Staunton, Oct. 10 – When large shares of a population believe something that isn’t true, this can be the basis for their views and actions on a wide variety of issues. It is widely referred to as the Mandela Effect, a term Fiona Broome developed on the basis of her own experience with false memories in South Africa.
This week, Bashkortostan marks the 31st anniversary of its declaration of sovereignty as a union republic in the USSR; and the events of those increasingly distant times are being overshadowed by false memories of what actually happened. As a result, Ilnar Garifullin says, Bashkirs are currently suffering from the Mandela Effect (idelreal.org/a/31503699.html).
(The IdelReal commentator does not extend this idea to other former Soviet republics, but it is becoming an increasing problem in many places because as events recede into the past, accurate memories are rapidly being replaced by invented ones that all too often serve as the basis for action now.)
Bashkirs today believe two things about the struggle for sovereignty, both of which are wrong, Garifullin says. On the one hand, they believe that this struggle was led by the people rather than the elites. In fact, it was primarily an elite project designed to keep more resources in the hands of those in charge in Ufa.
And on the other, he suggests, Bashkirs are convinced that they had no allies among the Tatars or Russians at that time. Indeed, they view both as colonizers rather than fellow citizens and thus imagine that although Bashkirs were only 20 percent of the population of republic, they achieved sovereignty on their own and over the opposition of the Tatars and Russians.
In fact, the Tatars were early leaders in calling for the elevation of the status of Bashkortostan to that of a union republic and some Russians agreed as well. Had the Bashkirs formed an alliance with them, they might have had sufficient numbers to make this act of republic assertiveness a truly national movement.
The Tatars and Russians wanted only two things: they wanted their respective languages to be declared state languages alongside Bashkir, and they wanted the right to form rural soviets based on compact settlements of their co-ethnics much as had existed in the 1920s and early 1930s.
But not only did the Bashkirs ignore those reasonable demands at the time, demands that on occasion the Bashkirs themselves had made for their ethnic communities in neighboring and predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts, but they developed a false image of the drive for sovereignty and on the basis of that image have further alienated the Tatars and Russians.
Because Bashkirs have been encouraged to believe that neither group supported the sovereignty declaration, the Bashkir public and its rulers have decided that neither group has the right to advance its own agenda. Instead, such groups must be silent and allow the Bashkirs to make all the decisions.
Had the Bashkirs adopted a more internationalist approach in the late 1980s, they might have had a true national revival; but they didn’t. Still worse, their willingness to believe something about those times that isn’t true is undercutting the ability of Bashkirs to make progress now.