Staunton, December 12 – Yevgeny Minchenko, a well-connected political technologist in Moscow, says that the Kremlin did not this year unilaterally decide not to extend its power-sharing accord with Tatarstan, as many think, but rather acted on the basis of an agreement between Vladimir Putin and Mintimir Shaymiyev in 2000.
“There is a certain strategic process which was launched in 2000 as a result of agreements between Vladimir Putin and Mintimir Shaymiyev,” the Moscow analyst says. It followed what both sides recognized was “the period of powerlessness at the beginning of the 1990s” (business-gazeta.ru/article/366678).
The Soviet Union had just fallen apart, he continues, and “Russia was on the brink of disintegration. Because of that, a number of decisions were taken which were risky for the future of Russia as a single state.” Among those was the power-sharing agreement between Moscow and Kazan which delimited the functions of the two.
Putin agreed in 2000, Minchenko says, to extend the power-sharing accord once while Shaymiyev remained in office but there was no question in the Kremlin leader’s mind that it would be extended in perpetuity “every ten years.” Therefore, the analyst says, there was an agreement about not extending it beyond 2017.”
This approach to Tatarstan, he continues, was part of Putin’s decision to bring all laws of the regions into correspondence with federal law so Russia would once again be a common legal space. “What we are encountering now, which some call a reduction of the status of the Tatar language and so on, in fact represents the implementation of [that] process.”
Minchenko adds that this decision, taken in 2000, involved not only Putin and Shaymiyev but also Sergey Kiriyenko who shortly thereafter became the presidential plenipotentiary for the Volga Federal District and a man whom many Tatars now view as their enemy and as an enemy of all non-Russians.
The Moscow analyst had hinted at this in comments to Vedomosti in July of this year (vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2017/07/12/720651-konets-osobogo-puti), but his remarks published today represent a far more detailed and carefully timed description of the sources of the conflict between Tatarstan and Moscow.
Assuming what Minchenko says is true, there are at least three reasons why he may have made these remarks now. First, by shifting the blame for the end of the power-sharing treaty to Shaymiyev, he eases pressure on the incumbent Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, who has been the subject of sharp criticism from many Tatars in recent weeks.
Second, by suggesting that Putin came up with this approach 17 years ago, Minchenko is also suggesting that the Kremlin leader has long-term plans rather than being the grand tactician many suspect him of being. Such a notion will help him gain additional support especially among ethnic Russians in the upcoming election.
And third, Minchenko’s words, again assuming that he really does have the insider’s knowledge he claims, mean that all non-Russians and not just Tatars and all Russian regions beyond the ring road have good reason to fear that the status of their federal subjects will continue to be reduced and even abolished in Putin’s next term.