Staunton, Sept. 17 – In anticipation of the upcoming all-Russian census, Kazan’s Business-Gazeta has begun a series about “the Tatar world from Kamchatka to Kaliningrad” with a discussion of the state of Kazan Tatar communities in the federal subjects of the Russian Far East (business-gazeta.ru/article/522623).
Not only does this provide a baseline of numbers about Tatars outside of Tatarstan who after all outnumber Tatars within the republic, but it underscore the importance of Tatarstan to these communities and the importance of these communities to Tatarstan which has devoted more attention to its “world” than any other non-Russian nation within Russia.
For each of the eight federal subjects in the Far Eastern Federal District, the paper provides the number of Tatars in its population – it lists them as “preservers of the Tatar world” -- the rank of that national community among others, and comments both by Tatars in that federal subject and by Tatars in the republic capital of Kazan.
The communities range in size from 1500 to over 10,000. All are facing assimilation pressures, and many of these groups are aging as younger members move away and older members die. (In some places, having a Muslim cemetery is a major concern.) And all see their language disappearing.
Two issues of particular concern throughout the region: attracting a Tatar mullah for the local mosque, something that the regions have had mixed success in doing, and getting enough money from Tatarstan or Moscow to hold cultural festivals, open classes, and set up museum groups. Again on each of these measures, success has been mixed.
But interest in and even enthusiasm for Tatar national functions are high. As Sazhida Batalova, head of the National-Cultural Autonomy of the Tatars of Buryatia puts it, “we don’t know our language but this means we can dance; if we can’t dance,” then we can prepare traditional Tatar food for one another. It keeps the nation together.