Monday, January 17, 2022

Tishkov Criticism Won’t Stop Bashkirs from Falsifying Census but Only Make Them More Careful, Tatar Activist Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 28 – After former Russian nationalities minister Valery Tishkov’s withering criticism of Bashkortostan’s approach to miscounting Tatars as Bashkirs, Ufa will be more careful and may a reduce the numbers of such miscounts; but it won’t give up on its longstanding policy, Nurmukhamed Khusaynov says.

            Some Tatars mistakenly assumed that the ethnographer’s blast at Ufa would get the Bashkortostan government to change course – on Tishkov’s criticism, see – but there is no change of that, the head of a Tatar gymnasium in Belebey says.

            The most the Tatars can hope for is that Ufa will be more careful and won’t be reidentifying as many Tatars as Bashkirs as it might otherwise have done, the educator-activist suggests (

            The methods Bashkir officials are using to count Tatars as Bashkirs are changing, Khusaynov says. The most recent is this: census takers use computers, they write down the correct information and show that to the Tatar; but they do not enter it. Instead, either they or the computer programs change that declaration and then they enter it.

            But the most widespread means of falsification is simply not to question anyone but to make up the required data on their own, he continues. In many Tatar villages, no one has been visited by census takers; and in others, only a handful. But in every case, officials say the census was complete.

            This reidentification of Tatars as Bashkirs is having immediate effects. It allows officials to close Tatar-language schools, something that undermines the ability of young Tatars to speak their language. And because they are confused about Bashkir as well, they start speaking Russian and fit into Moscow’s Russification plans.

            Khusaynov doesn’t say but that pattern may be one of the reasons why the central Russian government has done little or nothing to rein in Ufa in its miscounting of Tatars as Bashkirs. Ultimately, the Bashkir project works to russify the Tatars without benefiting the Bashkirs

            According to Tishkov, in 2010, no fewer than 100,000 Tatars living in Bashkortostan were miscounted as Bashkirs. How many will suffer the same fate this time around is uncertain. In some places, the result may be even worse now. But after Tishkov’s criticism, Ufa will likely be more careful.

            At the same time, however, Khusaynov says, there is no sign that Ufa has given up on its plan to Bashkirize all the Tatars and members of other ethnic groups it can. 

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