Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bolgar - Bulgar

It might be the smallest town in Tatarstan, but Bolgar shares its name on equal terms with the country of Bulgaria. Besides, the word "Volga" is most likely a Slavic corruption of the same name. Bolgar is the descendant of Great Bulgar, the capital of one of the most powerful and civilized states of early medieval Eastern Europe. Ruins of that city, on the outskirts of the modern town, have been turned into an open-air museum, which has become a major place of pilgrimage for Tatars in search of their roots.

The Bulgars were a Turkic tribe based south of the Don when they came under pressure from the Khazars and had to migrate. One branch headed west and occupied the eastern Balkans, but it was soon assimilated by local Slavs, leaving no trace but the name.

The eastern branch settled on the Volga and mixed with local Finno-Ugric tribes. Sunni Islam became the official religion in 921, following a visit of a Baghdadi embassy --


Volga Encounter

The first traveler to write a Volga diary was Ahmed Ibn-Fadlan, a secretary of the Baghdadi embassy who arrived in 922 in Great Bulgar to convert the local khan and his people to Islam. His travelogue is one of the very few preserved written documents describing the ancient people who populated the area and traveled up and down the Volga. One of his most striking stories describes an encounter with Scandinavian travelers, whom Ibn-Fadlan describes as "people with most perfect bodies", but also as , "the dirtiest of Allah's creatures".

The curious Arab arranged to be invited to a funeral of a Viking chief. The ceremony included the ritual killing of a slave girl who volunteered to accompany her master into the other world. Thrilled and disgusted at the same time, Ibn-Fadlan observes the ritual, which culminated with the girl taking poison. Both bodies were then loaded onto a ship and the ship was burned, the ashes carried away by the Volga.

Ibn-Fadlan believed these Vikings were members of the semi-legendary Rus tribe, which at about the same time was invited by Novgorod Slavs to rule their land. The Novgorodians are said to have uttered a famous complaint, which Russians still enjoy repeating: "Our land is rich, but there is no order."


Great Bulgar took the first blow of the Tatar Mongol lightning attack on Europe in 1236. But it revived and flourished under the Golden Horde, until it was again devastated by Timur and eventually finished off by Muscovite general Fyodor the Specky in the 15th century.

Peter the Great passed the ruins on a visit to the region in 1722 and ordered the historical site be preserved. However in 1841, a local blacksmith looking for treasure unwittingly tore down the remaining 13th-century minaret. The new town was founded by Russians in 1781 under the name of Spassk. It ws briefly called Kuybyshev and then renamed Bolgar in 1991.

The Great Bulgar Museum is located 1km east of the town on the high bank of the Volga. The site, comprising several ruins scattered around a vast expanse of grassland on top of a high cliff above the Volga, looks a bit odd as it is dominted by the minareet, which was restored in 2005, and the the Russian 18th-cent Assumption Church, which stands right next to it and houses an interesting archaeological museum. Nearby are the ruins of Great Bulgar's main mosque with a stub of a pillar, which the Tatars believe brings fortune if you walk around it, which they do in droves. A mausoleum full of gravestones has inscriptions in the Arabic and Turkic Runic alphabets. From the gates of the museum, stairs lead to the tourist pier, where cruise ships and tourist hydrofoils from Kazan's river station dock.

from LP 2009

"The Khazar Empire had included the great urban commercial emporium of the Volga Bolgars on the upper Volga. After the defeat of the Khazars by the Russians, the Volga Bolgars became an independent state and survived as an autonomous entity until the coming of the Mongols in the thirteenth century. The Volga Bolgars were Muslims (according to the fictitious tale of the "testing of religions" in the Russian Primary Chronicle, one of their missionaries tried in the late tenth century to convert St. Vladimir). Their relations with the Russians consisted primarily of trade, though the chronicles have little to say about this. The American historian Thomas Noonan has proposed that the northeastern Russian principality of Vladimir-Suzdalia established a trading co-dominion with the Volga Bolgars to monopolize the western termini of the caravan routes that brought silk and spices from Asia to Eastern Europe. No marriages between princely families of Kievan Rus' and the Volga Bolgars are recorded, probably because of the religious barrier. Although there is little evidence of overt hostilities, in the late twelfth century the Russian Grand Prince Andrei Bogoliubskii ostensibly launched a "crusade" against Grand Bolgar, the capital of the Volga Bolgars. This attack was probably atypical. Religious antagonism was evidently held in check, at least most of the time, by mutually beneficial trade. Because of the silence of the sources, Russian familiarity with the Volga Bolgar state and its language, customs, and political organization remains a matter of speculation."

from the "Russia and the Golden Horde"
by Charles J. Halperin 1985
this one.


Kamaz trucks are high quality industrial vehicles manufactured in Tatarstan. They also do not have a web presence in the Tatar language, only Russian and English.

KAMAZ (Камский автомобильный завод - КАМАЗ / Kamskiy avtomobilny zavod - translated: Kama Automobile Plant) is a Russian truck manufacturer located in Naberezhnye Chelny, Tatarstan, Russian Federation. KAMAZ opened its doors in 1976. Today, heavy duty models are exported to many areas of the world including Eastern Europe, Latin America, China, the Middle East, and North Africa. The trucks have won the Dakar Rally a record ten times. KAMAZ is the largest truck producer in Russia and the CIS. The factory produces 93600 trucks a year (260 trucks a day). Reinforced KAMAZ trucks are used by the Russian army.


Rubin - Kazan

Rubin Football (soccer) Team Homepage

Above link to the homepage of the Rubin Football team in Kazan, Tatarstan.
The problem is that there is no page in Tatar, only Russian and English.

Tatar Mosque interior

We don't know much about this image. It was given to us as "Svet, Russia - Tatar Mosque"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Andrea Serefiddin and her Peremech

Andrea is hard at work, tirelessly hand shaping Peremech, non-stop day and night to feed her hungry husband and family. A Woman's Work is never done! ... and so much appreciated.

Ash Bulsin.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Putin's Russia - Lilia Shevtosova

Putin's Russia - Lilia Shevtosova

Each and every book we encounter relating to Russia and Russian History, we zoom to the index to hunt for content relating to Kazan, Tatars, Tatarstan, Turkic peoples of Central Asia, and other topics relating to Volga Tatars.

Often the result is terrible. Tatar: see Mongols
Tatars are not Mongols.

In this book there was content relating to (and critical of) Shamiev.

"The Kremlin, however did not want a total purge of the regions; it was prepared to continue the practice, instituted by Yeltsin, of making deals in them. According to Russian law, both the president and the regional governors were allowed only two terms. With Putin's approval and under pressure from the presidential staff, the Duma passed an amendment that gave 26 governors and republic presidents the right to a third term. The number included such regional heavyweights as Mintimer Shamiyev, the president of the republic of Tatarstan. Putin must have concluded that , having given the regional bosses a scare, he could control them. Running his (that is the Kremlin's ) candidate in a region meant getting into a fight in which the wrong people might win. And besides, fighting meant tension, which Putin did not like. Thus, for the sake of peace of mind, the Kremlin agreed to de facto limitless rule for regional family clans. Later, the Constitutional Court endorsed the ruling that gave regional bosses the right to be reelected for a third and even fourth time, which guaranteed the preservation of semifeudal regimes in Russian provinces.

Tatarstan is an outstanding example of how local regimes have ruled and how they cooperate with Moscow. During the 1990's, the experienced Soviet apparatchik Shamiyev managed to neutralize nationalist groups in Tatarstan, to become president there, and to establish relatively stable rule in the republic. His rule was based on the dictatorship of his family, which controlled the republic's basic resources - oil and gas, among others. Opposition was cruelly suppressed. Corruption and paternalism flourished. But Khan Shamiyev gave the center what it needed, primarily outward calm and support during elections.

At the beginning, Putin demanded that the regional feudal lords, especially Shamiyev and Murtaza Rakhimov (the president of another Russian republic, Bashkortostan, who had built the same type of rule as Shaimiyev), curtail their appetites and bring their constitutions into line with the federal one. The regional lords grumbled and resisted at first, and even directed gentle threats at the center, but in the end they caved in."