Yakutia, Tatarstan, Chuvashia: What other russian regions can Ukraine acknowledge as occupied?

Yakutia, Tatarstan, Chuvashia: What other russian regions can Ukraine acknowledge as occupied?

What "republics" are potentially capable of becoming independent and what could be the role of our state in this

Yakutia, Tatarstan, Chuvashia: What other russian regions can Ukraine acknowledge as occupied?
Photo: depositphotos.com

On October 18, 2022, the Verkhovna Rada for the first time in its practice recognised the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which is now part of the russian federation, as temporarily occupied and condemned the genocide of the Chechen people. Ukraine called on the UN member states and international organisations to investigate russian crimes in Ichkeria, bring the perpetrators to justice and recognise Ichkeria as occupied by russia.

The russian federation consists of 22 republics, nine territories, 46 oblasts, two cities with federal status, one autonomous oblast and four autonomous okrugs. All of them were annexed to russia under different circumstances and in different historical times, from Kaliningrad Oblast to Vladivostok, from Murmansk to Kuban.

It is the republics that are now part of the russian federation that have more features of an independent state: Constitution, institution of presidency, and indigenous people who have been living compactly on that territory for centuries.

Mind has identified several such russian national republics that have their own constitutions with the right to self-determination and which may later be recognised by the Verkhovna Rada as occupied.

Tatarstan

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The dragon statue is a symbol of Kazan, Tatarstan's capital
Photo: depositphotos.com

After the recognition of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as occupied by russia, the Verkhovna Rada registered a draft resolution "On the Recognition of State Sovereignty and Independence of Tatarstan." Therefore, Tatarstan may become the second territory to Ichkeria to be recognised as occupied.

At the end of the 9 – 10 centuries in what is now modern Tatarstan the first medieval state, Volga Bulgaria, emerged, having Bulgarian tribes as its ethnic basis. Relations with the Rusian principalities were established at the same time, – the first peace treaty was signed between Volga Bulgaria and Kyivan Rus. These two countries were united by close trade.

In 1487, Kazan was captured by russian troops, and Muhammad-Amin ascended the throne, during whose reign the Kazan Khanate was under the protectorate of moscow and pursued a pro-moscow foreign policy. At this time, a kind of Crimean-moscow-Kazan military-political alliance was formed.

Since then, moscow principality tried to subjugate the Kazan Khanate. Moscow tsars Vasily III and Ivan IV repeatedly made large military campaigns to Kazan in order to put their protégés on the Kazan throne. Eventually, after many years of confrontation with the muscovite state, the Kazan Khanate ceased to exist. The events of the long struggle for Kazan against moscow greatly influenced the folklore, poetry, literature of the Tatar people. After the fall of the capital, the "Kazan Hat", according to current Tatar activists, was stolen and since then it has been kept in the Armory of the moscow kremlin.

Russification, Christianization and tax oppression intensified after the Kazan Province was formed by Peter I. The people could not stand it. There were repeated riots and uprisings against the actions of the central government. However, later, thanks to the reforms of Catherine II, there was a weakening, and the revival of Tatar culture began.

After the revolution of 1917 there was a decision to create the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Thus, Tatarstan was de facto subordinated to moscow, but the problem of relations between the centre and the region remained, especially in the financial and economic spheres.

The Bolsheviks carried out inconsistent reforms of the Tatar alphabet, which severely affected the development of national culture and education. The Soviet authorities also took up religion. Mosques and churches were gradually closed in Tatarstan, and clergymen stopped their public activities. Despite the policy of atheism in the USSR, the Tatars continued to believe in Islam.

With the beginning of perestroika and the introduction of glasnost in Tatarstan, the issue of its state and legal status was discussed more and more actively. In the public consciousness of the peoples of the republic, the idea of raising the state status of the republic was becoming increasingly popular. The national intelligentsia and the Tatar national movement were actively involved in this process.

Finally, on October 24, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the Tatar SSR adopted a resolution on the Act of State Independence of the Republic of Tatarstan. Five months later, a referendum on Tatarstan's independence was held, attended by 81.7% of the republic's residents. 61.4% of voters with almost 82% of the turnout agreed with the wording that "the Republic of Tatarstan is an actor of international law, a sovereign state that has the right to establish relations with the russian federation and other republics and states on the basis of equal treaties."

In late 1992, the Supreme Soviet of Tatarstan, following the will of the people, adopted the Constitution, proclaiming a sovereign republic. Later, Tatarstan introduced the institution of presidency and elected its first president, Mintimer Shaimiyev.

However, since Vladimir Putin became the president of the russian federation, Tatarstan, as well as other republics, has been actively deprived of everything that was allowed during the time of Boris Yeltsin: for example, Tatar and other native languages lost their mandatory status as school lessons in republics, and the republican constitutional courts were abolished. Despite the steps taken by the central government, Tatars themselves point out that Tatarstan is not just a subject of the federation, but a state that voluntarily united with another state (russia).

Bashkortostan

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Monument to Salavat Yulayev in Ufa, Bashkortostan's capital
Photo: depositphotos.com

The historical path of Bashkortostan somewhat overlaps with neighbouring Tatarstan.

Bashkirs are one of the ancient peoples of Eurasia, formed in the Southern Urals as an independent ethnic group in the first half of the 1st millennium AD.

Bashkortostan was enslaved by moscow occured in the XVI century. Then the Bashkirs were forced to accept russian citizenship on the basis of an agreement with the government of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. Tsarist authorities began to seize Bashkir lands, violate the terms of accession and try to Christianize Bashkir Muslims. In response to the actions of the authorities, the Bashkirs repeatedly rebelled.

After the 1917 revolution, the Bashkir population demanded recognition of their right to self-determination. Eventually, the Bashkir Autonomy was proclaimed as part of the russian republic with the corresponding government headed by the leader of the Bashkir national liberation movement Akhmetzaki Validov. Later, he still sided with the Reds, and after negotiations with the Soviet government, the Autonomous Bashkir Soviet Republic was created as part of the RSFSR.

In the late 1980s, due to the aggravation of socio-economic problems, the public movement of Bashkortostan for state sovereignty intensified. In 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the republic proclaimed the Declaration of State Sovereignty, and later signed the "Federal Treaty on the division of powers and jurisdiction between the state authorities of the russian federation and the authorities of the sovereign republics in its composition."

The treaty stated that Bashkortostan could have an independent system of legislation, judiciary and prosecutor's office. It was also noted that the land, subsoil, natural resources on the territory of Bashkortostan are the property of the multinational people of Bashkortostan, and that the issues of ownership, use and disposal of this property are regulated by the legislation of the republic.

Later, presidential elections were held in Bashkortostan, in which Murtaza Rakhimov won (supported by 64% of voters ). In 1993, a new Constitution of Bashkortostan was approved, creating a legal basis for the democratisation of the republic. Then a referendum was held in Bashkortostan, where the majority of citizens (75.5%) voted for the economic independence of the republic and its contractual relations with russia.

With Vladimir Putin coming to the president's office, the russian leadership began to counter separatist and regionalist manifestations in the leadership of Bashkortostan – in particular, the struggle with the clan of Murtaza Rakhimov began. The russian central government created a Commission in the republic to bring local legislation in line with the federal one. Later, the Constitution of the republic was revised and the concept of "sovereignty" was removed.

Thus, the kremlin and russian security services "minimised" the "threat of separatism" in the regional elite of Bashkortostan. However, organisations promoting the culture, traditions and independence of Bashkortostan, such as the Council of Bashkir Aksakals, Bashkir Youth Union, Bashkort, Kuk Bure, etc. continue to exist.

Chuvashia

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Women in Chuvash national dress
Photo: depositphotos.com

The beginning of the history of Chuvashia's development is almost identical to Tatarstan. Turkic peoples founded Volga Bulgaria in the Middle Volga region, and then the Golden Horde came and Bulgaria fell under the blows of Batu Khan. During the war with the Mongols, part of the Bulgarians moved to the northwest in the interfluve of the Sura and Sviyaga rivers and settled here, mixing with the Finno-Ugric tribal group. This part of the population called itself "Chavash" – this self-name became the name of the new people – Chuvash.

On the eve of the fall of the Kazan Khanate in the 16th century, the Chuvash voluntarily joined the russian state. A particularly significant event in the history of the Chuvash people was its Christianization – it is the only Turkic nation that professes Orthodoxy.

A year before the collapse of the USSR, Chuvashia signed the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Chuvash SSR. This document states that the declaration proclaimed "the state sovereignty of the Chuvash SSR as the supremacy, autonomy and independence of the state power of the republic on its entire territory." It also states that "the Chuvash SSR is a sovereign state, the only national-state formation of the Chuvash nation.".

The document proclaimed the republic a democratic state that ensures "free cultural development of the Chuvash nation, other ethnicities", as well as "national and cultural development of persons of Chuvash nationality living outside the Chuvash SSR."

Chuvash and Russian were declared the state languages, and the official name of the state was bilingual: Chuvash SSR – Republic of Chavashyen. Chuvashia noted that from the day of signing the Declaration it was going to independently determine its fiscal policy, as well as conduct economic and cultural contacts with foreign countries.

However, on July 23, 2001, the State Council of Chuvashia adopted a law that "brought the republican legislation in line" with the federal one. Since then, the Declaration of Sovereignty has been considered null and void, and it is stated that the document "has no legal effect."

Alexei Glukhov, a human rights activist from Chuvashia, says the republic's sovereignty "has long been an illusory concept, just like in other regions."

"No independent decisions are made without the consent of the federal centre, including in Chuvashia. And our constitution is necessary as a facade, only saying that we are a republic. In view of this, any national interests, including the development and preservation of the Chuvash language, are the responsibility of the republic's leadership. If the republic has money for this, then there will be progress in this direction," Glukhov says.

Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

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Permafrost underground museum of in Yakutsk
Photo: depositphotos.com

In the 17th century on the right bank of the Lena River, was founded the city of Yakutsk, the capital of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). And after some time the republic was incorporated into the russian state. Later mass Christianisation of the indigenous inhabitants of the region began in Yakutia, as was the case in other territories annexed by russia.

In 1922, at the founding of the USSR, it was decided to draw up a Decree on the formation of the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the RSFSR. This date is believed to have become the day of creation of the Yakut people’s statehood.

However, at the end of the Soviet state, Yakutia started talking about state sovereignty and adopted the relevant declaration. This laid certain prospects for the development of its own politics, economy and culture in the region.

The law "On the State Status of the Yakut-Sakha Soviet Socialist Republic", adopted in 1991, defined the right to republican citizenship, to create its own legal system, to determine the republic's relations with russia, the USSR and foreign countries. According to the law, the republic could independently choose the social and state system and the state language, and it became impossible to interfere in the internal affairs of the republic without an agreement with the Supreme Soviet of Yakutia.

Then the real rise of Yakut statehood began, because the Constitution of the republic was adopted. According to it, the President of Yakutia had the right to form his own army, the state independently disposed of the subsoil and resources located on its territory, and part of the territory of the republic was closed to the residents of the russian federation.

At the same time, the federal authorities’ main claim to the republic was considered to be Yakutia’s right of ownership of natural resources. The media wrote that due to this clause of the republican constitution, the Alrosa diamond mining company annually paid rent payments to the government of Yakutia for the use of diamond deposits.

In 2001, the President of Yakutia Mikhail Nikolayev asked the MPs to discuss more than 80 articles in the republican constitution, which allegedly "did not comply with the Constitution of russia." Petty conflicts between Yakutsk and moscow lasted for several years. Throughout this time the russian federation proposed to exclude articles on sovereignty from the constitution of Yakutia. By 2009, more than 50 amendments were adopted to the constitution of Yakutia.

On June 8, 2009, the Constitutional Court of russia put an end to the case of independent Yakutia. It called on the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Tyva and Sakha (Yakutia) to remove the provisions on sovereignty from their constitutions as soon as possible. A week later, the State Assembly of Yakutia agreed to take this step.

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