This measure like much else that Moscow has done, Bayramova continues, will destroy the nation’s language and thus its vital essence. The bill says parents are free to choose which language their children will study in but that is a fraud that the Russian government is perpetrating on the Tatars and all other non-Russians.
As long as the state examinations students must take and pass to get into universities, parents will “naturally choose that language for their children,” the activist says. “And if they do choose to have their children study Russian as their native language for the sake of the children’s future, there is little hope they will give any proper ethnic upbringing within the family either.
Teachers will follow the same principle “now not only in the major cities but also in Tatar villages all for the sake of these examinations.” Indeed, in most places, all disciplines are being taught in Russian. Last fall, federal prosecutors trampled on the Tatar language. Now, the nation’s language will be “destroyed with the help of the law.”
With the disappearance of the language, Tatarstan’s literary heritage and culture which have roots going back a millennium “will also disappear. The Tatar-language media will disappear. Only educational institutions can teach children to read, write and think in their native language.”
If anyone wants to see what fate awaits the Tatar language and the Tatar nation in the near future, Bayramova continues, visit Tatar villages in the Urals. There, people under 60 cannot read and write in Tatar because there were no Tatar-language schools for them when they were younger. And ethnic intermarriage now stands at 80 to 90 percent.
Once Tatar has been destroyed so too will the nation, she says. After a generation or to, the Tatars will be assimilated into the Russian nation and will never be able to escape. Still worse, they will become mankurts with no religion and no language who will be easy pickings for the Russians – or the Chinese.
Faced with this horrific prospect, the longtime activist continues, there are four things the leaders of Tatarstan must do and that all those who care about the survival of the Tatar language and the Tatar nation must support.
First, the leaders in Kazan must tell the truth. This must be state policy now. “We mustn’t allow ourselves to be distracted with athletic competitions and allow the nation to disappear in a melting pot. Today, people are kicking soccer balls; tomorrow, they will be kicking our heads.” To fail to speak out now is a betrayal of the Tatars.
Second, Kazan must dispatch its most senior leaders, including Shaimiyev and Minnikhanov to Moscow to try to talk their Russian counterparts out of adopting this law. They and others should stop all talk about the possibility of amendments. There won’t be any that make any significant change in Putin’s radical assimilationist policies.
Third, all Tatars, including officials and ordinary members of the nation, need to recognize that what Moscow has no plans to retreat. It will push and push and push. Tatars need to resist with all their might. They have no place to retreat either; and Kazan must be honest enough to say that publicly.
And fourth, Bayramova says, Tatarstan should be reminding the world and its most important institutions that the republic’s sovereignty declaration was approved by 62 percent of its people in a referendum. Groups like the World Tatar Congress and the Shura must take the lead to defend the nation at this international level.
Indeed, she concludes, the Tatar national movement must now work to prepare Tatars for the building of a sovereign state “because a nation without statehood will never be able to live freely. Russia’s five-century-long genocide against the Tatars provides clear evidence of that. Tatarstan’s leaders and peoples must remember this and take urgent measures now.”