Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ethnic Russians in Tatarstan Against Learning Tatar But Other Non-Tatars There Quite Ready to Do So

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 11 – Evidence collected by Russian speakers to suggest that no non-Tatar living in Tatarstan would want to learn the language of the titular nationality has in fact highlighted something else: Ethnic Russians there don’t want to learn a second language, but other non-Russians there are quite prepared to learn three.

            Commenting on the map of declarations of those opposed to having their children study in Tatar, Gulnar Gabdrakhmanova, an ethnographer at Kazan’s Institute of History, says that unlike the Russians, the other minorities in Tatarstan view the Tatar language as part of their daily life and aren’t against its study in the schools (

                Many of these people, including other Turkic and Finno-Ugric nations, “have lived on this territory for centuries and have experience of inter-cultural relationships. For them, the Tatar language is not viewed as some kind of threat. They view it normally. Besides, among Mordvins, Maris, and Chuvash, there are a large number of people who know Tatar well.”

            Thus, surveys “show that they do not resist studying the language. For them, this is a normal part of their daily life. It is something entirely natural for them.”  And thus, their attitudes are very different than those of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers who do view other languages like Tatar as threats that must be resisted.

Gabdrakhmanova makes that argument in the course of an interview with Regina Khisamova of IdelReal, in which she compared the distribution of the 2800 calls by parents of Russian speakers to the distribution of various ethnic groups in the districts of the Republic of Tatarstan.

                “According to the 2010 census, Tatarstan is one of the most multi-national subjects of Russia,” she points out; and “the number of Tatars in the districts of the republic vary widely. In nine regions, the ethnic Russian population dominates;” in 10, the share of Tatars exceeds 80 percent. And in some other nationalities like the Chuvash predominate.  

            Most of the places from which appeals not to study Tatar came from the eastern portion of the republic, she says, an area that has a primarily ethnic Russian population. Most of these people came here in Soviet times for rebuilding after the war and the construction of factories; they did not identify or integrate with the Tatars.

            These people, the ethnographer says, “did not have the experience of inter-ethnic interaction with the Tatars and with Tatar culture and languages.” And sociological surveys show that they typically display a lower assessment of inter-ethnic relations. Thus their attitudes about languages are not surprising.

            Elsewhere, where other non-Russian but non-Tatar people live, the pattern is different. They have been in this region for centuries, they have integrated with the Tatars, and they have no objection to studying the language of the titular nationality of the republic, even if it is their third language.

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