Thursday, June 27, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Generational Renewal of Tatar National Movement Taking Place Now

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – The Tatar national movement, which had been dominated by people born before 1960, is increasingly being taken over by those born after 1985 rather than by anyone aged in between, a reflection of official pressure against that group and also the need of the intermediate age group to make careers, according to a Tatar website.

            And that jump in generations is leading to a radicalization of the movement because the younger people have little or no experience with the Soviet system and are focused on the future of their nation and its territory rather than on the more personal and immediate task of making a career (

            The missing middle-aged parental generation were the most likely to be “mankurtized,” a term popularized by Kyrgyz novelist Chingiz Aitmatov, who used it to describe the process by which people were deprived of their memories, personal and national, to make them more willing to live according to the diktat of outside forces.

            There are differences within the younger groups, the site says. The generation in the first half of the 1980s was “neutral” in that respect; the one that came just after it represents the largest change and is “the most responsible,” it has grown up the fastest, and it has attracted those who younger still.

            That last sub-generation now leads the Tatar national movement. It decries any compromise or cowardice in dealing with the authorities. “Among them are not a few philosophers, sportsmen and historians.” And it is likely to become ever more authoritative as it becomes middle aged.

            The site offers no sociological data for these conclusions; they are simply impressionistic. But they do conform to the Youtube pictures of demonstrations in Tatarstan and other Tatar centers in recent years. Consequently, they are almost certainly correct, and the picture they paint is certain to be a matter of concern for Moscow.

            That is because revolutionary change in the former Soviet space has frequently come as a result of a partnership between the oldest who can remember either from their own experience or that of their parents a pre-Soviet environment or the youngest who have been least affected by the political and social mores of that system.

            In the Baltic states, for example, the recovery of independence was led precisely by those who could remember their countries before the Soviet occupation and those who were too young to have been socialized by it. As a result, Estonia at one point had one of the oldest presidents and youngest prime ministers in Europe.
            It would be interesting to find additional confirming data on whether a generational “jump” has taken place in Tatarstan -- and whether it is happening in other national movements across the Russian Federation.  If it has, those movements are likely to grow in strength almost regardless of what Moscow does.

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