Friday, June 1, 2018

Demographic Collapse of Ethnic Russians Behind Putin’s Push for Language Law, Tatar Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 1 – Vladimir Putin has launched Moscow’s latest attack on the non-Russians via the proposed language law because “the demographic situation in Russia is very poor, with the population falling by a million a year, the majority of this loss consisting of ethnic Russians,” Fauziya Bayramova says.

            “In order to fill this ‘black hole’” which threatens both the country’s economy and its national security, the longtime Tatar activist says, the Kremlin “needs other peoples, but they must enter the population as Russian speakers; that is, they must be transformed into ethnic Russians” (

            This new program, she says, is designed to force “all the peoples of Russia, including the Tatars” to produce children who will make up for the falling birthrate among ethnic Russians and who will be “ready to die for the Russian empire. Of course, this isn’t said openly, but everything is going in exactly that direction.”

            If the study of Russian remains compulsory while the study of non-Russian languages becomes completely voluntary as Putin wants, the younger generation among non-Russians will grow up “without knowing their language or their religion. The Tatar people in the future will be without a national literature, a national culture or a national media.”

            The notion, promoted by Moscow, that non-Russian families can fill the gap is laughable, Bayramova says. “Not a single family is capable of giving such fundamental knowledge,” and no one should deceive himself about that.  “An individual thinks, writes, and creates in the language in which he gets an education.  That is axiomatic.”

            According to the Tatar activist, Putin’s goals in this regard have been on public record since at least December 2012 when he signed the strategy paper on “the government’s nationality policy of Russia.” That document says that “there will be eonly one nation in the country, the nation of [non-ethnic] Russians.”

            “And this [non-ethnic] Russian nation must be created on the basis of the [ethnic] Russian people and receive its spiritual code,” in Putin’s vision, Bayramova says. In such a case, “there won’t remain any place for Tatars or for other peoples; the Russian ‘black whole’ will swallow them all up.”

            “I warned about this danger already at the 2nd Congress of the World Congress of Tatars in August 1997. At that time I spoke about it when Tatars themselves with their own hands were creating [cultural] autonomies across Russia. Don’t you think that this will happen with the national republics? And that Tatarstan will be transformed into a national-cultural autonomy?”

            According to Bayramova, “Moscow has decided to construct a nation where only one people – the [ethnic] Russians – will dominate. Does the leadership of Tatarsstan understand the entire danger?  If they do, why aren’t they reacting and telling their own people the truth” about Moscow’s intentions?

            “Does the people understand the nature of the tragedy that awaits it? Why are the institutes of language and literature, the Mill Shura, and the Congress of Tatars silent?  Why hasn’t an all national kurultai been convened to discuss this?  When the draft law is adopted, it will be already too late.  And it will be adopted.”

            “Why aren’t Shaymiyev and Minnikhanov meeting with Putin? If they consider that there is no sense already in negotiating with Moscow, then perhaps the time has come to appeal to international organizations and courts? Perhaps, the time has come to recall the Declaration about Sovereignty and the results of the referendum.”

            Indeed, Bayramova says, no one should be “afraid to lose their cushy positions. What is at risk is the loss of an entire people. That is much more dangerous.”

            No one should be fooled with talk about home schooling of the language. “Today, that may happen; but tomorrow, it won’t. Such measures cannot satisfy the requirements of an entire people.  If we lose national schools in the republic, the people will be lost, they will lose their roots, and they’ll be spread about the world and disappear.”

            “To bring them all back together will be impossible,” the Tatar activist says. By that time, she warns, “all the non-Russian peoples of Russia will fall into Moscow’s ‘black hole.’” 

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