Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 152

Yeltsin’s statement of yesterday ignored the fact that the situations of Tatarstan and Chechnya are very different. Under the terms of its 1994 power-sharing treaty with the Russian Federation, Tatarstan won extensive autonomy, including some power over taxes and wide control of its own natural resources. The treaty gave tacit recognition to Tatarstan’s claim to be a sovereign state, but Tatarstan does not conduct its own foreign or security policy, the influence of the big Moscow banks is growing in Tatarstan, and no-one in Kazan today seriously believes that Tatarstan is really independent of the federal center. Six years ago, when Tatarstan was campaigning for the status of a union republic within the USSR, or five years ago, when it refused to sign the Russian Federal Treaty, there may have been such hopes. Some observers believe that all Tatarstan’s president, Mintimer Shaimiev, and his entourage ever really sought was control over Tatarstan’s oil-rich economy; others argue that Shaimiev has mellowed over the years. In either case, there is a consensus today that Tatarstan owes its stability and prosperity to the economic autonomy it won in 1994 but that Tatarstan cannot insulate itself from the rest of the Russian economy. Some argue that, three years ago, Shaimiev had hopes that a power-sharing treaty would enable Tatarstan to become economically self-efficient. No-one believes that today, and Tatarstan is now a fully functioning part of a single Russian economic space.

In advocating a Tatarstan-type treaty for Chechnya, the Yeltsin leadership appears to hope that Chechen dreams of full independence will also evaporate with the passage of time. There are two problems with this strategy. One is that, while four centuries had dulled the grief of most strata of Tatar society over their loss of statehood, the Chechen people have only very recently fought a desperate and bloody war for independence. The second is that Chechnya’s president, Aslan Maskhadov, does not enjoy the unchallenged position in Chechnya that Shaimiev occupied and still occupies in Tatarstan. On the contrary, as Bogatyrev told journalists yesterday, Maskhadov is under threat from radicals not only outside but inside his own government. Yeltsin’s concessions yesterday appear to have recognized this fact and been aimed at shoring up Maskhadov’s position, at least temporarily. But a magic formula that will give Chechnya freedom without independence is going to be very hard for Moscow to come up with.

Some New Warplanes to Miss Moscow Air Show.