Staunton, July 26 – Anniversaries of political figures of the past sometimes reveal something important about their lives and ideas but more often they provide insights into what those marking them are thinking about. Such is the case of the 130th anniversary of the birth of Muslim national communist Mirsaid Sultan-Galiyev two weeks ago.
On the one hand, IdelReal commentator Ilnar Garifullin says, Sultan-Galiyev does not yet have the physical monument in Tatarstan that was authorized in 1992 and a smaller one at his birthplace in what is now Bashkortostan has been shifted to a place largely out of public view (idelreal.org/a/31955505.html).
But on the other, the Muslim national communist continues to inspire anti-colonial movements around the world, including those in and directed against the Russian empire (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/three-events-in-sultan-galiyevs-life.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/02/kyiv-specialist-on-islamic-world.html) and as a role model.
For Garifullin, Sultan-Galiyev’s career as a role model for leaders today may be even more important. He recounts that Stalin’s purge of Sultan-Galiyev was the Soviet dictator’s first and ultimately led to the arrest and death of the Muslim national communist. All that happened, he notes, as other Bolshevik leaders acknowledged because they did not object to the first step.
Had the Old Bolsheviks opposed Stalin’s moves against Sultan-Galiyev in 1922-1923, they might have been able to block him and prevent not only the demise of this remarkable leader, the IdelReal commentator says, but also the eventual triumph of Stalin’s totalitarian system which destroyed so many of them as well as their hopes for the future.
Garifullin does not draw a connection between this situation and the current one, but his readers are certain to. If Russian leaders had opposed what Putin began to do in the early 1990s, Russia and all its people would not be suffering from the neo-totalitarianism he is imposing now and his aggression against Ukraine.
But such a conclusion is not only about the past but also about the future. Those who still can oppose Putin and Putinism need to do so lest he put in place a system in which not only they but so many millions more are certain to suffer. In short, in recalling the fate of Sultan-Galiyev, Garifullin is implicitly reminding everyone of the words of Pastor Niemoeller.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist,” the opponent of Hitler said. “Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
“And then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”