Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tatar Intellectuals to Tatarstan President: We Elected You to Defend Our Interests but You Aren’t

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 25 – The fight over the fate of non-Russian languages has taken an ominous term: More than 40 Tatar intellectuals have signed an open letter to Republic President Rustam Minnikhanov declaring that “we elected you to defend our interests, but our interests it seems are not dear to you.”

            That declaration could either force Minnikhanov to come out in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s language policies or it could lead to the collapse of public support for the republic government, either forcing it to rely on siloviki from the center or leading its opponents to protests or even the formation of an alternative government, a clear step toward revolution.

            Because either of those steps would create a new situation in the Russian political system, this statement is critically important especially as the country approaches the March 2018 presidential elections with at least some of those involved in that race now prepared to talk about ethnic issues (

            The letter – for the text, see – was directed not only to Minnikhanov but also to republic Prime Minister Aleksey Pesohin and all the deputies of the republic parliament (

            The letter says that Minnikhanov and his colleagues have “only two paths: the first is to struggle with honor for the Tatar language and in the event of defeat to leave office with heads held high” or “the second” which would involve “remaining in your warm places and sending the Tatar language to the trashcan of history.”

                It asks why the leaders of the republic have remained silent “in the face of all these provocations” against Tatar. “Why haven’t you directed the heads of cities to have the school directors protest the absence interventions of the procuracy? Why aren’t you distributing funds to pay the lawyers of teachers who are prepared to struggle for the right to teach children Tatar?”

                “Your decision is our last line of defense,” the writers of the open letter say. “Depending on what it will be you will receive out support or our opposition. Our paths diverge when ‘interested’ people come to Tatneft” and other Tatarstan institutions. “There will be no one to support you” if you don’t do what the voters want.

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