‘The Kremlin power is insecure: Tatarstan to chair work on conservation of language of Russia’s nations

The Tatarstan president offers to declare the Year of Conservation of Mother Tongues and National Unity. Not only Tatar

‘The Kremlin power is insecure: Tatarstan to chair work on conservation of language of Russia’s nations

Delivering a message to the State Council, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov offered the republican parliament to declare 2021 as Year of Conservation of Mother Tongues and National Unity. Realnoe Vremya’s experts paid attention to the fact that a census was scheduled next year and they consider such an initiative of the head of the republic isn’t accidental and is quite topical. And after the cancellation of compulsory national language learning in Russia, the decision of the Tatarstan authorities looks like a kind of reply to the federal centre.

“Mother tongue is, first of all, a strong bond with one’s people”

Delivering a message to the State Council last Thursday, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov offered the republican parliament to declare 2021 as Year of Conservation of Mother Tongues and National Unity.

“We should create conditions to conserve languages and cultures of all nations living in the republic,” the head of the republic noted.

He also reminded the audience about the creation of a commission for Tatar language conservation under Tatarstan State Council deputy Marat Akhmetov.

“Mother tongue is, first of all, a strong bond with one’s people. I have repeatedly stressed what we will do to conserve it. It is our moral duty to the future generations,” Minnikhanov noted.

We should remind that 2020 is dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the TASR. Several big events were devoted to the republic’s jubilee. Experts positively assessed the Tatarstan president’s initiative.

“Tatarstan imams will endorse Mr Minnikhanov’s all undertakings”

Kamil Samigullin, mufti, Tatarstan Muslim Spiritual Directorate chairman:

“I totally support the proposal to declare 2021 as the Conservation of Mother Tongues and National Unity. I am sure that all imams in our republic do as well because even Most High said in the Quran: ‘And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colours. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge’. That’s to say, the diversity of peoples and nationalities, their customs and languages is a blessing of God. So the recognition of yourself as part of your nation, knowledge of your mother tongue is a demonstration of the fear of God. In contrast, refusing your people and your mother’s language is contradicting the will of the Creator and predetermination. If we forget our language, it will be a betrayal of our ancestors.”

Moreover, 2020 was unanimously declared by imams and Muslim judges as the Year of Mother Tongue in the Republic of Tatarstan. This is why all the activity of the religious centre and its organisations runs considering the tasks of developing the Tatar speaking environment at mosques, teaching the Tatar language, popularisation of the Tatar spiritual legacy, conservation of the national identity and cultivation of national self-consciousness among our compatriots. The Tatarstan Muslim Spiritual Directorate has experience in implementing a number of Tatar speaking projects and initiatives and is ready to share it, it can be the creation of national or religious schools, development of Tatar language teaching methods, organisation of language courses at mosques, publishing Tatar mass media, development of printing and so on. Moreover, all the activity of the directors and mosques, business communications and consultation of the population is carried out primarily in the Tatar language.

But at the same time, it is very important to form and increase the level of national and religious self-consciousness in society. Islam and Tatar culture will develop in Tatarstan if Tatars are proud of their origin, their religion, their republic and country.”

“It’s Kazan’s reply to the federal centre”

Boris Kagarlitsky, director of Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements (Moscow):

“The current Kremlin power is insecure. And everything that’s happening in national policy in the country is a demonstration of this lack of confidence. But unlike other countries, Russia either doesn’t have an acute language problem creating conflicts or has a low conflict level. And the fact that the Kremlin began a crackdown shows that Moscow doesn’t understand where some threats and problems might come from.

On the other hand, the topic of national language in their (Editor’s Note: Kremlin functionaries) consciousness is completely wrongly associated with separatism and disloyalty. To put it simply, ‘Don’t they want to say something we won’t understand?’ Or ‘Won’t they express such ideas we don’t understand?’

Even compared to other federal multiethnic states, the situation in Russia calmed down a bit, even compared to the 90s. Nothing is perfect, but linguistic minorities’ rights are more or less respected. And it doesn’t feel like somebody in the region wants to drive the Russian language out. It isn’t Ukraine where the language is a hot-button issue, not Quebec (pressure on English speakers), not Catalonia (pressure on Spanish speakers). And now the Kremlin is starting to create this topic artificially. If this problem is fuelled artificially, it will become real.

As for Tatarstan, the republic’s attempts at conserving the language and related declarations aren’t just a challenge but Kazan’s reply [to the federal centre]: “You pressed us on one side, while we reply this way”.

“Authorities, society and family are responsible here”

Marine Khukhunashvili, chairwoman of Sioni National Cultural Autonomy of Georgians in Kazan, director of Multinational Sunday School:

“To conserve mother tongues, children should be taught them from an early age (in kindergarten). If there is continuous language teaching, it is better: kindergarten, school, university. If there isn’t higher education, where will we get language teachers? But a huge responsibility also falls on the family and society. The state should support them.

Additional funding for the conservation of languages will probably be given, conferences will be held, programmes will be shot next year. At the same time, it is necessary to show the world experience: how other countries save official languages and mother tongues. One should know how this happens in other countries with several official languages. Most importantly, citizens’ rights shouldn’t be infringed so that everybody has possibilities to learn a mother tongue.

This is why authorities, society and family are responsible here. If the family isn’t motivated, the succession of generations is lost, what are we talking about? It is impossible to conserve the identity of the people, genetic code without a mother tongue. There is no nation without a mother tongue — any people should base on it. It is necessary to find new methods to solve problems, new methods of language teaching. Everybody should make one’s contribution.

As for the Georgian language in Tatarstan, we talk about not development but its conservation. We don’t have complaints about the development of language in Tatarstan, might Georgia develop it. We have a possibility to learn our mother tongue in the additional education system (Sunday school, teacher, books). Society helps, the authorities provide a chance, it is up to a family. Parents must create a linguistic environment inside a family. It is clear that it is harder in mixed families. Here everybody works in one’s area (authorities, society, family), and Georgians work hard in this area.”

“Great attention will be paid to the language in the education system

Lyudmila Musikhina, chairwoman of Mari National Cultural Autonomy in Kazan:

“The declaration of the Year of Conservation of Mother Tongues and National Unity is a very happy event for us. I think great attention will be paid to the language in the education system. One should start with kindergarten. When a kid speaks a mother tongue in the family and starts speaking Russia or another language in the kindergarten, there is a danger he will lose the habit. Apart from the official language, a child must know his mother tongue. We, public activists, try to work in this area. I hope more will be said about national languages, this topic will be covered more, there will be a real help. The All-Mari Congress will take place in Yoshkar-Ola on 3 October, I will say that Tatarstan declared such a year.

Unfortunately, fewer Maris know the Mari language. Many speak only Russian now, it is almost not taught at school. I come from the Urals. My ancestors (grandparents) spoke several languages, for instance, they fluently spoke Bashkir as well. And when I hear melodic Tatar songs, I am overwhelmed with memories, my eyes fill with tears.”

“All conditions are created in Tatarstan to conserve national languages, including Bashkir”

Gali Khasanov, chairman of Tatarstan Bashkir Council, director general and chief doctor of Rehabilitation multidisciplinary clinic (Nizhnekamsk):

“Mr Minnikhanov offered to declare 2021 the Year of Conservation of Mother Tongues and National Unity. We, Bashkirs of Tatarstan, were encouraged by this initiative of the president of the republic. We host a lot of events to conserve our native Bashkir language. We implement a youth social project together with Nizhnekamsk Chemical Technological Institute, which is designed to engage the youth in the active work to conserve and develop the ethnic and cultural diversity, strengthen interethnic relations and the unity of the Russian nation, conserve and develop folk traditions, customs, rituals of Russia’s peoples.

“I will note that all conditions are created in Tatarstan to conserve national languages, including Bashkir. We will hope that next year the bonds of brotherhood between Bashkirs, Russians and other peoples will just get stronger.”

“We are always focused on the popularisation of the Tatar language

Lenariya Muslyumova, chairwoman of World Youth Tatar Forum:

“We already began to work on the Tatar language. So Tatar Dictation world educational campaign was to take place on 26 September. We popularise Tatar philologists, teachers, Tatar culture. It is a very multifaceted project. It gathers representatives of different generations on one site. We don’t have age, sex differentiation. Anybody can participate in this project. As for the conservation of the national unity, Bashkirs who live in Tatarstan participate in our dictation. Every person who isn’t indifferent to the second official language of the Republic of Tatarstan participates in this project. Considering that the census will take place next year, this project teaches management and popularises Tatar culture and one of the languages of the national minority in the Russian Federation.

Regardless of federal and republic programmes, I work on these themes as a lobbyist of the Tatar language and Tatar culture, national identity as hard as possible every year. We are always focused on the popularisation of the Tatar language.”

By Timur Rakhmatullin
Tatarstan