Staunton, Mar. 8 – Moscow is undoubtedly pleased that the total number of Tatars fell by 600,000 since 2010, but the Russian authorities can’t be pleased by the fact that one of the primary tactics they used in the past to reduce the number of Tatars completely failed during the last inter-censal period.
That method consisted in pushing members of sub-national communities within the Tatars to identify as members of those groups rather than as Tatars, an effort most notoriously deployed with the Kryashens, Siberian Tatars, and Astrakhan Tatars (tatar-inform.ru/news/itogi-perepisi-2021-tatarstan-rastet-no-tatar-v-rossii-stalo-mense-5892351).
But according to the results of the latest 2021 census, only one Tatar in twelve in Siberia chose to declare himself or herself a Siberian Tatar. Had more done so, the number of Kazan Tatars, the largest non-Russian nation in the Russian Federation would have fallen by far more than it did.
Now, Moscow has decide to counterattack, with the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences declaring the language of the Siberian Tatars to be not a dialect of Tatar but rather a separate language, the first step given Moscow’s linguistic-centered approach to nationality to making the Siberian Tatars a separate nation.
That decision was taken on February 22 after two Tatar scholars made a three-hour presentation in which they insisted that Siberian Tatars speak a dialect of Tatar but that their literary language is Kazan Tatar. Moscow scholars rejected that, sparking outrage in Tatarstan (tatar-inform.ru/news/namereniya-ocevidny-sibirskix-tatar-otdelyat-ot-tatarskogo-naroda-5898809