Staunton, April 13 – Vladimir Putin has attacked Muslims in the Russian Federation to divert attention from his goal: “the final solution of the nationality question” in that country “on the basis of [Stalin’s] well-known dictum that where ‘there is no person (in this case, a group of people or nation), there is no problem,” according to a Kazan commentator.
In the current issue of Zvezda Povolzhya (no. 13 (693), April 10-16, 2014, p.1-2), F. Zagidulla says that Putin has signalled his intentions about the non-Russian nations within the borders of the Russian Federation by two changes in government language, only one of which has attracted much attention.
On the one hand, the Kazan Tatar writer says, Putin has replaced the word “state” with the word “national” to describe important government projects. And on the other, he says, the Russian president has sought to convince the citizens of the Russian Federation that there is only one “nation” in the country, namely the ‘Rossiyane.’”
That in turn has led some to reach the conclusion that “this single nation” can have “only one language and religion” and that anyone who disagrees is at odds with and hostile to the Russian Federation, a view that leaves few opportunities for the non-Russians within the country to defend their ethnic, religious and linguistic heritage.
Putin has sought to destroy education in the non-Russian languages and, because he understands the importance of religion as a foundation of national life, has given the green light to “contemporary Russian Orthodox assimilators and missionaries” who are doing their best to separate the non-Russians from their religion and especially Muslims from theirs.
Some of these non-religious allies of the Russian Orthodox, in a manner which recalls what the Soviets did, now present themselves as defenders of Tatar and other Muslim nationality from the threat of Arabization that such people say missionaries from the Middle East now clearly represent, Zagidulla says.
But as in Soviet times, when officials cut the Kazan Tatars off from Arabic and Persian by promoting the Latin and then the Cyrillic script and the life-giving strength contacts with these language communities provided, so too now officials are doing the same thing to destroy “the capacity [of the Tatars] to resist Russification and then the destruction of their ethnos.”
It is clear, he suggests, that the Russification of non-Russian and non-Orthodox peoples is more important to Moscow than even “the foreign security of the country.” Otherwise, Moscow would not be devoting so many resources to trying to destroy the non-Russian nationalities, an indication that “Russia is internally weak.”
Because that is so, Zagidulla says, the Kazan Tatars need to recognize both the threat to them as a nation and the opportunities they have to counter it. Many Tatars would like to move to the Latin script as Turkey and many other Turkic countries have, but such a step, he continues, can only be a “provisional” one because the Latin script is too close to the Cyrillic.
Consequently, the Zvezda Povolzhya writer concludes, his nation needs to pursue the restoration of its Persido-Arabic based alphabet in order to regain its ties with the broader Muslim world and gain the energy it will need to counter Putin’s effort to destroy the Kazan Tatars as a nation.
Putin’s policies are thus producing exactly the opposite of what he intends, but by using the “ideological diversion” of attacking Islam instead of the non-Russian nations, the Kremlin leader clearly hopes that neither the Russian people nor the West will understand what he is up to and may even support him in the name of countering “Islamist extremism.”