'We would have to read Dzhalil on the Internet': how Tatarstan supports Tatars in Sakhalin

More than five thousand Tatars live on the territory of Sakhalin Oblast. Six years ago, they had their own ethnic and cultural autonomy, which united representatives of the Tatar people. Now ethnic holidays are held in the region, Sabantuy is celebrated, songs are sung in their native language and much more. But to teach children the Tatar language of the local autonomy, books are very necessary in order to convey love for their culture and traditions through fairy tales. Two years ago, the public organisation asked for support from TAIF Group, after which hundreds of publications were sent to Sakhalin Oblast.

How Tugan Tel appeared on Sakhalin

Zakia Valitova was away from her native village in the Drozhzhanovsky district at the age of 19. She moved to Sakhalin from Tatarstan on the basis of a Komsomol voucher — she lived in the small town of Shakhtersk, worked at a mine, and then at school. All the time she really missed the Tatar culture and speech.

In 2005, Zakia Ziatdinovna moved to a larger city — Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. In the administrative centre of Sakhalin Oblast, there were many Koreans who held their traditional holidays and did not lose touch with each other. Then Zakia Valitova decided to unite the local Tatars — with the help of the educational and cultural centre Tugan Tel she created.

“Kamil Iskhakov, the Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, has just arrived in Sakhalin Oblast on a visit. He gathered all the diasporas and representatives of different peoples, asked what events they held. No one could name anything except Maslenitsa and Korean holidays. Our centre has just opened, and nothing has passed there either. Kamil Iskhakov was very surprised and asked: “What about without Sabantuy?" He called the World Congress of Tatars, said that he would help with the artists. And in 2006, we held the first Sabantuy," Zakia Valitova recalled.

The organisers did not think that the event would turn out to be so large-scale — the plow festival gathered representatives of almost all districts of Sakhalin Oblast. Zakia Ziatdinovna says that local grandmothers originally from Tatarstan were crying with joy. After that, Sabantuy became an annual tradition.

This year, it will be held for the fifteenth, anniversary time. The anniversary is also celebrated by the educational and cultural centre, which united the Tatars of the region and other ethnicities — over time, more and more guests began to visit it.

The emergence of the Tatar autonomy

On the initiative of the centre, the children's vocal ensemble Tatarstan and a football team appeared on Sakhalin. The city held creative evenings in honour of Gabdulla Tukay and Musa Dzhalil, organised a children's Sabantuy. Now more than a thousand children participate in it, and a multinational procession is held as part of the holiday. In parallel, a Sunday school was opened for those who want to study the religious Tatar traditions.

As a result, the centre drew the attention of the World Congress of Tatars, which helped him with books. But they are always in short supply, especially after the public organisation Regional National and Cultural Autonomy of the Tatars of Sakhalin Oblast and the ethnographic museum named after Gabdulla Tukay also opened in 2015. For support, local residents turned to TAIF Group.

“Two years ago, we sent a letter to TAIF, in which we told about ourselves — who we are, where we live, what events we hold. I was asked to help with the provision of books. This is how our collaboration began. Over this time, they sent us a lot of packages. For the centenary of the TASSR, the company sent us 100 books. More recently, a few dozen more. If Tatarstan and TAIF did not support us, we would have had to read Musa Dzhalil and other great poets and writers via the Internet, and there would not have been these colourful illustrations, especially important for children," says Zakia Ziatdinovna.

The latest parcel, which was received by the Tatars on Sakhalin on March 27, weighed about 200 kg. Dozens of books in Russian, Tatar, English and Arabic were sent from Tatarstan.

The parcel includes such copies: a seven-volume book 'The History of the Tatars Since Ancient Times', six-volume book 'Tatarstan: Strength in Unity!', colourful photo albums about the history and culture of Tatarstan, publications about Abdrakhman Gumari, the Ramiyev brothers, Gaziz Gubaydullin, Shigabutdin Mardzhani, Mintimer Shaimiev, Rustam Minnikhanov. As well as the publications 'Mosques of Tatarstan', 'Temples of Tatarstan', 'Kazan Kremlin', 'Tatar Cuisine' and much more.

Now the Tatars of Sakhalin Oblast cooperate with the regional charitable foundation for the preservation and development of the Tatar language and culture Zhien, and with the World Congress of the Tatars, with TAIF Group, and with the ministries of Tatarstan, and even with Tatarstan writers. Zakia Valitova admits that it is very important for them to keep in touch with their homeland and receive feedback from so many people. All this, she says, helps Sakhalin children to learn their culture and speak their native language. And adults — never forget about the origins.

By Alsu Gusmanova

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