Monday, February 17, 2014

Window on Eurasia: 700,000 Tatars in Moscow an Important Resource for Kazan, Akhmetov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – The nearly 700,000 Kazan Tatars now living in Moscow are potentially an important resource for the Republic of Tatarstan, according to the editor of “Zvezda Povolzhya,” but up to now Kazan has not made use of this group as effectively as it could to promote the interests of Tatars within the republic and beyond its borders.

            In his newspaper’s current issue, Rashit Akhmetov points out that the 680,000 Tatars in Moscow outnumber their co-ethnics in Kazan itself and are an increasingly powerful presence in the Russian capital: Tatar companies there are responsible this year for nine percent of the city’s output ( 
            The figure of 680,000 is the one Moscow officials use, even though it is far higher than the 2010 census showed. But what is especially impressive about that number is that it suggests the Tatars of Moscow today are now ten times as numerous as they were at the end of Soviet times and rival some of the other national communities in the Russian capital.

            Given the size and power of this community, he continues, it is not surprising that various institutions are seeking to influence its decisions. Among them, Akhmetov says, are Vladimir Putin’s secretariat, the office of the Moscow mayor, the leadership of Tatarstan, and “several influential clans” within the community itself.

That struggle explains some of the conflicts within the Moscow Tatar National-Cultural Autonomy organization that have attracted outside attention in recent months and that came to a head at the end of last month when the autonomy held its annual conference and elected its leadership for the future. 

That meeting highlighted the fact that “’Moscow’ Tatarstan is very strong,” Akhmetov said. It can truly be said that the Tatars are “a ‘Moscow-forming’ part of the population of the city alongside Russians, Jews and Ukrainians,” and some Tatars say that the real founder of Moscow was a Tatar and not Yuri Dolgoruky as Russian sources insist.

Ravil Akhmetshin, a Tatarstan vice prime minister who serves as the permanent representative of Tatarstan to the Russian Federation, has organized a variety of groups whose memberships include not only ethnic Tatars who live there but also ethnic Russians and others who have come to Moscow from Tatarstan.

Among these groups are one for journalists and another for artists and for cultural figures, the Kazan editor points out, listing some of the individuals in each.  In addition, he points out, the Tatars of Moscow are part of the larger “Muslim Moscow,” a community that can put into the streets far more people than the Russian nationalists or the democrats.

            Moscow officials like to say that the Tatars of their city are Moscow Tatars, but Akhmetov says that their links to Tatarstan are strong and certainly could be used to promote Tatarstan and broader Tatar interests far more effectively than Kazan has done up to now especially given the size and economic weight of the community. 

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