Mintimer Shaimiev: “After the war, the country was recovering and developing thanks to Tatarstan's oil production”

The interview of the first president of Tatarstan to Realnoe Vremya newspaper

Mintimer Shaimiev: “After the war, the country was recovering and developing thanks to Tatarstan's oil production”
Photo: Roman Khasaev

Today, Tatarstan and Tatars around the world celebrate the main holiday of ethnic statehood — the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In honour of this event, First President of Tatarstan, State Councelor Mintimer Shaimiev answered questions of Realnoe Vremya.

Mr Shaimiev, how do you assess the 100th anniversary passed by the republic? What difficulties did the residents face during this period, what did they have to overcome, and what have they achieved?

The history of our people was interpreted in different ways at different times, but as great Tukay said, our traces in history are deep, and this applies to the last century. For centuries, the Tatars have been loyal sons, the mainstay of the Russian state. They defended the country's borders with weapons in their hands, strengthened the economy, and selflessly worked in the field of national education and culture.

At the beginning of the 20th century, when the revolutionary situation was ripe, many peoples, including the Tatars, saw this as a historical opportunity to gain their own statehood, which, as we know, was lost in 1552. Moreover, the nationalities policy of the Bolsheviks under Lenin's leadership was attractive to the peoples of Russia. Lenin attached great importance to this and repeatedly raised the issue of the right to self-determination of peoples, thereby attracting the interest of “non-native” peoples in participating in the revolution of 1917 on their side, promising the formation of republics in the future. This largely determined the success of the revolution. For the first time in several centuries, the Tatars were given the right to determine their place in a changing world.

On May 27, 1920, the Decree on the Formation of the TASSR was signed, and the Tatars for the first time after the 16th century received a certain independence as an autonomous republic within the RSFSR — with its own constitution and rights. This is certainly a significant event in our history.

Signing of the Treaty of Tatarstan with the Russian Federation, February 15, 1994 Photo: Mikhail Kozlovsky

As for the difficulties, Tatarstan, being a part of the RSFSR and the USSR, experienced all the historical and sometimes dramatic events together with the entire multinational people of the country. This includes the Civil War, collectivisation, repression, the Great Patriotic War and the difficult post-war years…

By the way, after the war, the country was recovering, living and developing thanks to the growing oil production of Tatarstan, which actively began to be extracted in 1943. During the post-war decades, the TASSR made significant progress in its development. Its increased socio-economic, scientific and cultural potential no longer corresponded to the status of rightless autonomy. The Republic of Tatarstan as a whole produced as many products as the three Baltic republics combined. The volume of industry was very large. And we managed only two percent of the industrial potential located in the republic.

Meeting with heroes of the USSR, 1994. Photo: Mikhail Kozlovsky

In the Soviet Union, neither union republics nor autonomous republics had economic rights. Everything was highly centralised and regulated from the centre. Therefore, when perestroika was announced, the Russian Federation was the first to adopt a Declaration of its state sovereignty in June 1990. Our republic was the second, on August 30, 1990, to adopt a Declaration on state sovereignty. I believe that we then chose the only correct path — the path of a civilized political solution to the urgent problems. The next important step was the establishment of the institute of the presidency and popular election of the first president of the republic on 12 June 1991. Then — the referendum on the status of the republic was held on March 21, 1992, and the new constitution was adopted on November 6, 1992. All this was given with great difficulties, sometimes in a confrontation with the federal centre.

But after the signing of the Treaty of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan on delimitation of jurisdictional subjects and mutual delegation of powers between public authorities of Russia and Tatarstan on 15 February 1994, the matter was settled, everyone entered the spirit of mutual understanding and trust. And Tatarstan began to gain power, making full use of its economic, political, cultural, and scientific potential.

I am glad that we had the opportunity to take concrete and effective measures to improve the lives of Tatarstan citizens. First of all, this is the Programme for dilapidated housing elimination in 1995-2004, which still has no analogues in the country. Over nine years, 48,576 thousand families have been provided with free housing. No one in Russia has been able to repeat our programme of continuous gasification of the republic's localities in 1995-2001. We can also recall the events of international scale — the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Kazan, the construction of the metro, the 27th World Summer Universiade, etc.

The contribution of the Republic of Tatarstan to the development of the country is noticeable at all times. I will say about our time: the role of Tatarstan is huge in preserving the peace and integrity of Russia in the 1990s, and we should be proud of it. People and nations are tested at the sharp turns of history, and we have passed and are passing them with dignity — both in the 1990s and at the present time.

The meeting with new residents at the house built under the program for the elimination of dilapidated housing. December 29, 1998. Azino-1 residential district. Photo: Mikhail Kozlovsky

What do you think are the main issues facing Tatarstan today and how is the republic coping with them?

Today, Tatarstan is a successfully developing multi-ethnic republic, which, while maintaining stability and inter-ethnic and inter-confessional harmony, is working and moving on. The republic has become competitive in many sectors of the economy, attractive for investments, and more comfortable to live in. The team of President of the Republic Rustam Minnikhanov successfully copes with modern challenges. This is recognised by all, at all levels, including the country's leadership. The support of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin for the candidacy of Rustam Minnikhanov in the presidential elections of Tatarstan scheduled for autumn is an example of this.

What does Tatarstan need to prepare for, what are the challenges it faces for the future?

Overcoming the crisis caused by the coronavirus is an urgent and difficult task. Restoring the pace of socio-economic growth, and through this — the welfare of the population.

Realnoe Vremya online newspaper