Policy Memos

Russian State Nationalism vs. Local Nationalisms: The Case of Tatarstan

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Tatarstan, an autonomous ethnic republic within the Russian Federation where traditionally Muslim Tatars make up just over half the population, was at the forefront of nationalist mobilization in the late 1980s and early 1990s. From 1990 to 1993, against the background of political rivalries in Moscow (first between Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev, then between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament) the republic’s leadership enjoyed virtual independence and consolidated its position vis-à-vis the federal government to win extraordinary concessions in a power-sharing treaty between the republic and the federal center. The republic’s leadership insisted on being an equal partner to Moscow, retained a substantial share of federal taxes for the local budget, and ensured that local laws sometimes overran federal law. Internally, Tatar ethnicity and proficiency in the Tatar language had a substantial impact on one’s career opportunities. For instance, until recently, three-quarters of members of the local legislature (gossovet) were ethnic Tatars, even though Tatars form barely a majority of the republic’s population. [...]

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About the author

Professor, Department of Sociology
Higher School of Economics, Moscow