State > Relations between the federal centre and Tatarstan
Relations between the federal centre and Tatarstan

The basic documents determining relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan are the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan, and the Treaty on delimitation of jurisdictional subjects and powers between bodies of public authority of the Russian Federation and bodies of public authority of the Republic of Tatarstan of June 26, 2007.

The Treaty became a kind of a “successor” of the Treaty of 1994 and consolidated the existing status of the republic, recognizing the Constitution of Tatarstan as a basis of the statehood of the republic; the Treaty provides for the requirement for nominees to fill the position of President of Tatarstan to speak two state languages, re-confirms the level of international relations of the republic and necessity to work with compatriots.

Historical background

From the beginning of perestroika Tatarstan applied for a status of a union republic, became one of the leaders of national movements in Russia. Soon after the adoption of the Declaration on State Sovereignty of the RSFSR (Russia), in which the right of peoples “for self-determination in national-state and national-cultural forms elected by them” was envisaged, the Supreme Council of the TASSR accepted the Declaration "On State Sovereignty of the TASSR" on August 30, 1990. In this document, in particular, it was said that "The Supreme Council of the TASSR, marking that a status of an autonomous republic is inconsistent with the interests of the further political, economic, social and spiritual development of its multinational people, proclaims state sovereignty of Tataria and transforms it into the Tatar Soviet Socialist Republic - the Republic of Tatarstan".

As a result of the August putsch in 1991 and the collapse of the USSR that followed, the political situation changed, hopes for signing the Union Agreement could not be justified. Russia underwent serious economic and social transformations, while new social relations were formed. Yet at the same time, the country continued living according to the Soviet, Socialist Constitution. In such environment the Republic of Tatarstan was leading in accepting its legislative acts.

On March 21, 1992, a referendum on a status of Tatarstan within the framework of relations with Russia was held. Almost 62 percent voted in favour of consolidating the status of the republic. Tatarstan, as is known, did not sign the Federal Agreement of March 31, 1992 as the status of the republic was not taken into account in this document.

The results of the March referendum, alongside with the Declaration on the State Sovereignty, underlay in the working out of the Constitution of Tatarstan, adopted on November 6, 1992. It featured a key provision on a state-administrative status of the RT as a sovereign state associated with the Russian Federation on the ground of the Treaty. But the Treaty was concluded only two years later, years of negotiations, resistance and search for conciliatory proposals.

After the acceptance of the Constitution of Tatarstan, stabilisation of the political situation began. The republic strengthened its status, searched for ways of transition to a market economy, founded democratic institutions. The Constitution of the republic became a strong legal basis for inter-ethnic and inter-confessional consent.

Not all political circles of Russia apprehended the new status of Tatarstan adequately; therefore its recognition by the federal centre was of big importance. In 1993, during the Constitutional Meeting the delegation of the republic introduced a motion to the Draft Constitution of the Russian Federation concerning the fixing of the status of Tatarstan. However, the motion was not even considered, and the delegation of Tatarstan had to leave the forum. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Commission introduced amendments into the Draft Constitution of Russia, Paragraph 3 was added to Article 11, which allowed building relations of a subject with the centre on the basis of constitutions and agreements. It was essentially important for Tatarstan. A legitimate way for signing the bilateral Treaty opened.

The new Constitution of Russia, accepted by the All-Russia referendum in December 1993, was not supported by the republic. Elections to the 1st convocation State Duma of the Russian Federation also failed. The leadership of Tatarstan declared that they did not support the Constitution that did not recognise the sovereignty of the republic.

After long negotiations with the federal centre, the bilateral Treaty "On delimitation of jurisdictional subjects and mutual delegation of authority between the State bodies of the Russian Federation and the State bodies of the Republic of Tatarstan” was signed on February 15, 1994. Since the Fundamental Law of the Russian Federation did not receive approval in the territory of the Republic of Tatarstan, the Treaty became a form of legalisation of the Constitution of Russia in Tatarstan. Out of this follows its special role in relations with the federal centre.

The Treaty resolved contradictions between the two Constitutions and by that cleared up political relations between the republic and the centre. It undoubtedly was a compromise, but the main thing is that it suited both sides. The Treaty was a real step to federalisation of the country.

The Treaty had huge consequences for the internal policy of the republic. Due to the Treaty, the form of consent was found, and political tension was relieved in the republic. Centrism underlying in this document allowed to avoid extreme measures, to keep stability and to generate a civil society.

The Treaty embodied in itself centuries-old expectations of the Tatar people, a dream of revival of the statehood, language, culture, and national dignity. At the same time, it takes into account the interests of Russian and other peoples living in the republic (from the Address of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan M. Shaimiev to the State Council, March 11, 1999).

Later, the subjects of the Russian Federation signed more than 40 bilateral agreements with the federal centre.

In connection with establishing of a vertical of power in Russia many former agreements were revised, a tendency to unitarisation of Russia was clearly articulated in legislative, financial, as well as in other spheres. Under the pressure of the federal centre some Russian regions and republics began to reject the contractual practice.

"Under these conditions many Tatars expressed their concern over the existing status of Tatarstan. They asked whether the republic would manage to keep former gains, or again as in the 20s Tatarstan would turn into an autonomy deprived of civil rights.

I have no doubt that the tendency to unitarism is a temporary phenomenon. We have to go through this period. Russia has no future without federalism. ... The fact that Tatarstan has been, is and will be a republic should not raise doubts. I have a great confidence in this; my position is firm and proved. ...

At present, we are negotiating for signing the Treaty with a number of changes introduced according to the Constitution of Tatarstan. On our side there is not only historical justice, but also international law that protects interests of the people" (Greeting of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev to the participants of the 3rd World Congress of Tatars, August 29, 2002).

In April 2002, a new version of the Constitution of Tatarstan was accepted. Bringing the Constitution and laws of Tatarstan in conformity with federal ones, the State Council of the republic was guided by the bilateral Treaty of 1994.

The leadership of Tatarstan had marked earlier that the Constitution of the republic would be corrected, as there are objective reasons. Some provisions of the Constitution of Tatarstan of 1992 were obviously outdated and required amendments, some powers of the republic written in the Constitution were delegated to the federal centre on the basis of the Treaty.

At the same time there are basic articles determining the status of the republic that should be kept in view of political realities. In a new version of the Constitution the Republic of Tatarstan is defined as a full subject of the Federation incorporated with Russia on the basis of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan, as well as the Treaty on delimitation and mutual delegation of authority. It corresponds to the actual state of affairs.

In the previous Constitution it was said that Tatarstan was a subject of international law and it caused protests by the federal centre. In the Treaty this article is stated in limits in which the republic participates in international affairs. International activity carried out by Tatarstan proceeds, first of all, from its economic and cultural interests. During these years the republic signed tens of international agreements, established working contacts with international organisations, practiced the activity of foreign representations. Tatarstan established business relations of respect with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The federal centre recognised the right of Tatarstan for international activity as far as it does not contradict the foreign political strategy of the state and is pursuit within the framework of the competence, directed first of all on protection of economic interests of the republic. The life has demonstrated that Tatarstan enjoys quite enough powers in the sphere of external activity which it has under the agreement as it is fixed in a new version of the Constitution.

In recent years, there were attempts of levelling national features of the republic and decreasing the status of Tatarstan. It was shown in attempts of revising some provisions of a new version of the Constitution of Tatarstan, splitting up the Tatar people according to religious and geographical attributes during the 2002 Russian population census. At the end of 2002, the subjects of the Russian Federation were forbidden by legislation to use any alphabets except for the Cyrillic alphabet. Negative consequences of this decision are acknowledged by many independent observers (more in detail see. Latin: pro and contra /in Russian/).

At each stage the political leadership of Tatarstan tried to come to an agreement with the federal centre, while always reasoning from the interests of multinational people of the republic and the necessity to safeguard stability.

Marking the contribution of Tatarstan to the cause of building federalism in Russia, M. Shaimiev said: "Rather inconsistently the country moves toward principles of democracy and real federalism. It will take more than a year for Russia to finally get rid of its unitarist heritage. Our Constitution made an important contribution to the process of delimitation of authority between the federal centre and the subjects, filled the rights of the republic envisaged by the Constitution of the Russian Federation with a real content. …We decently passed the ten-year road of strengthening the constitutional fundamentals of the republic, forming legal society and development of federalism. During this period, the authority of the republic and its people immeasurably grew up, we have what we should be proud of, and we have clear prospects" (Ten years of the Constitution of Tatarstan. Address of the President M. Shaimiev).

"... We always upheld federalism and cannot reject it. It is a position of principle which proceeds from experience of multinational, multi-confessional countries of the world where federal relations harmoniously unite different interests. Even such mono-national states as the USA or Germany develop the federalism which showed its efficiency during the centuries of its existence. There are no reasons for rejecting federalism in Russia, while there are a great many of reasons for its strengthening. Russia is a vast country located in eleven time zones, featuring exclusive climatic, geographic, economic, ethnic, and religious variety. In such country each subject should take into account their peculiarities in their local legislation. It does not weaken but consolidates the country.

The federalism in Russia is a territorial skeleton of democracy. Asserting the federal principles, we simultaneously support preservation of democracy, which today also requires protection. Tatarstan as the most consecutive supporter of federalism bears a cargo of responsibility for preservation of democratic principles in the Russian society. Unfortunately, we at times have to uphold these positions almost alone. From this point of view preservation of the status of Tatarstan in many respects is linked to understanding the necessity and inevitability of federalism in Russia." (From the Address of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan to the State Council «On situation in the republic and basic directions of the social and economic policy in 2003).

In connection with changing the procedure of election of heads of the RF subjects, the question of introduction of amendments and addendums into the Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan was put on the agenda. There was a lot of debate in the republican parliament. RT President Mintimer Shaimiev, who was present at the session of the RT State Council, said: “The Federal Law is accepted. Nevertheless, there are a lot of questions and no answer”. He reminded that in its time Tatarstan strongly objected to the right of dissolution of a legislative body. “I proposed to go for a referendum in case the parliament turns down a candidature for the post of head of the region twice. The way of confrontation is a dead-end in this situation”, the President said.

As a result, it was decided to sustain some provisions of the Constitution of Tatarstan related to preparation and carrying out elections of the RT President. Amendments and addenda were introduced into the fundamental Law following from the federal legislation.

On October, 28, 2005 draft-agreement proposed by RT President “On delimitation of competences and powers between government bodies of the Republic of Tatarstan and government bodies of the Russian Federation” was approved at RT State Council by absolute majority.

The Treaty on delimitation of jurisdictional subjects and powers between bodies of public authority of the Russian Federation and bodies of public authority of the Republic of Tatarstan was signed on June 26, 2007.