Marat Galiyev: ‘Thousands of names of veterans simply disappear’

How to perpetuate not only those who died at war but also the veterans who returned from it

Marat Galiyev: ‘Thousands of names of veterans simply disappear’
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

More than half of the names of Great Patriotic War veterans are about to fade into oblivion because, as a rule, only the names of those who returned from the front are mentioned on obelisks. In his column for Realnoe Vremya, Marat Galiyev, a Tatarstan State Council deputy, reflects on how important it is to save the memory of all soldiers of the republic.

Is nobody forgotten? Is nothing forgotten?

The Great Patriotic War caused trouble for millions of Soviet families. And Tatarstan wasn’t an exception. Just think of it: 700,000 natives of our republic went to the front for four years of the war. It was a fourth of all the population of Soviet Tataria. And a half of them didn’t come back — we lost 350,000 people who were killed in battles.

These people gave the most valuable thing they had — their life. And their memory is perpetuated today: almost every settlement has memorials and monuments where the names of dead people are enumerated. Tatarstan remembers its sons and daughters 75 years after the war and will keep remembering them.

More than 200,000 people born in our republic were awarded orders and medals, 225 people became Heroes of the Soviet Union, 48 of our front soldiers became Full Cavaliers of the Order of Glory. Streets and entire settlements are named after heroes’ names, monuments and memorials bear their photos. We cannot complain that the heroes’ memory is forgotten.

However, a handful of people remember that the death rate nearly 50 years after the war was very low. The digit of 350,000 became known just recently. It was considered until the 1990s that Soviet Tataria lost around 90,000 people. In 1989, the republic started to collect information to print Memory Book — everything we know today about dead soldiers is added to its numerous volumes. So memory is dynamic, it needs to be both saved and reconstructed.

350,000 died, but 350,000 returned from the front!

While things aren’t so clear when it comes to the memory of those who returned from the front. The heroes — such as Mikhail Devyatayev or Maguba Syrtlanova — received their honours, of course. Streets are named after them in the Tatarstan capital, their feats are described in detail. And I want to hope that every Tatarstan schoolchild can explain what these great people are famous for. But the 350,000 people born in Tataria who returned from the front had not only order holders. There were both ordinary soldiers and officers who weren’t well treated by authorities and didn’t bring awards home but they did their hard military work, they got frozen in the trenches and lost their comrades, they were immobilised after hearing the sound of bullets and they wrote letters to their relatives from the front.

Time is inexorable, soldiers pass away one after another. By the 75th anniversary of the Victory, 611 combatants were alive in Tatarstan, now, a year later, their number is smaller. And I am sure that not only the memory of those who lost their lives in battles for the Homeland but also those who returned from the front and whose hands reconstructed the republic and built peaceful life should be perpetuated. And this work was done and is done, but its scale isn’t as large as we would like it to be.

Uncle Farid, we remember you

I was born and grew up in Saba District, in Kildebyak village. Almost every family remembers the village’s countryman Uncle Farid here. He is a merited teacher, worked as the local school’s director for four decades. In remote 1941, Farid Rakov turned 18 years and he was sent to the front on his birthday. Since he had studied in a pedagogical college previously, the lad was immediately sent to do short-term courses for commanders.

The four years of the war can be described in short but meaningful phrases: he was injured and concussed near Kyiv. He fought in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Here is where he welcomed the victory day on 9 May. But only the German division that opposed Farid’s unit couldn’t believe that German declared capitulation and they fought in a mortal combat.

How many people died then even though the war already almost ended and the Soviet Army won... Farid’s unit won that victory through blood and sweat.

Farid returned to his native Tatarstan in the same victorious year 1945. He started to work as a teacher, then became the director of the Kildebyak school. He worked on this post for 40 years. Mr Rakov died in 2004. There was nobody to keep a “special notebook” Uncle Farid kept after he returned from the war. He carefully wrote down the names of all countrymen who came back from the war here — to remember everybody.

The names of people who died in the Great Patriotic War were perpetuated on obelisks, while those who survived conserved the memory of the war in not invented stories told in the family and among friends. My both grandfathers went to the war. And both of them came back from the war, continued to work for the good of the homeland in peacetime. But seeing how fast veterans pass away, I have found myself thinking for long: what will remain after? Yes, their names remain in memory books, but is it fair that only the names of those who are written down on memorable obelisks will be honoured on Victory Day?

As for obelisks

Photo: Marat Galiyev’s personal archive

This is how Soviet obelisks looked like. They were made of thin iron, which is a bit thicker than aluminium foil. This is why they were simply destroyed soon. The memorials were replaced for plastic in the early 2000s.

Still, they had only the names of those veterans of war who died in the front. While thousands of names of veterans who came back simply disappear... I started to act in 2015 because one can reflect all one’s life but it is necessary to do something. I ordered new marble monuments. I started with my native village Kildebyak, then headed to Martynovo, Tuktar, Kuyuk... New memorials where the names of all veterans of the Great Patriotic War who went to the front from these places were indicated were placed instead of old monuments. And the lists of names on the monuments increase by half! They include Uncle Farid, our veteran director, and his notebook helped us very much in this work...

Now the countrymen gather near the renewed obelisks every year on 9 May, and many of them can read the names of their relatives on these monuments. And I think that this link of times, the feeling of the implication of your family in the great events is another very important thing. It is necessary to conserve and save this all.

In 2021, new obelisks to veterans of the Great Patriotic War will appear in other villages of Saba District. I would like this initiative to be supported across the republic. I think it is our duty to perpetuate the names of not only those who died on battlefields but also those who returned from the front, lived and worked for the good of the Homeland that was saved from Fascists.

By Marat Galiyev