Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Invoking Both Kosovo and Abkhazia, Tatar Independence Movement Steps Up Its Campaign

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 16 – In advance of commemorations of the 456th anniversary of the Russian defeat and occupation of Kazan, the Tatar Ittifaq Party of National Independence this week has launched a website to ensure that its declarations and those of other Idel-Ural nations will reach a larger audience.
The site, which is located at azatlyk-vatan.blogspot.com/, consists of three sections: current news, including a declaration posted online today concerning the upcoming anniversary; a file of earlier posts in Tatar, Russian and English; and an extensive listing of Tatar and Muslim resources on the Internet.
In her lead post for yesterday, Fauziya Bayramova, Ittifaq’s leader and a member of the executive committee of the World Congress of Tatars, argues that the fall of Kazan to the forces of Ivan the Terrible was “the greatest tragedy in the history of the Tatars, not only extinguishing their independent statehood but opening “centuries’ long slavery” for them.
Let no one be fooled by statements about the “sovereignty” of Tatarstan,” she writes. “Tatarstan is not an independent state and Kazan is not a Tatar city because [there] Russian laws rule. To say nothing about such historically Tatar lands as Astrakhan, Siberia and Crimea, which long ago were hopelessly russified.”
But the Tatars of Kazan must not give up, Bayramova continues. “If we cease to struggle for independence and the right to our own bright future, the same fate awaits us, the Tatars of Idel-Ural, because Russian laws prohibit instruction in [Tatar], courses on Orthodoxy are included in the curriculum in many regions, and there is ongoing talk about the destruction of national republics and the unitarization of the Russian state.”
“After the occupation of Kazan, the Russian empire set itself a single goal – to russify and baptize all the peoples of the empire, in the first instance the Tatars. But the empire was never able to subordinate the Tatars all the way. Even having destroyed [the Tatar] state, it could not destroy the language and religion of the Tatars or the spirit of resistance which helped the Tatars to survive as a nation.”
The situation has continued to get worse in recent decades, the Ittifaq leader insists, and “in such conditions, we have only two ways out – to struggle for independence and having build our own Tatar state, to begin to live by our own laws or to cease to exist as an independent nation.”
“We Tatars must choose the first path, the path of life, struggle and victory! Right is on our side!” she says. And she points to one new reason for her hopeful conclusion: shifts in the position of the West and of the Russian Federation itself concerning the recognition of the right of nations to self-determination.
“The international community having recognizing the state independence of Kosovo, and the Russian Federation having recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Bayramova says, “must recognize the independence of the Republic of Tatarstan! The Tatar nation has every right to live in its own independent state!”

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