''Most High gave the Tatars two wings – the Russian and Tatar languages. Why make ourselves disabled by losing one?''

To be one in diversity: will the Tatar language have the fate of European small peoples’ languages?

''Most High gave the Tatars two wings – the Russian and Tatar languages. Why make ourselves disabled by losing one?'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

To be united in a diversity of cultures and languages – this is the watchword of Inera Safargaliyeva, director of Occitanie et Tatarie French and Tatar Association. Considering the current situation of regional languages in Russia and the bill considered in the State Duma, she asks a question in her column: won't the Tatar language have the fate of the Occitan language that was sacrificed for French in the first half of the 20 th century? Realnoe Vremya's columnist also finds curious links between the Tatar and European languages.

Occitan mistake

It seems to me today the Russian Federation is covering almost the same road that France did in the first half of the 20 th century: it's linguistic and cultural domination of the titular culture and nation and restriction of the development of indigenous languages. But nowadays regional values are recovered in France, as here people understand that cultural diversity with its legacy is economically profitable from a perspective of tourism development. This country has ranked first in number of tourists since 1990 (but this circumstance is a reason for a debate with Spain: many tourists go to this country via France). 84 million tourists visited France in 2014, 100 million are expected to come in 2020. But the problem of regional languages in this country stopped being topical. A century excluded from the development of language is more than enough for it to start to fade away…

But there are regional forces that have recently started to achieve interesting results in reanimating the local legacy, including linguistic. A new big region, which was officially called Occitanie the (the Mediterranean Basin – the Pyrenees), appeared two years ago after a merger of French territories. The main city of this region, Toulouse, is 400 km far from Barcelona on the highway. Naming the new region Occitanie is an achievement of the indigenous Occitan people and its friends to restore this historical name. Efforts to conserve the Occitan language are also noticeable. However, we can't talk about a complete recovery of local languages after the century-old repression and restriction.

''Naming the new region Occitanie is an achievement of the indigenous Occitan people and its friends to restore this historical name.'' Photo: tropki.ru

I would like this example to be a lesson for the Tatars and the Tatar language to avoid the same fate. If every conscious and honest person makes his contribution to the conservation and distribution of the Tatar linguistic legacy, it won't be possible to either restrain or delete the Tatar people's culture and history. I support the conservation and development of all cultures and languages in the world, which means diversity. Undoubtedly, we should be united in all human values, but also in the diversity of every culture. Then others and I will have a choice. Only then we will be able to enrich and develop ourselves and others.

To conserve diversity

About 190 different peoples live in Russia. From an economic perspective, it's such a wealth of cultures – it's a treasure trove to develop same tourism. When we tell about the Tatar world at our conferences, many people discover an interesting world they don't know. For instance, in the West, matryoshka and Kalinka will unlikely surprise somebody. In the end, Russia isn't not only Moscow, Petersburg and the Russian people. Russia is multi-ethnic, multicultural. And it would be fair towards other regions and ethnicities to provide air in central Russian TV to show cultural cognitive programmes prepared by the regions themselves. It would be interesting to see the outlook, life and culture of the regions from inside, not from Moscow correspondents… Perhaps the truth of life will come through. If there is central television, why not stop having one voice but become really central and have many voices in the multicultural Russian space?

In general, I think culture must be ahead, not economy. When talking, for instance, in France, unlike Russia, attention is paid to a person's culture, not what he is wearing and how much money he owns. Frankly speaking, rich people aren't respected in this country, as many of them obtain other countries' citizenship not to pay taxes but continue using France's comforts (I won't name an artist who is very well known to Russians and refused French citizenship to obtain Russian several years ago).

Many things what people in Russia pay attention to – luxury clothes and cars, mansions with fence and CCTV cameras – are of no interest and aren't attractive in France. Openness to cultures of other peoples, ideas of common wealth, equality are inculcated to children at school. This is a very simple secret of developing this country whose official slogan is 'Freedom, Equality, Fraternity'

''When we tell about the Tatar world at our conferences, many people discover an interesting world they don't know.'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

The world is wonderful thanks to the diversity, and this diversity in Russia should be conserved by all means. I don't urge to fragmentation. Undoubtedly, we need and should be united but conserving the cultural and linguistic diversity. Living outside the Russian Federation, in Middle Asia first and then in France during all my life, I've always been linked with Russia through my Tatar roots, parents who come from Orenburg Oblast and Bashkiria. And when my parents passed away, the entire space consisting of Tatar culture, traditions and, most importantly, the Tatar language went with them. Neither Russian nor French, no other culture is able to substitute me this space, as much as I respect, esteem them and as much as they enrich me…

Tatar-Latin roots

Thanks to the Tatar language (though I didn't graduate from a Tatar school), I could easily communicate with all Middle Asian people. I also spoke the same language in Maghreb countries thanks to Tatar culture and the language that has enough Arab words. Even living in France, I find a link of the Tatar language with Latin roots. And it became a discovery for me. The fact that the roots and meaning of some ancient Tatar words are similar to French words and words from other European languages literally amazed me. I found an explanation of this for myself in Figeac, in the French region of Occitanie. There is Champollion Museum (named after Jean-François Champollion) there, he's an Egyptologist who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs. This museum has a table of languages. The Latin and Turkic languages there turn out to have a common original language, which is already considered dead…

And to my surprise, I also see this connection in French place names. Look at this photo. It's a small settlement in the South of France that's called Cazan (Kazan).

''Even living in France, I find a link of the Tatar language with Latin roots. And it became a discovery for me.'' Author's photo

I also find similarities in original cultures of Tatar, Mongol, Chinese and other Turkic peoples. I see this in national adornments, cuisine, clothes, symbols, language and many other things. The most ancient mysteries of the world and the genetic code we will need to know and that will surprise us are hidden in the Tatars' beautiful and rich culture and language. Tatar culture and the language are so ancient and interesting that deserve careful examination as well as recognition of their historical contribution to the Russian state, culture and language… There are so many Tatar words in the Russian language!

And sometimes I say to the Tatars who neglect to know and conserve the Tatar language that Most High gave them two wings – the Russian and Tatar languages. Why make themselves disabled by losing one wing?

By Inera Safargaliyeva
Tatarstan