“Chukcha Tatar,” a stranger wrote me on Facebook. She, to put it mildly, didn’t like my post about the Russian occupation in Bucha and decided to go for a knockout with an invincible argument. It was my nationality, and this is understandable: there is nothing more shameful for a member of the “state-forming nation” than to be a Chukchi, or a Tatar, or a Khokhol (a derogatory term for Ukrainian
- Russia.Post). That is, a non-Russian.
This incident made me think about the “denazification” with which Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine. Contrary to his plan, since the beginning of the full-scale war many have pointed out that Russia itself needs to be “denazified” – and I completely agree. But it's not only that.
What Putin calls “denazification” is not a struggle against Nazism, but the desire to destroy national identity, to make sure that Ukrainians don’t exist as a people. That is why in the occupied territories, according to the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian books are being confiscated from libraries and burned
, while the study of the Ukrainian language in schools has been canceled
. No language – no culture, no identity, no people. Other nations in Russia know denazification firsthand. Sometimes there was more blood, sometimes less – yet, in any case, the process was rather successful.Losing my native language
My personal denazification began when I was a little over three – when I went to kindergarten. At that age I spoke my native Tatar perfectly. A relative likes to remember how fluently I explained the pictures from a book about nature: “Менә бу әшәке гөмбә, ә менә бусы — әйбәте” (“This is an inedible mushroom, this is a good one”).
I admit that I could hardly repeat the feat now. Kindergarten teachers were severely punished: a Soviet child should have only one language – Russian. Everything else is of the devil, forget it.
Denazification did its job, and by the first grade I understood Tatar well but could speak it only with difficulty. This is how I communicate now: I understand everything, but when I respond I switch to Russian. Why waste time confusedly choosing words.
In school, Tatar was the opposite of a favorite subject for many. Plus, you knew that learning it was absolutely pointless. It’s rarely spoken at home and elsewhere it’s not spoken at all, and you’re unlikely to need it in the future. Some of my classmates who were Tatars didn’t go to Tatar class, instead attending local history classes together with Russian children: that is, by that time they practically didn’t know their native language.
It was the late Soviet Union, when the myth of the friendship and equality of the peoples was still actively promulgated.