders

Massive use of military force to suppress rebels and terrorists


Islamic identity

Double identity (European and Islamic); Tatarstan as a bridge between West and East

Common multi-national identity of the whole Russian people


Forming global Tatar community

Diaspora as a factor legitimizing Tatarstan’s global bid

Diaspora is basically cultural phenomenon

Methods of settling center-periphery disputes

All possible methods up to military insurgence



Ethnicity and democracy

Defending ethnic interests is more important than democracy

Strengthening ethnic factor is a precondition for democratic development

Democracy has to be built up upon non-ethnic background

The problem of sovereignty is the core issue to understand the ways in which the foreign relations of Tatarstan are organized. This chapter will start with the chronological account of the legal relations between Tatarstan and the federal center. The second part of the chapter will be more issue oriented and will compare basic approaches to sovereignty from both sides involved.
2.1. History of Tatarstan’s Relations with the Federal Center

From the very beginning of the demise of the USSR, Tatarstan insisted on its special status within the Russian Federation. In this sections we shall see how Moscow and Kazan’ tried to find the way out of the debacle which was the result of striking gaps that have divided them on a plethora of issues related to sovereignty and independence.

2.1.1. Tatarstan’s Moves

As early as in August 1990 the Supreme Soviet of Tatarstan had declared the state sovereignty of the republic, without mentioning ist association with Russia1732. Yet the first attempt to take advantage of it had failed: on December 26, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of the republic has issues the statement declaring the entry of Tatarstan into the Commonwealth of Independent States as one of its co-founder, yet this act did not invoke of course any political consequences1733.

On March 21, 1992 the referendum held in the republic confirmed Tatarstan’s sovereignty and its intention to build relations with Russia and other countries on the basis of equality and reciprocity. However, the Supreme Soviet of Tatarstan had officially stated beforehand that the results of the referendum should not be interpreted in terms of secession or non-secession, since Tatarstan does not encroach upon national integrity of the Russian Federation and wishes to stay in common with Russia “economic and geopolitical space”.1734 The core issue of the referendum, according to this declaration, was to restructure the relations with the Russian Federation. At the same, in a separate statement of March 16, 1992 the Supreme Soviet of Tatarstan had ruled that the republic is supposed to provide “double citizenship” for its residents1735.

According to the Constitution of Tatarstan adopted in 1992 (prior to the current Constitution of the Russian Federation), it is the subject of international law, the sovereign state, associated with Russia, and has full-fledged powers to conduct foreign policy. Laws of Tatarstan are superior on its territory, and Tatarstan is in a position to suspend Russian federal laws. The Constitution of Tatarstan allows it to have diplomatic and consular missions in foreign countries1736. Also important is no keep in mind that Tatarstan - along with Chechnya - refused to sign the Federal Treaty of 1992.

2.1.2. Federal Center Responses

Initial reactions of the federal center to these ambitions were rather soft and compromise-driven. The Agreement between the governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan of January 1992 has fixed that the land and the natural resources of the republic are in full possession of its people. The document says that the two parts are in a position to conduct their own foreign economic activities, except for the production which requires licensing and quoting1737. For example, the volumes of oil extraction and oil delivery, according to the Agreement between Russian and Tatarstani governments of June 5, 1993, have to be specified each year in bilateral negotiations. This documents gives the Tatarstani government the right to conclude separate treaties with foreign countries on transportation of locally extracted oil1738. Another agreement, signed on June 22, 1993 has confirmed that the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan form the integrated customs area1739.

The Communique of July 2, 1992 signed between the governments of Russia and Tatarstan has stated that the two sides stem from Tatarstan’s sovereignty and international actorship1740. Yet the most important document shaping the bilateral relations was the “Treaty on Power-Sharing” between the two parts of February 15, 1994. Tatarstan treats it as a document regulating relations between two states. It invokes that “as a state, Tatarstan is united with the Russian Federation”1741, and therefore has a number of rights (to establish its citizenship, to conduct foreign economic activities, to set up the rules of alternative military service for Tatarstani residents, etc.). Joint jurisdiction issues include defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity (supposedly of each other), implementation of mobilization plans in emergency situations, coordination of international contacts, conduct of monetary policy, management of transportation networks, ecological monitoring in accordance with international norms and procedures, courts system, land use, etc. It was stipulated that the Russian Federation has under its jurisdiction such issues as human rights and minorities policy, state property, legal foundation of common market, federal budget, energy systems, communication infrastructure, war and peace issues, defense and security, border control1742. As a result of compromise, the power-sharing Treaty had no mentions of “sovereignty” and “subject of international law”. Only after signing this Treaty Tatarstan had sent its representatives to Russia’s Federal Assembly.

A number of inter-governmental agreements were based on the power-sharing Treaty. On February 15, 1994 it was officially stated that the National Bank of Tatarstan is a part of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation1743. Yet another document - signed the same day - leaves for Tatarstan’s budget excises of alcohol, oil and gas, land rent, revenues from privatization1744. Power-sharing agreement in economic sphere of February 15, 1994 left at Tatarstan’s own discretion such issues as signing economic cooperation agreements with foreign regions and states, taking state and commercial credits, forming its own monetary fund, participating in international organizations, crediting foreign partners, and creating free economic zones in Tatarstan1745.

Special agreement regulates military industry issues. The federal center has delegated to Tatarstani government the right to control and oversight the defense industry within the framework of special programs, provided that they correspond to the Russian standards. No special provisions concerning arms sales were agreed upon. Appointment of directors of military enterprises felt into joint sphere of jurisdiction1746.

The two governments have agreed that this is the prerogative of the Russian Federation authorities to regulate the issues of conscript and military personnel training. In exchange, the Tatarstani government received concurrent powers in defense mobilization matters in its territory, as well as recruitment of servicemen from the republic to the Armed Forces. Military service of Tatarstani residents beyond the territory of the Russian Federation became possible only with their consent. With the approval of the Tatarstani government, parts of Tatarstani territories might be transferred at the disposal of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, provided that no tests of mass destruction weapons are effectuated. Russian military command has to notify the government of Tatarstan about all planned military exercises, as well as get its approval for relocation of military bases and military equipment, transportation through the republic of nuclear and chemical weapons. The agreement stipulates that all the ecological and industrial damage incurred as the result of actions of military installations in Tatarstan, will be compensated at the expense of the budget of the Russian Federation1747.

What we have seen above is that Tatarstan’s sovereignty is of limited nature, and in 1990s Moscow seems to be generally quite satisfied with this state of affairs. At least, the federal center had no intentions to sharpen the differences and widen the gaps. Hypothetically, both parties could apply different strategies to each other. The federal center could theoretically opt for blocking participation of Tatarstan in Russia’s missions abroad, applying economic pressure (trade embargo, tariffs, border control, etc.), banning or complicating transport communication with Tatarstan, creating business-unfriendly climate in Tatarstan. In its turn, Tatarstan could slow down production of much needed military equipment for Russian Armed Forces, and play “ethnic card” and provoke tensions between Russians and Tatars1748. Fortunately, these options were discarded both in the federal center and Tatarstan as leading to growing confrontation and dangerous destabilization of mutual relations.
2.2. The Verbal Battle for Sovereignty: Ambiguity as the Political Strength

The notion of sovereignty - as used by Tatarstan leaders - is however rather vague. “Contradictory”, “complicated”, “clouded”, “unsettled”, “murky”, “amorphous”, “confused” – these characteristics could be given to Tatarstani-Russian legal collisions. Three blocks of controversies might be distinguished in this domain. First, according to the Tatar Constitution, this republic is a sovereign state and a subject of international law associated with the Russian Federation. By contrast, the Russian Constitution asserts that Tatarstan is a subject of the federation and a part of its territory. Secondly, although Tatarstan claims the independent right to determine its legal status, Russia contends that the republic’s status is defined according to a joint reading of both federal and republican constitutions. Third, each constitution provides for the supremacy of its own provisions1749.
It was President Yeltsin who first offered self-rule and self-management for Tatarstan. Since that time, different interpretations of sovereignty have appeared: “taxation sovereignty”, “economic sovereignty”, “double sovereignty”, “shared sovereignty”, “distributed sovereignty”, “divided sovereignty”, etc. Most of these intellectual inventions are subjects to different interpretations and open for further discussions. None of them should be taken for granted, because these are not legal, but basically political issues.
2.2.1. Tatarstan’s Approaches
From the very beginning there was always a great deal of uncertainty with regard to Tatarstani sovereignty. Mikhail Stoliarov, the first deputy of the representative of Tatarstan Republic in the Russian Federation, assumes that in the federal state there is no single and indivisible sovereignty in the traditional sense, since under federalism there might be “cohabitation” of multiple sovereignties, as determined by the voluntary transfers of powers between the central and the regional governments1750. Farid Mukhametshin, the chairman of the State Council of Tatarstan, insists that the relations between Tatarstan and the Russian Federation are those between two states1751. President Shaimiev himself interprets sovereignty as “the right to act autonomously within the framework of proper prerogatives”1752. In his view, since “it would be too short-sighted to claim for full independence”, Tatarstan is ready to accept that it voluntarily becomes a member of the Russian Federation and transfers to the federal center the right to decide on such issues as the federal foreign policy, war and peace issues, international treaties of the Russian Federation 1753. This is what is baptized by Shaimiev himself as “moderate sovereignty”, that one which has neither anti-Russian nor secessionist background, and which even recognizes the functions of the federal authorities as “strategic planning”1754.
What we see here is clear mix of legal and political approaches. Legal purity had never been the highest priority for Tatarstan1755. What was most important is to maintain certain level of controversy and even conflictuality with the federal center in order to strengthen its bargaining power and find excuses for eventual failures in its own policies.
The durability of all legal irregularities and imperfections mentioned above might be explained by the fact that neither of two parts – the federal center and the republic of Tatarstan – was interested in establishing clear and transparent mechanism of relationship. Both parts were wishing to leave as much room for “under-the-carpet” bargaining and personal deals as possible1756.
It is true that Tatarstan quite succeeded in informally lobbying its interests using a variety of political arguments. Not all of them however are in good tune with each other, and almost all are open to multiple interpretations. Thus, Shakir Yagudin, the Law Department Chairman in the State Council of Tatarstan interprets the legal uncertainties in such a way that this republic is “the state within the state”1757. Describing its nature, President Shaimiev defines it as “the state of all peoples living in our territory”, and simultaneously as “the state of Tatars”1758. He wants independent powers but pledges not to undermine the unity of Russia. Presenting himself as a federalist, Shaimiev opts in fact for the “union state with the elements of confederation”1759. He is in favor of raising the status of Russian oblasts within the federation, but opposes granting the oblasts the same rights as the republics enjoy1760. In our view, all these statements are based on political symbolism rather than on targeting the real issues Tatarstan has to face.
2.2.2. Federal Policies
Not less controversial is the federal center stand. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation had ruled that the recognition of the Tatarstani statehood does not necessarily imply the recognition of its sovereignty. The statehood, in the Constitutional Court interpretation, only reflects certain peculiarities of Tatartan’s legal status, as related to historical, ethnic and other legacies. In reference to 1992 referendum, the Constitutional Court argued that it was illegitimate to formulate that Tatarstan is the subject of international law.
Sergey Shakhray, one of Boris Yeltsin’s top political advisers, uses different explanatory markers assuming that having elected their representatives to the State Duma and voted in all-Russian presidential elections, the people of Tatarstan de facto recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over the territory of Tatarstan1761. Shakhray, one of key political figures in charge of drafting Moscow - Kazan’ agreement of 1994, reinterpreted “associated status” of Tatarstan not in terms of state-to-state relations (as authorities in Kazan’ did) but rather as a kind of “natural association” going back to the middle ages. Associated relations are treated as those of historical alliance of Tatars and Russians, united organically by the very nature of vicinity and multiple communications1762.
As to legal part of the story, according to the Federal Law of January 1999 “On coordination of international and foreign economic activity of Russian Federation’s constituent parts“, Russian regions can’t sign agreements with foreign central authorities unless Russia’s government approves them. This provision formally runs against the power-sharing treaty between Russian Federation and Tatarstan. The Constitutional Court of Russia has issued two statements on Tatarstan: that ones of 13 March 1992 and 17 June 2000, which indicated – in defiance of multiple documents signed between Moscow and Kazan’ - that laws proclaiming Tatarstan’s sovereign status were unconstitutional.
Despite all these inconsistencies from both parties involved, it is important that from the very beginning of 1990s sovereignty was seen in Kazan’ as a process to be developed on ad-hoc basis. In Shaimiev’s words, “we don’t think the sovereignty is an absolute, neither we push it forcefully in those directions where there is no way to come – for example, in defense or financial matters. Should the circumstances change, we shall react”1763. Again, this is a good example of purely political approach to solving the legal controversy. Rafael Khakim has explicitly acknowledged that „we were independent only one day we have proclaimed the sovereignty, yet next morning we have started the process of self-restriction”1764. Here is the core difference between Tatarstan and Chechnia: the former is eager to achieve the “free hands policy” within the federation, while the latter was aimed at “running away” from Russia.
Tatarstan’s strategy might be called a piecemeal sovereignty. What Tatarstan proposes – and the federal center might easily accept - is the set of key points:

  • recognition of its partial (limited) sovereignty;

  • further delineation of responsibilities between the republic and the federal center;

  • in case of legal conflicts between the republic and the federal center, priority should be given to the legal norms of that party which is in charge of the question under consideration1765.

This is exactly the agenda for negotiations between Tatarstan and the federal center under President Putin presidency. We are turning to this issue in the next section.

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  • Issues
  • 2.1. History of Tatarstan’s Relations with the Federal Center
  • 2.1.1. Tatarstan’s Moves
  • 2.1.2. Federal Center Responses
  • 2.2. The Verbal Battle for Sovereignty: Ambiguity as the Political Strength
  • 2.2.1. Tatarstan’s Approaches
  • 2.2.2. Federal Policies