Russian Efforts to Force Muslim Minorities to Assimilate Leading Many to Become Islamist Radicals, Iskhakov Warns
January 21 – The pressures Moscow is now applying to Tatars and other Muslim
minorities to learnRussian and assimilate
is having an unintended and unwelcome consequence, Damir Iskhakov warns. By
cutting these peoples loose from their traditional cultural moorings, Moscow is
opening the way for many to become Islamist radicals.
at recent meeting of the Third Capital Club in the Tatarstan capital reported
today on the Russkaya liniya portal, the Kazan historian said that “the assimilation
of the Tatars not only linguistically but with the loss of ethnic
self-consciousness frequently leads Tatars to become Wahhabis” (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2017/01/21/tatary_i_ideologiya_russkogo_mira/).
do not appear to understand, “a health ethnic self-consciousness permits the
Tatars to defend against the influence of Wahhabism;” and thus Moscow’s
assimilationist policy is having exactly the opposite effect on national unity
and stability than the one its authors routinely claim.
historian said he grew up in a mixed Russian-Tatar village and thus understands
how both Russians and Tatars feel about language and identity.And he argued that if one examines how
Russians have organized their relations with the Volga Tatars, one can see how
they want to do so with other ethnic communities.
Tatars,” Iskhakov said, “are in terms of religion part of Islamic civilization,
but at the same time they are also part of Russian civilization, although not
completely so.”And he stressed that “Muslims
will not be able to cooperate with other peoples” if the latter view them as
subordinate. Relations must be based on equality.
to the Kazan historian, “Russians want to see Russia as an ethnic Russian
nation state.”As a Tatar nationalist,
he continued, he “sees the present policy in the country as an effort to form a
civic Russian nation with one state language” as a move toward “the assimilation
of the non-Russian peoples.”
course of his remarks, Iskhakov, who was a member of the nationalist Tatar
Social Center from 1988 to 1992 before breaking with it and becoming a leader of
the World Congress of Tatars, recalled that in the early 1990s, there were
discussions in Kazan about “dividing Tatarstan into two parts, a Russian and a
Tatar,” in order to preserve the Tatar language and avoid angering Russians.
something similar was tried in Bashkortostan, these discussions did not lead
anywhere in Tatarstan, although Tatars occasionally recall them and view the
idea as one like the arrangements in Belgium where the Flemmish and Walloons
live in separate cultural and linguistic areas but within a single state.
result of the failure to move in that direction, Iskhakov said, “today as at
the start of the 1990s, the cultural-linguistic space of Tatarstan remains
Russian-speaking.” But that does not mean Tatar instruction should be cut back
but rather the reverse, so that Russians will be more competitive and so Tatars
won’t be radicalized.
present, however, the trend is going in the other direction, something that
means that while “the Tatars are well acquainted with the Russian world, the
Russians know much worse the Tatar world” in which they find themselves.