N 9, 21.07.1998



The establishment of the Mordovian autonomy became a life-buoy for the Moksha and Erzia culture in the sea of the informational and cultural aggression of the 20 century.

If in the past the influence of the Russian culture would hardly get to far-away Mordovian villages and the Mordovian culture could resist it pretending to have an orthodox shape, then in the 20 century the revolution in the informational technology left it no chance.

The autonomy granted a delay from absorption and assimilation and let to bring up the Mordovian intellectual elite.

They didn’t stop on the intellectuals. Mordovian administrative and party nomenclature was grown up. Most of the important administrative and political posts were occupied only by Mordovians, though it seems that in economy it shouldn’t matter what your nationality is, you should just do your job well.

At that time they primarily had to do what they were told to by their bosses. That’s why the work went on, though rather badly. And that went on for decades. The children and the grandchildren of the ethnic cadre would grow up and add to the nomenclature. The reproduction had begun.

The Russians in Mordovia, just as in other autonomies, had to work hard to get a post among them. But Russians made up about 65% of the population of the republic and they couldn’t be easily ignored. That’s the reason why they would always make up a large percent of the nomenclature and the reproduction of the Russian cadre proceeded on the hereditary criteron too.

The Tatars were not welcomed from the very beginning, and the Tatar part of the nomenclature couldn’t reproduct itself, not every leader’s child could rule even having a most powerful protection. That’s why there are no Tatar dynasties in the nomenclature of the republic.

All the Tatar leaders, making their career this or that way, growing like grass through asphalt, met such obstacles, which were not set before Russians and the “title people”.

The choice was made not only on the ethnic criterion. Family relations and countrymenship were even a better criteria in personnel hiring. That’s why not every gifted Mordovian, let alone Russian, could make his career according to his talents and merits.

How is the hatred for everything Tatar cultivated in the inhabitants of Mordovia? And what for? In the series of our articles we shall try to find the answers for these intricate questions.

The winter prognosis of “The Stolitsa S” about the coming measures to reduce the Tatar influence on the public and politic life in the republic is unfortunately coming true. Since March 1998, after the ecstasy about the election and the inauguration of the Head of the Republic, we can feel the increasing pressure on Tatars in different spheres of life. One can regard the refusal of the government to finance a newspaper for the Tatars of Mordovia as an evidence of it.

The bad treatment of tatrs has been cultivated in the inhabitants of Mordovia for centuries and that can’t but affect our everyday life.

We start the series of articles about how the history of the Tatars in Mordovia has been perverted and what disgusting means do the historians use for that; how the image of a Tatar has been formed as a bearer of everything malignant.

In this issue we shall analyze how the Tatar history is elucidated in the textbooks for the schools in Mordovia.


The history of Tatars in general and the history of Tatars in Mordovia in particular has been perverted steadily for many centuries in a most shamelless way. Everything good about us was exterminated and the negative was artificially exaggerated. The image of the enemy guilty of everything created for centuries got even worse thanks to the efforts of Mordovian historians of the Soviet period. They had built a simple scheme and wouldn’t disdain to use any manipulations and non-disclosures.

The scheme is really simple - Mordovian farmers lived in peace, Slavic peasants peacefully penetrated into their lands from the North-West, evil nomads, the ancestors of the modern Tatars of Mordovia kept raiding them and they kept fighting them back, but in the 13 century the Mongol-Tatars supressed their resistance. The Mordovians got under a yoke of an unheard violence. And then the Russian brothers helped them to unyoke. The Mordovians started living happily. The descendants of the invaders - the Tatar-Mishars were mercifully allowed to live here for awhile.

This myth was introduced into the brains of people from their early chilhood. This myth was supported by tales for children, written by writers on purpose, historical novels and stories, scientific books and a large number of articles in newspaper and magazines for adults. It is clear that the Mordovian and Russian children have been brought up with a negative attitude towards Tatars.

But the Tatar children have been reading the same historical novels. What should they feel, how should they appreciate the deeds of their ancestors? Do they have to feel guilty or inferior? Do they have to identify themselves with their ancestors?

The second myth – the Moksha, Erzia and Russian peoples had already been living here when the Tatar invaders arrived. Our historians know the real facts for sure.

The slyness is in mixing the notions of “The Mordovian land” and “the territory of the modern Republic of Mordovia”. When the scientists write that the Russians started penetrating into the Mordovian lands in some century, much before the 13 century, they do not lie. They simply don’t explain that the “Mordovian land” had been stretching far west and north of the borders of the nowaday Mordovia. They don’t explain that only Burtases, the ancestors of Tatars, and Mokshas lived on the territory of the modern RM and that the Erzia were forced out here from the territory of the modern Nizhni Novgorod region only in the 14 century, in the times of the prime of the Golden Horde.

An ordinary reader, as well as an ordinary teacher of history, doesn’t know these fine points. It is all clear for him or her - Mokshas and Erzias lived peacefully together with Russians and Tatars came and conquered them. Who are the descendants of those odious invaders? Sure, the modern Tatars of Mordovia. And no one would explain that the ancestors of the Tatars in Mordovia - Burtases - were conquered by the Mongol invaders too.

No one would explain to an ordinary reader that the Golden Horde was ruined not by the Kulikovo battle but by the two wars with the invincible Central Asian emir Timur (1385-91, 1395-96) when all the Golden Horde cities, about 110 of which have been discovered, were razed to the ground.

No one would write for the wide range of readers that the Temnikov Principality, which emerged after the desintegration of the Golden Horde, was always on the side of Moscow and Krym against the Big Horde and the Kazan Khanate.

No one would write that the end of the Big Horde came not after the “opposition on the Ugra River” in 1485 but after the utter defeat of the Big Horde by the Krym Tatar troops in 1502.

No one would write clearly and distinctly that the troops of the Temnikov Principality under the command of Prince Yenikei (Tatar-Mishar and Mordovian troops) took an active part in the final assault on Kazan in 1552.

How is the history of Tatars and their ancestors is elucidated in the textbooks published in Mordovia? Let’s take some history textbooks for the 4th, 5th and 6th forms.

Let’s start with two textbooks: the first was published in 1977 and it is called “My land Mordovia” and is intended for the 3-4th forms. The second textbook, for the 4th form, was published in 1983 and is called “Stories from the history of Mordovia”. The authors are the same: Y.Osovski and L.Filatov.

We are reading the 7th page of the second, corrected and complemented textbook: “The neighbours of Mordovians from west and north were Slavic tribes, Chuvashs, Bashkirs and the militant tribes of nomads”.

Two professors write that! May I ask you, Mr.Osovski and Mr.Filatov, who taught you geography and when did the Chuvash and Bashkir live west or even north of the Mordovians? And what “militant nomads” had been living east of them? It is known that the settled Chuvashs, a Bulgar tribe that didn’t accept Islam, lived east of the Erzias. And among the Mokshas and east and south of them lived the settled Burtases.

Apparently children must understand that the “militant nomads” were Tatars and their ancestors. In the discourse it becomes clear that the Bashkirs and the Chuvashs were good and the Tatars were bad indeed. They don’t say a word about the long lasting struggle of the Bulgars, the ancestors of the Kazan Tatars, against the Mongols. Not a word about the fact that the Bashkirs joined the Mongols after a long struggle and defeat. This all is made for the “appropriate” bringing up of the children in the primary school. Children must hate the Tatars starting with their early childhood. And the other peoples of the Volga region have supposedly suffered from Tatars themselves.

The Bulgars that used to have close, long lasting relations with the Mordovians are mentioned only once on the same 7th page in a citation from Ibn-Ruste’s writing, written in 903: “Being strong and brave, they raid the Bulgars and the Pechenegs”. According to Ibn-Ruste, these raids were made by Burtases - the main ancestors of the modern Tatar-Mishars, living in Mordovia. But Osovski and Filatov ascribe this information on Burtases to the Mordovians for some reason.

The next lesson contains traditional descriptions of the horror of the Mongol-Tatar invasion and the happy liberation from the yoke with the help of the Russian brothers. And after that there are some traditional leading questions for the pupils: “What calamities did the Mongol-Tatar yoke bring to the Mordovian people?”(p.13) “How did the Russian people help the Volga region people to get rid of the invaders?”(p.14).

But the most astonishing “discovery” of the two professors is given in the end of that lesson: “Do you know... that the Mordovian warriors took part in the Kulikovo battle in 1380 together with the Russian warriors”.

They mean for sure that the Mordovians fought on Dmitri Donskoi’s side. Yes, the Mordovian warriors really had been present on the Kulikovo field but they were fighting for Mamai! Soviet historians wrote about it not only once but our professors are still bent on doing it. They still want to “reinforce the ties of friendship” of the Mordovian and the Russian peoples. But it’s not an excuse for lying.

Both the textbooks don’t have a single word about the Tatars and their ancestors. What words do the authors use to characterize us? Here they are: “...wild and militant tribes; evil vortex; sold the young men and women to slavery; killed the old; burnt the harvest and the houses; stole the cattle; enslavers; layed under unbearable tribute; hostile cavalry; innumerable horde; razed beautiful cities; hordes; violent warriors; violent enemy; made short work of; khan’s oppression; raids on helpless civilians”. That’s the set of images, comparisons, verbs and adjectives - only negative. The children are inoculated against Tatars in their early childhood.

(By the way, about Tatars. One of the authors, professor Yefim Osovski, wrote an article for the Mordovian Encyclopaedia about his collegue, Mirza Makhmutov, who comes from the village of Altary of the Romodanovo district. That article had about 20 rude mistakes and inaccuracies in numbers, names of establishments, names of posts. The editor’s staff of the Mordovian Encyclopaedia accepted my reference about Mirza Makhmutov, where everything was accurate and was confirmed by academic Makhmutov himself. Mr.Osovski couldn’t calm down for a long time. He went to different people, proving that he was the first to give his reference, that’s why it was his reference that should be published in the book. He declared that it would be a plagiarism if they published a reference about Makhmutov with sign “Irek Bikkinin” under it. Yefim Osovski was a bit hasty about the plagiarism, that’s for sure. An encyclopaedical reference can’t have many variants. That’s not a novel in which the names, the plot and the dates can be changed. If a man was born in 1945, you can’t say he was born in 1954. If a man was a rector, you can’t write he was a director and so on).

Still not everything is that bad about teaching history in the schools of Mordovia. There is still a beam of light. The textbook called “Rodinovedenie” (Science on Homeland) for the 5th form by N.A.Anufrieva, published in 1996, became the first acceptable and friendly textbook for us. Nina Alekseevna writes a lot not only about the Russians, Mokshas and Erzias but about the Tatar-Mishars too. She gives the scientifically adjusted version of the Tatar-Mishars’ origin to the children, pointing out that their main ancestors were the Burtases. Writing about Tatars, she uses words and phrases without the traditional negative connotation. It is primarily valuable for it’s being objective.

To tell the truth, there are stains even on the sun. It is a pity that the six specific letters of the Tatar alphabet were not used in the given Tatar poems. It seems that Nina Alekseevna’s advisor on the Tatar part was not aware that you could print any letter, even Arabic or Jewish, let alone the simple Cyrillic Tatar letters with the modern technology available.

It is vexing that even the first page has a lapse, which is that when the Tatars express their love to their native land saying: “Tugan plemne eirenu”. First, there is no such word as “plemne” in Tatar. It seems that the one who gave the phrase had written “telemne” and the typist typed it as “plemne”. Even if you write it correctly, there won’t be a word about he land. That phrase means: “Learning my mothertongue”.

The beautiful text of a lullaby by Gamil Afzal (p.26) with the substituted Russian letters instead of the Tatar specific letters sounds rather absurd. I wish Nina Alekseevna had consulted our society.

There is a small Russian-Mordovian-Tatar dictionary on page 65 which is compiled of different names of domestic things. Again there are some mistakes. For example, “krynka” is translated as “chapken” to Tatar. In Tatar it doesn’t mean an earthenware pot or a jar at all. It means “a courier, a messenger”. And an earthenware pot is “chulmak” in Tatar. In the end of the list there are some more mistakes.“Tues, kuzov - kepter (Mord.); no such things”. It turns out that Tatars didn’t have such things. Yes, they did! That’s “kozau, tubol, toros” and the Russian “kuzov” is a Turkic loan in the Russian language. The same word was borrowed by the Urdu language when the Turks conquered India, and later it was borrowed by the English language in the meaning of a “stretcher or a basket for women, fixed on the back of a camel”.

Nevertheless, despite all the unfortunate mistakes, the textbook became the first sign in the true elucidation of the history of the Tatar-Mishars. Thank you very much, Nina Alekseevna.

But the summer holidays are over and the children come to the 6th form. They get new books from the school library, and among them there is a history texbook “The World of History”, published in 1997. The author is Valeri Anatolievich Yurchenkov, who recently got his doctorate in history.

The book is primarily good for its containing many different facts, extracts from chronicles and other historic documents. Before that the pupils of Mordovia hadn’t had a possibility to get acquainted with such a load of information about their land if they didn’t read scientific treatises. Of course, that’s a plus.

The other pluses are that Valeri Yurchenkov didn’t hesitate to write about the crimes of the Russian Ushkuiniks (river robbers) on the Volga river, about the struggle of Mordovians against the Russian expansion, about the fact that the Mordovian warriors fought for Mamai in the Kulikovo battle, about Bekhan, about the Temnikov princes Yenikeevs, Akchurins and others.

Still Valeri Anatolievich couldn’t or didn’t want, or he was persuaded not to change the usual date of the Tatar-Mishars’ ancestors’ arrival to the area. According to this textbook, the Mishars are the descendants of the Tatar-Mongol invaders. And the Burtases didn’t exist at all, he related all the information on them to the Mokshas.

The word “Burtas” appears only twice (pp. 57 and 60), when the author cites Rashid-ad-Din’s manuscript: “... the grandson of Chagatai - Buri and the son of Chengizkhan - Kelkan started fighting Mokshas, Burtases and Ardjans...” If we suppose that the Mongols fought three peoples, which lived close to each other, then why the Burtases are not mentioned any more?

That omission is very important. That proves the duplicity of the author. If Valeri Anatolievich gives the facts known to the science of history about the Burtases, you won’t fail to relate them to the Mishars. But then you can’t call the modern Tatars of Mordovia the descendants of the Mongol invaders of the 13 century! That would ruin the old scheme of the history of Mordovia and would contradict his own conception of the ancient “barbarian” Mordovian state.

If a state had emerged on the territory of the modern Mordovia at that ancient times, then you can’t call that state “Mordovian” knowing that Moksha and Burtas peoples lived together. The Burtases were Turks, and by that time the Turks had settled and a long time state traditions. (In 1996 the 1450th anniversary of the Turkic Kaganate - the first state on the territory of Russia, was widely celebrated all over the country).

It’s ridiculous to be ashamed of the fact that Turks, no matter Burtases or Polovets’ could have headed the new-born Mordovian statehood.. The Russian historians were never ashamed of the fact that Varangians (Vikings) created their state (though it is still a matter of discussion).

Reading page 23: “Our ancestors couldn’t resist the state system of the powerful Khazar Kaganate. The most part of the Mordovians left their native lands in the upper reaches of the Sura and went west and north-west”.

What schools was the book written for? For national Mordovian schools? “Our ancestors” - but the fact is made for all of them, Mordovian, Russian and Tatar pupils. Why should the 70% of the pupils (Russian and Tatar children) think the Mordovian tribes to be their ancestors?

Well, it is partly true but only if you take into consideration the fact that a part of Mordovians was assimilated both by Russians and Tatars. It should be declared definitely.

Unfortunately, Valeri Anatolievich gives too many extracts from historic documents, legends and songs where Tatars are mentioned only in a bad discourse and there are no sources in the book which would say something good about Tatars.

About the Bulgars: “... Bulgars betrayed him; ... Bulgars betrayed Mordovian warriors”.

You expect to read about the Temnikov Principality after reading about Bekhan, Temnikov, Temnikov princes. That issue wasn’t developed. Having only folklore and doubtful archaeological materials, Valeri Anatolievich makes a hypothesis about the existence of the pre-Mongol barbarian state of the Mordovians, and having documented genealogical trees of the Temnikov and Meshora princes he doesn’t dare to speak about the existence of an independent state on the territory of Mordovia - the Temnikov Principality.

The illustration on the cover of the book supposedly showing the defeat of the Tatar prince Mustafa’s troop in the winter of 1444, when Moscovites, Ryazanians, and Mordovian skiers attacked their station, is really ridiculous. The Mordovians are wearing summer clothes, riding horses and with short swords in their hands, and the Tatar warriors are on their feet, dressed in wrappers, unarmed and they are running, holding their hands up to the sky.

Describing the Golden Horde period of the area, all our Mordovian historians loved and still love to give the episode with the violent and insidious extermination of Mustafa and his men in trouble in 1444. That is usually presented as the beginning of getting conscious of the fact that: “... there is one common enemy - the Tatars, and the power is in our union” (p.75).

Different historians differently describe that episode but nobody dares to convey the true meaning of what was written in the Russian source. It is usually described in this way: Mustafa came in the winter to ransack. The Moscovites and Mordovian skiers came to help the Ryazanians and Mustafa’s troop was destroyed. Even conveying the closest meaning of the source (The Full Collection of the Russian Annals, v.XII, pp.61-62), an extract from which is given on p.77, Valeri Anatolievich doesn’t even slightly mention the perfidy and the treachery of the Ryazanians and the Moscovites.

Meantime, the source doesn’t say that Mustafa’s raid took place in winter. It says that after the raid Mustafa stationed in the Field (steppes) and sent his people to arrange the ransom, after which the Ryazanians were able to ransom their people.

Then the source says that Mustafa came to Ryazan with peace, for wintering. “...Mustafa came to Ryazan with peace willing to stay for the winter in Ryazan, because it wasn’t good for him in the Field and the Field burnt in the autumn fire, and the winter was very cold and the snows were big and the winds were very strong. That’s why he came with peace”. This extract clearly says that the Ryazanians ransommed their people before the autumn, in the summer, when Mustafa couldn’t know that the field would burn in the autumn.

That means that the raid took place either in the summer or in the spring, if it did at all. The chronicler might make up the raid to justify the violent and perfidious murder somehow.

The Ryazanians first placed Mustafa and his men in the town of Pereyaslavl (now this town is called Ryazan. - Editor.). Having discovered that, the Moscow Prince Vasili Vasilievich sent an army headed by Vasili Obolenski and Andrei Goltyaev and a group of Mordovians. Everyone was skiing because of deep snow.

After that the Ryazanians sent Mustafa and his men out of Pereyaslavl, Mustafa had to stop in the open field near the Listan river. That winter was very snowy and very frosty. Horses died, people starved and got frost-bitten. The primary weapons of the Tatars - bows and arrows were out of order because of frost and only spears and sabres were left.

That’s how the source describes the events before the massacre. Further events: the Moscovites attacked from one side, the Mordovians attacked from another side, and the Ryazanian cossacks, having forgot the hospitality, attacked from another side. The allies were eager to get the property of Tatars in trouble, Mustafa was to have his treasure with him, because he came for the wintering and he had to pay for the service, and he couldn’t have left all his money, gold and property somewhere in the open field. “...The Tatars wouldn’t surrender and fought bravely. Many Tatars were killed and Tsarevitch Mustafa with many princes got killed too”.

Of course, Mustafa didn’t suppose that the Ryazanians would betray him like that, otherwise why should he leave the town where there was food and warmth. He would fortify his position and defend himself there. Perhaps the Ryazanians said it was only temporarily, for the Moscovites to see that the Ryazanians weren’t helping Tatars and they would go back to Moscow. But the greediness or guile or both gained the upper hand.

That’s how an ordinary example of deceit, robbery and murder of people in the interpretation of our historians, including the comparatively progressive interpretation by Valeri Anatolievich turns into an example of the united struggle of the Russian and Mordovian peoples against the Tatar-Mongol yoke.

P.S. An issue of the business magazine called “Biznes”, dedicated to Mordovia was published in December, 1997. 35 articles elucidated the life of the republic. This issue was remarkable for the fact that 5 out of 35 articles were written by Tatar journalists: Gabunova, Murtazin and Djedikhanov, 2 articles were written by Tatar leaders about their organizations - that’s Rafael Ashirov (the Minister of the Healthcare System of Mordovia) and Farid Mamin (the chairman of the “Mordovsotsbank”). There were also two articles about two Tatar leaders: Kabir Almyashev and Yunir Biktyakov.

There is also a short, one-page (p.42) review of the history of Mordovia. The author is the same Valeri Yurchenkov. The same scheme: the Mordovians lived and developed, the Mongols invaded the land in the 13 century, struggle with Tatar yoke, the same episode of 1444, when (I’m citing): “The Mordovian warriors “with sulitsas and boar-spears and sabres” came to help the Ryazanians in their fight against Mustafa’s horde”. For the first time the word “Tatar” was mentioned in this episode. Not a word about the Burtases, not a word about the Mokhshi Ulus, not a word about the Temnikov Principality and not a word about the Tatar inhabitants of Mordovia in general.

That’s how our perverted history was presented to the business world of Russia.

We, Tatars, don’t need flattery, we don’t need the exaggeration of our ancestors’ deeds, we need an objective elucidation of the history of our and neighbouring peoples.

And we must take every effort right now, when we can write the truth. Yet.

P.P.S. In the next issue we shall analyse some examples from the newspapers of Mordovia which form a perverted image of Tatars, their history and culture, Islam. We shall also discuss some mistakes in the book “Everything About Mordovia”, found in the articles dedicated to Tatars.

We have a lot of similar material on scientific historical books, on the fairy tales written by the the writers of Mordovia. But we shall present it later.

E-mail: irek@moris.ru