Staunton, May 31 – If Ukrainians and the world want to know what the Kremlin really means by “de-Nazification,” Farida Kurbangaleyeva says, all they have to do is look at what Moscow has been doing to the non-Russian nations who live within the current borders of the Russian Federation.
“What Putin calls ‘de-Nazificaiton,’” the Tatar writer says, “is not a struggle against Nazism but a desire to destroy national identity so that Ukrainians will no longer exist as a people. That is why in the occupied territories,” the occupiers are taking Ukrainian language books out of libraries and schools (holod.media/2022/05/28/denacification/).
As non-Russians in Russia already know, “if there is no language, there is no culture, identity or people.” And they know it, Kurbangaleyeva says, at a personal level. She herself underwent “a personal de-Nazification” as a child. When she lived at home, she spoke Tatar; when she started school, teachers successfully sought to keep her from using that language.
In only a year or so, she lost her Tatar and spoke Russian with her parents as well, putting paid to the notion that her native language could be saved at home. She thus joined the ranks of “the linguistic invalids,” and now she and they are having children who will not learn Tatar at home or indeed anywhere else.
When Tatarstan was able to insist on Tatar instruction, many sought to avoid it as unnecessary to their futures and because the only Tatar language teachers Kazan could find were people from the countryside who the pupils and their parents derided as backward collective farm workers.
Before World War II, Russians in Tatarstan learned Tatar; and some still know a few words of politeness; but elsewhere, it has become obvious that Russians no longer have any interest in minority languages and act with such discrimination against their bearers that it is constantly infuriating, Kurbangaleyeva says.
All this can be called “de-Nazification,” she says; and while Putin introduced the term, he can hardly be said to have invented the process. “The of unifying ‘minorities’ was conducted already in the Russian Empire and under the Soviets reached its apogee,” she continues. Now, unless Ukraine wins, Ukrainians will be its victims.
Unfortunately, there is another aspect to this tragedy, Kurbangaleyeva says. Many liberal Russians don’t see forcing non-Russians to give up their national languages. In their “beautiful Russia of the future,” such “de-Nazification” thus appears likely to remain in place without significant change.
In that Russia as in today’s, she continues, “no one will be forced to learn non-native or unnecessary languages. After all, this is the violation of their rights and freedoms and is undemocratic. Fewer and fewer people will do it on their own. They can speak it at home or take elective course.” But anyone who wants more will become “a nationalist and a Russophobe.”
This kind of “de-Nazification” must be defeated not only in Ukraine but in Russia as well.