Tatars Stand Up for their Ancestors’ Honor

Russian soldiers roasted and eaten by Tatars historical print.  Source: Moskovsky KomsomoletsResidents of the Republic of Tatarstan, upset at a textbook depicting their ancestors as “monsters,” have lost their case before a Moscow city court. The court has decided that the book, titled “A History of the Homeland” and used in 6th and 7th grade classrooms, holds nothing offensive. As the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported on June 11th, claimants had charged that it offended their national dignity.

At issue was the chapter on the conquest of what would later become Russia by the Tataro-Mongol Golden Horde, and the description of the famed 14th century Battle of Kulikovo, where unified Russian forces defeated a Tataro-Mongol army. A historic drawing featured prominently in the text shows the invaders roasting, dismembering and eating Russian soldiers.

“The insult of our national dignity doesn’t just appear in this drawing, but also directly in the text,” Mukhamed Minachev, a representative of the claimants, told the court. “In part, the incredible valor of the Russian warriors is described on pages 87-91 of the textbook, while the Tataro-Mongols are presented as monsters!”

Minachev believes that such a rendition of the battle offends the honor and dignity of present-day Tatars, a primarily Muslim ethnic group that numbers around 6 million across Russia. Furthermore, it may fan the flames of ethnic strife in schools. The claimants had asked that the text be banned, and had asked for compensation for the moral damage they suffered. They promised to appeal and continue their battle in the courts.

The contested schoolbook was first published in 1997. The Moskovsky Komsomolets reached the book’s graphic designer, Nikita Ordinsky. In his words, there was no electronic database of illustrations 11 years ago, as there is now. Images were literally taken from wherever was necessary. Ordinsky could not remember the drawing in question, bus said that it most likely came from a West-European source. He added that is wasn’t a fact that the picture depicts Tataro-Mongols, because Russians were also called Tatars by Western Europeans.