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Tatar Politician: Tatarstan Should Push For More Sovereignty

Rafail Khakimov

Rafail Khakimov

KAZAN, Russia -- A prominent parliament member in Kazan says Tatarstan should take advantage of the current political climate to strengthen the Russian republic's sovereignty, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Rafail Khakimov, a chief ideologist of Tatar sovereignty and former adviser to ex-Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiyev, told RFE/RL that with large demonstrations going on in Russia, now is a "good opportunity to try to strengthen the sovereignty of the republic of Tatarstan."

Khakimov is also the director of Kazan's History Institute and took part in Kazan-Moscow talks on Tatarstan's status within Russia in the early 1990s as Shaimiyev's political adviser.

He recently became a member of Tatarstan's parliament when he replaced a deputy who was elected to the Russian State Duma as a member of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

Khakimov told RFE/RL that since people took to the streets nationwide to protest alleged fraud in the recent parliamentary elections, Russia's leadership needs to think about political reforms.

"It reminds me of the 1990s when Tatarstan was fighting for sovereignty," he said.

The protest rallies held across Russia were attended by various political parties, including representatives of ultranationalist movements who are usually hostile toward national minorities in Russia.

Khakimov, 64, said the leaders of some Tatar movements had urged their activists not to participate in these gatherings because of the ultranationalist presence. But he said Tatar activists should take part in such rallies because "democracy has always benefitted Tatars in Russia -- the more democracy, the better for the Tatars. We have to fight for democracy."

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.

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