Staunton, October 8 – Russia’s increasing involvement with the Muslim world and the growing importance of the Muslim community in Russia itself means that the country should have a Muslim vice president all the more so because Moscow is going to have to negotiate with the Sunnis abroad and will want to avoid a revolution at home, according to Rashit Akhmetov.
In his lead article this week, the editor of Kazan’s Zvezda Povolzhya argues that Russia’s problems at home and abroad make such an institutional innovation necessary, and he urges that Moscow select either Rustem Minnikhanov or Mintimir Shaymiyev, the current and former presidents of Tatarstan respectively (Zvezda Povolzhya, no. 36 (764), October 8-14, 2015, p. 1).
Akhmetov has suggested such a step in the past, but he argues in this article that events abroad and developments within the Russian Federation give new urgency to it. Indeed, he implies that without such a radical step, the current Russian political system could soon be in extreme difficulty.
The Kazan editor notes that Moscow’s new moves in Syria, moves he believes are primarily directed at securing some kind of bargain with the West, have led Putin to ally himself with the Shiites in Syria, a group which forms only about ten percent of the population there or among Muslims around the world. In Russia, the figure is even lower.
Trying to get a deal with the West over Ukraine is a wise move, Akhmetov says, given that Russia needs to have the sanctions lifted; but there are real problems for Moscow in linking itself so closely with a single trend in Islam and especially one that is at odds with the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world and in Russia Accordingwho are Sunnis.
Clearly, the Kremlin will need to reach out to the Islamic world and avoid the kind of mistakes that would flow from a narrow anti-Western Russian nationalism, he continues. Putin understands this and has shown with his decision not to make Yakunin, the ousted head of Russian Railways and a real nationalist, deputy head of the Federation Council.
According to Akhmetov, “Putin is already skeptical about the Russian national idea,” and quite possibly is actively opposed to it, because he recognizes what havoc it would play in a multi-national Russian Federation. Evidence of this is that the slogan “’Russia for the Russians’” has disappeared from the media and the streets.
The Kazan editor offers the suggestion that contrary to what many think, the Ukrainian crisis in the end has not led to a flowering of Russian nationalism but rather has offered a kind of “vaccination” against it because both the government and the population can see how dangerous an idea it is.
But Russia’s economic and political problems are such, Akhmetov continues, that even if Russian nationalism is brought under complete control, the country faces the possibility that the radical transformations of 1917 will be repeated in 2017, unless the government finds a way out of its current difficulties.
It is possible, the Tatar editor says, that Putin will again hand over power to Dmitry Medvedev “in order to prevent a revolution and not lose everything” – and thereby, as Stolypin hoped before the 1917 debacle to give Russia five more years to develop without the threat that a revolution would pose.
It is unfortunately the case, Akhmetov says, that “Russia has a choice not between the democrats and the Stalinists but between the chekists and the bandits.” That in turn means that Putin or someone like him must be the power behind the throne if Medvedev should become president.
Syria, he suggests, has raised the stakes: “Russia first got into an argument with Europe, then its hopes for China collapsed, and now its single strategic ally – the Islamic world is being transformed from an ally to one can even say a military opponent.” That makes Tatarstan and the Muslims of Russia especially important.
And that is why a Muslim should now occupy the new position of vice president of the Russian Federation.