Staunton, August 29 – Bashkir officials and activists are conducting a campaign to identify as Bashkirs Tatars living in Bashkortostan and even Tatars living in some parts of Tatarstan, but Kazan, under pressure from Moscow, isn’t reacting and defending its interests in either case, Ilnar Garifullin says.
As a result, the conflict between the two nations and between the two republics is growing, won’t end with the census as some think, the Tatar commentator says; but become ever more serious as Tatars recognize what Ufa and Bashkirs are about and also see that their own government is not taking steps to defend their interests (idelreal.org/a/31411571.html).
Tatars have been upset by Bashkir efforts to reidentify Tatars in Bashkortostan for some time (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/02/in-advance-of-2020-census-kazan-urged.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/ufa-has-been-reidentifying-tatars-as.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/03/ufa-adopts-another-tactic-to-cut-number.html).
But some Tatars recognize that Bashkirs feel threatened: The latter are a minority in their own republic and fear that if the census confirms this, Moscow may move to disband their republic and thus the defense it provides for a fellow and neighboring Turkic people (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/07/moscow-may-liquidate-republics-but-not.html).
However, the Bashkirs have now crossed a line: they are talking about people in Tatarstan itself as being properly Bashkir and demanding that steps be taken to protect the rights of these people to declare themselves Bashkirs, raising the specter if they do, Ufa will make a claim to the territory on which they live, Garifullin suggests.
That Ufa has that on its agenda was suggested by Elvira Aitkulova, the head of the World Kurultai of Bashkirs. At a meeting in Tatarstan’s Muslyumov District earlier this summer, she said that the people there were Bashkirs not Tatars and must be recognized as such, thus baldly violating the unspoken agreement never to raise this issue in the other’s republics.
Two things made this declaration more worrisome. On the one hand, it turns out, Garifullin says, Aitkulova’s words were part of a larger effort that has generally passed under the radar screen of Tatars and Tatar officials. And on the other, Kazan deferred to Ufa by the way in which the meeting was organized, having a local group do it rather than a republic one.
According to the Tatar commentator, Tatars are angry at the Bashkirs and also at their own authorities who, they believe, are continuing to defer to the Bashkirs and Ufa despite the actions and policies of the latter because Moscow is insisting on it and Kazan is unwilling to cross the center.
What that means, Garifullin says, is that tensions are growing not only between Tatars and Bashkirs but between Tatars and their republic government. The first of these attitudes points to a real conflict between the two republics; the second, to a political crisis in Tatarstan with the government forced to change lest it lose popular support.