Staunton, January 16 – Many studies have documented that in Soviet times, people living in one or another union republic in Central Asia chose or were forced to identify with the titular nationality of their place of residence rather than maintaining their own ethnic self-consciousness.
Less attention has been devoted to the way in which the same process occurred in some of the autonomous republics within the RSFSR. But that issue has heated up in the Middle Volga where some Tatars say their co-ethnics in Bashkortostan were forcibly “Bashkirized,” a claim that Bashkirs generally reject.
New the Kazan Marjani Institute of History has published a book-length study on the subject, something that will certainly expand this debate, especially in the months leading up to the delayed Russian Federation census, and possibly exacerbate relations between the two closely-related Turkic peoples.
The book, Tatars of the Ufa District (in Russia, Kazan, 2020) discusses the history of Tatar settlements in the eastern portion of Tatarstan and also in Bashkortostan, Udmurdia, and the Orenburg region. Its editor, Radik Iskhakov, has now discussed its findings with the IdelReal portal (idelreal.org/a/31047282.html).
He notes that one of the sources of discord about the origins of various groups is that in tsarist times, Tatars were counted because they were members of a social stratum that paid certain kinds of taxes while Bashkirs were not because at certain periods they were not and did not. When the latter did become taxpayers, they were often referred to as “new Tatars.”
When the Soviets took power and abolished the social strata and then insisted that everyone define himself or herself as a member of one nationality, this led to complications, Iskhakov says, complications that were compounded by the fact that both Tatars and Bashkirs were not fully consolidated but included many sub-ethnic groups, many little studied.
According to the historian, the book is being published as an academic study and “is not intended to exacerbate inter-national or other tensions.” It is based on a recognition that many, including Akhmet-Zaki Validi-Togan were members of one nation by birth but members of another by personal decision.
But if Kazan does not intend the book to affect ethnic relations, the way the institute plans to present the volume may have unintended consequences. Iskhakov says that the book will be distributed “among all interested people, including the Tatars of Bashkortostan.” It has already been presented at a conference of Tatars in eastern Tatarstan adjoining that republic.