Thursday, October 15, 2020

Coronavirus Takes the Life of Rashit Akhmetov, ‘the Hercules of Tatar Social Thought’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 14 – Rashit Akhmetov, the editor of Kazan’s Zvezda Povolzhya, has died from the coronavirus at the age of 67. A social activist who 20 years ago founded that online paper and made it essential reading not only for Tatars concerned about their own nation but for Russians concerned about their country.

            With the centralization of the media along with everything else in Moscow, all too few people recognize that in the Russian Federation today, there are brilliant journalists and commentators in many parts of the country who are read not only for what they have to say about their regions but for their observations about the wider world.

            (This centralization and even more the centralization of focus, of course, is not limited to Russia alone. There are far fewer cases in the United States now than a century ago for commentators far from New York or Washington like William Allen White who wrote for the Emporia Gazette in Kansas to leave their mark on the world.)

            Akhmetov was a Tatar activist in the 1980s and 1990s, but his role as editor of Zvezda Povolzhya, a weekly journal of news and opinion, made him what some Tatars call “the Hercules of Tatar social thought. He oversaw the first 1002 issues; the 1003rd carried his obituary (

            The author of these lines has been reading that paper and especially Akhmetov’s lead articles for more than a decade. His own writings were invariably interesting and instructive and the writers he attracted to the paper always had new things to say.  Fortunately, the issues of Zvezda Povolzhya remain available online at, a searchable data base.

And fortunately too, his son, Ruslan promises to continue his father’s publication. May he have every success.

There are many things one could say about Rashit Akhmetov, but one that was mentioned by a speaker at his funeral today seems to be especially important. Akhmetov, he said, wrote in Russian, but he thought in Tatar. That combination is more valuable and more difficult to sustain than many now think. He lifted up all who read him. And he will be much missed. 

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