Thursday, August 22, 2019

Proposed Holiday Marking End of Mongol Yoke Seen Dividing Russian and Turkic Peoples

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 19 – Kaluga officials have proposed and Moscow now supports the idea of making November 11, the anniversary of the 1480 battle that Russian nationalist historians have increasingly identified as the end of the Mongol Yoke, a national holiday, a step that representatives of Turkic nations say will further divide Russia and provoke separatism.

            Kazan’s Business-Gazeta hosted a roundtable discussion of the proposal and the reactions and even fears of many Tatars (and some Russian experts) that going forward with this idea, as now seems likely,  will entail the most disastrous consequences for the Russian Federation (

            Kaluga Oblast where the battle took place has been marking this holiday at the regional level since 2017, but now it is pushing to have it become an all-Russian event and has gained the support of Russian nationalists and senior Moscow officials and parliamentarians. Kaluga officials say the proposed holiday is not directed at anyone but rather celebrates Russian unity.

            Many Russian historians say the event Kaluga officials want to mark was not the turning point they suggest but a minor skirmish and only one among many. They thus object to the idea of the holiday on that basis.  But many analysts say such a holiday will lead many to think that the current regime is celebrating the victory of Russians over Turks.

            That will divide the country not unite it, they argue, creating problems that Russia doesn’t need especially at the present moment.  Kazan historian Eldar Seydametov, for example, says it will not only divide Russians and Turkic peoples as a whole but “Crimean Tatars and Kazan Tatars” as well.

            Vadim Trepalov, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute for Russian History, objects to the idea of such a holiday for another reason. He says that it has never occurred to anyone to “celebrate the beginning of the end of the Caucasus War or the seizure of the Kazan khanate at the all-federal level.” Doing so in the regions is one thing; doing it nationally quite another.

            Tatyana Fomina, a teacher at the Naberezhny Chelny Pedagogical University, says that even the discussion of the possibility of a holiday is leading to the inclusion of materials abut the 1480 events and thus having an impact on the views of the rising generation.

            Kazan historian Damir Iskhakv is even more blunt about the impact of such a holiday on the future: “In a multi-national country, t chart a course in only one direction is a very big political error because peoples don’t disappear; they exist; they have their own ideas about history and their own scholars.”

            Creating such holidays, he continues, “is a direct path toward confrontation, first in the scholarly community, then at the ideological level, and then at the political one.” According to Iskhakov, “Russia can exist only as a federative, multi-national and multi-cultural state. Any other arrangement would be unstable and at risk of disintegration.”

            Tatar political scientist Ruslan Aysin says that the proposed holiday is only a symptom of a broader trend, the rewriting of history, something that almost always causes trouble as did the recent revisionist comments by Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrv about Imam Shamil. His words infuriated Daghestanis.

             Iskander Izmaylov of Kazan’s Institute of Archeology adds that those pushing for this holiday “do not understand that such things can be two-edged swords.” And Teymur Galimov of the Kazan Institute of History says that before Moscow approves this holiday, it should check to see whether its definition in fact violates the law about exacerbating interethnic relations.

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