Staunton, October 6 – The Kazan mayor’s office has refused a request by Tatar activists for permission to hold a meeting on October 17 in one of the central squares of the city on the anniversary of Ivan Grozny’s sacking of Kazan in 1552, something activists have done for 30 years and always with the permission of the authorities before.
One Kazan official told the applicants that their request was being turned down because of concerns that at such a meeting, participants might make appeals that would threaten the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation or spark conflicts between Tatars and Russians (idelreal.org/a/30878115.html).
One perhaps can understand their concern: at the memorial meeting last year, 250 participants carried signs attacking Putin’s decision to make the study of non-Russian languages voluntary, called for an end to “genocide” of Tatars in other republics, and declaring that “Tatarstan isn’t a region; it’s a state” (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/kazan-meeting-on-1552-anniversary-calls.html).
But the decision will infuriate many Tatars who view the conquest of their capital in 1552 to be a defining moment in their national life and who will see Kazan’s refusal to allow a meeting this year as an indication that the authorities in Tatarstan are too willing to kowtow to Moscow and too unwilling to defend the national interests of the Tatars.
In the 1990s, meetings on this anniversary were massive; but they have declined in size in recent years, attracting fewer Tatars. But at the same time, especially since the 2014 Anschluss of Ukraine’s Crimea, they have attracted representatives not only from the peoples of Idel-Ural (the Middle Volga) but from Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
Kazan appears to have decided that it is not worth the risk of allowing another such meeting to occur. But its decision almost certainly will backfire in a double way. On the one hand, it will lead ever more Tatars to view their own republic government as alien and not representative of their interests.
And on the other, it will likely lead to a radicalization of opinion, with Tatars concluding that if they don’t have to triangulate their positions lest they weaken the republic, they will speak out when and where they can in the name of their national cause. Some, for example, will look to the Tatarstan government in exile or to the Idel-Ural movement.
At the very least, what the city government of Kazakh has done will change the balance between those in Tatarstan who have always believed that their best strategy is to find a way to work with the powers that be and those in that republic who say that approach won’t work and that a more radical one is needed.