Staunton, October 12 – Some 250 people assembled in Kazan today on the anniversary of the sacking of the city by Ivan the Terrible to remember those who fought defending the Kazan khanate and to demand that the republic’s people and leaders seek recognition that they have been “occupied” by Russia as a colony ever since.
They carried placards reading “The Cancellation of the Study of the State Langauges of the Republic is Leading to the Cancellation of the Statehood of the Native Peoples of the Russian Federation,” “How many Razins have to be Killed to Stop the Ethnocide of Tatars in Bashkortostan,” and ‘Tatarstan isn’t a Region: It’s a State” (idelreal.org/a/30213233.html).
And many in the crowd carried pictures of Albert Razin, the Udmurt scholar who committed suicide on September 10 by self-immolation to call attention to the destruction of his native language. (At the end of the meeting, its resolution called for a street in Tatarstan’s capital to be named after him.)
Fauziya Bayramova, the founder of the Ittifaq National Independence Party, delivered the major speech. She asked “Why are Tatars int eh 21st century in such a state? Out situation is worse than in 1552. Then, we lost out statehood, the Kazan khanate, but now before our eyes we are losing our nation, our identity, and the Tatar people. We are losing ourselves.”
Tragically, she said, Tatars now often engage in “self-deception.” What they have is “not a state but a colonial administration,” adding that “we give all our taxes to Moscow, we send out sons to serve in the Russian army, we live by Russian laws, and our language is prohibited by Russian laws.”
“If we had national self-consciousness, here now would be a million people just like in the Baltics.” To achieve that, Bayramova continued, the people must be told the truth about the current situation. They must decide “whether to remain Tatars and Muslims or be transformed into Russians and Chinese.”
“We must enter the international arena with a demand for the decolonization of Tatarstan. We Tatars have been living on an occupied territory since 1552,” the longtime Tatar activist said, adding that like Albert Razin, “the Tatars, Chuvash, Udmurts, Mari, and Yakuts are burning alive; and the world must see this.”
The Tatarstan government clearly doesn’t want anyone to say things like this. Galisshan Nuriakhmet, the vice president of the All-Tatar Social Center (VTOTs), told the meeting that the night before, officials had sent him and others a document warning against any talk about restoring independence.
The meeting adopted a resolution calling on republic President Rustam Minnikhanov to “struggle for the recognition by the international community of the results of the March 1992 referendum on the state status of Tatarstan, to restore the 1992 Constitution, and to take steps to ensure the survival of the Tatar nation.
Meanwhile, in a Russian Orthodox church in another part of Kazan, 30 people came together to remember those who had died in taking Kazan in 1552, the first time in 100 years, church officials said, that a senior Orthodox prelate had conducted such a service (idelreal.org/a/30213315.html).
However, the most important response to the Kazan meeting may have come from Ingushetia. There, an opposition outlet took note of the Tatarstan demands, an indication that when the Tatars do speak with such passion, other non-Russians are more than ready to attend to what they have to say (amanho.com/?p=13776).