Sunday, August 7, 2016

Kumyks of Daghestan Look to Kazan Tatars, Finno-Ugric Nations for Inspiration

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 7 – One of the most intriguing questions is how ideas that originate among one people spread to another. In many cases, neither the “exporting” nor the “importing” nations are inclined to emphasize this fact of life, the former lest they be attacked by the imperial center and the latter lest their own movement be somehow devalued for its followers.

            That makes any acknowledgement of this pattern especially valuable be it the ways that Baltic independence movements affected the non-Russian republics of the USSR at the end of Soviet times or the ways that the Republic of Tatarstan played a key role in shaping the policies and practices of non-Russian republics after that time.

            (On the former, see especially, Nils Muiznieks, The Baltic Popular Movements and the Disintegration of the Soviet Union, UC Berkeley, PhD dissertation, 1993. On the latter, see Katherine E. Graney, Of Khans and Kremlins: Tatarstan and Future of Ethno-Federalism in Russia (Lexington, 2010).)

            The latest example of such political sharing is provided by the Kumyks, a 500,000-strong Turkic nation in Daghestan whose leaders have long sought to gain a larger voice in there, are now looking at the Turkic Kazan Tatars and at the Finno-Ugric nations within the Russian Federation for inspiration as to how they should proceed.

            On the Kumyk portal,, Ramazan Alpaut reports that the Kumyk organization of Moscow a month ago secured the agreement of the World Tatar Congress to allow its representatives to attend the meeting of that organization now taking place in Kazan (

            “This is the beginning of something more than simple participation in that event,” he argues. “We of course will cooperate in the future with Tatar structures” and “we recognize that these contacts must become historic in their significance. In essence, we are revitalizing that which existed among us before the revolution.”

            The Tatars provide a model of how to build ties not only with Tatars living beyond the borders of the Republic of Tatarstan but also and perhaps especially important, Alpaut says, with Tatars living beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, something that strengthens the republic and its titular nationality.

            Even though they do not now have their own republic, he continues, the Kumyks can learn from this to reach out to Kumyks in Russian cities and abroad. Indeed, the commentator suggests, doing so is critical to developing the next generation of Kumyk leaders who must think more generally than just within the confines of Daghestan.

            Of course, the Tatars have an advantage that the Kumyks do not: they have their own republic and thus can act, sometimes with the support of Moscow and sometimes in the absence of such support.   The Kumyks do not have a republic and therefore must consider what in fact they can do.

            In order to rebuild their national intelligentsia and national movement, Alpaut says, “we must find out more about Finno-Ugric project” which within Russia mostly involve peoples without a republic “and also Turkish initiatives and build special relationships with other more successful social projects.”

            Doing so will help the Kumyks escape from their current ghetto status and allow them to move beyond even those goals which the older generation had for them.  “We live in another reality,” the Kumyk commentator says, “and therefore we must be guided by other approaches” than just those from their own national experience.

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