Summary. The process of institutional centralization launched by Mr. Putin in a Federation currently counting 85 entities (including the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol’) is likely to collide with the self-government aspirations, particularly by the 22 republics, because of a documented extensive presence of ethnic minority groups living in their territories. Each of them has its own constitution and legislation. But, according to the Russian Federal Law, all regional heads are to be nominated by Russian President. On the other hand, the Tatar Constitution, aimed to guarantee minority ethnic, religious, or linguistic rights, maintains President of the Republic has to be popularly elected. This situation is creating a framework, if not of legal uncertainty, at least of institutional tensions threatening to escalate, unless it would be properly addressed, also due to the specific ethno-religious features of Republics, particularly Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.
The Republic of Tatarstan, along with its wealthy mineral deposits, strong production, highly skilled labour force, has one of the powerful and varied regional economies in Russia and a solid financial stability, too. Tatarstan is also deemed as a model for successful economic development. The Republic of Bashkortostan, a region bordering Siberia, since Soviet times has based its economy on oil, adding more recently the chemical and energy systems. Bashkir President is known for his technocratic and reformist line, with a spotlight on foreign investment. Both republics are regarded as a model of winning multiethnic states, mainly for the ability to bring together Christians and Muslims to live peacefully.
Definitely, a cultural, religious, and economic recovery is going through Tatarstan and Bashkortostan people. Obviously, given the peculiarities offered by the post-Soviet times, difficulties and problems, especially for the previous republic, contrast a cautious optimism.
Moscow concerns give substance to the ghost of never vanished pan-Turkism, since Tatarstan still has relevant independence movements, with a mix of nationalist ideals and religious revival, but all of them with features of peaceful struggle and never extremist.
The traditional theological school of law among Muslims of the region is the Hanafī one, and the gradual presence of Salafis in the Ural region is regarded by many (though disputed by others) as a source of rampant extremism. Certainly, fighting a school of thought, as far as deemed extreme, by demonizing its adherents on behalf of the primacy of a school referred to as ”traditional”, has not resulted in considerable aftermath. The Russian Federation should undertake to recognize and to spread among Tatarstan and Bashkortostan population the value of ethnic and religious coexistence underpinning the Russian Federation concept in the post-Communist era.
Keywords: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Russian Federation, Putin, centralization, self-government, ethnic minority, Ufa, Kazan, Moscow, pan-Turkism, nationalism, independence movements, Hanafī Islam, Salafism
* Architect, independent scholar of Political Islam, writer, director and manager of the website www.islamicworld.it