Who and why needs the second conquest of Kazan?

This week, the parties involved, in one way or another, marked another anniversary of the conquest of Kazan, the capital of the Khanate of Kazan, by the troops of the Moscow state, along with the subsequent massacre of its population, genocide, centuries of colonization and forced Christianization. This event is a turning point and, without exaggeration, a tragedy both for the Tatar people and for the whole of Turkic-Islamic Eurasia, the remembrance of which today serves primarily to mobilize the Tatars against the threat of assimilation and complete disappearance as an ethnic group in the next few generations. Yes, this is exactly the question before the Tatars — complete assimilation into the «Russian world» threatens them with extinction as an ethnicity, and therefore the restoration of their roots to the captured Kazan Khanate and its defenders serves as an antidote to this disease.

As for the Russian ethnicity, its presence in the Volga region today is a fact that few in their right mind would dispute. This has been recognized by the leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan, which since its first president, Mintimer Shaymiyev, has tried to pursue a balanced national policy, taking into account the interests of all major groups that have lived peacefully in the region and benefited from its development.

The question is how to view the history of these peoples and their status today. If the attitude to these events is clear to any respectable Tatar, Russians, on the other hand, may have an understandable desire to perceive the conquest of Kazan by the troops of the Moscow state as the reason why they can live today in Tatarstan, which for many of them has been their homeland for more than a generation. However, it should be remembered that the history of the presence of both Tatars and Russians in these lands, including Bulgarians, Scandinavians and Finno-Ugric people, goes back centuries before these events. And the ancestors of the Russians did not necessarily represent the Moscow state, but, for example, the Novgorod Republic, which was destroyed and colonized by the same Ivan the Terrible who conquered Kazan. Also, not all Tatars defended the Kazan Khanate during these events — many helped Moscow in its conquest.

Therefore, who one identifies with as a Tatar or as a Russian is largely a matter of ideological choice. But more importantly, it is a question of how and why. Because for the Tatars, as I said, remembering these events in a mournful tone is a question of survival as an ethnic group. As for the Russians, they do not have such a problem in comparison with the Tatars. And in principle, no one expects Russians to mourn those events, but it should be understood that not only a century has passed since then, and after the conquest of Kazan and the establishment of the Kazan governorate, there were not only numerous Muslim uprisings, but also the 1917 revolution, which resulted in the creation of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, and later the parade of sovereignties, during which the Republic of Tatarstan was created. In other words, a certain balance was established, as a result of which the Tatars received partial compensation for the loss of their full statehood in the form of autonomous and contractual statehood, and the Russians continued to live in the republic as a significant factor within the Russian Federation.

In such a situation, initiating the celebration of the conquest of Kazan by the troops of the Moscow state in opposition to the Tatars is a provocative undertaking and may have far-reaching consequences for the interethnic balance. However, like everything that has been initiated by these circles in recent years, it is, of course, about the supporters of the «Russian world», led by the aggressive part of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has seized power over it. For example, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Tatarstan, Metropolitan Theophanes, about whom we have written more than once, plans to hold a service for the Orthodox warriors who died during the conquest of Kazan on October 12 in a memorial church dedicated to them. In principle, it is understandable that Orthodox believers can commemorate their co-religionists — it is their internal affair. However, considering that this memorial church was restored with funds from Tatarstan, the demonstrative highlighting of the warriors who died during the capture of Kazan looks like a clear political message. And since this is done by a church hierarch who immediately declared Kazan a Russian city and began to attract various «Cossack» formations to Tatarstan under various pretexts, everything falls into place.

At the same time, neither the republican authorities nor the muftiate hold any commemorative events in honor of the martyrs — the defenders of Kazan. And it is easy to understand why — having given up the struggle for the extension of the bilateral agreement with Russia and the struggle for the real status of the Tatar language as one of the two state languages in the republic, the Tatar establishment is, as boxing experts say, a «punch-drunk boxer». Having given up the main point, it is now making new concessions in the hope of staying in a profitable business.

In principle, it’s understandable that businessmen don’t care what they govern — the Republic of Tatarstan or the Kazan Governorate, as long as they retain control over a profitable asset. But those who are currently planning the second seizure of Kazan should not think that it will make no difference to anyone else where they live. The policy of imposing the «Russian world» carried out by the government and the Russian Orthodox Church leaves no doubt that the preservation of even a truncated republic, in which the Tatars have the status not of «foreigners» as before the revolution, but of a self-determining nation, is a necessary measure for the survival of the people. At the same time, no one is threatening the existence of the Russian ethnic group in the republic, as evidenced by migration to the republic from neighboring Russian regions.

So, who has to explain to the Tatars that they no longer live in Tatarstan, but in the Kazan Governorate, which was created in the place of the Kazan Khanate, while the Russians are presented as invaders and occupiers?

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