Staunton, December 11 – The Council of Elders of the Muslim community of Naberezhny Chelny has sent an open letter to Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin asking that Moscow consider giving Tatar the status of a second state language of the Russian Federation (islamrf.ru/news/russia/rusnews/43027/).
Their action comes even as the government of Tatarstan appears to have given up the fight, not only falling in line with Putin’s demand that Tatar be studied only on a voluntary basis in the republic but also refusing for the ninth time efforts by Tatars to get permission for demonstrations in Kazan in defense of their native language.
The Muslim elders base their argument on three grounds. First, they point out that the Tatars by number are the second largest nation in the Russian Federation. Second, they note that most Tatars live outside the borders of the Republic of Tatarstan and thus at present have few if any language rights.
And third, the Muslim leaders note that Tatar is “unofficially the second language of international communication in the Russian Federation,” given that it is understood and even used by “Bashkirs, Kumyks, Balkars, Sakha, the Altay peoples, those from Central Asia, Azerbaijanis, Turks and others;”
Their appeal is unlikely to gain traction in Putin’s Moscow, but their appeal, the satisfaction of which would “save [Tatar] from further discrimination, strengthen trust among the nations and peoples of the Russian Federation and strengthen patriotic education,” shows how important the language issue remains, whatever leaders in Moscow or Kazan think.
Clearly, the fight isn’t over; and to the extent that both the Russian and Tatarstan governments act as if it is, they will only drive the issue underground where it will combine both national passions and religious ones.