Congress of the Tatars in Bashkortostan: 'We do not get involved in big political topics'
How the World Congress of the Tatars' representative office in the fraternal republic is working on the threshold of the population census
The head of the representative office of the World Congress of Tatars in Bashkortostan, Alfred Davletshin, met with journalists in Kazan to talk about the activities of Tatar public organisations in the neighbouring region within the framework of the upcoming population census on 22 July. During the meeting, which was also attended by the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, it turned out that the number of Tatars in Bashkortostan is also decreasing because they are leaving. They also discussed another more popular opinion that the Tatars are allegedly recorded as Bashkirs.
“Bashkortostan is a large part of the Tatar world”
At the press conference dedicated to the activities of Tatar organisations in Bashkortostan, the head of the representative office of the World Congress of the Tatars in Bashkortostan, Alfred Davletshin, who headed the organisation at the opening in November 2019, was answerable for everyone. He also remains the imam of the Ufa mosque Ikhlas and a member of the council of the World Forum of the Tatar Youth.
The main questions to the speakers were related to the upcoming census, but Davletshin noted that the census “is the responsibility of federal bodies” and “not the work of public organisations”. At the same time, the head of the representative office reminded that a million Tatars live in Bashkortostan:
“They live in all areas. Bashkortostan is a large part of the Tatar world.”
What does the representative office do? At the end of March, the 5th All-Russian Forum of the Tatar Local Historians “Tatar Settlements in the Eurasian Space: History and Modernity” was held.
“I think this forum was an example for many people, especially for those who live outside of Tatarstan — events for the Tatars can be held in Ufa. We had no problems in this regard," Davletshin said.
He also said that once a week, on Fridays, the half-hour programme Ikhlas is broadcast on the Tugan Tel cable channel, which is now managed by the World Congress of the Tatars. Its representatives visited more than 30 districts of the republic, many villages, met with the Tatars.
The programme “We speak Tatar” is broadcasted daily on the Echo of Moscow in Ufa radio (in fairness, it should be pointed out that the Moscow office of the radio station is preparing it with the participation of Liliana Safina, the head of the Tatar language courses Umarta). The representative office is located in the historical center of Ufa — the speaker noted this fact with pride. The photo exhibition of ethnic clothing “TATAR dress” was also held with the participation of Tatar-speaking bloggers and the Millihasite community.
Davletshin also mentioned the video project “Kem sin?" — about local Tatar projects (although it is difficult to find a video with the work of Maris Nazirov — and it is available only by link, it is not there on the channel).
“We shouldn't feel like guests there”
The editor of the Medeni Zhomga newspaper, Vakhit Imamov, had a lot of complaints about the speaker. We lost 200,000 Tatars in the last census, the writer said and shared observations from trips to Bashkortostan and news from the republic.
As an example, he cited the family holiday in the Chekmagushevsky district, where the head of the municipality told how he learned that he was not a Tatar, but a Bashkir. “And Kushnarenkovo, Yanaul, Baltachevsky district?" the journalist continued, “there are no Bashkir villages there!”
“The leaders themselves set an example to sign up as Bashkirs. My colleagues and I toured eight districts. When we enter, there is an ancestral column on the border. A public organisation cannot do this. We shouldn't feel like guests there. Before the revolution, 80-90% of Ufa's income was brought by Tatar merchants. Almost all muftis were Tatars," he continued.
Also, a little later, Imamov complained that in local libraries one can see huge sections of Bashkir literature, while only a couple of shelves are allocated to Tatar literature.
“We are not saying that we are aliens," Davletshin replied. “My father's village is 350 years old. And officials also participate in Tatar events.
The representative of the World Congress of the Tatars also pointed out that, having travelled through the republic, he was convinced that Tatars live best in the republic.
“We don't get involved in big political topics”
Journalist Alfred Mukhammadrakhimov asked whether something has changed in the republic after the departure of Rostislav Murzagulov, the former chairman of the Public Chamber of Bashkiria, who left politics at the very beginning of June. But Davletshin replied that he was not a member of the Public Chamber of the Republic of Bashkortostan and could not answer this question. Here he reminded about nikahs that he conducts as an imam, and pointed out that local residents do not consider marriages between Tatars and Bashkirs interethnic.
“We don't get involved in big political topics. The main goal is work," Davletshin summed up.
Mukhammadrakhimov cited the work of the Headquarters of the Tatars in Moscow as an example — in the winter of 2019, they also opened their representative office in Ufa.
“They actively work, and what is it?" Davletshin began to ask questions. “We also go, we distribute books. The book “Tatars of the Ufa District” is also the work of our districts. This book was received with great attention.
Imamov also remembered how Anna Ioannovna also banned marriages between Bashkirs and Tatars and ordered the Tatar mullahs to be taken out of the territory of the Bashkirs, but they themselves did not allow it to be done.
“Then we were together, but now we are not, because we have forgotten history," said Imamov.
Davletshin continued his thought, pointing out that one of the main problems of the republic is the outflow of promising young people from the region:
“Previously, they were sent by force. And now people themselves are leaving for Tatarstan.”