Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Flourishing Community of Tatars in Finland Contains a Lesson Moscow has Not Yet Learned

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – The flourishing of the small community of Tatars in Finland sends a message Moscow won’t like in its efforts to reconquer the former Soviet space and assimilate non-Russians, the Idel-Ural portal says, in reporting that Helsinki has just made a film on the Finnish Tatars.

            “Usually,” the portal says, “emigres begin to lose their roots and forget their language and customs after several generations. All that remains of their origin are memories that their ancestors came from this or that country,” with details even about that increasingly lost as well (

            “But when a country is under occupation by another country and thus subject to policies that involve conditions of aggressive assimilation and ethnocide, it often happens that the emigres maintain their culture, language and customs in a purer or more authentic form than is the case among those who remained” in their historical homeland.”

            That is what has happened in the case of the 1,000 Mishar Tatars who live in Finland, and it thus represents a warning to Moscow as to what is likely to occur among those fleeing its aggressive and assimilationist policies and how that continuity can be a threat to Russian control of the regions from which these émigré groups come.

            Few think of Finland as a Muslim country, but the number of the faithful there has grown dramatically over the last 30 years with the influx of people from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. But at its core are the roughly 1,000 Tatars who are descendants of Mishars who came as traders more than a century ago.

            Many originally settled in and around the port of Vyborg; but they fled when Stalin began the Winter War against Finland.  And many of them took part in the Finnish resistance (

            Earlier, in 1925, the Tatars formed the Finnish Islamic Congregation, “the first officially recognized Muslim organization in Western countries,” Yandex’s Tatars and Tatarstan page says. Now, they have two mosques which are open to the other Muslims who have come in more recent years, although only Tatars are full members.

            Remarkably for such a small community, the Tatars of Finland have retained their language and culture even as they have integrated into the Finnish nation and even become wealthy and prominent, becoming notable hockey players, actors and actresses, programmers and artists.

            No one in this community is now thinking about its potential disappearance, the page says. Instead, its members are now using the Internet to maintain ties with Tatarstan and to ensure not only that their outpost in Finland will survive but that they will serve as a model for Tatars inside Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea as well.   

No comments:

Post a Comment