Staunton, July 13 – Many Tatars have been unhappy with the relative passivity of republic leaders regarding the defense of their language and nationality; but now, Farid Muhametshin, the speaker of the republic’s State Council and someone elected by the people rather than appointed by Moscow, is speaking out.
He said that he very much fears the federal center will interfere in the upcoming 2020 census to boost the number of Russians and reduce the number of Tatars just as it has with regard to the language rights of the latter and is calling on the republic’s procuracy to monitor the situation so that there will be no violations of the law (idelreal.org/a/30049664.html).
Mukhametshin’s concerns about the census appear to have been sparked by the push Academician Valery Tishkov, a senior advisor to Vladimir Putin on ethnic questions, has made to allow people to declare mixed nationality. That reportedly has been arrested, but if people do declare such a status, it matters profoundly how the census processes such declarations.
If someone says he or she is Tatar and Russian, Moscow officials could decide to count that individual as a Russian in every case, even if there are compelling reasons to think that the Tatar component of identity is more important. Such an approach is wrong, Mukhametshin says, and will “divide” people as well as boost the number of Russians to the detriment of Tatars.
He is calling for the republic procuracy to intervene and closely monitor what happens, setting the stage for new conflicts in the courts and elsewhere about the census even before it begins in earnest early next year.
At the same time, Mukhametshin said, the procuracy must get involved to ensure that “every individual studies and has the opportunity to study the language of his father and mother, and of his ancestors, knows Russian better, but at the same time knows English, French and German.”
The task, he continued, is critical and immediate because if as a result of central policies, teachers of languages other than Russian are forced out, it will be difficult if not impossible to get them back and ensure that such non-Russian language instruction is available. Again, Mukhametshin wants to use the courts to protect the Tatar language.
Meanwhile, in a related development, Liliya Galimova, an official representative of the Tatarstan government, sharply criticized Tishkov for his efforts to delink Tatar language and Tatar national identity and reiterated that Kazan believes that the two are and must be closely connected lest the loss of one leads to the loss of the other (idelreal.org/a/30049297.html).
Her comment came in response to Tishkov’s recent declaration on Facebook that “in Tatarstan, the point of view that the transition to another language necessarily means assimilation is the dominant point of view, although in reality, the majority of Russian Tatars have made this transition without ceasing to be Tatars.”
It is certainly true that Tatars who speak only Russian may still consider themselves Tatars but such a view makes them more like ethnic groups in the United States than nations in the Russian Federation, exactly the transition to de-nationalize the non-Russians in his country that Tishkov wants.
Such a shift may not in fact mean assimilation in the strictest sense of the word, but it opens the way to the destruction of the Tatars and others as nations which enjoy collective rights – and that in turn in a generation or even less does open the way to their assimilation, again exactly what Tishkov and others in Moscow want whatever they say to the contrary.