Staunton, Nov. 25 – Many Tatars believe reasonably that the survival of their nation depends on the survival of their national language, but they have devoted less attention to the ways in which the survival of Islam among them affects the future of both their language and their nation, Ildar Safargaleyev says.
There are at least three important ways in which this is the so, the director of Islamic research at the Moscow Institute of CIS Countries says. First and most immediately, mosques in Tatarstan and many other places in the Middle Volga where Tatars are numerous are a place where they have the opportunity to use their language regularly.
As Tatars fall away from their faith, Safargaleyev says, they thus lose an important reason for maintaining fluency in the language and become increasingly inclined to use the dominant local language or more often Russian (materik.ru/analitika/musulmanskaya-identichnost-tatar-v-u/).
Second, the influx of Central Asians into major Russian cities and the shortage of mosques in most of them means that while the mullahs in these places remain overwhelmingly Tatar, services are increasingly in Russian, a language the migrants know rather than Tatar which they don’t.
For the tens of thousands of Tatars living in Moscow and other cities, that means that they have one fewer places where they will hear and use Tatar and thus are at greater risk of assimilating.
And third, some Tatars in these cities who are concerned about their language in the first instance are beginning to attend Russian Orthodox services that are offered in Tatar. The ROC MP operates Tatar-language churches to reach out to the Kryashens and also to cause more Tatars to become Orthodox Christians (tatar.orthodoxy.ru/?p=2852
This is not yet a widespread phenomenon, Safargalyev says. But it is worrisome because if these Tatars cease being Muslims in the name of protecting their language, they will lose yet another support for their national identity and also become more at risk of being assimilated to the ethnic Russian majority.
Until more mosques are built in Russian cities allowing for the maintenance of Tatar-language Islamic services, the analyst argues, the best solution is to organize small groups of Muslim Tatars for services where both Islam and the Tatar language can be maintained, both of which are critical to the survival of the Tatar nation.