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Former Official Says Moscow Punishing Ethnic Republics

Rafail Khakimov

Rafail Khakimov

KAZAN, Tatarstan -- A former regional official says the Russian Constitutional Court's directive this week to 11 of its "ethnic republics" ordering them to eliminate all references in their constitutions to "sovereignty" is an attempt to punish those entities, which enjoy greater autonomy from Moscow, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Rafail Khakimov, the director of Kazan's History Institute, served as political adviser to Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev and took part in talks on Tatarstan's status within Russia in the early 1990s.

He told RFE/RL that despite an attempt during Vladimir Putin's presidency to centralize the government, some ethnic republics are still resisting Moscow's policy to curb the federative nature of Russia and are fighting for more autonomy and trying to preserve their languages and cultures.

Khakimov said this annoys Moscow and that there has been "growing pressure on the [Tatar] language" and allowing an "ethno-regional component" in schools.

The court's directive on June 9 says the references to the entities' sovereignty contradict the Russian Constitution and instructs federal officials to implement the court's 2000 and 2001 orders on the issue.

Tatarstan, as part of the Russian Federation, has built its relations with the central government based on a bilateral treaty in which the two sides recognize the constitutions of both Russia and Tatarstan.

Tatarstan's basic law defines sovereignty as an "inalienable qualitative status" for Tatarstan. It also stipulates that Tatarstan has full sovereignty over the state's authorities with the exception of the powers delegated to Moscow.

Tatarstan did not participate in the referendum on the Russian Constitution that was held in 1991.

The court order was made to the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Sakha, Tuva, Kabardino-Balkaria, Komi, Chechnya, and Buryatia, as well as Krasnodar Krai, and the Nenets and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous oblasts.