Staunton, Dec. 8 – A survey Tatar experts finds no one who trusts the results of this year’s census and many who believe that the results in Bashkortostan and elsewhere will depend on local politics and the absence of protests from Kazan and Moscow. As a result, they expect the overall total number of Tatars in Russia to fall by 200,000 or more.
Ildar Gabdrafikov of the Ufa Institute of Ethnological Research says that “the number of Tatars in Bashkortostan will depend on the political situation.” He says that in his view, official pressure to reduce the number of Tatars there has increased back to 2002 levels (kazan.mk.ru/social/2021/12/06/eksperty-o-perepisi-naseleniya-v-bashkortostane-my-poteryaem-eshhe-150200-tysyach-tatar.html).
Assuming that happens, he continues, Ufa will report that there are only 800,000 Tatars in Bashkortostan even though the real number is “more than a million.”
Vakhit Imamov, editor of the Medeni zhomga newspaper, says that Bashkir officials are pulling out all the stops ranging from open falsification of the results to threatening those who do not declare themselves Bashkirs with the loss of position or the possibility of promotion. As a result, some Tatars are caving in and agreeing to call themselves Bashkirs.
Karim Yaushev, a Tatar journalist who lives in Bashkortostan says that the authorities there have used two methods to ensure that there are more Bashkirs and fewer Tatars. On the one hand, they have officially announced the numbers they expect. And on the other, after saying for months that the republic’s population was declining, they are now saying it has increased by 100,000.
That gives them sufficient room to boost the number of Bashkirs without difficult, he says.
Nurmukhamet Khusaynov, a Tatar historian who lives in Bashkortostan, says that friends of his tell him that census takers put down accurately what people tell them about nationality but then, after the enumerators have left the residents of those they have queried, the census takers simply change the nationality on their laptop computers.
Damir Iskhakov, editor of Tugan zhir, is somewhat more optimistic. He says that Ufa will undoubtedly cut the number of Tatars but not by an enormous amount lest it spark protests by the Tatar community there and elsewhere. Historian Ilnar Garifullin agrees and suggests Valery Tishkov’s recent comments will make the Bashkirs more careful (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/tishkov-criticism-wont-stop-bashkirs.html).
And Rinat Gataullin, a professor at Bashkir State University, says that this problem is not limited to Bashkortostan. Tatars are being undercounted by large amounts in Vladivostok and Daghestan. In the former, local officials have cut the number of Tatars by two-thirds; and in the latter, there are more than 50,000 Tatars, but officials claim that there are only 5,000.
Such falsification renders the census “a useless waste of money.” To protests, he says, he an ethnic Bashkir has declared himself a Tatar; but he adds that he is upset that Moscow which worries so much about the title of president in Tatarstan isn’t saying anything about what the Bashkir authorities are doing.