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Tartars: Uprooted Bulgarians in Russia


Associate Professor Vladimir Chukov, Ph D


    Former USSR was peoples' jail, especially regarding to non-Russian nations, ethnic groups and minorities. One of them is Bulgar ethnic community spread throughout ex-Soviet republics. Important Bulgar tribe migration started at the outset of 6-th Century and triggered the establishing processes of few parochial states. Today's well known nationalities such as Ugurs and the melt (or perished) during the centuries Onogurs, Kotrigurs, Onogundurs, etc… are stemmed from Khan Kubrat's Great Bulgaria in 7-th Century.

    As a matter of fact, only two communities succeeded to retain their original name by setting long-existing state entities as tool for survival, both built around big rivers - Danube and Volga. Bulgarians from Volga River Basin shared the dire fate of peoples subjugated by Russian Empire/USSR, unlike their kindred Bulgarians settled in the Balkans. Gradually, they lost political independence (1267), but the gravest crime of Soviet authorities remains Lenin's decree from 1920 that obliterated Bulgarian ethnicity as public legal subject within Bolshevik's state. It is worth mastering details explaining Communist bellicose stand towards Bulgarians and sympathies towards Tartars and Bashkirs. Maybe some official archive disposes documents clarifying how and especially why Bulgarians had been renamed in Tartars and Bashkirs. Did this disgrace rely on the worsened USSR-Bulgaria relations during the First World War when Bulgaria allied Germany? Did the forced migration of Bulgarian-Baskirs in 1941 may be analyzed on the same vein when Bulgaria fought afresh against Soviet Union?

    Second point worthy to be enlightened is Bulgarian National Congress (BNC) activity after USSR breakdown. In 1990 Volga Bulgarians' organization was restored when refluttered the flag of Volga Bulgarian Muslims Committee, organization leaded by the Vaissovs (farther and son) during its resistance against Russian Empire authorities and which maybe labeled as typical national-liberation movement. Nowadays, BCN rushed to rehabilitate the ethnic identity through pleading a Republic of Tatarstan history rewriting. The headed by Gousman Khalil organization stepped beyond cultural autonomy claims by asking in 2001 Tatarstanian court to recognize officially Bulgarian identity to citizens who feel themselves as such. Indeed, in the blurred BNC program is mentioned the keen interest for international contacts with the object of seeking ongoing recognition. In 2000 BNC representatives dispatched a letter to R. of Bulgaria leadership, but BNC religious visions as well as the obstinacy for peering Bulgarian national character with Islamic confession seem to temper Sofia hospitality. International contacts (including probably with American or British human rights organizations), analysis and prognostics towards further BNC and Bulgarian question in Tatarstan development are welcome. It is worth focusing on the fact that BNC leaders warily mention within the aforesaid document a wide-scale of possible measures for altering this minority stand. In reckoning with political landscape of former Soviet Union Southern tier (Chechenia, Dagestan, Ichkeria, Ossetia, etc…) where Muslims are majority and often being imbued with radical/traditionalist trends BNC leaders hint at armed struggle as unwelcome (but probable) option for avoid historical unfairness.

    Volga River Bulgarians folkloric and linguistic roots are third point noteworthy to be clarified. G. Khalil's follows claim that original Bulgarian alphabet encompassed Arabic characters. Moreover, before the forced shifting of the aforementioned alphabet, respectively into Latin (1928) and Cyrillic (1939-1940) one by Soviet linguists a bulk of the local Islamic minorities spread throughout the Southern tier of Russia made use that very alphabet. BNC flutters a flag of Islamic enlightener among all Muslims settled in the above mentioned areas. Its activists describe famous philosophic, linguistic, religious schools during the Middle Ages period. Anyhow, it is worthy enlightening modern Volga River Bulgarian elite, first of all Sadri Maksudi's biography, his alleged ethnic identity and political preferences (as the unique high-level politician, president of the so-called Idel-Ural Republic). Documents or modern studies dealing with the multiplex process of linguistic adaptation between Qoranic language and local Bulgarian dialect would be of great interest. In turn, archival pieces revealing any political rules or practical recommendations in reference to the well grounded linguistic eradication of non-Slavic groups as Bolshevics stretched out to humiliate a hundred of "integrated" minorities would certainly be of crucial significance for the topic in development.