Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 26

Tatarstan’s parliament is expected this week to debate a potentially explosive bill on Tatarstani citizenship. (Vechernyaya Kazan, February 4) The bill is controversial not because it would recognize the concept of republic citizenship — this has long been a possibility, at least in theory, under Russian law — but because it would offer citizenship to Tatars who do not live in Tatarstan and who may not even live in Russia. Until now, republic citizenship has been seen as little more than an appendage to Russian citizenship: a glorified residence permit and registration of the right to vote in regional elections. But Tatarstan’s new law would offer citizenship not just to residents of the republic but to all ethnic Tatars regardless of where they live.

This could have two important consequences. First, it would give Tatarstani citizenship a life of its own by decoupling it from Russian citizenship. Second, it would increase the clout of the Tatarstani authorities vis-a-vis the federal government. Until now, Kazan’s influence has been limited by the fact that, while Tatars are, after the Russians themselves, the second largest ethnic group in the Russian Federation, less than half of them live in Tatarstan. At the time of the 1989 census, only 32.0 percent of Russia’s 5.5 million Tatars lived in the republic. The rest are widely dispersed in other parts of Russia. Many live abroad. The fact that they cannot claim to speak for all the Tatars in the Russian Federation has until now weakened the bargaining position of Tatarstan’s leaders vis-a-vis the federal government. It has also ensured that Kazan’s campaign for autonomy has not assumed an overtly ethnic nature or turned into a struggle for national liberation. That could change if the citizenship law that will be debated this week were adopted in its present form.

No Progress in Baghdad Talks.