''When the script of The Golden Horde was brought, it became clear they wanted to shoot a melodrama''

Rafael Khakimov’s interview about the high-profile series and prospects of Tatarstan in Vladimir Putin’s new term

''When the script of The Golden Horde was brought, it became clear they wanted to shoot a melodrama'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Many historians and public activists have expressed their opinion about the new TV series of Channel One The Golden Horde. And only Director of the Shigabutdinov Mardzhani Institute of History Rafael Khakimov has kept silent. Meanwhile, he was a consultant of the series's crew and knew about its plot before it appeared on the screen. During his rich political career, Khakimov was a witness and participant of many ideological battles. Perhaps this is why he has a special opinion about the series. He shared his opinion in an interview with Realnoe Vremya's correspondent. They couldn't help but discuss the latest topical events in Russian politics.

Better to compare The Golden Horde with Magnificent Century than historical documents

I'd like to start the conversation with the main historical information reason of the last weeks — The Golden Horde series. When it was announced several years ago that such a film would appear, and both enemies and friends of Tatars said the Tatars would propagate their version of history through this film. Now when the series is on the screen, Tatar public activists are in the front line of discontent people who say that it allegedly distorts the historical truth. Why does it happen so?

Many people would like history to be shown well and smooth like the pastures of Heaven. But history is wars, fights, victims. An ordinary life passes during historical events. The creators of the series chose to show an everyday life. There are films that claim to be documentaries. You find faults in historical reality there: it was in neither this forest nor this field; clothes lack a button. While The Golden Horde is an entirely feature film. They had the right to invent something. As Pushkin said ''I will wet my thought with tears of joy and pain''. By the way, same Pushkin chose the most doubtful script about Boris Godunov. Historical Boris Godunov didn't need to kill Tsarevich Dmitry. But two geniuses – Pushkin and Musorgsky – made this version popular. And artworks have their own logic, and we need to understand it. This is why there isn't obvious distortion. Everybody just wants to see the Golden Horde with their own eyes. I read the film script, and they corrected obvious fantasies.

What inaccurate things did you notice immediately?

For instance, their Tatars are pronounced Mongoloids. I said to them from the beginning: ''Look at me, I am a typical Tatar man. Where is my Mongoloidness?'' Though it's clear that Tatars are shown slant-eyed because it looks more interesting so. And for some reason, they all speak the Kazakh language. Probably because Kazakh is a sharp language, while Tatar is melodic and doesn't sound so showy.

''This is why we don't need to consider a criticism as an opinion of the whole Tatar community. Most importantly, the series doesn't need to kindle dislike between the Russians and Tatars. Then so be it.'' Photo: marsme.ru

What did your cooperation with the creators of the series start with?

They reached out to me and asked how I evaluated the topic of the Golden Horde in cinema. I said it needed to be shown because there had been many not very successful editions. Even in Tarkovsky's Andrey Rublyov. Then there was a film The Horde. I already was a consultant in Sergey Bodrov's Mongol film, this is why I agreed. When the script of The Golden Horde was brought, it became known they wanted to shoot a melodrama with love affairs and make people cry. Well, this is fine. There is such a genre as Magnificent Century. One can also find faults in it like those rooms of the palace looked differently. The most important thing for me was to show normal human relations between the Russians and the Tatars, so that it wouldn't turn out that the Tatars only pressed, while the Russians looked for a reason to go on strike.

But critical opinions precisely said that the Tatars were shown as cruel conquerors and enslavers.

They did are conquerors. It wasn't a voluntary federation. But the Tatars didn't hurt Russian culture, they didn't hurt Orthodoxy. Yes, princes went to the Horde, and there was a vertical of power. Today the vertical is in Moscow, at that moment, it was in Sarai. But we don't say today that Russians are the Tatars' enslavers. Some people maybe say so, always there are such people. This is why we don't need to consider a criticism as an opinion of the whole Tatar community. Most importantly, the series doesn't need to kindle dislike between the Russians and Tatars. As for the rest, then so be it. The Russian prince's wards, from my point of view, look a bit poor. It's not a mansion. I looked at the script and watched 13 series when we were given discs. They also had remarks, but I don't know what was in the end. It's seen the film doesn't have much money. Everything is shot in one room, five warriors play instead of a troop. But the same thing can be said about Magnificent Century, which was successful.

Why do you think the scriptwriters avoided Aleksandr Nevsky? Because he acted approximately at the same time. Most importantly, he is present in mass historical consciousness.

They wanted to avoid a complicated historical evaluation, so that spectators won't distract from love affairs. And it's so easy to evaluate Aleksandr Nevsky because it was a pro-Tatar prince. And khans always ranked his descendants first. He wanted to conserve Russian culture and Orthodoxy, what the Golden Horde allowed. And Teutonic Knights destroyed everything, and only German culture remained in the place they were in.

1,000 people will read book, while millions watch video

What does the Institute of History to popularise the Golden Horde's legacy?

Almost all our books, including our seven volumes about the history of the Tatars and books on the Golden Horde, are on the site and available for free. But to make our research more popular, we orient to videos. The youth don't read newspapers. The youth watch videos. We've recently made a video about a brief history of the Tatarstan. And it has been unexpectedly watched by more than 500,000 times. Considering reposts, it's even difficult to assess how many people have watched it. This is why we will make more: by Shigabutdin Mardzhani's 200 th anniversary, then by the TASSR's 100th jubilee. A 15-minute video costs up to 200,000 rubles. And if we compare the result with the book's publication, it's good if 100 specialists across Russia will read it. They can total 1,000 people with history amateurs, while millions will watch the video. It's a good investment.

''We've managed to get rid of the focus on oil since 1996. The first thing we did was to arrange oil conversion, chemistry and petrochemistry. Secondly, it's machinery engineering. We saved KAMAZ, it's reached the world level. The third stage is information technologies.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Tatarstan between Western Europe and Western China

The presidential election in Russia almost coincided with the anniversary of the referendum on Tatarstan's sovereignty whose organisation you're directly linked to. The referendum is 26 years. What does the ''corporation of Tatarstan'' expect in the next 6 years? Do you have forecasts?

I think relations with the federal centre will be pragmatic. Tatarstan gained good economic weight. It is our foundation. The absence of mutual support of different regions is compensated by the powerful economy of Tatarstan, which is innovative. We've managed to get rid of the focus on oil since 1996. The first thing we did was to arrange oil conversion, chemistry and petrochemistry. Secondly, it's machinery engineering. We saved KAMAZ, it's reached the world level. The third stage is information technologies.

As for Russia, the situation with the economy is quite complicated. We learnt how to make good PR, but the economy doesn't go forward. Agriculture boasts that we sold so-and-so tonnes of wheat, but it's a sector subsidised by the country. I know what is happening to machinery engineering as a chairman of the board of directors of the Kazan Medical and Instrumental Factory. It's very important for us to have modern machine tools. Where to buy them? It's Germany, Japan, it's even in Spain, which has a licence to produce German machine tools. But not Russia. Even Belarus stopped producing machine tools. But China has learnt. Oil is an unreliable foundation for the economy because it depends on opportunities. You can't say how much oil and gas will cost, and then there are sanctions. All people say that Russia needs to give up oil games, but it doesn't work.

What does the future of Tatarstan's economy lie with?

It's important for us to build Western Europe – Western China transport corridor. For us, it is a very good location. Railways, planes, land and water transport cross us. A transport corridor isn't just a road, it's infrastructure and warehouses. Not you look for a market, but a market looks for you, and goods are distributed to other regions from here. If we reach China via Orenburg, the economy will be completely different. Kazakhstan has already built its part. China has built. They wait for Russia to build, while Russia doesn't have money. The high-speed railway to Moscow is always postponed. But the market economy can't exist without roads.

I positively look at the republic's capabilities. I hope taxes won't rise. They are already 73%. Almost nothing leaves after oil. And income tax has risen. How to plan here? They'd rather impose a stable tax for six years like ''yes, we get money but we won't raise it''. Then it would be possible to agree with foreign investors. I'm afraid more will be taken after the election to the federal budget because the Russian economy works according to the principle ''where to get more''.

''What harm is done if we develop? It's better to multiply the model of Tatarstan to other regions, then the whole country would blossom.'' Photo: inkazan.ru

It turns out that Tatarstan finally shifts accents from politics to economy. Will it be possible to conserve the symbolically important post of the president of the republic?

While the post is conserved, it's very hard to make forecasts. And it needs to be done not sitting in Kazan but going to Moscow and asking. What harm is done to Russia if the post is called ''president'' and the region is ''Tatarstan''? What harm is done if we develop? It's better to multiply the model of Tatarstan to other regions, then the whole country would blossom. A desire to send all financial flows through Moscow wins. It's like in history with our road fund, which was taken from the republic by saying we're robbed. They created a Russian fund started to rob on the Russian scale. That's all the difference.

By Mark Shishkin
Analytics Tatarstan