Monday, March 27, 2023

Singing in Native Languages Continues to Help Bashkir and Tatar Nations to Survive

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 23 – Everyone who follows the former Soviet space knows about how the singing revolutions helped Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania recover their de facto independence; and many know that a rich oral culture often highlighted by singing has helped many nations under pressure from the outside to survive.

            But those ideas have become so commonplace that few focus on how this process actually works in the current situation, and yet it may very well be that singing for the peoples of the Middle Volga may be their national salvation at a time when Moscow is seeking to marginalize their languages and identities.

            A new article by two journalists, Stas Sharifullin and Marsel Ganeyev, focuses precisely on this current situation and argues that just as in earlier times of Russian oppression, singing is “helping the Bashkirs and Tatars to preserve” not only their languages but their identities (

            They make the point in a heavily footnoted scholarly article that the language of song is truly a living language and its constant appearance in a community is a response to Moscow’s efforts to destroy the Bashkir and Tatar languages. People who sing and who listen to singing have their own language reinforced and revived, exactly the opposite of what the Kremlin wants.

            And the two argue that over the past decade in Tatarstan at least, Tatar singing has gained ground against Russian and English son and that this gives hope that singing, just as was the case in the Baltic countries, can be a means for that nation to survive, thrive and ultimately drive out those who are oppressing it.

            Every time a Tatar or a Bashkir sings a song in his or her language or even listens to it, that is a small victory, the journalists say; and the evidence they produce suggests that ever more of the people of these two communities are now singing their nation’s way into the future. One can only hope that is so and that other nations under Moscow’s yoke are doing the same. 

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