Staunton, May 21 – Kamariya Khamidullina, a senior Tatar educator, told a Kazan meeting of the Sixth World Forum of Tatar Women this week, that Tatar women must play a key role in the survival of the Tatar nation and that among their immediate tasks is to ensure that their children are registered as Tatars in the upcoming census rather than listed as Russians.
There is a risk that census takers may do that because a large number of young Tatars speak Russian more often than they speak Tatar, and officials may assume that it is appropriate to count them as ethnic Russians. Mothers have the complete right to insist otherwise, Khamidullina says (business-gazeta.ru/article/510268).
Mothers should be playing a key role in bringing their children up in a Tatar language environment, but some of the young mothers now do not know the language themselves well enough to do that. And even when the mothers do, Moscow’s attack on Tatar in the schools and elsewhere limits their possibilities.
Khamidullin recalled that in 1990, there was not a single Tatar-language school in Kazan. By 1995, there were 40 of them. But more recently, their number has declined because parents fear that their children won’t pass the critical examinations now give only in Russian for university admission.
In fact, however, no student at a Tatar-language school has ever failed to pass these tests and enter the universities he or she wants. At the same time, however, the Tatar schools made a fundamental mistake: they began to focus on folkloric elements rather than all subjects. That reduced their attractiveness and influence.
Everyone must understand that “folklore cannot be the basic principle of national education.” Non-Russian schools must be contemporary and include all subjects. Otherwise the nation involved will be marginalizing itself by losing the next generation, Khamidullina continues.
Tatarstan is the only place where Tatar education is more or less guaranteed, she says. But Tatars elsewhere, particularly in Siberia, can do far more to organize private schools and training courses at local mosques than they have done up to now. But she stressed in conclusion that Tatar mothers are “the mother of the nation” and must act that way.
Other speakers at the meeting shared many of her concerns, especially about the threats to Tatar-language education in Tatarstan in recent years and the need for Tatar women elsewhere to promote informal Tatar language instruction. And many expressed concern that far too many Tatar women are marrying non-Tatars and shifting away from the nation.
Rkail Zaydulla, a deputy of the Tatarstan State Council and head of the Tatarstan Writers’ Union, says that “57 percent of Tatar women marry representatives of other peoples … This means that we have already passed a red line” as far as the Tatar nation’s possibilities for survival are concerned.
Love is fine, of course, but loyalty to the nation of one’s birth matters even more, she argues. And she suggests there is much that can be done. “Despite the fact that Tatars aren’t recognized as a state-forming people, we ourselves know hos much blood our ancestors shed for this state.”
Moreover, “we know that the majority of the noblemen who devoted themselves to the establishment of the Russian state were Tatar elites. In the final analysis, we are taxpayers” and we need to demand the opening of Tatar language schools both public and private “which must become bastions for the preservation of the Tatar language.”