Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Down the Volga - Marq de Villiers 1991

There are many stereotypes and misconceptions about Kazan Tatars in the excerpt below, but there is a benefit to awareness of the non-Tatar perception. What have they been taught and mis-taught? How much has Kazan and Tatarstan changed since Gorbachev and 1991?

Kilometer 1,750


"I woke up in the morning on the Rus and we were in Kazan. The previous night, as the boat plowed steadily eastward past Marinnskii Posad, past Volzhsk and Zelenodolsk, I lay in my bunk reading about Ivan the Terrible and his capture of Kazan in the sixteenth century, a story of heroism, cunning and great barbarity. Ivan had caused the best carpenters of Uglich, a thousand kilometers away, to construct a fort, which they floated down the Volga and erected across from the Tartar headquarters, where the Kazanka and Volga Rivers joined. Ivan brought with him as a lucky talisman the cross of Dmitri Donskoy, the thirteenth-century Moscow prince who had become the archetypal Russian hero by actually defeating the Golden Horde in battle, and at the end of September he began his assault.

His imported fortress was thrown up overnight, held together by wooden pegs; the army, which had come separately by land from Moscow with Ivan himself at its head, was immense, more than a hundred thousand men under arms; it stormed the Tartar stronghold, took the citadel, massacred all the males (he didn't have time for his favorite sport, impaling, so he contented himself with evisceration followed by a messy beheading). He enslaved the women, first turning them over to his soldiers, then passing them to the slave factors from the East. Most of the small children were butchered - too much trouble to do anything else with them. The mosques were pulled down, the fortress razed and the Tartar remnants scattered. Well, it wasn't as if the Horde didn't have it coming. The Horde had indulged in its own atrocities; by the time the great Tartar leader Tamerlane died in 1405, towns from Hormuz in India to Chistopol on the Volga lay in ruins for defying him, ruins marked by towers made from the skulls of his victims.

To celebrate his famous victory, Ivan built the Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow's Red Square, now the backdrop for tourist snaps, its candy-cane domes and towers twinkling in the thin Moscow sunlight. The legend has it that Ivan put out the eyes of his master builder so he'd never be able to duplicate the cathedral's magnificence. No one knows if it's true, but it would have been perfectly in character. Whenever Ivan was drunk thereafter, which was often, he'd sing a song about the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan.

I pushed aside the curtains in my cabin and stared outside at an altogether more prosaic sight. Two of the American tourists padded by in their slippers on their morning jog; on the embankment below, the old women were slowly sweeping several acres of tarmac with birch brooms. We were moored in front of the Kazan river terminal building, an edifice in white stone and glass, with Tartar motifs picked out in the stone and the name Kazan in Rued on the top in Russian and Tartar. There was no other sign of activity. The inevitable row of small kiosks, for beer, candies and newspapers, had been set up behind the terminal building, surrounding its parking lot. Only the newsstand was open, and I went down to buy my usual guides to a new town: the local newspapers and a street map. I sat on a bench to read Kazanskaya Pravda while I waited for breakfast to be served on board. There was a strong editorial opinion on page one in support of Lithuania's demands for independence; and there was a photograph of a demonstration that had taken place the previous day in favor of "Tartar self-sufficiency". So, I thought, the long fight still isn't over. Olearius reported that Kazan "lies most picturesquely 7 versts inland from the Volga, on several hills. The surrounding plain is inundated in the spring by the Volga and the river Kazan." He visited the city to see what he could buy, but found nothing at the market except some fruits, especially melons as large as pumpkins, and old, putrid fish "that gave off a stench so foul we were unable to go by it without holding our nose." The city is now perched on the banks of the river itself, the spring flooding controlled by the dams of the Volga Cascade. I visited the same market Olearius did, and though I found no melons, pumpkin-sized or smaller, I found the same putrid fish and held my nose just as Olearius did. The locals were amused. The "putridness" was deliberate; this fish was a local delicacy, akin the infamous Bombay Duck of India.

In the countryside, in these post-Ivan centuries, there are now only ghosts of Tartar greatness, ruined places and secret shrines where Tartars gather in summer, hidden by the trees from prying Russian eyes, a pathetic remnant of a proud people making pilgrimages to the burial places of their heroes. Such places existed in Olearius's time, and they still do. One was the ruin of an old Tartar town, now in the middle of a copse on a kolkhoz, and Kazan Tartars visit it at midsummer. A group of students took me there one morning for lunch; to them, unlike the country folk the mood of the place is no longer nostalgic or sad; it's just a place for picnics. I saw nothing much, only grass tufts where cold stone had been and a glade where traders had bargained, trading kumquat preserves for intricate carvings from Kosmodemyansk.

Tartar history has become mere legend, and the "wild saints of Batu" the mythical heroes the Horde carried into battle, are dressed up in picturesque detail to populate the stories of children; there are sporadic though feeble efforts to recapture the heroic moods of old; most of the Tartars have grievances against the Russians, but more of them share grievances against the Russians, but more of the Tartars have grievances against the Russians, but more of them share grievances with the Russians against Center, against the system, the apparat, against those who'd keep them down, against the bureaucrats who are blamed form the impoverishment of a proud people and the denuding of a fertile land. I sat with a man on the Volga embankment later, and he told me stories of the old days, how they'd pulled sturgeon from the Volga, three, four, five meters long - "one fish would be enough for a boatload of people for a whole journey," he said. "There are no fish like that any more. There's nothing like that any more."
"Well," I said, "I don't think this has much to do with Center. This has to do with the modern world. It's the same in our country." He didn't want to hear this. Center was the villain. Gorbachev and his people. Communists. I didn't know what the Russian was for "bum rap" so I let it go.

I'd spent a few hours earlier in the day at Kazan University. I knew it was the oldest in the Soviet Union (founded in 1804), that it had a strong English faculty and a powerful Green movement. But mostly I wanted to get a fix on Kazan and Tartar history.

Kazan historians, both Russian and Tartar, are scornful of the skulls-and-pillage popular image of the Mongol invaders. The stories of Tartar atrocities are mostly unreliable folk memories, fed by centuries of xenophobia and paranoia. Yet they themselves seem to recount the more lurid tales with some delight, so perhaps the revisionism needs revision too. In any case, when the first outriders of the Mongol empire under Batu appeared abruptly in European Russian in 1223, they swept all before them. The Russian principalities of the time were in a state of political anarchy. Kiev was in chaos. Petty dynastic quarrels between princes and dukes were frequent. The towns of the region were constantly at war, and they relied on a poorly equipped and ill-trained peasant militia that was no match for the skillful bowmen of Asia; it's not surprising that after Kiev and Vladimir and Suzdal fell without a struggle to the invaders, the Golden Horde was regarded by its opponents with superstitious awe; the hail of arrows that opened Russia to Mongol conquest must have seemed like a miraculous and deadly rain, and the wielders of the bows appeared as devils incarnate. Batu ranged along the Volga, upstream to the old Bulgar country of the Kama and trading town of Bolgari. His camp near the mouth of the Volga later came to be Sarai the Great, the capital of all the Horde.

The revisionist view of Russian-Mongol relations is somewhat different. It's accepted that Batu sacked Kiev in 1240 and left only two hundred houses standing of a city that had at the time made Paris seem like a primitive village. But , in the Kazan view, Muscovite apologists and monastic sources grotesquely over-estimated the destructiveness of the first raids, and at the same time over-sold the bravery of the resistance. The invaders were mostly interested in trade, not conquest, in facilitating and reviving trade routes that had been lost, and it was control of these routes they were after. A more cold-blooded look at the history traces the network of alliances the invader made, not only among the Muslim merchants working the upper Volga but among the Russian princelings themselves. Most of the occupied cities prospered under the Horde; and the new centers, such as Moscow and Tver, flourishes. In the Kazan view, the Tartars never tried to impose alien rule or foreign princes on the Russian people.

Some Tartar revisionists go further. They delight in describing in great detail the centuries of petty treacheries that were the daily lot of Russian towns. Twice in one afternoon I was asked if I understood how the Muscovite princes had allied themselves with the Tartars to impose their hegemony on Russia. Had I heard this? Did I know the details? No? Then they repeated the story I'd already heard in Tver of how Alexandr, the ruler of that city, was murdered by Ivan Moneybags of Moscow, who had enlisted the Horde as allies. This, I was told with an air of great satisfaction, was an absolutely typical story. It was how many Russian cities got where they were. It was how Moscow got where it is today...

The Khanate of Kazan, the rump that Ivan the Terrible conquered, was formed as a result of the disintegration of the Golden Horde. In 1437 Ula Mehmet was ousted from the Sarai Horde and started his own Khanate, building at Kazan the greatest fortress between Moscow and the Urals, with thirty thousand men in its garrison. Ivan the Terrible sacked it in 1552. And since then the Tartars, once feared as "Gog and Magog, devils incarnate, agents of Satan, as cruel as the wind," have been quiescent.

That morning I'd taken a three-hour tour of the city by bus. Our guide, Boris, was hired by Intourist as a freelancer. He wasn't really a tour guide but a cartoonist, photographer, English instructor and musician, and planned to set himself up in business teaching English and conducting tourists around town. He gave me a book called Places Associated With Lenin on the Volga which he himself called "a good example of Red propaganda." And indeed that's what it was, a panegyric to the Great Leader, couched in those familiar prefabricated phrases that make thinking unnecessary. Boris was a Tartar, though he only wore his black-and-white Tartar cap after he got to know us, and looked otherwise completely Russian.

We started at the Kremlin, which a copy of kremlins elsewhere; it could easily have been in Kostroma, or Yaroslavl, and had nothing in it of the Mongol. Its' most interesting building is the Zuyembeka Tower, which is a red-brick confection 70 meters high. There's a legend attached to it, of course; it's said that the Princess Zuyembeka, in despair at the sacking of her native city, sprang from its height to her death on the stones below. Like many such legends, it contains a grain of truth: the princess had gone to Moscow to the court of the Tsars (Ivan the Terrible having invented the title) to plead for her patrimony; she'd been seduced by the decadent court life there, and never returned.

Boris was a fount of useful and trivial information. There's a factory outside town that makes jet planes. The oil pipeline to Berlin crosses the Volga here; it's called the Friendship Pipeline (although maybe the Fraternal Socialist Countries, as they used to be called, don't see it that way any more, since part of Gorbachev's economic reforms were to make them pay for Soviet oil in hard currency, which meant a billion-ruble windfall for the Soviet economy and hardship for the Europeans). The region near Kazan is semi-desert, with primitive, scattered villages and few cities. There are not many real Tartars left. Boris told me that the Russians lied when they maintained that the Tartars of the Crimea had offered to collaborate with Hitler and kill all the Russians. "They were supposed to have sent a letter to Hitler. This is another of Stalin's fabrications." The Tartar language, which is Turkic in origin, has been transliterated into a peculiar mix of Cyrillic and Mongolian. Steak Tartare is not a dish you find on any Kazan menu. Kazan is now on the banks of the Kuibyshev Sea, which backs up almost to the walls of the kremlin. There are picturesque hills on the right bank. The Kazan means "border of state" in Tartar. Pugachev the Rebel tried to capture it and failed. And so on and so on and so on... Boris, words finally failing him, resorted to poetry to show his affection for his city.

Kazan saddened me. It has its university and its symphony orchestra, its theaters and its houses of culture, and the people I met are so desperately proud of them. The citizens of Kazan are trying their best to preserve what they have, with pitifully few resources. There's an ordinance forbidding high rises on the main street that runs from the kremlin to the university, and the civic authorities have designated a "cottage belt" around the central core in which the old wooden houses will be protected, as a souvenir of the ancient days. There's scaffolding on many of the monuments, but there's no work being done: there's not enough money. This place is so poor! Walking past these little log and wood houses, with their peeling paint, their doors and sills sagging, their roofs bowed, I found it hard to imagine that there was enough money in the world to fix it up, to put it back together.

There were flowers in small pots in the windows, and little collections of objets. One of these weary houses must have contained the brothel where Tolstoy lost his virginity, to his own great shame and disgust. Many revolutionaries and writers lived in lodgings nearby. Maybe they still did. I felt excluded and, for the first time, lonely. who knows what secret life these houses contained?

I walked down from the kremlin walls to the main shopping street, called Baumann after one of the early Bolsheviks. As usual, the stores were four-firths empty and the shortages were severe. Meat, at 3.60 rubles a kilo, was scarce. There was some fruit juice and a few sausages, but not much else. There was no fish anywhere, not even the stinking delicacy found in the market. Kazan calls itself the center of the Soviet fur industry, and there were plenty of fur hats for sale, at prices ranging from 20 rubles for rabbit to 500 rubles for something I didn't recognize, a pale gray fur, silky smooth. Muskrat was selling for 200 rubles , about $20. There was a long line of women in front of a clothing store. Bras, I was told. Just as in Tutaev, women were lining up a hundred deep to buy bras, anxiously pushing forward, fearful that the precious supply would be gone before they reached the head of the queue.

That afternoon I went with the tour group from the Rus to a concert at the Kazan conservatory, the orchestra performing variations on Russian and Tartar national songs. The soloists, some of whom were very good, were from the conservatory and the Kazan opera; they appeared in tails and formal wear; the orchestra was in "national" costume, which appeared mostly to be Russian. Maybe it was my mood, but I wondered, not for the first time, why all the Russian folk songs were so sad. And why do the few happy ones make the Russians weep?

The next day I left the tourists to Boris and slipped back to the university in the center of town. I'd heard it described as somber and neoclassical, "like a Midwestern American college, " but I didn't find it somber. The library building was a baroque confection with intricate wrought-iron balconies; only the main lecture hall is at all sober; It's where Lenin studied, and the school governors preserve it as it was when he was there, "as a monument to the Great Brain of Simbirsk" (a phrase from one of the Kazan students.). The students pay little attention to this monument.

Leo Tolstoy was a student here in the 1840's, long before Lenin's father pulled himself up by his own bootstraps from the slums of Astrakhan; Tolstoy studied in Kazan for five years before he decided the professors were ignoramuses and he returned to his estates. Lenin never actually graduated from Kazan; he was expelled from taking part in a student demo (and for refusing to recant). Gorky had come here from Nizhni Novgorod, but the university refused to admit him, so he lived in cheap rooming houses with the Volga roustabouts and whores as his teachers; his lodgings were filled with revolutionary students who were in ferment over the need to throw all aside in a great frenzy ... Gorky loved them all.

"We have a reputation to uphold," on the of students told me as we sat on the edge of a monument in a park across from the main university building. His English was excellent, flawless, his accent British "from the films," as he put it. " A reputation for radicalism for revolution; though our professors of course believe we have only to study the revolutions of the past, not to make one of our own..."

He and his friends had gone to the demo the previous day for Tartar self-sufficiency, but he hadn't been impressed. "It's all romanticism." he said "No rigor on their part. Only anger."

I asked him what he and his fellows believed. "We're not revolutionaries in the way Ulyanov was," he said, deliberately avoiding the name Lenin. "We're part of a much larger movement that cannot be called a revolution. Revolutions are made by conspirators, bomb throwers, cadres; revolutions lead to Stalin. We want none of this. We're part of amass movement away from violence, force, insistence ... We're not stoppable. We'll never have to fight. We're the future___"

"Yes,yes," I said, interrupting the flow, "but what changes are you looking for?"

"Devolution," he said. "You know the term? It's English, I think. Not separatism. A Commonwealth of Soviet Nations. We want the British idea with the West European reality. Little Belgiums, everywhere , with their own languages and their own customs, and no one to bully them, in cooperation with other..."

"Begium has severe racial and language problems," I said.

He waved me aside impatiently. "They're overcoming them," he said. "But all right, take Holland as our model. Why cannot the Tartars be like Holland?"

That was a tough one to answer, images of Tamerlane and jolly Queen Juliana jostling in my mind... So I said nothing. Why not West Europe indeed? Sovereignty-association, to use a cliche closer to my own home, from Quebec, is not an ignoble idea, taking for granted as it does that tolerance would be exercised on both sides. "Do you think the ethnic Romanians of Moldavia will accept a peaceful accommodation?" I asked. "Or angry minorities elsewhere in your country?"

"That's what we believe. When we've won they will."

Three or four more students joined us. They were all part of the English faculty, and I gave up attempting to speak Russian -- they were much more fluent in English than I'd ever be in their language.

I asked them what relationships between the Tartars and Russians were like. "how many of you are Tartars?"

There was only one. He looked Russian to me. I asked him about that.

"Centuries of mixing have taken place," he said. "That should tell you something about how we get on."

They wanted me to come that night to a meeting at one of their professors' flats to draw up an agenda for "Green action"; they were trying to set up links with Western ecology activists , so far without much success. "We have no money and no access to technology. But we'd like to take part in the international movement." I declined. I knew I'd have to return to the ship, which would depart later that night, and I wanted to explore the city a little more.

I walked back to the kremlin, and with some difficulty clambered on to one of the ramparts overlooking the Volga below. I peered across the river, trying to imagine the armies of Ivan the Terrible massed on the other side. It was hopeless. This was no longer the Volga but the Kuibyshev Sea; Kazan had been kilometes from the water in those days. Still, Ivan fascinated me, as he did all the Russians - the first Tsar to rule all the Russians, ...the madman, the first of ...so many mad fools...

It was Boris, something of an Ivan fan, who told me that "Terrible" was in fact not a very good translation of Ivan Grozni, his name in Russian: grozni can just as easily mean awesome, or awe-inspiring, formidable. "But I suppose he was terrible enough , so no one will change it now." Ivan was born in 1530, and ruled until he died in 1584. He came to power in a century that was cruel to Russia, beset as it was with wars and invasions on all sides. "It was from this," Boris said, "from these hammer blows, from these hatreds and invasions and cruelties, that Russia was formed. Is it any wonder Russia came to believe in a national dictatorship?"

Enormous resources were poured into these wars. The hundred thousand men Ivan took to Kazan were not his largest army. There were up to three hundred thousand men under arms in some of his western campaigns. Every year the provinces were expected to provide sixty-five thousand new recruits, numbers that are not so very different from those of modern armies. They were paid for by landowners, who in turn taxed their peasants and serfs. Bankruptcies mounted until at times the whole country seemed on the point of economic collapse.

Ivan's first marriage was long and apparently happy. His wife was Anastasia Zakharina-Kobila, from whose family the Romanovs would later come. She died, and Ivan never quite recovered. He married five more times before the end, each union short-lived and filled with turmoil and brutality.

In his last years madness began to overtake him. He was no longer satisfied just to be Tsar of all Russians, governing a huge empire through his bureaucrats. He wanted to sweep away all opposition, and in the presence of the gentry, the boyars and the nobles, he sensed an opposing power. Out of this paranoia came his decision to set up what was in effect a parallel government, separating the country into a portion for the state and a portion as his own personal fief. This division came to be called the oprichnina, "the apart," a word that derives from the concept of a widow's portion of an estate.

This lunatic scheme was imposed with great ruthlessness on the country. His oprichnik enforcers rode black horse and wore black clothing; they carried a dog's head at the saddle and a broom as their emblem, and their business was terror and murder; it's no accident that Stalin's infamous police under Beria were sometimes called the oprichniki. Ivan even set up a tame Tartar on the throne of the "rest" of Russia; everyone who disagreed with him, however mildly, was taken to the dungeons, tortured and thrown to the dogs. At one point he suspected that the city of Novgorod had done a deal behind his back with the Poles (a suspicion completely unfounded). He took his oprichnik army there and threw whole families into the river, stationing officers in rowboats to push them under until they drowned. Later he sent a letter to the survivors: "Men of Novgorod who are left alive, pray God for our religious sovereign power, for victory over all visible and invisible foes."

Soon afterward he killed his cousin, then he beat his wife insensible and killed his son and heir with a blow from his staff... After this he slept no more and spent his nights howling thorough the palace, until he died in despair in 1584, to the great relief of the country and especially of the people who surrounded him.

Their relief was short-lived. The Time of Troubles followed, for Ivan had killed his legitimate heir and left only the feeble Fedor in Moscow to succeeed him, and little Dmitri in Uglich...

The invasions of the Tartars were forgotten in all this chaos, and they subsided back into the long ethnic slumber from which they have not yet arisen.

People in Kazan, Tartars and non-Tartars, had insisted that Kazan was a seat of Inter-ethnic harmony. Despite these assurances, Kazan was the other place I was warned about in Gorky. The previous day's demonstration in the town square by militant Tartars pushing for an independent Tartar republic had drawn an approving mention in Kazanskaya Pravda, together with ta front-page photograph, but it had attracted only a few hundred people, many of them jeering Russians. A number of the students had confirmed that there was gang warfare in Kazan, warfare more violent than Gorky's Only some of it, they said was traceable to Russian-Tartar tension. Much of it seemed to be Tartar gangs fighting each other, and was generated by nihilistic attitudes among the young who have no faith in the system. For the several days I spent in Kazan I was watchful and wary, but I have no firsthand evidence of clashes.

Only once did I become really nervous, when I spotted an unruly group of young men, yelling and shoving one another and heading my way. I ducked into the nearest doorway; it turned out to be the baking operation of a bread shop and was filled with burly women in white smocks and headdresses kneading massive lumps of dough. There was a wonderful smell. To their indignant inquiries at my intrusion I used the word khoolighani (hooligans), which is archaic but the only word I could dredge up to cover the case. That they responded at once, one of them slamming the heavy door and ramming home a massive bolt, made me thing there was something to these stories. The women were solicitous. They made sure the coast was clear before they let me out, and insisted I take a loaf of bread hot from the oven. Solicitous, but also amused by my folly.


Kuiibyshev sits on a great horn of land that juts into the Kuibyshev Sea at its narrowest point, where the sea is only about 10 kilometres across . This is the Kuibyshev that until 1935 used to be called Spassk-Tatarskii, not the much larger Kuibyshev further down the river, which was renamed Samara after aI left; the old Bolshevik V.V. Kuibyshev had been Party boss in Samara at the time of the Revolution, and there are busts of his sever and overstuffed form all over this district. It seemed somewhat excessive to name two towns after him, but I wasn't going to argue the point. I wasn't much interested in Spassk-Tatarskii itself (even the Rechflot guidebook had little to say about it, except tha it was " a city in the Tartar ASSR, founded in 1781:).

But on the outskirts of the town, on the north flank of the horn facing towards Kazan, was the site of the ancient city of Bolgari, which had been the capital of the Bolgar state from the tenth century until the coming of Ivan the Terrible. At its height, it had been a city of internationally minded merchants, who'd taken on themselves the responsibility of keeping open the trading routes of European Russia.

I found an old man who agreed to take me to Bolgari in his little outboard. I stowed my bags with his family and we packed a picnic lunch, setting off around noon. I was the fourth tourist he'd shown around, he told me. "Rush hour in Bolgari," I said , but traffic jams hadn't made their way into the consciousness of the citizens of Kuibyshev, and the phrase didn't mean anything to him. The other three were all writers, he said. One was French, the other two English.

There was nothing very much to be seen at Bolgari except a few ramshackle buildings and the detritus of a major achaeological dig. Clearly its workers were on leave, for there was no one around. "Usually there are many experts here,"the old man said, disappointed. "They find all kinds of rubbish that they take to their museums." We sat on the shore and stared northward over the sea that had once been a river, and I tried to picture the dumpy Turkish trading vessels at anchor, and the sleek ships of the Vikings, which had made their way to Bolgari as early as the tenth century. (peremech lounge editor note: WOW THE RACISM) A merchant from the Levant, Ibn Fad'len, took home a desciption of the Viking primitives "as tall as date palms, red in hue"; the Vikings frightened everybody with their wild ways, filled with violence, sacrifices and urgent sexuality, and the city was relieved when they headed back north to whatever savage place they'd come from.

We were joined on the bank by a couple of fishermen from a kolkhoz on the other side of the volga, each with a homemade rod of wilow and a jar orf worms. They sprawled on the grass near us, each accepting a cigarette as his due, and stared out of the corner of their eyes, looking away whenever I glanced at them. They both wore padded jackets of some rough blue material, denim trousers and heavy farm boots. Their faces were round and florid, sly and calculating.

So much has been written about the Russian peasant! This slow moving, cautious, suspicious personage has dominated the thinking of the Russian intelligentsia for centuries, and his freedom has been the main burden of revolutionary politics since the Decemberists in the Napoleonic period. In an odd way the peasant, the "rural population, " still dominates Russian thinking. The journalists on the Novosti Express had been fascinated by peasants, if somewhat repelled; peasant traits had been a frequent topic of conversation.

I looked at the two kolkhozniks again. they were supposed to be working on the farm but were "ill" this day. Their faces were closed, neither hostile nor friendly. They said little, keeping their own counsel. Serfdom, I reflected, is only four generations removed. One of the prime purposes of the Bolshevik Revolution was the liberation of the rural workers. They were to be the backbone of the State. And here they were, taking their ease. I wondered how the peasantry's legendary evasiveness squared with the face that the New Politics appealed directly to their self-interest through the insidious medium of television... The peasants have taken what they want before; they're a powerful weapon for any politician who dares to unleash them.

On an impulse, I asked, "Didn't Stenka Razin operate around here somewhere?"

Razin was a renegade Cossack and peasant rabblerouser, and his revolt represented an early battle in the long war between bosses and peasants, the war that was supposed to end with the Bolshevik Revolution.

"Yes," the old man said, "he sailed past this place to burn Kazan."

He lit another cigarette. The two kolkhozniks lay back on the grass and snoozed, their rods weighted down with rocks, their hooks, unbaited, left in the water just in case.

From the 1650s Russia's peasants were always on the verge of ruin, and a bad harvest would bankrupt them. Since they had no legal recourse, flight was their only escape. Some would hide in the woods, others would gather in large bands, still others made their way to the Cossacks. Peasant risings became a kind of background noise, a violent static. In 1664 the Tsar ordered the first national hunt for runaways; these hunts were to be held on and off for another hundred years.

The legendary peasant patience was hardly anywhere in evidence in this period; frequently they murdered their owners, set fire to their houses, "expropriated" their fields. In 1648 there was a tax revolt in Moscow and Tsar Alexis escaped only by surrendering tax officials to the mob. Other tax revolts were reported in provincial cities. War and chaos at Center increased the burden. More and more peasants fled. Large estates became overgrown by forest, as increasing loans at increasing interest rates, impossibly heavy fines and hopelessly un-payable debts were added to the crushing burden of taxation.

With Stepan Timofeyevich ("Stenka") Razin, the notion of class war boiled up from the deep peasant resentments and shook the state. Razin terrorized the Caspian Sea, capturing Russian and Persian ships, murdering their crews and burning ports. Just outside Astrakhan, he seized a flotilla owned by the Tsar. In 1670 he descended on Tsaritsyn with seven thousand followers. Next he sacked Astrakhan. After drunken orgies and many atrocites against nobles and military - reported in Moscow with horrified relish - he murdered the governor and proclaimed Cossack self-rule. He took and burned Samara and Saratov. He looted Kazan and burned it down. He incited the peasantry to revolt against the nobility and the bureaucracy (but not against the Tsar). His revolt spread to the Don and Donets and to the major towns of heartland Russian. He was widely regarded by the common folk as a hero. To some degree he still is....

He was defeated in battle near Simbirsk in 1671 , captured and taken to Moscow. There Tsar Alexis had him tortured, quartered alive and hung outside as a warning. Without him, the revolt collapsed.

Razin's death didn't stop the revolts. In 1705 several new uprisings confronted Peter the Great. The Bashkirs rose on the middle Volga.

...in 1773 Emilian Pugachev incited the greatest uprising in Russian history until the Revolution of 1917. It began in the Ural Mountains and spread rapidly through the impoverished Volga regions of the southeast , around Tsaritsyn and Saratov. By the following summer Pugachev had placed the whole country into an uproar and was marching on Moscow itself. Catherine hastily concluded her warmaking against Turkey and turned her troops on this new and more potent threat.

An illiterate Don Cossack, Pugachev had fought for Russia in the final battles of the Seven Years Way (1756-63) in Poland. He returned home as an invalid. For three years after his recovery he wandered among the people of the Old Believers, absorbing their mystical and stubborn oppositionism. The Cossacks around the Yaik River on the lower Volga revolted against attempts to tie them to the land; Pugachev, following their lead, stirred up the Cossacks in Uralsk. He was arrested, imprisoned at Kazan and deported to Siberia. Through the complicity of his guards he escaped, and in 1773 he reappeared on the Volga. There as "Tsar Peter III," he "decreed" the abolition of serfdom and soon gathered an immense following of Cossacks, peasants, mina and factory workers, Old Believer clergy and dissident Bashkirs, still seething from their failed revolt against Peter the Great. Pugachev was defeated by a force sent by Catherine, but he regrouped and burned Kazan, captured Saratov and besieged Tsaritsyn. Finally, General Suvorov captured him and sent him to Moscow for execution.

Mishar - Tatar notes - babelfished

Fragment from the book [M].[Z]. Of [khafizova] “Nizhniy-Novgorod Tatars”

Tatars -[mishari] in the multinational province


Contemporary Tatars are one of the important [tyurkoyazychnykh] peoples, after which was fastened this name, which arrived into Europe from the east in 13 centuries together with the Tatar Mongols. In contrast to [etnonima] “the Tatars”, connected with the newcomers, the history of Tatar people is entirely different. It has deep local roots, about which long ago it was known. Thus, [N].[G]. Chernishevsky, who well knew history, culture, life, the customs of Tatars, that managed Tatar language and letter, that studied their history on the basis of the Tatar sources, emphasized that “from the present [rymskikh], Kazan' and Orenburg Tatars hardly there is one person, who originated from soldiers [Batyya]; what present Tatars - descendants of those tribes, which lived in these places and subjugated [Batyem], as were subjugated Russians”.

The efforts of many researchers proved that between the Mongolians of 12-13 centuries and the contemporary Tatars there is in common either in the language or in anthropology nor in the material and spiritual culture. The ethnic roots of Tatars depart to the local Turkish tribes, which lived in East Europe in the territory between [Uraloi] and by the Carpathians still at the end of the past and the beginning of new era, they continue to live now. The fact is that, as researchers assert, “here there was no change of peoples, it changed only by [etnonim], since in the different periods of history as the ruled tribes among many Turkish tribes she came out the one, the another tribe. Hence and the change of general for the Turks [etnonima]”.

For example, the role of the leading tribes and carriers of general [etnonima] in the specific stage of history passes in this territory to [bulgaram] and Mishars - two important Turkish tribes, which spoke on the dialects of one and the same [kipchakskogo] language, which were the ethnic basis of Volga Tatars. (By [etnonim] “of [bulgary]” in the translation from the Turkish language it indicates “river people”, and “Mishars” ([mazhgary], [mochary], [mozhary], Magyar) - “forest people”) both ethnoses passed the prolonged way of formation, development, after becoming in the course of time the independent national character of Kazan' Tatars and Tatars -[misharey].

The region of the forming of Kazan' Tatars it was left bank, eastern regions of Volga Region. The basis of their ethnogeny, together with [bulgarami], were other Turkish tribes, including of [kipchaki] and [otyurchennye] adjacent Ugro-Finnish tribes. But Tatars -[mishari], in contrast to the Kazan' Tatars, were formed in the earth of Volga right bank, the southwestern territories of Volga Region, in the regions between the Volga and the Oka and in The [meshcherskoy] lowland - so that named by Russians, as assume researchers, on the name of its basic inhabitants.

The tracks of [misharey], that lived pell-mell with other tribes in the enormous territory of East Europe, were observed even to our era, and with the average flow of the Oka from 2 centuries of our time. The distant ancestors of [misharey] were “[akatsiry]”, and later - [mozhary], especially the people “of [kipchak]- Tatars”, which played significant role in molding of Tatars -[misharey] as the component part of the Tatar people.

In this process participated also the [otyurechennye] Finno-Ugric tribes and [obulgarizovannye] [burtasy]. Specifically, [burtasy] and [mozhary] are called by some researchers as the straight predecessors Of the [sergachskoy] (or ancient [alatyrskoy]) group of [misharey] - ancestors of contemporary Nizhniy-Novgorod Tatars.

The process of the rapprochement of Tatars -[misharey] with the Kazan' Tatars engaged the number of centuries. The bases of consolidation were laid even in the times of Volga [Bulgarii], whose earth reached the average flow of the Oka River. This tendency somewhat is accelerated in the epoch of gold horde, whose authority applied to the regions of the settling of [bulgar] and by [misharey]. Was great in this the role of Islam and [kypchakskogo] language, which became official language and language of entire [zolotoordynskogo] ethnos, dialects of which they were, as is known, [bulgarskiy] and [misharskiy] languages.

However, in the times of Kazan' khanate (1438-1552 yr) the rapprochement of [bulgar] and Mishar noticeably is weakened in view of their separate existence, when bulk of [misharey] proved to be in the camp of the enemies of [kazantsev]. Specifically, the final formulation of Kazan' Tatars into the feudal national character during this period completes. Ethnic generality and appearance of [misharey] is formed in the dependence on the Moscow state from the middle of 15 centuries in the larger part in The [kasimovskom] khanate (1452-1684 yr.), and [sergachskikh] of [misharey] - in the composition of the multinational Nizhniy-Novgorod earth.

From the second-half 16 centuries begins further rapprochement of Tatars -[misharey] with the Kazan' Tatars in connection with the beginning of the mass migrations of [misharey] to the eastern earth, that were being continued to the first half 18 centuries. In those years they widely settled on the right bank of Volga river, in The [zakamskie] regions and [Priurale], which led to strengthening of the integration processs between [misharyami] and Kazan' Tatars, and, in the final analysis, it was formed the united people of Volga-Ural Tatars. Shaping of Tatar bourgeois nation, which was being continued to the end of the 19- beginning of the 20th centuries, began from the end of 18 centuries.

Considerable [misharey] entered also into the composition of Russians, a Bashkir, [nogaytsev] and Chuvashs. At present [mishari] live in the territory of many regions and republics of Volga Region and [Priuralya], compose also the majority of the Tatar population, which lives in the large cities of Russia and other states of the CIS. Is in spite of the territorially scattered stay, they realize themselves by the indissoluble part of the united Tatar people, united by the proximity of ethnic roots and by the generality of history, religion, culture and way of life with the Kazan' Tatars. [Mishari] Kazan' Tatars tell on the dialects of one and the same Tatar people language. “If as the basis of the phonetic system of Tatar literary language lay average (Kazan') dialect, notes academician [M].[Z].[Zakiev], that as the basis of morphological system - [misharskiy]”.

Is such the brief history of [etnonima] and ethnos of Volga Tatars.
Moscow 1998

babelfished from:

this is a bit of a mess, but there are useful facts in there.

Who Killed Rasputin?

There are several titles in the "Who Killed..." series. The Rasputin tale never gets old.

Bashkir Dancing

Zurich, Switzerland 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Literary Russia - Kazan

There have been many Russians living in the Tatar Capitol of Kazan. Here are a few notes about Russian authors that have lived in Kazan (and Tatarstan)

Tatarstan Republic

Boris Pasternak Memorial Room Chistopol, a river port on the River Kama, is some 600 miles east of Moscow. At Ul. Lenina (formerly Volodarskogo ul.), 81, kv.2, is the room where Boris Pasternak spent two years as an evacuee during the Second World War, now open to the public as a "memorial room". The building, a turn-of-the-century private residence which once belonged to a family by the name of Vavilov, stands on a street where the same lime and poplar trees, of which Pasternak wrote in his poetry, grow. By the nearby River Kama there is a wide alley of old trees where Pasternak used to walk.
Other writers were evacuated to Chistopol together with Pasternak, many of whom lived in considerably more luxurious circumstances than his. The playwright Alexander Gladkov left a valuable record of his Meetings with Pasternak during these years. "Chistopol," he writes, "a small, run-of-the-mill provincial town, took on a strange appearance with the arrival of evacuees from Moscow and Leningrad. An odd touch was added by the writers, of whom there must have been several dozen. In their stylish overcoats and soft felt hats they wandered through the streets - which were covered with good Russian mud - as though they were still in the corridors of their building on Vorovsky Street."
A steep wooden staircase leads to the small second-floor room where Pasternak lived with his wife and child. Before the war, it was used as a nursery, and a border of black and red swallows decorates the walls. The furniture from Pasternak's time remains - most importantly the desk where he would sit translating Shakespeare. Some copies of original pages of his translation of Romeo and Juliet decorate the work surface.

Pasternak's life here was not "a sweet bread-roll", in the words of Gladkov. The winters were particularly harsh, but nevertheless Pasternak is said to have braved the cold: "Entering the canteen where the temperature was the same as out on the street and where no one took their coats off, Pasternak always took off his coat and hung his hat up on a nail. He would bring his work with him: and Anglo-Russian dictionary, an miniature volume of Shakespeare, and the next page of the translation."
One witness of the time recalls Pasternak being jeered at in the street by children, because of his unusual and humorous surname - Pasternak in Russian means "Parsnip".
While in Chistopol Pasternak heard of the suicide of one of his friends, the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, in nearby Elabuga.

Tatar composer Sofia Gubaidulina was also born in Chistopol in 1931.

The town of Elabuga, near Chistopol, is where Marina Tsvetaeva lived for ten days in the summer of 1941, before committing suicide at the age of forty-nine.Align Center
Marina Tsvetaeva

In early summer of 1941, when the Soviet Union became involved in the Second World War, Tsvetaeva joined a group of writers being evacuated to the Tatar Republic, after it became clear that she would not be able to stay with Pasternak in Peredelkino, outside Moscow. Having left the capitol on 8 August, 1941 with her son Mur, she arrived almost two weeks later, on the 21st but they were unable to reside with better-placed Chistopol, as her husband and daughter, who had been arrested two years before, were "enemies of the people". Tsvetaeva was reduced to renting a house in the neighboring town of Elabuga. The house, on a quiet street (Ul. Zhdanova, 20), was clean and peaceful. Apart from the kitchen there were two rooms, separated by partitions: one taken by Tsvetaeva and Mar (which was about 30 feet square in size, and looked out on to the fields and woods at the back), and another lived in by their landlords.
Tsvetaeva found it impossible to make ends meet in Elabuga, and travelled back to Chistopol on 30 August to look for work. Despite the help and support of Lydia Chukovskaya and her friends, she went home and hanged herself the day after she came back, while her landlords and her son were out. She was buried in an unmarked grave on a spot on which now stands a small white cross place by her sister Anastasia.

In 1841, the thirteen-year-old Lee Tolstoy moved with his brothers and sister to Kazan, where they took up residence at Peperechno-Kazanskaya ul.9, following the deaths of their father and grandmother (their mother had died much earlier). The Tolstoy children had been adopted by their aunt and uncle, and Yushkovs, with whom they were to live for the next few years.


Tolstoy's grandfather had once been Governor of Kazan, and the house of Count Yushkov and his wife, Pelageya (sister to Tolstoy's father), was the center of aristocratic life in the city at that time. The Tolstoy children were swept up into the round of parties, balls and trips to the theatre during their time here, and were generally well looked after by their aunt and uncle.
When Tolstoy and his three brothers became students at Kazan University in the 1840's, they began to live independently for the first time, renting a house at Bolshaya Krasnaya Ul, 68. Tolstoy joined the university in 1844, first as a student in Oriental languages, and then in law. He was not an outstanding student and never actually graduated. In retrospect, the most significant event during Tolstoy's short time as an undergraduate was perhaps his contraction of venereal disease (having been introduced to brothels by his elder brothers) - significant in that it was while he was recuperating in the clinic that he began to write his famous diary, which he would keep on and off until his death and which would become an important laboratory for his writing.
Tolstoy probably dropped out of university because in April 1847 he came into his inheritance. In his case this this meant the acquisition of Yasnaya Polyana, the estate where he had been born and had spent his early childhood. At this time Tolstoy regularly changed his mind about what he wanted to do with his life, and the prospect of becoming lord of the manor was clearly more inviting than finishing his degree.
Tolstoy is not the only famous Russian writer to have studied at Kazan University. In 1903, the poet Velamir Khlebnikov became an undergraduate there, and like his forebear, not only switched subjects - from mathematics (which included the study of non-Euclidean geometry founded there in the previous century by Lobachevsky) to natural science - but who never graduated. Unlike Tolstoy, however, Khlebnikov was sent to prison for a month for taking part in anti-tsarist demonstrations.
Klebnikov had moved with his family to Kazan in 1898, and before attending university had begun to refine the drawing skills he had developed at an early age. He was tutored by a student from Kazan Art School, then a well-established graphic artist. Khlebnikov was a keen naturalist, and liked to sketch birds and animals. In 1905 he undertook a five-month ornithological expedition to the northern Urals with his brother, during which they gathered specimens for their fathers' collection.
Baratynsky Museum This small two room museum, founded in 1975, contains personal effects and literary memorabilia pertaining to the time Baratynsky spent both here and at his father-in-law's estate at Kaimara, about fifteen miles from Kazan. Exhibits include furniture from the poet's study here, as well as books from his library, and etchings by Vasily Zhukovsky.
Baratynsky first came to Kazan in 1831, for business reasons, and settled for a few months with his family on Gruzinskaya ul., in his father-in-law's town house. He found cultural life here primitive and did not enjoy himself very much. In 1833 he was compelled to come back again to take care of the Kaimara estate, and his melancholy state of mind was dispelled only by a chance meeting with Pushkin, who was traveling around Russia collecting materials on Pugachev. Address: Ul. Korolenko, 26
-Gorky Museum Gorky lived in Kazan from 1884 to 1888 and hoped to go to university here. He held a succession of jobs while he was living in Kazan and between 1886 and 1887 he worked as an apprentice at the Derenkov bakery. It is here, on its former site on the corner of Malaya and Bolshoi Lyadsky streets, that a museum about his experiences was founded in 1940. The bakery has been recreated in the cellar of the building where Gorky used to sleep on sacks. Although he never matriculated, Gorky nevertheless referred to the four years he spent in Kazan as his "universities".
The nine rooms of the museum have been arranged chronologically to tell the story of Gorky's life and works, and contain a collection of his personal belongings, including books and clothes, as well as letters and photographs. In 1968, on the centenary of Gorky's birth, two additional floors were added to include exhibitions on the first floor about the writer's relationship with Chaliapin (who was born here and became a close friend), and the productions of his plays in Kazan. Address: Ul. Gorkogo, 10

notes on Chaliapin :
Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin (Russian: Фёдор Ива́нович Шаля́пин, Fyodor Ivanovich Shalyapin; February 13 1873 – April 12, 1938) was a Russian opera singer, born in Kazan, Tatarstan. The possessor of a large and expressive bass voice, he enjoyed an important international career at major opera houses and is often credited with establishing the tradition of naturalistic acting in his chosen art form.
During the first phase of his career, Chaliapin endured direct competition from three other great basses: the powerful Lev Sibiriakov (1869–1942), the more lyrical Vladimir Kastorsky (1871–1948), and Dmitri Buchtoyarov (1866–1918), whose voice lay between the extremes exemplified by Sibiriakov and Kastorsky. The fact that Chaliapin is far and away the best remembered of this magnificent quartet of rival basses testifies to the magnetic power of his personality, the acuteness of his musical interpretations and the vividness of his performances.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Russia's Islamic Threat" - Hahn

At the SF Public Library, we were piqued by this cover and discovered that Tatars are a THREAT!

It's curious that the authors chose to title this book "Russia's Islamic Threat" rather than something along the lines of "The Struggle of Russia's Muslim Minorities"


It is a testament to the determination and solidity of the Tatar people in the face of such opposition; racism, institutionalized discrimination and fear mongering. How frustrating/challenging to maintain a constructive and optimistic attitude about the future of our rich culture.


"By dint of sheer numbers and economic power, Tatarstan and Russia's Muslim Tatars represent the greatest potential danger to the future of the Russian federal state. Tatars are Russia's second largest nationality, and those outside their homeland of Tatarstan constitute an influential internal diaspora. Given Tatars' high rates of urbanization, Russification, secularization, and allegiance to the more moderate Hanafi school of Islam, the legacy of the nineteenth-geographical distance from the North Caucasus and its comparatively sound socio-economic performance, Tatars and Tatarstan will be an important test of the capacity of the Islamist movement ... to "travel" across ethnicity and territory.
The chief defining factor of Tatar nationalism in the post-Soviet era has been Tatarstan's quest first to win and then to preserve the republic's autonomy within the Russian Federation. Islam has so far been a secondary factory. As Russia's leading republic with a Muslim titular nationality, Tatarstan's "return to Russia's legal space" was pivotal not only for the fate of federalism in Russia but for inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations in Tatarstan and perhaps for internal Tatar diaspora communities. With the end of autonomy after Putin's federative counter-reforms, there is a real possibility that the quest for internal self-determination will be abandoned by many Tatars in exchange for the more radical agendas of extreme nationalism and Islamism. Although Tatarstan lacks an external border, frustrated nationalism and a strong will to self-determination might lead to secession or destabilization of state and society. The Tatars of the Volga and elsewhere refer to a past of Tatar statehood, which drives much of Tatar nationalism.
The other major factor in Tatar nationalism is Islam, which is a central (though not necessarily the primary ) component in Tatars' sense of identity, setting them apart from the Russian Christian Orthodox "other." Tatars' allegiance to the more moderate Hanafi school of Islam and legacy and revival of the jadidist movement may predispose them to a more moderate nationalist communalism. However, the close identity of Tatar nationalism with Islamic culture and religion and the radicalizing Islamic umma both inside Russia and abroad hold the potential for a more Islamic brand of nationalism and even Islamism to develop. The Russian domestic context in which Tatars currently find themselves may strengthen the impetus toward radicalism. Putin's anti-federalist counter-revolution, the atmosphere created by the ongoing Chechen quagmire, and the infiltration of foreign and perhaps Chechen Islamists could transform Tatars' secular nationalism over the mid to long term. Should Tatar nationalism become subordinate to Islamist goals, and Islamist-led revolutionary was could well destroy the Russian state as we know it."

author: Gordon M. Hahn

Peremech from English Russia

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bashkir Rider Ulaev

This sculpture is of Bashkir national hero Salavat Ulaev. He was born in 1754. He took part in Pugachev's country revolt in days of Ekaterina II (1773-1775). The revolt was begun by the Ural cossacks and had been supported by Bashkirs . Cossacks and Bashkirs battled with imperial armies. Therefore the horse skips above a gun in this sculpture. Sculpture is from the 1970's.

There is stamp on the bottom in Russian: Salavat Ulaev - national hero and poet of Bashkir people.

Sculptor is Panov.
Here he is on a Soviet postage stamp from 1952

Bashkir Man

1821 Print (Copper Engraving):
Scenes in Armenia: A Bashkir Man and a Circassian Woman

very unflattering, we'd say

Notes on the Bashkir Language


A member of the Volga-Kama group of the Kipchak or NW Turkic languages, its closest relative being the Tatar language of Kazan. Bashkir is spoken mainly in the Bashkir Republic (capital, Ufa)(Russian Federation), on the western bank of the Ural river where it changes direction to the west. Some 32% of the Bashkirs live in adjacent districts outside the Republic. Of the 1.5 million speakers in 1989, some 72% gave Bashkir as their mother-tongue or first language. No dialectical survey of Bashkir has yet been undertaken but, especially in its eastern dialects, it has undergone strong phonetic influences from Kazakh.
Only since 1920 has Bashkir been a written language. Earlier poets and novelists used the Tatar language or, before that, Chaghatay, an Islamic literary language used by the Turkic peoples of European Russia from the 15th to the 19th c. It has been suggested that national differences between Bashkirs and Tatars were created artificially for political reasons in order to undermine a Volga Muslim unity, since the Bashkir language, except for minor phonetic differences, is virtually indistinguishable from Tatar. For the emerging Bashkir literary language, the Latin alphabet was used from 1929 until 1939, when it was replaced by an adaptation of the Cyrillic alphabet. Among Bashkir writers are M. Osmani, Sa'id Myras and T. Yabani. In their novels, dramas and poems, Bashkir writers deal with heroic and nostalgic themes from the Bashkir past.

Battal-Taymas, A. 1963. Die Literatur der Baschkiren. In Handbuch der Orientalistik, vol 5, Turkologie, Leiden-Cologne, 439-41.

Benzing, J. 1959. Das Baschkirische. In Deny, J. et al. (eds), Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta, Wiesbaden, 421-34.

Wolfgang Greller

TATARİSTAN - in Turkish

Есть вдали одна деревня from dakazan on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Largest Quran in the World in Kazan

from Russia Today November 18 2011

There are no limits to love of God, or the prophet's word. And a special new edition of the Muslim sacred text certainly speaks volumes. The world's biggest Koran, decorated with precious stones and gold, now belongs to Russia. This hefty holy book requires not only strong devotion, but also strong arms to read, as it weighs a mammoth 800 kilograms and boasts 632 pages sized two by one and a half meters. The gold- and silver-encrusted cover studded with malachite and semi-precious stones holds a giant turquoise 14 centimeters in diameter. The price of this opulent opus is unknown, but it took over a year to make. The carefully crafted Koran was ordered from Italy for the Foundation on Restoring Cultural and Historical Heritage in Russia's republic of Tatarstan. And it's certainly got a spirited reception. "This edition of the Koran has become a precious gift to all Russian Muslims," says the Islamic spiritual leader of Tatarstan, Ildus Faizov. The unique edition now resides in a mosque within the Kremlin of the city of Kazan. Next summer, the weighty holy tome will be moved to Bolgary -- a Tatarstan region which embraced Islam as its official religion in 922. The next largest edition of the Koran resides in South Sumatra, Indonesia. This wooden version was long hailed as the world's biggest. But it isn't in fact a book -- this holy scripture consists of 315 wooden planks for carved pages -- each 177 centimeters tall, 140 centimeters wide and 2.5 centimeters thick. Another huge Koran was also discovered in Indonesia, in an Islamic boarding school in West Java. This one is a whopping 200 centimeters tall and 140 centimeters wide. In 2009, Abu Dhabi book fair sold an Indonesian Koran manuscript, sized 120cm by 80cm

The Romanovs and the Russian Revolution - Yale Courses

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tatarstan - Bashkortostan

Russian - Tatar Dictionary

Русско-Татарский Словарь
Russian - Tatar Dictionary
F.A. Ganiev 1997

"Description: This Russian-Tatar dictionary contains about 47,000 words, contemporary to the Russian language. There are also obsolete words (which are encountered in the works of contemporary Russian writers), a significant quantity of conversational common words.  Considerable attention is given to social, political, scientific and technical terminology. This dictionary is intended for a wide circle of readers and is also of great interest for scientist- turkologists. It can serve as a practical benefit for those who study Russian and Tatar languages, and also for the students, instructors, translators, and workers in press, radio and television. "

This book is in .djvu format
We like the WinDJView app to view this book format.
It is a free download from download.com.

Tatar Clothing Book

The Peremech Lounge has a copy of this book as a .pdf.Please send us a note and we will send you a copy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tatar - Russian Dictionary 1966

This is a re post of that HUGE Tatar/Russian Dictionary from 1966. (140MB!)
This dictionary is a Xerox of the original held at University of California, Berkeley.
The professor would not permit the dictionary to leave the building, so I stood next to his desk and copied it in its entirety. The Xerox machine ran out of paper and broke down a few times, professor running out of patience. This file is a .pdf of a scan of a Xerox so it is far from pristine. Another problem I encountered in 1987, when this was scanned was that there did not exist a Tatar/English dictionary. I would use this dictionary first and then to a Russian/English dictionary. You could imagine the difficulty in this two step process. Here it is:  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Songs from the Land of my Childhood - Bashkortostan

The Dance of the Seven Girls - Ete Kiz Biyu
Girl Galiabanou
Goose's Wing - Kaz Kanaty
Butterfly - Kubelek
Chirping Crane - Sonray Torna
Girl Khatira
I Was Not Leaving You - Tashlamam Digen Idem
On the River - Hiy Builap
Blue Gown - Zenger Kulmek
The River Irendek
On Our Street - Beznen Ouramda
Nightingale - Ai Bil Bilim

Tatar Alphabets