Lenaria Muslyumova: “People felt responsibility for preserving the language. It turned out to be a kind of rebellion against the system”

Lenaria Muslyumova: “People felt responsibility for preserving the language. It turned out to be a kind of rebellion against the system”
Photo: courtesy of Lenaria Muslyumova

A year ago, Lenaria Muslyumova became the chairperson of the World Forum of Tatar Youth (WFTY), succeeding Tabris Yarullin. Realnoe Vremya asked the head of the forum about her predecessor and political ambitions, achievements and failures of the year, the consolidation of the Tatars and the preservation of the Tatar language in relations with Bashkiria. Read more in our interview.

“Five meetings a day, calls, projects”

Lenaria, a year has passed since your appointment as the chairperson of the WFTY. I would like to ask you to reflect on this topic. To remember with what feelings you accepted this post, with what thoughts you look back now at that moment.

I remember that on the first day I started receiving a huge number of calls. I received calls even from London: someone needed documents, someone wanted to know about our projects, someone wanted to meet me. People found out that another person had come and decided to make contact.

The first day was very busy. I was shocked by the volume of information and clearly realised that working there requires to be very multitasking, and in different directions. By the way, during the period of self-isolation, there was a period when there was very little information, and I was already used to being in this stream: five meetings a day, calls, projects. During the quarantine period, I found myself getting bored. As it turned out, I am completely satisfied with the rhythm, which at first threw me into shock.

Let me clarify that I have two positions: on the part of the World Congress of the Tatars, we work as a youth department, that is, I head the committee on youth work of the Executive Committee of the Congress. There is also a public position in the World Forum of Tatar Youth, where I preside.

Tabris Yarullin suggested your candidacy then. Does he help you with advice occasionally? Where is he, what is he doing?

He said he was going into business. Sometimes he joins some projects, for example, Min Tatarcha Seyleshem campaign. In general, this is a movement that you can't just drop out of. I myself went abroad for 2 years after university, and yet on April 26 I returned to Kazan to participate in Min Tatarcha Seyleshem.

All the previous WFTY chairpersons support me in my work and give me some hints — Tabris Yarullin, Ilshat Saetov, and Ruslan Aysin.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Min Tatarcha Seyleshem is a movement that you can't just drop out of. I myself went abroad for 2 years after university, and yet on April 26 I returned to Kazan to participate in Min Tatarcha Seyleshem

“People felt responsibility for preserving the language and express their civic position”

What are the results of the WFTY's work this year? What has been achieved and what still needs to be improved?

The first thing I would like to note: we have expanded and strengthened the city festival of Tatar culture Pechen Bazary. Last year, it was held for the first time for two days. Previously, all 6 years, it lasted only a day.

Also last year, for the first time, we gathered about 100 leaders of our youth organisations for training. In addition, we have implemented a completely new project: we have gathered fellow students who came to study in Kazan. In February, we organised a meeting with 700 participants.

If we talk about goals, this contributes to easier adaptation of students in Tatarstan, but there is another point: we want them to try to implement a project together with us. Thus, even if the students leave for other countries or regions after their studies, we will get ready-made national personnel for Tatar projects.

At the same time, the World Tatar Dictation had very good indicators: last year more than 85,000 people took part in it. We have raised this figure almost 10 times. It was a rehearsal in honour of the 100th anniversary of TASSR. I would like to see this year's figure reach 100,000 participants.

Photo: Dmitry Reznov
We have expanded and strengthened the city festival of Tatar culture Pechen Bazary. Last year, it was held for the first time for two days. Previously, all 6 years, it lasted only a day

What made it possible to increase the indicator 10 times?

Agitation work, announcements, attracting opinion leaders… Perhaps, now there is just more awareness. Maybe to some extent this can be linked to what happened in terms of teaching the Tatar language in schools. People felt responsibility for preserving the language and express their civic position. This consolidated and activated the Tatars. It was a kind of protest to the system: if you do this to us, then we will cope on our own.

Do you feel this consolidation in the republic?

I think the activity in Tatarstan and other regions and countries is about the same.

How would you assess the results of this reform?

I can note that in terms of bloggers and youtubers, there has become more cultural and entertainment information on the Internet. Everyone understands that we need to do more ethnic content. If we talk about scientific information, there has become much less of it on the web. There is no new information, since Tatar teachers no longer upload anything to the Internet.

If the language is not taught at the state level, I think there should be even more grants and state programmes that would contribute to the development and creation of training platforms. Television programmes can help. To learn a language, you need a system and well-coordinated work.

“Where else could I be, given such a background?"

Does the WFTY do anything in the run-up to the census?

Specifically for the census this year, we are holding the World Forum of Tatar Youth. Everything will be organised online — we will not take any risks. In general, of course, there is a feeling that the situation with coronavirus has brought us closer to the 21st century, or rather to digitalisation.

Courtesy of Lenaria Muslyumova
I am based in the personnel fund of the World Congress of the Tatars and there I am on salary. Of course, no one pays for public activities. I can say I'm fine with everything

Does the organisation include Kryashens?

The World Forum of Tatar Youth cannot have a “we don't work with these people” attitude. Certainly, there are Kryashens. At every event or forum, we post their materials, and they post ours. We support each other very much informatively.

How did you get into the WFTY and the ethnic topic in general?

I joined this movement when I was 16 years old — when I came to Kazan. Therefore, my work, hobbies, and lifestyle are the World Forum of Tatar Youth for me. I am living it.

In fact, it all started much earlier. I have a fairly active family: my mother was a Komsomol organiser, at the age of 24 she was already a people's deputy, my grandmother was the chairperson of the village council and the district women's council. In general, I grew up in a very active environment.

My aunt from Chelyabinsk (where I spent all my childhood) worked as a concert organiser. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tatar pop music played a major role in popularising culture. At Tatar concerts, there was full house: people wanted to hear their native language in their region, and my aunt helped them with her activities. She united the Tatars.

Where else could I be, given this background? (Laughs). In general, my entry into the ethnic topic is very organic — not through protest or aggression, as it happens with many.

Can you call your work at WFTY a full-fledged job? Or do you make a living somewhere else?

I am based in the personnel fund of the World Congress of the Tatars and there I am on salary. Of course, no one pays for public activities. I can say I'm fine with everything.

Photo: Oleg Tikhonov
We managed to adapt, starting to work as an urban community. We interact with everyone, not just Tatar organisations. We have a lot of horizontal connections that work at any time and under any conditions

“Anyone would like to grow and maximise their potential”

Do you have any political ambitions?

It is worth noting that I had no ambitions for the position of the chairperson of the WFTY. You see, when the doors of opportunity open, I go in, but I'm not in the habit of knocking and breaking down.

In response to your question, I would quote Confucius: “It is not easy to meet a person who, having given 3 years of study, does not dream of taking a high post.” Having gained certain knowledge, having intellectually improved themselves, any person would like to grow and maximise their potential. If I can help my people, then, of course, I want to do even more. In this regard, I have healthy ambitions.

What are your future plans? How long are you going to lead the WFTY?

According to the charter, I can be elected four times in a row. The maximum term is 8 years. I am ready to leave as soon as there is a person who would develop and support this movement on an even bigger and stronger scale. I would like to see such a person appear during the time that I am working here.

Do you think that the time of organisations like the WFTY has passed? There is also such position.

We had time to adapt, starting to work as an urban community. We interact with everyone, not just Tatar organisations. We have a lot of horizontal connections that work at any time and under any conditions.

“I say the phrase 'I returned home' when I go back to Kazan, not Ufa”

Last year, Bashkiria was outraged by the fact that they held a Tatar Dictation. The Assembly of Peoples of Bashkortostan even wrote a letter to Rustam Minnikhanov. For its part, the WFTY also entered into communication. How did this story end?

We wrote a letter in which it was clearly stated that under the Constitution of the Russian Federation, public organizations can work freely in any regions. We wrote that we did not fully understand what the problem was because no violations had been committed. Tatar dictation takes place on the same scale in the Altai, Tyumen, Yekaterinburg — anywhere. Perhaps, the problem is that somewhere “a phone just breaks” and from the distortion of information there are some misunderstandings.

Photo: mkset.ru
We work very closely with our colleagues from Bashkiria in terms of youth: we invite them as experts and delegates, and we come to their events ourselves

Does the WFTY contact Bashkir organisations? Can we talk about any synergy?

We work very closely with our colleagues from Bashkiria in terms of youth: we invite them as experts and delegates, and we come to their events ourselves.

I would also like to mention the name of Ildar Kinyabulatov, who returned to Ufa after quitting his job as an IT specialist in Moscow to support Bashkir projects. It works with the urban population and develops Internet platforms. Our dialogue with the local youth (represented by Ildar and his team) is excellent.

What do you think about the recognition of Bashkort as an extremist organisation? Have you followed this situation?

Honestly, I didn't follow it.

Have you thought about returning to Ufa? Do you think you could somehow help Bashkiria with your competencies?

Tatarstan is my platform. I see myself here, I feel comfortable and good here. I say the phrase 'I returned home' when I go back to Kazan, not Ufa. This is the home I've chosen for myself.

By Lina Sarimova
BashkortostanTatarstan