Staunton, September 17 – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion at the end of August that the people of Tatarstan should have the right to decide the title of their republic leader has opened a Pandora’s box with some in other republics now demanding the retention of the title “president” for themselves.
Yesterday, Murtaza Rakhimov, the former president of Bashkortostan, said that his republic must seek to have a president just “like in Tatarstan” because the substitute title some Bashkirs have proposed isn’t appropriate. The title “president” must be retained. To do otherwise, he said, would mean that “the system,” and not the people, has the last word.
Putin and his advisors may think that this is a small thing, something that will mollify non-Russian leaders at a time when the Kremlin continues to push for greater centralization. But in fact, it is likely to spark a new round of debates and demands for more authority to be given to the republics.
If, as seems certain, Moscow resists these demands, then tensions between the center and the Russian Federation’s non-Russian republics are likely to continue to grow, quite possibly sparking a new round of declarations like the sovereignty declarations that spread across the RSFSR at the end of Soviet times.