Tishkov Rejects Claims that Tatarstan is ‘One of Russia’s Most Unstable Regions’

April 18, 2014
Kazan Protests 4 February 2014. Photo by Ilya Vyshnemirsky

Staunton, April 18 – Academician Valery Tishkov, director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, says that his institute’s monitoring of ethnic tensions in the Russian Federation does not support claims by the Club of the Regions and the Center for Research on National Conflicts that Tatarstan is “one of the [country’s] most unstable” regions.

The scholar said that the North Caucasus remains the region with the most ethnic tension although he suggested that it was not getting worse and pointed to the Russian Far East where he said tensions are increasing as a result of “certain social problems and natural cataclysms”.

Tishkov, whose institute has been involved in monitoring of ethnic tensions in Russia since 1994 cautioned against accepting the conclusions of those who have not been doing it as long and argued that such monitoring should be about identifying positive developments as well as negative ones.

According to the institute’s director, “monitoring has a great prescriptive force and it is necessary to approach it carefully … One should not do it while sitting in Moscow and simply moving about via the Internet.” Russia is too “large and complex” a country for anyone who does that to be in a position to “compose global maps.”

The dispute over Tatarstan is far from an academic one. Various groups, including RISI and the Club of the Regions, have promoted the idea that Tatarstan has become a hotbed of Islamist activity and threatens to become a second North Caucasus, despite evidence to the contrary.

These groups have done so over the last year to 18 months to weaken Kazan and thus open the way either for the replacement of the current leadership of the Tatarstan Republic or more ambitiously to the disbanding of that republic and its amalgamation with neighboring and predominantly Russian regions.

Indeed, some Tatars have suggested that these suggestions themselves are a provocation in that regard and have argued that at least some of the problems that such people cite are the work of themselves or their allies. Tishkov clearly hopes to calm the situation, but in the current overheated atmosphere in the Middle Volga, his words may simply spark a new debate.

The ethnographer’s comments about Tatarstan came in the wake of the release of the latest ranking of the regions and republics of the Russian Federation in terms of conflict and conflict potential. That report suggested that the situation in Russia as a whole did not deteriorate as a whole between 2012 and 2013.

According to the EAWARN report, the regions with the highest level of inter-ethnic tension were Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Stavropol, although it said the situations in these places had not become worse. The “calmest” were Chuvashia, Mari El and Tyumen. And the situation was stable in 14 federal subjects, including Tatarstan.