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Chronology for Tatars in Russia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Tatars in Russia, 2004, available at: [accessed 18 October 2017]
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Date(s) Item
Aug 1990 During a 4-day visit to Tataria, Chairman of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin declared he would welcome the form of independence the Tatar people would choose and assured that Russian leadership would not impede Tataria's aspiration for sovereignty (Official Kremlin Int'l News Broadcast, 08/09/90).
Sep 1990 The only prospect for a peaceful re-ordering of the country, Boris Yeltsin argued during his 3-week tour across Russia, including the Tatar Autonomous Republic (TAR), is for each jurisdiction to decide what powers it will keep for itself and what it will cede upward. Russia, for example, has decided to let Gorbachev take care of national military issues, railroads, communications and a few other functions (The New York Times, 09/03/90). Mr. Yeltsin has offered to surrender natural resources to regions, or even to individual companies, and let the central government take its share through taxes. In the TAR friction between Tatars and ethnic Russians - they are about equal in numbers in the region - have been aggravated by worsening economic conditions including scarcities of basic food and a critical housing shortage. The bitterness of the Tatars stems from their perception of centuries of Russian exploitation, an influx of rural Tatars and refugees fleeing ethnic disorders in the republics of Kirghizia, Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan. Russia's TAR has declared its sovereignty, indicating it wants equal status with the country's other 15 republics. Tass said the vote in the 241-member TAR Supreme Soviet was unanimous. It dropped the label of "autonomous" from its new name, Tatar Socialist Soviet Republic, suggesting it would like to be considered on a footing with other full Soviet republics. The Tatar republic, with an area of 26,000 sq. mi. has a population of 3.6 million (Newsday, 09/01/90) and is one of 16 autonomous republics in Russian Federation. The Tatar parliament indicated it wanted to stay part of the Soviet Union, though with greater independence.
Oct 1990 It may be recalled that during drafting of the 1936 Constitution, proposals were made concerning the possibility of transforming the Bashkir and Tatar Autonomous Republics into Union republics. But the only formal obstacle then was their lack of external borders (The Current Digest of the Soviet Press, 10/25/89). According to G.I. Usmanov, First Secretary of the Tatar Province Party Committee, a sociological study conducted in the TAR showed 67% of the respondents see raising the TAR status to Union level as the way out of deformation of the Leninist nationalities policy. The communist leader suggested that otherwise the Center should altogether abandon the division of republics into Union and autonomous republics (The CDSP, 11/01/89).
Apr 21, 1991 The town of Almetevsk in the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (TASSR) was the scene of clashes between police and demonstrators demanding full sovereignty for Tatarstan and greater autonomy within the Russian Federation. They had marched toward the "Friendship Pipeline" which carried oil to eastern Europe, and amid chants of "Tatar Oil for Tatarstan" they had attempted to put it out of action. On April 7 and 14 several thousand pro-sovereignty demonstrators had rallied in the Tatar capital, Kazan.
Jul 1, 1991 Mr. Mintimer Shaimiev, President of Tatarstan, claims full union republic status and insists on signing the Union Treaty as an independent state. The Russian leadership sees the refusal of Tatarstan to join the union as a constituent part of the Federation as a dangerous precedent for the other 15 autonomous republics on its territory, which together make up about half of its vast land mass. Shaimiev, elected President on June 12, the same day Yeltsin was elected, said the other autonomous republics would soon also insist on separate status. The Tatarstan Supreme Soviet voted to set up a series of new ministries and to create its own central bank. (Financial Times, 07/08/91).
Sep 1991 Tatneft, the independent oil administration of Tatarstan, has agreed to develop its oil fields in a 25 year joint venture with Panoco Holding Inc. of Switzerland. Tatar is the second largest oil producing region in the USSR, after Siberia. Panoco will put up $600 million for an 11 year development plan. Each partner will own 50% of the new company, called the Blue Kama Joint Venture. Although the Soviet Ministry of Oil has reportedly been dissolved, the joint venture needs to be registered both in Russia and in Tatar, since Tatar is a member of the Russian Federation. (Eastern Europe Report, 09/16/91).
Dec 1991 Tatarstan's Supreme Soviet declared on the 28th that the republic was joining the CIS with the status of a co-founder.
Feb 1992 The President of Tatarstan makes only $20 a month, even though it is rich in oil and other resources. The Russian government pays them only 9 cents for a barrel of oil, while world prices are about $18 a barrel. Some oil is sold abroad for hard currency, but Moscow makes all arrangements and keeps all the money. "That's why we want to be independent... We want independence, but we don't want confrontation. It will take time," says Tatarstan's President, Shaimiev. (The Financial Times, 02/26/92). He recently negotiated the first revenue-sharing agreement with Russian President Yeltsin. It gives Tatarstan some freedom to export more oil at world prices. In return, Tatarstan agreed to set aside 10% of production to give it to Moscow as its part in servicing Russia's debts. The province's name was changed to Tatarstan from the Russian Tataria to reflect Asian and Muslim roots. Tatar is now an official language along with Russian. G. Arbatov, who heads the Institute for the US and Canada, believes Russia's other provinces won't leave, but Tatars represent a special case, like Ukrainians. "Most `republics' still within Russia have large Russian populations, averaging 50%. But the Tatars are the exceptions and have something - a statehood," Arbatov explained. (The Financial Post, 02/26/92).
Mar 1992 Voters have approved by a wide majority a referendum calling for more independence from Moscow. Voters in the region of 3.6 million people - 48% Turkic-speaking Muslim Tatars, and 43% Russian - were asked Do you agree that the republic of Tatarstan is a sovereign state, a subject of international law, which builds its relations with the Russian Federation ...on an equal basis?" Results showed 61.4% voted "yes" and 37.2% "no". Most ethnic Russians voted "no". Tatar leaders, many of whom are former communists, assured Moscow the referendum would not necessarily mean secession, but was simply an attempt to gain more local control. "We have never raised the question of secession from the Russian Federation. We stand for the closest union with it," said Shaimiev, after casting his ballot. (UPI, 03/23/92). Russia's constitutional court has declared the vote unconstitutional and the parliament in Moscow said it would be invalid. President Yeltsin appealed to Tatarstan to cancel the referendum.
Nov 6, 1992 The Republic of Tatarstan adopted its own Constitution. The most hotly-debated point concerning Tatarstan's relationship with Russia described Tatarstan as "a sovereign state, a subject of international law, associated with the Russian Federation - Russia - on the basis of a treaty on the mutual delegation of powers." Tatarstan also introduced its own citizenship, while preserving local citizenship with the Federation. It may be recalled that Tatarstan had been one of the two Russian Federation constituent republics (the other was Chechenia) to refuse to sign the Federation Treaty last March, holding instead a referendum on self-government. Since early April, the Tatarstan and Russian leadership had been negotiating a bilateral treaty which was still incomplete. The Russian side accused Tatarstan of forcing the issue by promulgating its own Constitution, and criticized the provisions on the status of the republic. Tatarstan's leaders however denied that the Constitution signified an attempt to leave the Federation altogether.
Jul 1993 Tatarstan plans to issue its own privatization vouchers on August 01. The vouchers, to be known as Personal Privatization Certificates (PPCs), will have a face value of 30,000 rubles and remain valid for two years. Because of inflation that caused Russian vouchers to lose their value, Tatarstan wanted to protect the local population from this loss. Russian vouchers have a face value of 10,000 rubles. It is unclear how widely Tatarstan vouchers can be used - whether they will be honored also to purchase shares in federally-owned property in Tatarstan. It is also unclear what local property may be made available for the Tatarstan population to purchase. (Russia and Commonwealth Business Report, 07/26/93).
Feb 1994 S. Shakhrai, the Minister for Affairs of Nationalities and Regional Policy of Russia, negotiated an agreement on February 13 to permit the Russian republic of Tatarstan to retain "for a long time" its own constitution, under which it had considerable rights of sovereignty (including the right to veto Russian legislation). In return the agreement retained the federal government's right to determine the level of Tatarstan's contributions to the federal budget. Shakhrai said that the agreement could serve as a model for constitutional arrangements with other republics. (Keesings, p. 39874, February 1994).
Mar 1994 Yuri Meshkov, the pro-Russian politician who recently became Crimea's first elected President, went to oil-rich Tatarstan seeking another source of energy in case Ukraine makes good on a threat to cut off his province. Meshkov secured an agreement that calls for Tatarstan to supply Crimea with much-needed oil and gas. Meshkov said during talks with Tatar President Shaimiev that the recent agreement between Russia and Tatarstan - in which the Kremlin ceded the self-governing region a fair measure of power to act independently of Moscow - could be used as a model for Crimea in its attempt to wrest more control from the Ukrainian government in Kiev. Two-thirds of Crimea's 2.7 million population are ethnic Russians. Another 12% of Crimeans are ethnic Tatars. Much of Crimea's indigenous population was expelled from Crimea by Stalin, and many of them are slowly returning to resettle in the peninsula from Central Asia and Siberia. (UPI, 03/19/94).
Jan 3, 1996 Marat Mulyukov, President of the Tatar Public Center, called for a Boycott of the Elections to the Russian Federation Duma.
Mar 28, 1996 (Moscow News) Tatarstan's President is often criticized within the republic. Democrats accuse him of authoritarian rule and call him a "party khan." Nationalists say that Shimiyev is not doing enough for Tatarstan's sovereignty. Nationalists have demanded the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the republic, the liquidation of Russian military headquarters, the introduction of Tatarstan citizenship and the republic's own currency, an acceptance of Tatar as the official language and cutting back the number of Russian schools. But the voice of radicals has become considerably hushed - the nationalist All-Tatar Social Center has only one seat in the present parliament.
Jun 19, 1996 Tatarstan voted for the Communist Party in the first round of Russia's Presidential elections, reflecting the dissatisfaction of voters with their present situation. In the first round of voting June 16, Zyuganov took 43 of 60 voting districts in the republic. The only rural areas that Yeltsin won were suburbs of Kazan. As many as 60 percent of Tatars voted for Zyuganov. (BBC and the Plain Dealer, July 1, 1996)
Feb 1997 (US News and World Report) Tatarstan has a powerful nationalist movement that once argued forcefully for total independence. But Tatar nationalists, proudly focused on their tradition of an Islam Europeanized through 450 years of contact with the West, tend to regard religion primarily as a tool in their national liberation struggle, rather than its rationale, they see themselves as Muslim Tatars, not Tatar Muslims.
May 1997 Aslan Maskhadov, Chechnya President, visited Tatarstan.
May 21, 1997 Tatarstan signed a friendship and cooperation treaty with Chechnya.
Jun 1997 (The Washington Post) Tatarstan's population is 3.7 million. The population is mixed with about 48 percent Tatar and 43 percent Russia. Intermarriage is common and there appears to be little ethnic tension.
Jun 1 - Dec 31, 1997 Aslan Maskhadov visited Tatarstan again
Nov 1997 (The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press) An increase in religious awareness can be observed in all social and age groups of Tatars. However, re-Islamization among Tatars is more likely not so much evidence of religious feelings as it is a manifestation of national consciousness and a distinctive (religious) nationalism.
Nov 1997 Poor health conditions were reported in Tatarstan
Nov 7, 1997 Tatarstan objected to new Russian passports that do not have reference to nationality as Soviet passports had. Authorities stated that they might start issuing their own internal passports. (Interpress Service, December 9, 1997)
Jan 2, 1998 (Newsday) President Mintimer Shaimiyev pursues an Islamic-based foreign policy of his own, distinctive from Moscow's. He has offered to loan money to Iraq, visited Muslim countries like Egypt and Malaysia, and hosted a number of Islamic leaders in his residence. However presidential adviser Raphael Khakimov stated that the point is to capitalize whenever possible on the republic's Islamic identity not so much in the interests of Muslim fraternal feelings as to promote foreign investment and trade in Tatarstan.
Mar 4, 1998 (The Current Digest of the Soviet Press) It was stated that Tatar refugees were largely ignored by the Tatarstan government, and the refugee program was said to lack funds.
Mar 7, 1998 (BBC) A 15% wage increase was granted in Tatarstan for people speaking both Russian and Tatar. It is said to be discriminatory against Russians living there since most Tatars speak Russian fluently, while many fewer Russians speak Tatar. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta) The Kazan City Council adopted a Program for Preserving, Studying and Developing the Languages of the People Living in the City of Kazan.

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