Staunton, July 29 – The National Cultural Autonomy of the Siberian Tatars is going to court to challenge the decision by the Omsk Oblast authorities without any public hearings to erect a 30-ton statue of Yermak, the Cossack conqueror of Siberia. It went up three days ago. The Siberian Tatars say he carried out mass murder in their land.
This statue, paid for by a local businessman and approved in closed meetings of the regional government, not only has occurred in violation of the law, the Siberian Tatars say, but will do nothing to promote inter-ethnic harmony in the region (nazaccent.ru/content/30471-sibirskie-tatary-vystupili-protiv-ustanovlennogo-v.html).
According to the Siberian Tatars, “the mythologization and heroization of Yermak by certain regional specialists and scholars” is thus dangerous and must not be encouraged by officials with statues like the current one. This is the second time the Siberian Tatars have fought the erection of a statue of him there.
The first occurred in the summer of 2016. At that time, the Siberian Tatars protested but did not go to court (nazaccent.ru/content/21431-sibirskie-tatary-vystupili-protiv-ustanovki-pamyatnika.html). Now they are seeking to use the mechanisms of the government itself against the government.
That is a sign of a new political maturity among the Siberian Tatars, a group Moscow counted in recent censuses as being no more than 10,000 but one whose activists believe there may be as many as 200,000. This court action could lead more Siberian Tatars to declare themselves as such in the upcoming census.
That could have two consequences, one of which Moscow would welcome and a second which it would very much oppose. The first would be that if more Siberian Tatars declare themselves as such, that will cut into the number of Tatars more generally and thus reduce the number of the second largest national group in the Russian Federation.
But the second would be that some people in Siberia who have been counted as Russians in the past may now declare themselves to be Siberian Tatars, increasing the non-Russian share of the population beyond the Urals and cutting in still further to the total number of ethnic Russians in the country as a whole.