Staunton, December 28 – Efforts by Moscow to reduce the number of non-Russians by allowing people to declare more than one nationality in the upcoming 2020 census and to deny groups within the Russian nation the right to declare a separate nationality and thus cut into the size of the Russian shar of the population have attracted the most attention.
But they aren’t the only conflicts that have surfaced in the run-up to this enumeration. One of the most serious is between Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in which the latter is spending money to encourage Tatars to re-identify as Bashkirs and to support the Kryashens and Astrakhan Tatars as separate peoples.
According to Ilnar Garifullin of the Idel-Real portal, Bashkir activism in this area has become so widespread and well-financed that some Tatars alarmed by their own government’s failure to counter it are speaking of the existence of “ethno-missionaries” and “ethno-marauders” (idelreal.org/a/30347867.html).
Bashkir officials are not only working hard to boost the share of people in Bashkortostan who declare themselves to be Bashkirs rather than Tatars but also promoting the idea that “almost half” of Tatarstan is “historically” part of Bashkortostan and should be populated by Bashkirs, a prelude to a demand for border change (bash.news/bst/istoricheskaya-sreda/).
Ufa is spending money on this project and publications it supports have large print runs. In one case, Garifullin says, books promoting ethnic reidentification came out in 90,000 copies. Kazan, in contrast, has put out one book, with a tirage of only 500, the result of the absence of government funding.
Tatarstan officials have promised change but nothing has happened, the commentator says; and they seem oblivious to the fact that not only will the kind of falsifications that occurred in 2002 and 2010 be repeated this time but that media efforts will play a bigger role than ever before in convincing people it is better to identify this way than that.
Garifullin concludes his Jeremiad against Kazan by quoting Lenin who famously observed that “yesterday was too early, but tomorrow will be too late.”