Staunton, July 25 – The upcoming all-Russian census has increased concerns in some republics that if the share of their titular nationality shows a decline, Moscow will move to liquidate them and thus to prevent that they must adopt policies designed to prevent such declines or better promote the growth of their titular nations.
Nowhere have such concerns been greater than in Bashkortostan where some officials and activists are trying to promote the re-identification of Tatars as Bashkirs so as to boost the Bashkir share of the population. The issue there is especially fraught because Bashkirs form only 30 percent of the population, slightly less than Russians and only slightly more than Tatars.
These fears have sparked tensions between Bashkirs and Tatars and between Bashkortostan and Tatarstan with some Tatars denouncing Ufa’s moves as the latest iteration of the Bolshevik strategy of weakening the Tatars by promoting what they call the “artificial” nation of Bashkirs and some Bashkirs denouncing Tatars for Kazan’s imperialism (milliard.tatar/news/iskusstvennyi-yazyk-iskusstvennaya-naciya-800).
But most people in both republics have adopted a more restrained line as far as this issue is concerned, viewing the whole issue as overblown or arguing that it does not mean what some in both republics think it means, the opening of the way to the destruction of the republics and their reduction to ordinary oblasts.
Ruslan Valiyev, the editor of Ekho Moskvy v Ufe and himself of mixed Tatar-Bashkir parentage, is one of those who takes a more moderate position. He says he knows that people in both republics have sometimes identified with the titular nationality for career reasons but that this pattern doesn’t threaten the existence of either nation or republic.
If republics are going to be liquidated, he argues, the reason will not be a decline in the share of titular nationalities in them. Rather, it will be because Moscow and specifically the Kremlin have decided to move against republics as such. Focusing on ethnic composition is thus a mistake (milliard.tatar/news/ne-nuzno-diktovat-sverxu-i-nazyvat-odin-yazyk-drugim-nuzno-otpustit-situaciyu-790).
At the same time, Valiyev says, it is critically important to do more to support the non-Russian languages both those of the titular nation and those of ethnic minorities. That is because economic calculations will drive young people to speak Russian – it gives them additional opportunities – but the question of nationality must not be reduced to economics.