Staunton, March 16 – In a reprise of the role he often played in the 1990s, Mintimir Shaymiyev, the first president of Tatarstan says that the Kremlin’s current pressure on non-Russian languages and peoples is worse than was the case in Soviet times and that the Soviets “better satisfied the needs of peoples living in the multi-national Russian Federation.”
In an interview he gave to Beznen miras, a Tatar-language journal, the current state counselor of Tatarstan says that Moscow has reduced the amount of time pupils spend learning their native languages to just three hours a week, far too few to ensure that they will know them well (sntat.ru/news/society/11-03-2021/mintimer-shaymiev-kazhdyy-iz-nas-mozhet-vnesti-neotsenimyy-vklad-v-sohranenie-rodnogo-yazyka-5812096).
In addition and in words that speak to more than just the Tatars, Shaymiyev says that those born as Tatars and who consider themselves Tatars should declare that identity in the census and not be fall victim to attempts by others to reidentify as members of some other group. Choosing another identity shows a loss of will or interest.
Shaymiyev’s words are consistent with but more radical than those of his successor, Rustam Minnikhanov, who also supports the Tatar language and Tatar identity but generally speaks in ways that limit his comments to that nation rather than extrapolates them to the non-Russians in general. (See sntat.ru/news/society/25-07-2020/tatary-vernost-traditsiyam-uverennost-v-buduschem-5759122.)
That Shaymiyev should have returned to themes he raised earlier and apply them to the non-Russian third of the population suggests that he still believes Kazan has a special role to play as a spokesman and leader for that group and that he is convinced that Vladimir Putin’s moves against it must be countered in as tough-minded a way as possible.