Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Udmurts Remember Self-Immolation of Albert Razin a Year Ago

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 9 – On September 10, 79-year-old Udmurt scholar Albert Razin burned himself to death to protest the moves of Moscow and his republic against his nation’s language and culture. He erected a sign declaring that “if tomorrow my language is going to disappear, then I am prepared to die today.”

            But coverage of the story rapidly died down because the authorities in Udmurtia banned any mention of Razin in republic media. Anyone who violated that ban would be fired, they said; and as a result, the story largely disappeared there -- and because media elsewhere relied on Udmurt media, it largely disappeared elsewhere as well.

            This week, however, Udmurts are following the national tradition of marking the death of one of their number seven days in advance of the anniversary itself. And on Sunday, family and friends of Razin assembled in the Udmurt village of Kuzyumovo, 79 kilometers from Izhevsk, to recall and honor the late scholar (

            Aleksandr Lekandrov, a local resident, notes that the house Razin grew up in no longer exists, but many people still there remember him. Some 200 people came to the commemoration.  Lyubov Yevdokimov, Razin’s niece, said that it was clear from the beginning that Albert Razin was “an unusual man” who suffered greatly from the misfortunes of his people and language.

            Nikolay Mikhaylov, another villager, said that it was too soon to tell what Razin’s act would lead to. It has already caused many Udmurts to rethink how they should respond to pressure against their nation and its language. He acted out of despair, but his action may give rise to hope.

            Razin’s daughter Sofi is not among the optimists. She says nothing has changed since her father’s self-immolation.  “People are still afraid to say something about it. The media are afraid to talk about it because the powers that be told everyone that if they did talk about her father, they would be fired and not be able to get another job.

            Udmurtia’s small public sector was not represented: it is almost entirely concentrated in Izhevsk and controlled by the regime. But Farid Zakiyev, the head of the All-Tatar Social Center, and one o fhis colleagues did come to show their respects for someone who tried to give new life for his people by sacrificing his own.

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