Staunton, February 23 – In an extensive interview on dangers political and intellectual facing Kazan, historian and ethnographer Damir Iskhakov says that one of the most serious is pushing the Siberian Tatars to detach the broader Tatar nation, an action that may dramatically cut into the number of Tatars counted in the upcoming census.
That is especially dangerous, the senior scholar suggests, because Bashkortostan is actively seeking to reidentify Tatars living in that republic as Bashkirs and Moscow is promoting dual nationality and thus the possibility of stripping off yet more Tatars and challenging their status as the second largest nationality in the country (business-gazeta.ru/article/458877).
The interview is nominally devoted to what is likely to happen at the Marjani Institute of History, for the past two decades the ideological center of Tatarstan, when its director, Rafael Khakimov, retires at the end of this year because of age and ill health. But the most interesting aspects of Iskhakov remarks come in asides.
Among them are the following:
· The most likely successor will come from the ranks of those who do not know Tatar and cannot participate in public discussions in that language, thus limiting the impact the institute will have on the Tatar nation and opening the way to further russification.
· It is obviously less important that the new director be a Tatar than that he or she speak Tatar. In support of that proposition, he tells the following story about his old acquaintance, Akay Kynyyev, who was supreme shaman of the Altai until some other shamans began to say that Kynyyev, the son of an Orthodox priest, is “not ours.”
· A Bashkir Iskhakov knew in his youth once told him that “the Tatars must not touch the Bashkirs” because while “both the Bashkirs and Tatars are old ancient peoples, the Tatars are an old nation but the Bashkirs are new one.” They are thus “more passionate” and are working hard to build a nation while the Tatars are resting on what they already have.
· No long ago, Ildar Gilmutdinov, Tatarstan’s deputy in the Duma, visited Tyumen Oblast and told the national cultural autonomy of Tatars and Siberian Tatars that it should drop the last phrase because they were all Tatars. The two groups had been working together, but now the Siberian Tatars have been offended and they are encouraging all of their fellow ethnics to declare themselves Siberian Tatars rather than Tatars in the census.