At the end of last month, the Kryashen activist spoke at the Society of Russian Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan, a group that is committed to promoting the Russian language, Orthodox religion, and Russian identity there rather than one noted for its tolerance and support of ethnic diversity at least among those who are Orthodox.
In his speech, Fokin repeated many of the arguments that Kryashens and their supporters have made in the past: the censuses don’t fully count the Kryashens because of the machinations of the Tatars, the Tatars are engaged in the Tatarization of the Kryashens, and the Kryashen language is more different from Tatar than Tatar is from Bashkir.
Moreover, he says that “the Nagaybaks are a Cossack stratum of the Kryashens. They do not deny that,” he says; “they call themselves Kryashens. But now it turns out that [in the view of the Tatars] that the [roughly 8,000] Kryashen-Nagaybaks are a people but the Kryashens are not.” In fact, that is a matter of dispute among Cossacks, Russians and Tatars.
But the most interesting concession Fokin made, one that might have pleased his Russian Orthodox audience but that provides support for the Tatar view about Kryashens, is the following. He says that the issue of getting Kryashens to join Orthodox parishes is more difficult for them than for Russians because there are only six churches using the Kryashen language.
Fokin says that Kryashen activists like himself “consider that the chief condition for the survival of the Kryashens as a people must be their inclusion in parish life. If we Kryashens are cut off from the church and from Orthodoxy … this Orthodox people will cease to exist 20 to 30 tears from now” because it will be absorbed either by the Tatars or the Russians.