Sunday, August 12, 2018

Young Tatars Prove Far More Politicized and Radical than Many had Thought

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 12 – The World Forum of Tatar Youth which concluded its work last week in Kazan was very different from its predecessors.  Unlike them, the meeting was not attended by the top leaders of the republic and thus became an opportunity for young Tatars to express themselves more independently.

            Their speeches, IdelReal commentator Ilnar Garifulllin says, were far more political and radical than the remarks they had made at earlier forum meeting, a pattern that points to the conclusion that Tatarstan elites are now in a “comatose” state while Tatar young people are ever more independent-minded and even radical (

            “It is customary to think,” the commentator continues, “that present-day young people are quite weakly interested in the political events and processes which are occurring around them. However, as this forum shows, that is far from the case.”  When young people have the chance to speak in the absence of their elders, they are focused on precisely such developments.

            Speakers and participants indicated that the main focus of their organization must be on enlightenment work, on propaganda of historical memory and on the preservation of their native language, Garifullin says. They adopted a resolution for the Russian government about the need to make non-Russian language classes more accessible (

            What is striking about this, the commentator continues, is that the young people have taken a much stronger stand on the language issue than has the World Congress of Tatars or the Tatarstan government, an indication that young people are more worried about this than many had thought, something that may matter ever more in the future.

            The forum also adopted a call for creating a special experts’ council to work with the Milli Shuro in order to ensure that Tatars and other nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation fully understand “the political and demographic trends” which will affect their common and individual futures.

            Establishing such a body is necessary, the forum said, because without it, Tatars will not be able to navigate their way in to the future. Unfortunately, Garifulllin says, “the power elite” in Tatarstan which is responsible for that future has been “morally defeated and continues to function in some kind of comatose state.”

            Another indication of the state of mind of young Tatars was their reaction to guides who led excursions for the delegates. Some of these guides insisted that “’forcible Christianization never occurred in the Middle Volga.’” That is completely untrue, and the young Tatars protested what they were being told. 

            Moreover, the commentator says, “Tatar youth despite the influence of assimilation processes proved to be not cut off from Tatar culture. Even young people who came from distant regions and didn’t know their native language well … nevertheless were acquainted with Tatar songs and dances.”

            That fact “gives a certain hope,” he concludes, “that even if we lose our language, the feeling of unity and of belonging to the second largest ethno-nation in Russia will allow our younger generation to survive these difficult times.”

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