That said, Khabirov is far from the worst, since he has significant experience in public administration. His track record includes heading up the administration of Bashkortostan’s first leader, Murtaza Rakhimov, and then, when Khabirov lost his trust, going to work in Moscow as deputy head of the Kremlin’s internal policy department under Vladislav Surkov and Vyacheslav Volodin.
The figure of the first president of Bashkortostan, Rakhimov, who died last year, and whose 90th birthday is to be celebrated with pomp across the region on February 7, gives the situation special, symbolic meaning.
Whereas “Babai” (“Grandfather”) Rakhimov used the factor of ethnic Bashkir solidarity to bargain with the Center and strengthen his position, Khabirov, on the contrary, received a mandate from Moscow to suppress nationalism. Until recently, with the help of law enforcement, he had dealt with it relatively successfully. The abovementioned Bashkort organization was banned, and a number of leaders of the Bashkir national movement were sent to jail or driven out of the country.
But now, seemingly, Khabirov’s political instincts have failed him: in line with the Kremlin’s policy of harshly suppressing discontent, he has provoked mass protests, which is completely unacceptable for the Kremlin on the eve of the presidential election.Sakha, Buryatia, Bashkortostan...
Even more unacceptable for the Kremlin are the slogans about Ukraine being “not our war”
that often come out of the so-called national republics. It can be said that the rise of nationalism, especially non-Russian (and sometimes anti-Russian) nationalism, has been stoked by the Kremlin itself, which began playing the nationalist card in relation to Ukraine back in 2014.
To tame the local elites, several key republics were headed by national cadres who had been tested in Moscow and represented relatively young technocratic managers: Alexei Tsydenov in Buryatia in 2017, followed by Aisen Nikolaev in Sakha and Radiy Khabirov in Bashkortostan in 2018. Meanwhile, in the period from 2017 to 2020, the Kremlin carried out a protracted and not-very-successful purge of the national cadres in Dagestan through the non-local General Vladimir Vasiliev, after which the region was given half-local Sergei Melikov, another general, in 2020.
Prominent protests against having to fight in the war, including mass protests, have been observed in all the abovementioned regions. This is true to the least extent, perhaps, in Bashkortostan, where Khabirov is actively involved in forming Bashkir volunteer battalions to fight in Ukraine (here
fighters from these battalions to condemn the protests in Baymak. “We have been fighting for more than a year now, defending the honor of Bashkortostan,” “volunteers from the combat zone of the special military operation” addressed Bashkortostan residents. “Over the past few days, unpleasant news has been coming from our homeland: extremists from banned organizations are stupefying and deceiving the residents and are trying to bring them to a rally in support of Fail Alsynov, the founder of an extremist organization... We urge you to send Alsynov and his friends to our battalion, and we will reeducate them and teach them to love their homeland.”Suppression of protests
The current protests in Bashkortostan, like the previous ones in 2019-20, were of a regional nature.