E. Khabenskaia’s article is based on the material which she obtained while conducting interviews with representatives of the Tatar intelligentsia in Moscow, Samara and Kazan’. The author was interested in the attitude of the interviewees to such key notions of ethnic identity as “motherland”, “native land”, “the land of my people”. The author arrived at the conclusion that the “territorial” component of ethnic self-identification among the interviewed Tatar intellectuals is not very pronounced. This observation is totally accurate in relation to Saratov Tatars and less so in relation to Kazan’ respondents.
In the perception of the overwhelming majority of the respondents, the notions about the native land are associated above all with the place of birth, the first childhood impressions and recollections, family and friendship ties, etc, but are practically devoid of ethnic content. Similarly, the definition of “native land” is also situational. In the consciousness of many respondents, several different images of “motherland” (national motherland, local motherland) coexist simultaneously, and each of these images can be, to a lesser or larger extent, actualized, or on the contrary, suppressed, depending on specific social and human environment.
A certain prevalence of regional identification over ethnic in the respondents’ self-consciousness affects the differences in the perception of Tatarstan among those interviewed in Kazan’ and outside Kazan’ (in Moscow and Saratov). Whereas among the first, their own region is often associated with “motherland”, among the latter, analogous associations are encountered infrequently. The residents of a “national republic” are often perceived by outsiders as the “other Tatars”, however, the fellow countrymen, even though ethically different, appear to be less alien, they are “one of our own”. For Muscovites and Saratovites, the definition of Tatarstan as the symbol of “ethnic motherland” appears to be exceptional rather than typical. At the same time, among considerable numbers of the interviewed Tatar intelligentsia of Moscow, a tendency for a broader interpretation of “motherland” within a civic, patriotic context is distinctly traceable. In other words, for many Moscow respondents motherland is Russia. For Kazan’ respondents, on the contrary, identification with an “entire Russia” is not typical at all, which can be accounted for by existing centrifugal processes in the Russian Federation in the last ten years as well as by a certain “ethnic-patriotic” propaganda carried out by Tatar “nationalist” ideologists in the Republic.
The author makes a conclusion that within multiethnic states, such as the Russian Federation (where the borders of ethno territorial subjects not quite coincide with actual distribution of ethnic population), the so-called “cultural distances” and “cultural borders” between ethnic groups is a more relevant problem than the ethno territorial one. As for many Russian “minorities”, who have resided for centuries next to one another, even these “borders” appear to be for the most part insignificant.