Staunton, Jan. 20 –When Tatars learned that the new census shows that they have declined by more than 600,000 since 2010 and that their numbers have fallen in every federal subject except the Republic of Tatarstan, they were quick to blame the shortcomings of the Russian census that was carried out during the pandemic.
They haven’t stopped pointing to problems with the census, but an increasing number of Tatar intellectuals say that the reported decline, while almost certainly exaggerated by the mistakes of the census operation itself, is real and reflects serious problems among Tatars the nation needs to reflect upon (tatar-inform.ru/news/daze-100-celovek-uze-vazny-tatary-v-regionax-o-pricinax-sokrashheniya-cislennosti-tatarsk-5893834).
Oleg Anderzhanov, editor of the Tatar newspaper Tugan Yak in Nizhny Novgorod, says that the census showed a decline in the number of Tatars since the last census of 17,000 or 40 percent and that the main cause of that was the indifference of young people to the census and to their nationality.
He reports that in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast alone 700,000 of the 3.1 million residents did not declare a nationality or one was not registered for them. Some of those, of course, were Tatars; and they have suffered from a loss of national identity just like the Russians who did the same.
Fanil Musin, editor of the Mari El publications Beznen tormysh and Yaktashlar, agrees and says that in his view, one to two million of the 16.5 million people in Russia not listed as having a nationality were Tatars. This indifference to nationality reflects urbanization and Russianization, but not as one can see Russification or a change in identity to Russian.
Other Tatar editors say much the same thing, and this soul searching may prove to be more important than the denunciations of the census alone have been. That is because they are likely to prompt discussions of what the Tatars themselves must do to change the situation and that in turn will involve demands for fundamental changes in how Moscow runs things.