EYES OF A TATAR IN RUSSIA

As a Tatar in Russia, I can say that I am Russified.  Why? We can take a look in the history of Russia and see how Tatars, like me, were treated.

Image result for kazan 1900
(Source: http://bridgetomoscow.com/time-gap-destroyed-church-and-nixon-arrival)

In the Russian Empire, “there was a policy to Europeanize Tatars through social, political and religious aspects.  In order to achieve this, the government built, financed mosques and Islamic schools and created in major centres caravanseries (like gostinnye dvory) to create stability amongst different religions.  At this point, the population consisted of 4% Jews and 2.9% Tatars.  Many of us lived on the countryside and engaged in agriculture” (Lowe).

As time passed, “mosques were burn down.  We had to learn Russian after the Khanate of Kazan.   Once, Peter the Great did not allow Tatars to live in luxury and as a result, we were put in obligations for the country.  However, in the nineteenth century, we received special legal status.  Socially, the richer merchants were offered special support and inducements in the region of the middle Volga.  Politically, we were able to select our own government, which we called the tatarskaya ratusha.  The turning point was in 1794, when Crimean Tatars received their own independent Muslim Spiritual Assembly. The formal autonomy of Muslim authorities in the Crimea was confirmed in 1831.  Unfortunately, the authority of the kadis (Muslim judges) was  reduced.  The statute also regulated the criminal and civil responsibility of the Muslim clergy of the Crimea” (Lowe).

We were treated similarly to the Jews on the village level, since we were “not allowed to become scribes or elders in settlements with a mixed population.  Another similarity was that the students from our religion were forced into state schools, in order to escape the military” (Lowe).  This “led to extreme Russification” (Encyclopedia of Russia).  “One of the leaders, Ill’minskii, said that he wanted to unify the Muslim population and Europeanize them.  Unlike the Jews, we had some possibilities of zemstvo, which is self-government” (Lowe).

Some other figures, including “Ismali Bay Gaspirali and others decided to promote a national press.  Volga Tatars, including my family, began a movement of religious and social reform” (Encyclopedia of Russia).  However, we were “subjected to renewal missionary attempts under Nicholas I” (Lowe).  As more Tatars left Russia, “the small minority or elite that became visible in the 18th century only increased slightly in the early 19th century due to Russification” (Wikler).

As you can see, we Tatars suffered through a period of time for Russification.  Now, we are a part of Russia.

(Source of the featured image: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oleg-pavlov/friends-and-neighbours-religious-harmony-in-tatarstan)

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