Valery Tishkov: ‘The research showing that the Tatars are at 90% Finno-Ugric are incorrect’

An exclusive interview of Realnoe Vremya with a famous ethnopolitical scientist Valery Tishkov. Part 1

Valery Tishkov: ‘The research showing that the Tatars are at 90% Finno-Ugric are incorrect’ Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

A famous ethnopolitical scientist Valery Tishkov, who visited Kazan last week, talked to the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya. The interview turned out to be so extensive that we decided to divide it in two parts. In the first part Tishkov shares his opinion on the creation of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs and criticizes the idea of the Kazan Federal University to study Tatar genome.

'I have no grounds to compare both the past and the current ministry with 'okhranka'

Mr. Tishkov, Russia has established the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs. Can the creation of such ministry be called a breakthrough? Why was it headed by a silovik (a Russian word for politicians from the security or military services, often the officers of the former KGB, GRU, FSB, SVR, the Federal Drug Control or other security services who came into power — editor's note) Igor Barinov?

I would not call it a breakthrough. On the contrary, it is the plugging of holes because they incautiously have eliminated the federal agency in our country, multinationally and federally arranged. The agency, which is responsible for inter-ethnic relations, ethno-cultural development. This necessity was felt. In 2004, it was eliminated the position of the Minister without portfolio, the Ministry had been eliminated before. However, there still was the Minister in the government — the figure at the federal level, whom somehow we could turn to with a question and who could coordinate this sphere. That is why the Agency has been created. More likely, it is the reconstruction of already existing ministry, of the committee in its in various capacities.

In 1992, I was the head of the State Committee for National Policy. Such ministry should exist, and there is no difference how it is called — a ministry, agency or committee. It is more important that it is provided with adequate resources — both personnel and finances. In this respect, we have rather humble agency: the staff is approximately 100 people. For example, in other agencies they have about 500-800 people, in FASO (the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations) — 600 or 700 people. Second, they do not have sufficient budget. They have some program, also quite humble — 'Strengthening the unity of the Russian nation and ethnocultural development of the peoples of Russia'. Now they are preparing a national-level program. If it is adopted, they will have some money.

As for the head, where he originates from. Of course, it is desirable that the head of such agency was a person who knows this subject well. But so it happened that not all ministries comply with this principle. Our Minister of Culture is a historian, he never was a man of culture. The Ministry of Finance cannot appoint a non-financial specialist but any other agency does that. And we have representatives of power structures, starting from high ranks — he comes from these structures. I don't see a problem here. If everyone is from here, then it will a problem. Most importantly, what kind of person he is: abilities, what deputies he has, staff, how quickly he catches on to the subject – that is important. Barinov gives the impression of a sane person, he is gaining experience, knowledge. I have read his latest interview — it's hard to pich any hole. But if there are people from the same place as he is, that will be a problem.

'Barinov gives the impression of a sane person, he is gaining experience, knowledge.' Photo: vesti.ru

Even if they are intelligent, competent, responsible people, anyway they are still geared for the fact that the field of international relations, national politics – it is the sphere of risks, they must prevent them, that's their job. And the sphere of support and ethnocultural development of the peoples of our country, from large ones to the very small ones, can be a low priority, be lost by people who came from the security forces, who are used to prevent all sorts of threats. But I have no grounds to compare both the past and the current ministry with 'okhranka'.

'I supported the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Kazan'

In Kazan, sometimes there are disputes about the age of the city. A few years ago, the capital of Tatarstan celebrated its 1000th anniversary. Do you believe that Kazan is 1000 years old?

This is not a human being who was born and the public register recorded the day, hour and year when it was born. In the old days, even people did not always record the exact date and even a year of birth. There are some principles and approaches of determining when a city appeared – not just a settlement or place where people could live from the Paleolithic but a city. The city walls are defined as a protective space. There must be a place, a temple, where people gathered: it may be a religious institution. Even a cemetery.

As for Kazan, the important role was played here by the archaeological finds related to money circulation, coins. So, this is the place where the trade did exist.

Of course, there should be written sources. For example, the history of Moscow staretd from the first mention in the written sources. Although it is clear, if it is mentioned it doesn't indicate the moment of appearance, it is the moment of fixation in written sources. This date is not always accurate, it is approximate.

So, the 1000-year age of Kazan was chosen. Thirty years ago, your local scientists suggested it was 800 years old, then they found the data that spoke in favor of a more ancient age. The 1000th anniversary of Kazan, I think, was celebrated for the benefit of the city, for the Republic, for the people. I even just before the anniversary wrote an article in Ogonek magazine, it was called 'The benefits of anniversaries', where I supported the celebration of the 1000-year anniversary, for which I was awarded the medal '1000th anniversary of Kazan'.

'The Golden Horde legacy is so great that it will be sufficient for both Kazakhstan and Russia'

How do you think — Russia is a successor of Kievan Rus', the Novgorod Republic or the Golden Horde? What is the role of the Golden Horde in the legacy of modern Russia?

For a long time and today the dominant concept of the origin of the Russian statehood has been that the Old Rus' State originated from a symbiosis of Slavic, Finno-Ugric and Scandinavian elements — alien military princely unit. This symbiosis formed the Old Rus' statehood. But in the question where the Russian land originates — from Kiev, Novgorod or Ladoga – here the historians' opinions vary. Now, I think, the concept among my colleagues who study the history of the Old Russian state is that there were several centers. It is not quite accurate to give priority to the only one, to say that Kiev — mother of the Russian cities, as the Chronicle says. Because 'mother' means here metropolis but not one that gave birth to the entire statehood. Therefore, the interpretation of this word is different now and is given by several historians, linguists, an academician Yanin or an academician Zheleznyakov – specialists in Ancient Rus'.

'The interest in Eurasianism is one of the most powerful trends not only in politics but also in science. Therefore, the Golden Horde legacy is so great that it will be sufficient for both Kazakhstan's and Russia.' Photo: russian7.ru

But if we talk about statehood in a broader sense, because it is a large state that passed through a significant stage, then it is clear that on all current territory of our country there were other state formations and even more ancient ones. The oldest city we have — not Moscow, not Kazan but Derbent. There were even early antique settlements. Crimea, the south of Russia, has traces of antique heritage, and there were other formations.

Everything that relates to uluses and khanates of the Golden Horde, this is also very ancient formations. In principle, such polycentric, broad view of Russian statehood is necessary. Now we are developing the concept of 20-volume history of Russia, where we would like to show not so strict russo-centrism or Slavic-centrism version with the participation of Finno-Ugric component, which was prevalent, but also that 'steppe', about which Gumilev wrote, the Turkic peoples and other state formations on the territory of Russia are also part of our common history, no less ancient, with great achievements as well. It would enrich the overall version of our national history.

If this approach was reflected in the school books, it would be useful for the students in our country from the Far East to Kaliningrad and Karelia to read books about ancient times, the early history of the land where they live, it helps in education of Russian national identity, love to the country, big and small. So, we have a very serious task not of a radical revision but the extension and enrichment of our concept of Russian statehood.

Now we have the revaluation of the Golden Horde heritage, not just as the Tatar-Mongol raid. Something was brought to Rus' from the Golden Horde rule, something was borrowed – the elements of statehood, military affairs. The nomads are not just barbarians, and the farmers are cultural people. In general, this Eurasian turn — not only in politics but also in mentality. What is more, Europe annoys us, it is in the crisis. The interest in Eurasianism is one of the most powerful trends not only in politics but also in science. Therefore, the Golden Horde legacy is so great that it will be sufficient for both Kazakhstan and Russia.

Are the Ukrainians Russians?

In Ukraine there is the trend now that the Ukrainians are the true heirs of the Kievan Rus' and they are 'more Russians than the Moscovites', who represent the Finno-Ugric peoples and the Horde. What is your attitude to this opinion?

I can definitely tell that this is a purely nationalist or narrow ethnic interpretation of the history of Ukraine or the Ukrainian people. It is not accepted and will not be accepted not only by Russian and world science but even in Ukraine. In our series 'Peoples and cultures' the volume 'The Ukrainians' was written mainly by our Ukrainian authors-historians. Here the version is scientific, objective, suggests that there was a process of development of three ethnic groups from one core. The Old Russian statehood, represented by the Rurik dynasty — it was the real essential unity of all ancient Rus' principalities. It is not the ethnic basis was the basis of the statehood and loyalty of people but the loyalty or obedience to a knyaz, a ruler, the religious unity. The adopted Christianity united the inhabitants and the elite of the ancient principalities, say nothing of the dynastic relationships which were very powerful and strong.

That is why it is wrong to apply the modern approaches to the antiquity, who are the Ukrainians or Russians. As well as to doubt the existence of the Old Rus' community, from which the Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians originate. By the way, all of them were called Rus. The current Russians were called the Velikoross, today's Ukrainians were called the Maloross, and there were the Belarus. So, this classic and academic version of the origin of our people is supported by reputable science, even in Ukraine: an academician Petr Tolochko — an Ukrainian Academy member, a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a specialist of Ancient Russia. He proves the cultural unity. This version is pretty hard to refute: no opposite facts. These links to the Trypillian culture, some archeological antiquities on the territory of Ukraine and the attempt to prove even up to genetics that the Ukrainians and the Russians are totally different peoples, I think will never find confirmation of serious science in a non-politicized version. From the point of view of policy and the manipulation of consciousness it is possible to write anything.

'The Old Russian statehood, represented the Rurik dynasty — it was the real essential unity of all ancient Rus' principalities. It is not the ethnic basis was the basis of the statehood and loyalty of people but the loyalty or obedience to a knyaz, a ruler, the religious unity.' Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

Tatar genome study: to repeat the American mistake

You have mentioned genetics. Last year, the Kazan Federal University initiated the study of Tatar genome. It has caused disputes, including in the scientific sphere. Is it necessary to study the origin of the people at the level of genome, how do you think?

No, I am completely against this concept. I am against of ethnogenetics. In the result of our criticism, from me and from my colleagues-archeologists, today the genetic scientists, who initiated this ethnogenomics and the attempt to define the genotypes of different ethnic groups and nationalities, refused from this term and speak about the genetics of the human population but not of ethnic groups. There can be differences if the genetic compositions of different populations, which live nearby and have a high degree of mixture but most often it does not correspond to the ethnic boundaries, though they may coincide. But such examples are very accidental.

<...> For our today's understanding of the history and not only contemporary life, the ambitious project 'genome of a human being' resulted in nothing. The USA initiated it more than 20 years ago. But where is that genome of a human being? Instead they have spent billions because this field is very expensive. Maybe, it is useful for medicine, criminal investigation, but it does nor relate to the ethnic groups, it is connected with geography, population characteristics. Maybe peoples, living in the North, in the Arctic environment, and peoples, living in the Caucasus Mountains, have diffreences. But it is very risky to try to find out who is more close among the Caucasian peoples — the Karachai, Cherkess, Balkars or the Ingush, Ossetians.

'These studies showing that the Tatars are at 90% Finno-Ugric people are incorrect. Where the genome of the Finno-Ugric? From whom they took saliva — Finns, Ugric, Hungarians, Magyar? Maybe, I am a too vigorous critic but I am against ethnogenomics.' Photo: antropogenez.ru

For example, there is the study of Balanovsky, who has come to the conclusion that the Tatars are mostly Finno-Ugric and not Turkic. Do you agree with such conclusion?

They are pioneers of ethnogenomics, they have discovered this — Oleg Balanovsky, his mother (both are the Doctors of Sciences from the Institute of General Genetics named after Vavilov) and also Khusnutdinova (Professor from Ufa). They have long been engaged in this field. If it was a breakthrough, a new scientific direction, it would have been supported by the world science. But try to look for 'ethnogenomics' in the searching engine and you will see the same Balanovsky and Khustutdinova but only in English. Maybe thay have two or three co-authors in the West. These studies showing that the Tatars are at 90% Finno-Ugric are incorrect. Where the genome of the Finno-Ugric? From whom they took saliva — Finns, Ugric, Hungarians, Magyar? Maybe, I am a too vigorous critic but I am against ethnogenomics.

To be continued

By Timur Rkhmatullin

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