Mintimer Shaimiev: “Russia is the most complex federation in the world. Multiconfessional and multiethnic one”
The first president of Tatarstan, the coryphon of the political system of modern Russia, spoke about how important it is to provide for the preservation of native languages in national republics in the new Constitution
On 12 March, at a meeting of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev focused on the problem of studying ethnic languages. He spoke about how the Constitution has stabilized the life of the country, about the great political weight and the important role of Tatarstan in modern Russia, and about how important it is to preserve the traditions of peoples and their language, not to allow discrimination. Realnoe Vremya provides a transcript of his emotional speech.
“We, the Republic of Tatarstan, have always had political weight”
I can't help but say so many words because I am a direct witness to the stormy, revolutionary events of the 1990s, in which we took a direct part. Of course, each of us has his own opinion, otherwise there is no point in talking about the democratic development of society (and this is necessary, inevitable).
As you know, the Basic Law of the Russian Federation was adopted in 1993. I must say that no matter how we felt about the current Constitution, there were people who did a lot of useful work, including representatives of a number of political parties and representatives of the regions of the Russian Federation. But I can't help but mention one of the developers who has stood with us on Freedom Square on several occasions — Sergey Shakhray. As well as a well-known lawyer at that time, lawyer Sergey Alekseev. In fact, there were several versions of the Constitution at that time, and their approaches and developments were taken as a basis. We must be objective: The Constitution has become one of the decisive factors at the beginning of political, social and economic stabilization in our booming country.
We, the Republic of Tatarstan, have always had political weight. During the Soviet period, there may have been less — before the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty. But the republic still plays its role, and even more so in the current development of the Russian Federation. This is what is done and is being done. This shows our capabilities. Tatarstan has made and will continue to make a significant contribution to all areas of development of the Russian Federation.
“The current Constitution has stood the test of time”
It is good that overdue amendments are being made to the Constitution. In general, the Constitution will work. It is gradually... We feel this, that the need arises. There are also urgent problems because Russia is a multiethnic country. It is very difficult to come to common opinion, but we must strive for this and develop constitutional norms for the future. The path is not easy, but it is necessary to pass through it.
We cannot fail to note today that even during the most difficult years of perestroika, the republic continued to create as much as possible. It's hard to deny. Over the years, we have
been able to implement huge [projects] and solve socio-economic issues. After perestroika, we signed the Treaty on the division of powers based on this Constitution, which played a huge role. In fact, this is respect and recognition of our republic and its authorities.
The current Constitution has stood the test of time. While making and generally supporting these proposals and amendments, we must think about how to make these amendments work better, taking into account the multiethnic and multireligious nature of the Russian Federation.
There may be the question (it may be addressed to me): “Why didn't you guys do better?" The path is difficult. This is not an easy country, and I have always said that it is the most complex federation in the world — multlreligious and multiethnic one. In it, you need to be very careful to go through all the steps. But now we can't do without the proposed amendments.
Why? Because during the work of Vladimir Putin as the guarantor of the Constitution, the country has changed significantly before our eyes. At the same time, I do not want to say that there are no problems at all. <...>
Mr Putin has, in fact, become a focus of the changes that have taken place and have been taking place in the Russian Federation in recent years. These positive factors cannot be ignored. He is the guarantor of the Constitution and, I think, does everything possible to ensure that we continue to develop. <...> The world respects it. When has it been to this extent? Never.
“We must show the ways as people who experience everything directly for themselves”
We are one of the major ethnic republics. I must say, there are many problems. Justice sounds today, and we must... In fact, during the discussion of the amendments in Moscow, the words “reinforced concrete agreement” were even heard. I like it.
And in order to find solutions to preserve the native language... It is no coincidence that the amendments concern these fateful articles — what the language should be and how we should proceed. During these amendments, the president was instructed to consider the problems of preserving the native language at the level of the president. We've been wanting this for a long time. Today, Tatarstan deputies are preparing an appeal to the president of Russia. In this address... This is a clot for today. We are underperforming in this regard. And <...> in this regard, we should be pioneers, because we feel all this for ourselves.
There were many meetings, including at the level of Vladimir Putin — in Yoshkar-Ola, for example. There had been meetings before as well. And there were some pretty bold expressions about the need to preserve their native languages. Taking into account all its aspirations and what is not done by federal authorities, sometimes the opinion is created almost about the deliberate creation of obstacles by individual federal divisions in order to delay this issue, and it is very complex.
I speak as a participant at the beginning of the perestroika years, and now I can say that it is strange to ask any questions about where and how the state standards for education and training in native languages do not work (and it is constitutionally guaranteed).
Today we should support the proposal to prepare a good address to the president as the guarantor of the Constitution. We should show the ways as people who experience everything directly for themselves.
“Education, preservation of traditions — this is what we should live”
Absolutely identical textbooks are created in Russian and Tatar. . . I told the minister [of education] Olga Vasilieva at the time: “This is direct discrimination!” It is good that then our rector, our minister of education, and the rest of our comrades could not disagree. There are a lot of questions like this.
Education should be modern. Education, preservation of traditions — this is what we must live. The path is not easy, but we have the character to deal with this issue on a daily basis.
It is good that we will make an appeal to the president of Russia. We will prepare for it. We should prepare for a good meeting. And the appeal to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin should not be taken in hot pursuit, but at the right moment. It is for consideration of issues of preservation of native languages. There are many of us, and we are for unity, for everyone to live well. At the highest level, we are ready to consider all the problems that have accumulated in the ethnic republics to preserve their native languages, as well as what is not being completed. We have the material, the evidence base, and [an understanding of] what needs to be done for the benefit of the successful development of our country.
There is another suggestion: create a permanent commission of authoritative people in its composition — on the problems of education, preservation and study of the native language.
We should be a beacon in this case. And not in order to distinguish ourselves, but in order to use our intellectual powers, which we have. Learn the story better: that work and that role of the Tatars... in this case, I will not be afraid [so to speak], because we have done the most in eliminating illiteracy. There were many moments in the post-revolutionary time! <...>
I want to end with those feelings... There were many speeches — and on amendments, but if neither you nor we will talk about it, then who will? <...> We know that we are a united nation, multiethnic, multireligious. [These are] Holy feelings, and they should not be forgotten. We should live by these feelings and be able to pass them on to new generations.