Tatars: loyalty to traditions, confidence in the future
The history of mankind knows many examples of the rise and fall of great states, the highest achievements and disappearance of entire nations. Today, in the context of general globalization, erasure of territorial boundaries and migration flows, widespread unification and digitalization, fears for preservation of the identity of people are becoming more and more urgent. Dozens of languages are irretrievably disappearing every year. This problem worries not only creative intelligentsia, but also ordinary people.
Tatars are a people with a rich centuries-old history, as evidenced by the serious works of Tatarstan, Russian and foreign researchers. Tatars have always been a part of the Western world in the East and East – in the West. As representatives of the culture of the Eurasian type, they were in a zone of active contacts of the largest language families and world religions. Being the western area of the Turkic-Muslim world, they have become a significant element in the chain of cultural impulses. Moreover, the catch phrase “between the West and the East” is not so much about geography, but about the unique ability to be an organic part of each of the two civilizations and a link in their dialogue. This feature is accurately reflected in the saying “Tatar does not need an interpreter”.
At the same time, the Tatars did not dissolve among other peoples for centuries, they have preserved their culture and identity.
A high ability to adapt and interact was demonstrated by the Tatar culture during the period when a significant territory of Northern Eurasia became part of the Russian state. Today it is obvious that many customs and cultural practices in Russia, like the traditions of statehood, have Eurasian roots.
Therefore, the task of creating a strategy for preservation and development of the Tatar people as a unique socio-cultural phenomenon, an integral part of world civilization seems to be very difficult.
Moreover, this is a great responsibility both to the ancestors who left us a rich heritage and memory of great events and achievements, and to our descendants. After all, each of us is convinced that the Tatars should not become a statistical unit in the “nationality” column, the number of which will decrease every year.
In 1992, the draft Concept for Development of Tatar Culture, prepared by a group of enthusiasts, was first published. At that time, this was an attempt to formulate urgent tasks, since on the long road to the victory of socialism we lost a significant part of the heritage that constitutes the image of the people, its essence and spiritual content.
Without going into the details of the project, we can say that a lot has been done over the past decades: measures have been taken to develop the humanities, fine and musical arts, national cinema, theater, literature, publishing, the media, and folk art. The study of spiritual and material heritage served as a new impetus for understanding the role of the Tatars in history and modernity.
In 2012, at the convention of the World Congress of Tatars, the Concept of preserving the ethnic identity of the Tatar people was adopted, which became a kind of summary of what has been done and a plan for the future. This plan was embodied in the state program, which already requires amendments in the spirit of the times.
Why this excursus? When developing the strategy, there were many meetings with fellow tribesmen in Russia and the world. Tatars are an active people: as the saying goes, “Ber yakhshy esh meң yakhshy suzdun artyk” (“One good deed is worth a thousand kind words”). As a result of the discussions, many relevant and viable proposals worthy of support were expressed. They were generalized and formed the basis for a new, expanded state program. But the most important result, in my opinion, was the confirmation that the Tatars are united in their desire to preserve themselves as a people.
But how much does this desire motivates our actions? On this occasion, I would like to share some thoughts.
Recently, it has somehow become customary to look for the “enemy” more outside – globalization, the Internet, mass culture, legal restrictions, etc. You cannot argue with this – there are many challenges. But how is settled to preserve the national in itself? After all, this can become a daily inner feat. To do it or not – everyone decides for himself.
At the same time, we know that there are many who are already ready to perform a requiem for the peoples of Russia. There are also those who consider the national something artificial, something that can be blinded by the power of political will. But what would our grandparents feel if they were told that everything they valued – their native language, religion, unique national mon – is a decoration that can be easily replaced?
When we talk about the unity of the Tatar people, we are not speaking about uniformity. We value the fact that there are Astrakhan, Kasimov, Siberian, Kazan Tatars, Mishars, Kryashens, Teptyars … We value the originality of each member of our large Tatars family, like among brothers: each is a unique personality, but together – one whole, one family.
Some perceived development of a draft strategy as a panacea for all problems, as an intention to issue a universal recipe with all the details that would suit everyone. But there are Tatars in Tatarstan, Tatars living in many regions of Russia, and there are also Tatars abroad who also try to preserve their culture, language, and traditions. And it’s even more difficult for them. It is clear that conditions and opportunities are different everywhere.
Historically, the responsibility for uniting the Tatars lies with present Tatarstan. And for each of us, wherever we live, it is important to feel its care. Therefore, the activity of the World Congress of Tatars is supported, programs are created to preserve languages, culture, identity, grants are established – this is a flexible approach to solving the problems of today. We will definitely continue this work.
When we talk about the special path of the Tatar people and Tatarstan, some hotheads try to present it as a policy of separation. For some, Tatarstan becomes a card that they want to play in order to add political points to themselves, to create a non-existent island of discord in the center of the country. Even in Russia, where the Tatars are the second largest nation, people do not quite clearly understand our history and culture. Sometimes it is necessary to explain that in the difficult years of perestroika, Tatarstan strove to expand the rights and powers corresponding to its socio-economic potential and contribution to the country’s progress, and nothing more. On the contrary, preserving interethnic and interfaith harmony within itself, our republic has made a significant contribution to the strengthening of Russian statehood. Tatars are a people who at all times work for creation, for integration of society. That is why it is so important to speak about our culture, patriotism and peculiarities of the worldview, the high importance of native language for the Tatars. It contains that semantic code that allows us to better understand the peculiarities of our worldview and moral values.
For example, what is “freedom”? Is it determined by boundaries? Yes, there is Tatarstan, which has become the nucleus, the citadel of culture for us, but there is the Russian Federation – our historical Motherland, the land of our ancestors. There are other territories where the Tatars found a second homeland.
For the Tatars, “freedom” is a multifaceted concept: Irek, Azatlyk, Khurriyat – it’s all about freedom. Freedom of self-realization, freedom of self-expression, freedom to be the creator of your history, your destiny. And, yes, there is political freedom. But don’t we have it now? We are not babies who need custody and guardianship. We do not expect recipes for happiness to be brought to us on a platter. We are able ourselves to take responsibility for preserving the language, and for preserving traditions, and for passing on to future generations what we value as a people. With any historical twists and turns, we have been standing firmly on our feet. This will continue to be so.
But how do we see our further path? We see it in enlightenment. The Tatars have always been distinguished by their attitude towards acquiring knowledge, high literacy and scientific understanding of life. The intelligentsia contributed to the rise of education, the spread of culture and progress. We sometimes underestimate the enormous scientific potential that we possess and new opportunities that are opening up for us today. It is necessary to develop promising fields and areas of science, to use huge potential of educational resources. High knowledge, competencies and skills are the basis of competitiveness in the modern world.
We see our future in passing on traditions to children. One of the hadiths says: “No father can give his child anything more valuable than a good upbringing.” I am sure that this is the moral attitude that is significant for any person, regardless of religion and nationality. We are responsible for the fate of our children. It is our duty to educate them as worthy sons and daughters of our people and our Fatherland.
Great respect for the Teacher has always been characteristic of the Tatars. It is impossible not to express gratitude to the educators and teachers on whom the Tatar language and culture are maintained today. We support and will back teachers and help them creating, because without creativity and inspiration, implementation of their important mission is impossible. We will initiate and support ideas for making creative projects for children. Because preservation of the native word and native melody is not an indication, not an official or academic duty, but love for our people, respect for our ancestors and a moral duty.
We see our future in preserving our native language, culture, traditional spiritual and moral guidelines, and religion. It doesn’t matter if you speak your native language well, or whether you practice religious rituals. Being a Tatar means feeling connected with your people. And if you want to learn the language spoken by your grandfathers and great-grandfathers, we will always help and support. We will do everything to preserve it, and maybe someday you will also want to take part in this.
Relatively recently, Zinnur Mansurov’s work “The Tatar Code on Tukai”, based on the work of the genius of Tatar literature, was published. It correctly points: to learn is to serve your people. Enlightenment requires constant self-improvement, development and hard work. Not relying on outside opinions, but guided by rich knowledge and accumulated experience, we can ourselves build our reliable future on our foundation.
We see our future in a respectful relationship to our past. Our history is not a collection of archival documents and calendar dates, but a worthy path with ups and downs, which we passed with dignity and deserves to be preserved in the memory of people. Our history is made up of outstanding personalities who have contributed and will continue giving input on world and national science, education, culture, art and other socially important spheres.
We see our future in development of the creative principle of our people. Tatar mon flowing from the soul, traditional motives in various types of art are out of fashion and time. The culture of the people lives and develops, changes with it. This is its reflection.
We see our future in preserving and enriching the cultural heritage of our people. Tatars are an integral part of multinational Russia and the multinational world. Despite the uniqueness and bright individuality of peoples, moral foundations and human values are the same: love for the Motherland, love for the close ones, mutual assistance, kindness, honesty, sincerity, respect for others and for oneself. And these ideas are naturally absorbed through native and close culture, through national images and examples, enrich the world heritage.
We see our future in enthusiasts – our public organizations and individual active sons and daughters of the Tatar people. Any help, even a small one, is a contribution to solving big problems.
We see our future. We are a historically significant whole, because we are distinctive, we go along our orbit, but in a single multinational constellation.
Who we do not see ourselves for sure as the “souvenir people”. We must remember that a nation does not disappear overnight, but once it disappears, it will never be restored.
We were lucky to be born, live and be useful to our people in our native land, covered with spirit of the great achievements of our ancestors. Today Tatarstan is a territory aimed at the future, where it is comfortable to live and work, an object of our pride and confidence in the future. And wherever the Tatars live, we always feel it, we feel the unity and strength of our ancestors, the strength of our people.
We want to continue writing our history, creating our future. And may it be bright and successful for many, many generations.
President of the Republic of Tatarstan