The decision of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan (DUM RT) to commemorate the traditional Tatar day of mourning for the fallen defenders of Kazan in 1552 (Khatir Kone) every year on the 13th of Shawwal according to the Hijri calendar has provoked criticism from two opposing sides.
Representatives of the Tatar national community, who have been observing it on the same day, October 15, for the past 33 years, have expressed concern that moving this day from a fixed date, known and understood by the majority of modern people, to a floating date, taking into account the fluctuation of the Islamic lunar calendar, will contribute to their exclusion from the national consciousness.
To be frank, the Tatar national patriots, who are now marginalized, doubt that the initiative of the Mufti, who collaborates with the authorities, is aimed at neutralizing the public and mobilizing the Tatar significance of this day. Moreover, their doubts were strengthened when the news appeared on the DUM RT website that it would be a day of remembrance for “those who fell during the capture of Kazan” – a phrase used by those who consider this “capture” a positive event.
On the contrary, those who saw this initiative as an attack on this “capture” presented it as support for DUM RT’s “separatism”. One of the voices in this chorus was the chauvinist Telegram channel “Multinational”, which commented on this news as follows “The Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Tatarstan has approved Khatir Kone – the day of remembrance of the heroes of the Tatar people, including those who fell during the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible,” said the Mufti of RT, Kamil Hazrat Samigullin.
“Today is the 13th day of the month of Shawwal. On this day in 959 A.D., the Kazan Khanate was conquered by the troops of Ivan the Terrible. Today’s meeting of the Council of Elders was dedicated to this date. Considering the fact that the Kazan Khanate was a Muslim state and that the events of 1552 coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, the elders proposed to celebrate the Day of Remembrance every year according to the Islamic calendar. That is, every year on the 13th day of Shawwal.
It is very interesting, because in the presidential administration there are always people who supervise different areas of public life, of course, religions, and especially all the muftis are also supervised and coordinated. How did it happen that a person with such backward and Nazi views became the Mufti of Tatarstan? Was an outright separatist deliberately appointed to such an important public position? What is the meaning of all this? Here are good Tatars who fought against Russia, and those who supported the Russian coalition army of Ivan the Terrible are bad Tatars. Translating this metaphor into today’s realities, it turns out that good Tatars are those who will fight against Russia at all costs? That seems to be their logic.
Significantly, the chauvinists have put this initiative in the same category as other initiatives to perpetuate the historical memory of the Muslim peoples living in Russia, which contradicts the imperialist ideas of their accession to it: “Recently, we wrote about a monument erected in Sochi to Circassian collaborators, before which a monument to Russian soldiers was demolished. And in 2018, in the village of Agachaul in Dagestan, a monument was unveiled to the Ottoman soldiers who came here to kill Russians. It says: “To the sacred memory of the soldiers of the Ottoman army who died bravely in the battles for the liberation of Anzhikala (Port-Petrovsk) from the occupying troops of General L. Bicherakhov on November 5-8, 1918. Peace and repose to their souls”. It still stands. The author of the idea and the project of the monument is the Kumyk public figure and multiethnic scientist Kamel Aliyev.
All this is an ideological justification of “regional separatism”. Again, the trashy “Multinational” was just one voice in the chorus of such assessments, which also included the voices of representatives of the current Russian establishment. For example, the famous television presenter Andrei Medvedev characterized the initiative of the Mufti of Tatarstan as “nationalism and separatism in its purest form, under the guise, of course, of preserving historical memory and religion, very carefully, on soft paws.
In general, as these discussions show, they always come down to the fact that there are those who oppose the idea that the peoples living in Russia have their own historical memory, and those who advocate that they be taught only one understanding of history, through the prism of their accession to Russia.
Moreover, if it can be understood in cases where it can be presented as “voluntary accession to Russia” (which does not always correspond to reality), then in cases where this accession was carried out by violent methods and accompanied by genocide, deportation and oppression, it is an attempt to openly break these peoples.
At the same time, it is clear that such people do not fear the past so much as the present and the future to which it is the key. They are afraid that those who remember how they joined Russia and what it meant for them will try to leave at the first opportunity.
However, the experience of mature countries, unlike those that refuse or do not want to grow up, shows that today the desire to stay in a country or to leave it is not determined by the attitude to the events of the distant past, but by what it offers them and what good or bad separation from it can bring.
Moreover, in order to prevent this desire from arising, these countries, on the contrary, try to respect the feelings of these peoples and the memory of their heroes, even if they fought against them, as the English do with the Scots and the Welsh, or the Americans with the Native Americans.
Such an approach indicates that today they want to build relations with them not on the basis of the law of force and conquest, but on the basis of real common interests and prospects, which are not hindered by the fact that each person has his own memory.
As the Russian proverb says, “Those who remember the past will have a bright future, and those who forget will have nothing”… For example, on May 26, Australia observed a National Day of Mourning for the victims of colonial policies suffered by its Aboriginal population. On the same day, French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, acknowledged his country’s “heavy responsibility” for the genocide of the Tutsi. And on May 28, Germany agreed to pay one billion euros for the genocide of Namibian tribes in the early 20th century. And all this happened within one week – the same week in which the Mufti’s proposal to honor the memory of the defenders of Kazan in 1552 caused hysteria in Russian chauvinist circles.
It should be noted, however, that issues of historical memory are not always so easily resolved. For example, Turkey refuses to recognize the events of 1915 as the Armenian Genocide, considering it a war of mutual annihilation. But even in this case, the current leadership of Turkey sends condolences to the leaders of the Armenian people for the sacrifices they suffered at that time, and does not throw tantrums over the fact that the Armenians themselves respect them.
However, Turks and Armenians mostly live in different countries, so the example of Scots and English in the UK or Americans and Native Americans in the US is closer to the Tatar or Circassian situation, as they live in the same country and are forced to coexist.
The indigenous peoples of Russia, who live on their own lands and even have their own (albeit nominal) republican states, should insist on the same coexistence with them. They have long since adapted to Russia, they have simply been forced to do so. Now it is Russia’s turn to learn to live with the fact that they have their own historical memory, and that if it is afraid of losing them, it should not suppress their memory of the past, but offer them something in the present and the future that will keep them in it.
But so far it doesn’t seem to work very well…