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Activist Protests Cancellation Of Kazan's 1552 Siege Commemoration

Tatar activist Kashif Gatin demonstrates in Kazan on October 13.
Tatar activist Kashif Gatin demonstrates in Kazan on October 13.

KAZAN, Russia -- A single-person picket has been held in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Tatarstan region, to protest against a decision to cancel a planned rally to commemorate Tatars fallen during the city's siege by Russian troops in 1552, an event marked annually in the city since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Activist Kashif Gatin held a poster in downtown Kazan, saying "October 15 is Commemoration Day! A nation without memory has no future!" during the picket, which does not require preliminary permission to hold.

Gatin told RFE/RL that the city administration's decision was against the interests of the Tatar people, who have a right to remember their past.

The Kazan city administration explained the move by saying it came at the request of the local prosecutor, who said that "the goal of the event was unclear."

Initially, the city administration officially allowed the All-Tatar Public Center nongovernmental organization to hold the annual event, known as Commemoration Day, in the Tinchurin park on October 18.

This year, Tatar activists planned to mark the 468th anniversary of the fall of Kazan -- then the capital of the Kazan Khanate, which is now the capital of modern Tatarstan within the Russian Federation.

Some participants in last year's commemoration of Kazan defenders were sentenced to community work or fined for praying and reading the Koran at the event and using words about "Tatarstan's statehood."

On October 12, a group of Tatar activists gathered near the Soyembike Tower in Kazan and held a collective prayer to commemorate the defenders of Kazan.

In October 1552, Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered the Khanate of Kazan after two weeks' of resistance. Many of the Khanate's Muslim population were killed after the siege or forcibly Christianized afterward.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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