Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Towards a ‘Muslim vs. Muslim’ Kondopoga in Tatarstan Village?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 7 – Tensions between the indigenous Tatar majority in a village 200 kilometers from Kazan and Tajik immigrants have risen to the point that some people there are warning that there will be a violent conflict between the two communities, like the one between Russians and North Caucasians in Kondopoga in 2006.

            The village now called Kumanayevo, but historically known as Kizlyau and a center of Sufi activity befor 1917, has 712 residents in all, 40 of whom are relatively recent arrivals, with the first of them arriving only in 2005 (regnum.ru/news/1656057.html, .intertat.ru/ru/obschestvo/item/16885-ili-myi-ili-nas-v-nurlatskom-rayone-tataryi-vyignali-tadzhikov-iz-sela and nazaccent.ru/content/7708-tatary-iz-svoego-sela-vygnali-migrantov.html).

            The Tajiks came to the village with the assistance of the local Muslim leadership, something that the two imams there say reflected their desire to promote “all-Muslim solidarity.” But many local Tatars believe that the Muslim leaders did not act unselfishly but rather took in the Tajiks for cash. 

            The two communities have clashed over use of water and the way in which the Tajiks have approached Tatar girls. Whenever the Tatars have complained, local people say, the authorities come, but after they leave, the Tajiks have sought out and attacked those they believe responsible for the complaints.

            Local officials have tried to avoid getting involved in what they see as the ordinary squabbles of two communities who now have to get used to one another, but their hands off attitude, many Tatars there say, has reduced the authority of the powers that be to the point that the Tatars of the village now want republic or federal intervention.

            Last fall, the Tajiks in Kumanayevo held a meeting in response to Tatar complaints and declared that “soon this will be a second Tajikistan” and that the Tatars have to get over their xenophobia and anger about the immigrants.  But that only increased tensions between the two groups.

            Things appear to be coming to a head.  On Saturday, some 30 Tatars met to discuss the situation. They suggested that the Tajiks were not working or bringing any good to the community.  And one said that “when the children of the immigrants grow up, a real war will begin in the village.” 

            A video of that meeting has now made its way to the web, where one Tatar predicted that such a violent conflict could take place far sooner: “If th federal authorities don’t act,” he said, “then there will be a war here. We want only one thing: let [the Tajiks] leave here, every last one of them.”

            Two aspects of this situation appear significant. On the one hand, these events in Tatarstan show that it is the arrival of outsiders that creates problems for many longtime residents, even if those arrivals appear to be members of an ethnically, religiously or culturally similar nation.

            And on the other, as several local people observed, Tatars in that village have never had problems with Chuvash, ethnic Russian or German residents – one local teacher is a German by the name of Tissen – because members of those groups invariably maintained good order and “did not set themselves up against the local residents” as the Tajiks apparently have.

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