The unfolding events in Tatarstan clearly show that Russia is facing a serious challenge in maintaining its current borders.
October 28 2012, 00:30 EST
Increasing incidents of armed clashes in Tatarstan between Muslims and Russian security forces confirm yet again that the prospects of Russian disintegration are very real.
On October 24, two members of the Federal Security Service were killed in fighting in Tatarstan’s capital city, Kazan, along with three armed men. Tatarstan’s Interior Ministry said that the security personnel came under attack after their car was blocked on the street and ambushed.
During the past year the Muslim majority region of Tatarstan has been the scene of increased armed clashes between Russian security forces and individuals claiming to fight for an independent Islamic Tatar state. In July 2012, a pro-Russian Mufti of Tatarstan was wounded in a car bomb attack and his deputy Valiulla Yakupov was shot dead.
Periodic armed attacks in Tatarstan against Russian security forces have been taking place since 2010. They have become more frequent and deadly since 2011. In July 2012, a group of armed Tatar men released a video during which they declared their allegiance to Doku Umarov, leader of the armed takfiri groups in the North Caucasus.
Twenty years ago (1992), 61.4 per cent of Tatars voted for the republic’s sovereignty from Russia. In order to accommodate the separatist sentiment, Moscow granted Tatarstan special status within the Russia federation in 1994. Kremlin also allowed Mintemir Shaimiev, Moscow’s former regional Communist vassal, to privatize the leading political office in Tatarstan for over a decade. The 1994 treaty between Kazan and Moscow gave Tatarstan symbolic signs of state sovereignty.
For example, Tatarstan Republic is the only region in Russia whose leader is addressed as President of the Tatarstan Republic. However, since 2006 Russian President Vladimir Putin has gradually clawed away most autonomous features from Tatarstan through legislative or court rulings, and sometimes by a direct executive order.
Armed clashes are not the only reason why Tatarstan has been in the headlines over the past few months. Since August 2012 much evidence of police torture against ordinary citizens has emerged. The latest torture evidence emerged on October 25 through a video that showed how police officers tortured Pavel Drozdov to death at a police station in Kazan, in February 2012.
The unfolding events in Tatarstan clearly show that Russia is facing a serious challenge in maintaining its current borders. In a rare admission, pro-Putin pundits acknowledged that the separatist conflict has spread from the North Caucasus into the middle of Russia. However, it seems pro-Kremlin gurus and the Russian authorities have not learned from their bitter experience in Dagestan as both called for “immediate harsh measures against terrorists in Tatarstan.”
When a similar situation began unfolding in Dagestan a decade ago as it is currently evolving in Tatarstan, Moscow opted for an “immediate harsh measures” policy. Today the situation in Dagestan is far worse than it was a decade ago. However, it is doubtful that the armed groups fighting Moscow in Tatarstan will be able to win broad public support in society due to their Saudi infiltrated takfiri mindset. Nevertheless, the emerging situation in Tatarstan is a major sign that Russia’s future within its current borders remains uncertain.