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Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, ethnic groups such as Tatars and Chechens began to demand independence. From the cacophony of autonomy demands, Tatarstan emerged with the highest level of autonomy of Russia's 21 ethnic republics. This thesis argues that Tatarstan negotiated a relatively high amount of independence through elite trust and regional authoritarianism. The unique position of the Tatar leadership allowed them to maximize their autonomy by being seen as an ally of Moscow, having insider experience with the Russian legal system, and using President Shaimiev's authoritarianism as a bargaining chip. The control exercised by Shaimiev's regime was used to apply pressure to the federal authorities during a period when Moscow feared the unraveling of the fragile Russian Federation. Elite trust and regional authoritarianism acted upon each other to keep the balance of incentives for both Tatarstan and Russia and were thus integral to Tatarstan's path to autonomy.