Staunton, March 6 – Bashkortostan has adopted a new tactic to reduce the number of Tatars counted in the upcoming census so as to boost the relative size of Bashkirs in the republic. In recent months, it has claimed that many Bashkirs were mistakenly counted as Tatars in the past; now, it has launched a new effort to claim that a Tatar subgroup is a separate nation.
Over the last several years, Ufa has worked hard to promote the idea that many people in Bashkortostan have mistakenly identified as Tatars because it hopes to boost the share of Bashkirs in the republic’s population which now trails ethnic Russians and only slightly exceeds the number of Tatars.
That has sparked anger in Tatarstan which sees this move as undermining the status of Tatars as the second largest nationality in the Russian Federation and a threat to the unity of Turkic and Muslim peoples required to resist Moscow’s moves against both Tatars and Bashkirs in particular
(For background on this conflict and Moscow’s apparent role in promoting it, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/ufa-has-been-reidentifying-tatars-as.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/02/in-advance-of-2020-census-kazan-urged.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/12/ufa-ready-for-2020-census-kazan-isnt.html.)
Now, Ufa has adopted a second tactic to achieve the same thing, insisting that a group, the Mishars, who are usually viewed as a subgroup of the Tatars, are in fact a separate nationality and should be counted as such. That claim echoes Moscow’s efforts to promote the Kryashens, Christian Tatars, as a distinct nationality and thus reduce the size of the Tatar nation as a whole.
This move adds fuel to the fire because it suggests to many Tatars that the Bashkortostan leadership is now working hand in glove with Moscow, a possibility that is even more fraught with danger to the Tatars and their role as the largest non-Russian nation in Russia and the leader of the non-Russians more generally.
(On that controversy, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/08/moscow-seeking-to-reduce-number-of.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/12/only-orthodox-church-can-save-kryashens.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/12/russian-orthodoxy-joins-kremlin-fight.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/12/window-on-eurasia-kryashens-again.html.)
Ufa’s interest in promoting a distinct Mishar national identity, Tatar historian Ilnar Garifullin, has now entered a new phase given that the Bashkir government has created a Mishar historical-cultural center in the western portion of Bashkortostan where Tatars have long been the dominant nationality (idelreal.org/a/31131856.html).
The Bashkirs have announced the creation of two new historical cultural centers, one for Bashkirs in the Tuymaz district and a Mishar one in the Baltachev district, bringing the total of such centers to 19 within Bashkortostan and six beyond its borders. But this is the first one for a group other than the Russians who have four and the Tatars who have one.
According to Garifullin, “up to now, for the academic community and the members of the Tatar Mishars themselves knew that they are not a nationality, not an ethnos and not even an ethnic group but only a sub-ethnos within the Tatar people.” However, some Bashkirs have challenged that vision, and the new center shows Ufa is supporting them.
Not long ago, he continues, Ufa issued a book with the title The Mishars of Bashkortostan which argued that the Mishars are not only a separate nation but one with closer ties to Bashkirs than to Tatars. Among those who have been promoting this view since 2019 is Ilgiz Sultaimuratov, the director of the House of Friendship of the Peoples in Ufa (youtube.com/watch?v=nQys8lLbUs0&t=2520s).
Garifullin says that the Bashkirs behind this effort want to divide the Tatar nation to reduce its numbers inside Bashkortostan and more generally and to lay the basis for challenges to the borders of Tatarstan by promoting the idea that the Mishars are really linked to the Bashkirs rather than to the Tatars as everyone has thought until what he calls this “nonsensical” discovery.