By Paul Goble
Fauziya Bayramova, the founder of the Tatar nationalist Ittifaq Party, has called on all non-Russians to vote against Vladimir Putin in the upcoming Russian presidential elections because of the Kremlin leader’s language policies which threaten the future of the country’s non-Russian nations.
At the annual commemoration of the anniversary of the 1552 sacking of Kazan by the forces of Ivan the terrible, she urged that even before the March elections, non-Russians work to reverse Putin’s policies which will allow Russian speakers not to study non-Russian languages even if they live in one of the republics (idelreal.org/a/28794765.html).
Three things make Bayramova’s remarks especially important. First, when officials gave permission for this year’s anniversary meeting, they specified that there was to be no talk about the language issue. By going ahead, the activist and the 300 others at the event showed their contempt for any efforts to deprive them of their right to protest (idelreal.org/a/28777868.html).
Second, her words underscore the centrality of the language issue for the non-Russians and demonstrate that Putin by his incautious language concerning the rights of Russian speakers not to study non-Russian languages may have played to his nationalist base but only at the cost of infuriating the non-Russians and politicizing the issue.
And third, by taking this stand, Bayramova has restored Tatarstan’s role not only as a bellwether of non-Russian thought and action but as a leader of the non-Russian nations that Kazan was under former president Mintimir Shaymiyev but has become less so under his successor.