Sunday, June 28, 2020

Tatarstan This Year Commemorates Not One But Three Centenaries

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – Commemorating anniversaries becomes problematic when they do not reinforce one another but rather raise questions about the past and the future by calling attention to different aspects of the national past. That is true this year as Russia marks not one but three World War II anniversaries. But it is even more so for Tatarstan.

            On May 27, the Middle Volga republic passed the centenary of the Soviet Russian decree establishing the Autonomous Tatar Socialist Soviet Republic, an anniversary that the Tatars were not able to fully mark because of the pandemic but have been devoting attention to in the weeks since (

            But even before those could be completed, Tatarstan today marks the centenary of the formation of its own organs of power in that republic; and on August 30, it will mark at one and the same time the Day of the Republic and the Day of Kazan, assuming that the coronavirus doesn’t get in the way. 

            Each of these has different meanings for the Tatars and for Moscow. Today, Russian officials stressed how much Moscow has given the Tatars; but those in Tatarstan who mark the other centenaries may be inclined to focus on exactly the opposite, on how much Moscow has taken away from them.

            Vladimir Putin wants to promote the notion of a common stream of Russian history, but the plethora of holidays that have emerged are having exactly the opposite effect, leading people to reflect not on how much all the nations in his country have in common but exactly the opposite.

            And the more such holidays emerge and are marked, the more likely that is to be the case because for each date, people on all sides of the issue are likely to write articles, produce television series and plays, and discuss what that holiday as opposed to others is about and why it and not others is important or not.

            Under totalitarian conditions, multiple holidays may not be a problem: they may even be helpful to the regime. But under less than complete totalitarianism, they are likely to have exactly the opposite effect. That is certainly the case in Tatarstan, and it is likely to be the case elsewhere as well. 

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