Staunton, July 8 – Celebrations of national holidays are not enough to keep the Tatar nation alive, Nazif Mirikhanov says. What is needed is money and the power to distribute it as Tatars want, a goal that remains unfulfilled from the past and that must be pursued with vigor now in the future for the good not only of the Tatars but of Russia under the conditions of a changing international order.
Mirikhanov, who served as the plenipotentiary representative of Tatarstan in Moscow between 1999 and 2010 and since then has headed that institution, says that too many Tatars including members of the elite are satisfied with shows and fail to see that they do not in fact provide the kind of support a nation needs (business-gazeta.ru/article/558388).
In the course of a 5,000-word interview on the state of Tatarstan and Tatars today, he says that it is unfortunately the case that while Tatars have an active social intercourse with each other and turn to friends of the same nationality in times of trouble, few Tatars are members of social and political organizations and thus don’t have the impact they should.
Among his other observations, the following are particularly noteworthy:
· Unlike China, Russia failed to make a soft transition from socialism to capitalism but instead operated in the typically Russian fashion of destroying everything and starting from scratch, a major reason behind problems in Russia today.
· In the 1990s, Mirikhanov says, governors were politicians; now they have been reduced to lobbyists, something that weakens both their nations and the country as a whole because Moscow makes mistakes when it doesn’t take into account local conditions.
· About three-quarters of the elite in Russia view the country as part of Europe, but a growing number see it as “the successor of the Golden Horde” and therefore identify themselves as Eurasianists. Putin is one of the latter and deserves credit for blocking efforts to celebrate Russian victories over the Horde and for speaking Tatar when he came to Kazan.
· The term, the Soviet people, was ethnically neutral and thus valuable. Moscow hasn’t found a replacement. The non-ethnic Rossiyane is unsuccessful because everyone views it as a synonym for the ethnic Russky and thus reduces non-Russians to second class status.
· Russian schools should restore courses in non-Russian languages and they should introduce courses in ethnography because too many residents of the country are ethnically illiterate. Hence, the absurd identities some are claiming in the census.
· Moscow needs to transfer the building the Tatar representation is in to Tatarstan rather than hold it on a short leash that the Russian authorities can pull whenever they want to.