CEE/Newsletter/September 2018/Contents/Regional report

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Regional report: Interview with the Wikipedian of the Year, Farkhad Fatkulin[edit]

Interview by: Vassia Atanassova
During Wikimania 2018, a person from the CEE region, Farkhad Fatkulin, was announced Wikimedian of the Year. In the end of August, the CEE Newsletter took an interview from Farkhad.




Farkhad Fatkullin.jpg

Hello, Farhad, this is yet another interview, which you are asked to give, and I thank you for agreeing to do so. :) What kind of media were interested in you and your award "Wikimedian of the Year"?

Some Federal, but mainly regional and local. Some called me, others invited or came for an interview in persons, as well as there were many compilations from other printed or Web-media. I keep adding links I discover though these are not even all I've seen and I haven't yet found links to some TV interviews I've given.

Are journalists in Tatarstan and Russia aware of the specifics of Wikip/media, of the voluntary nature of contributions and the free licenses? What are the main points you make in these interviews?

Wikimedia movement and its vision-mission-etc. are unknown in Russia. Wikipedia is used extensively, but it is not understood and thus only mentioned in criticism. My being named WOTY was possibly the first time Respected Federal Mass-media Outlets and News Agencies (including the Official Russian Federation Government Newspaper) wrote about Wikipedia and the movement, and it was in very positive light. The shortest interview I've given was a 15 minute recording for a Prime-time Regional TV Newscast, the longest was about 2,5 hours for one of the online platforms. I certainly stress the importance of Wikipedias for preservation of languages, the role of Wikimedia projects in Education, promoting regional cultural heritage and knowledge (GLAMs), free licenses, etc., but journalists are always catering to specific audiences, so the content their editors approve often ends up stressing the points they understand as valuable for readers. See the only one available in English.

You were selected for WOTY for your efforts in support of the minority language communities in Russia. And you mainly edit the Tatar version of Wikipedia. What is the impact of such contributions? What is your motivation to contribute to a small language version?

Tatar Wikipedia was and is my principle playground (56% of my over 100 000 edits is there). Otherwise, I do similar work in others. For the answer of why I do it, even for the languages I don't understand and will unlikely ever learn, see the page Linguistic-cultural identity, as well as quotes and sources on the principle page of the Meta Project
As for the WOTY, I perfectly understand that it's mainly because of my translation activities between English and Russian that helped bridging the knowledge, culture and communication gap and alienation caused due to the predominance of stereotypical thinking that there's only one version of Truth or approach. In my case, I see myself as much French or Turkish, as Tatar or Russian, and I don't really care about ideological, political or ethnic non-sense some people give so much attention to (I also have a strong English and Italian linguistic identities). There is a lot of creativity everywhere on our Blue Planet, and the more we are ready to share with and (equally, if not more important) also learn from others, the closer we will get to the ideals of Wikimedia movement.

Are there some local wiki projects, specific to the Tatar Wikipedia? Tell us more, I think that the CEE Newsletter has never covered any story coming from this part of the CEE.

Around 80% of the total 6-7 million speakers of Tatar are residing within the Russian Federation, with about a quarter within a single region called the Republic of Tatarstan (Kazan is the regional capital, we hosted some of the FIFA2018 games this June-July). The peculiarity of Tatar Wikipedia is that it started in Latin by diaspora and some Kazan activists in 2003 when Internet access in Russia was very expensive and hardly available anywhere but the largest cities (where Cyrillic is in use). There were a number of Latin scripts in the history of Tatar, though only one Cyrillic alphabet, which is why since 2010 our default interface, as well as the predominant part of the texts is in Cyrillic Tatar. After the formal Latin for transliteration of predominantly Cyrillic Tatar texts was approved in late 2012, we started standardizing the texts of the previously created Latin script articles, which is probably the unique project in ttWP (probably still unfinished). One more peculiarity is in different writing norms in Latin and Cyrillic, which makes a working transliteration a challenge, but we value both scripts and allow their use, though twin articles are not allowed (if the article in Latin was created first, the Cyrillic one will redirect to it).
As for our part of CEE, linguistic cultural identity becomes very important with all the ethnic diversity of Russia - we distinguish between our Russian Federation citizenship and ethnic Russian or Tatar etc. nationality (in Russian we have different words for those two meanings of "Russian", plus try not to use word "ethnicity" when you speak in Russian). Russian Federation, just like USSR, Russian Empire, Golden Horde and other political entities before that, are our home, so today we are proud Russians (which doesn't make me any less Tatar, my neighbors Bashkir etc.) At the moment, Wikimedia Russia volunteers, including myself, are both proud and concerned about having to worry about the future of some 30 various language versions of Wikipedia and other projects, but this makes us look for creative ways of using our limited volunteer resources.

In the CEE region, there are other small languages, as well, facing similar challenges. What lessons learnt can you share in this relation?

Russian Federation alone, not to mention wider EuroAsia (significant part of which falls under CEE region of Wikimedia geography) is the most linguistically diverse region of the world. If we loose a language, however small is its speaker base, our sum of all human knowledge is all of a sudden one cultural approach smaller, as cultures don't survive without language. In the world where creativity and sustainability is valuable, it's much cheaper to prevent this loss than to try reinventing it later.
The issue is not regional, it's on a human society level. If I put one language or one culture or any specific point of view above all else, I'm not really a Man (as in Kipling's If—), nor am I a Human as described in Quran. There's no point of being a proud Tatar or Russian or whatever, "if you’ve cheated the man in the glass". In this sense, we can all benefit by supporting the weaker ones from among Wikimedia Indigenous Languages.
In both Tatar and Russian we have a verb, standing for "to become family / kin". I apply that to languages and cultures, seeing all of those in the Volga region, wider Russia and Turkic world, CEE and beyond as part of my cultural heritage. I would love to see more people to experience the joy this gives to my life: your family is bigger, experiences richer, whilst satisfaction with even minute things is sky-high.