Accepted paper:

Comparative Ethnic Territorially-based Autonomy in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Yakutia of Russia: An Analytical Framework


Sansar Tsakhirmaa (Johns Hopkins University)

Paper abstract:

Is it possible for ethnic minorities to practice meaningful territorially-based autonomy in such multi-ethnic, authoritarian regimes as Russia or China? If yes, how can it be possible? Both Russia and China are constitutionally-defined multi-ethnic states, an important shared aspect of whose respective ethnic institutions is the establishment at the sub-national levels of formal territorially-based autonomy for certain territorially-concentrated ethnic minorities. Nonetheless, some of these ethno-regions have been more effectively promoting inter-ethnic cooperation, local economic development, and the cultural interests of their titular ethnic groups and achieving higher actual degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the central states than others. What explains the variations across different ethno-regions in terms of the extent to which they actually exercise the formally promulgated autonomy? This paper introduces both a conceptual framework with which to measure and to compare the differing degrees of actually-exercised autonomy across ethno-regions and an analytical framework with which to explain the differing outcomes. The analytical framework is composed of both structural (inter-ethnic boundary-making) and agential (elites) explanations. The paper applies both frameworks to the comparative study of autonomy outcomes in three ethno-regions of the Russian Federation, i.e. Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Yakutia. Based upon both data collected from fieldwork and secondary data, the paper investigates whether differing patterns of Tatar-Russian, Bashkir-Russian, and Yakut-Russian inter-ethnic relations contribute to varying degrees of bargaining capacity for the titular elites, which in turn lead to varying autonomy outcomes across the three ethno-regions. I argue that greater inter-ethnic integration, when combined with robust consciousness of inter-ethnic distinction, is conducive to building the capacity both for elites of the titular ethnic group to bargain with the central state and for intra-ethnic cohesion, which in turn can lead to greater autonomy outcome for the ethno-region.

panel POL-05
Autonomy, Civil Society, Participation