Idel-Ural State

Idel-Ural State

The Idel-Ural State was a short-lived Tatar republic with its centre in Kazan that united Tatars, Bashkirs and the Chuvash in the turmoil of the Russian Civil War. Often viewed as an attempt to recreate the Khanate of Kazan, the republic was proclaimed on December 12, 1917, by a Congress of Muslims from Russia’s interior and Siberia. “Idel-Ural” means “Volga-Ural” in the Tatar language.

On May 5, 1917 more than 800 non-Russian delegates representing Maris, Chuvashes, Udmurts, Mordvans (Mokshas and Erzyas), Komis, Komi-Permyaks, Kalmyks and Tatars held a general meeting in Kazan to create an independent Idel-Ural Republic in the Idel-Ural area in Russia. As a first concrete step, it was decided to create four professorships and two researchers’ posts at Kazan University. The main idea was a loose League of Small Nations where all were free to strengthen their own cultural heritage. At first the Muslim Bashkirs declined to participate, but later in 1917 they and the Volga Germans joined the League of Idel-Ural.

Initially it comprised only Tatars and Bashkirs in the former Kazan and Ufa governorates, although other, non-Muslim and non-Turkic, nations of the area joined in a few months later: the Komi peoples, Mari, and Udmurts, who speak Finnic languages and practise either Orthodox Christianity or shamanism. Defeated by the Red Army in April 1918, the republic was restored by the Czech Legion in the same July and the Bolsheviks managed finally to dissolve at the end of the year. This led to open revolt in 1919-1920 and even after the revolt was smashed by the Bolsheviks in 1921, the idea of the Idel-Ural State continued to exist clandestinely until 1929. That year the Cheka finally managed to infiltrate the Idel-Ural movement and smashed the leadership. Several thousand Idel-Ural supporters were executed all over the Volga and Ural minority-settled regions.

The president of Idel-Ural, Sadrí Maqsudí Arsal, escaped to Finland in 1918. He was well-received by the Finnish foreign minister, who remembered his valiant defence of the national self-determination and constitutional rights of Finland in the Russian Duma. The president-in-exile also met officials from Estonia before continuing in 1919 to Sweden, Germany and France, in a quest for Western support. Idel-Ural was listed among the “Captive Nations” in the Cold War-era public law (1959) of the United States.

Present-day Tatar nationalists rely on the historic precedent of an independent Idel-Ural to justify the re-establishment of a Turkic state independent of the Russian Federation.

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