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Nation, Language, Islam

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Helen M. Faller

Introduction

Texte intégral

“In Germany I have a son. He has been living there with his children for two years,” the old woman explained to me in Russian, smiling broadly. She turned her head back towards the postal clerk sitting behind her window. The clerk, a Tatar woman in her twenties, took the pens and pencils out of the old woman’s package and passed them back to her through the narrow opening. “Only printed matter,” the clerk pronounced grimly from her seated position. The old woman bent over, putting her face close to the opening, and tried to catch the clerk’s eye. She be-seeched her, “Just one? It’s good. It’s ours. It’s Soviet.” The postal clerk kept her eyes averted and shook her head.

Field notes, Kazan’s Central Post Office, 14 August 2000

  • 1 Austin (1961) describes the power of words to make things happen through what he calls the pereloc (...)

1This exchange demonstrates one of the central paradoxes of living in post-Soviet Russia, which is that while Soviet bureaucratic institutions are still in place, Soviet ideology has lost its persuasive appeal. The highly regulated bureaucracies the Soviet government created—the postal system, mass transit, banking, long distance trains, the passport regime—still operate according to strict Soviet-period rules. However, Soviet things possess little perceived merit and are especially unimportant to people of the postal clerk’s generation, who came of age during perestroika. Calling something “good” because it is “ours” and “Soviet” can no longer change circumstances or be employed to bend rigid rules towards felicitous out-comes.1

  • 2 Turkic languages are also spoken by neighboring Bashkirs and Chuvash, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tur (...)
  • 3 Bhabha (1990).
  • 4 Fanon (2004) also notes that decolonization modifies men fundamentally. Bakhtin (1991: 293).

2This book is about the unmaking of Soviet people. It takes as its example a movement for political sovereignty (1990–2000) in the Russian autonomous republic of Tatarstan and examines its continuing social effects. Accepting the local interpretation that the post-Soviet revival of Tatar—a Turkic language—and Tatar culture in Tatarstan constitute part of a decolonization process, it illustrates how Tatar-speakers’ reality has changed since Mikhail Gorbachev, the last General Secretary of Communist Party of the Soviet Union, initiated his liberalizing reforms— perestroika or restructuring (1986–2001) and glasnost or openness (1985–1990).2 It accepts as a truism that when colonized peoples engage in processes of decolonization, they draw their initial demands—which largely concern reified aspects of their culture, such as national language, institutionalized religion, and genres of art—from within colonial frames of reference.3 Decolonization changes their subjective identities in ways they do not expect, with consequences they do not intend, illustrating Marx’s precept that men (and women) cannot make history just as they please, haunted as they are by the spirits of the past, and reinforcing Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia, according to which every word is populated by someone else’s intentions.4

  • 5 Columbia University economist and former Russian government advisor Jeffrey Sachs was a leading ad (...)

3Literature on the failed “transition” of socialist states demonstrates that, while the inhabitants of formerly socialist states can unmake previous social and political orders, they have been unable to transform their societies into the free market, capitalist states imagined by western advocates of neoliberalism.5 Thus, although the Tatarstan sovereignty movement neutralized much of the Russian cultural hegemony once prevalent in the Republic of Tatarstan, it was nonetheless constrained by social and political structures that prevented it from realizing its nation-building ambitions. Since 1986, Tatarstan’s Tatar-speakers have undergone a revolutionary transformation that has caused them to view the world in ways profoundly different from Russian-speakers. Communication within Tatar social networks means that this transformation has affected even Tatars who don’t have functional ability in the Tatar language, as well as Tatars who live outside Tatarstan. While nation-building failed to produce a sovereign state, it has had the unintended consequence of estranging Tatar-speaking Tatars from their Russian-speaking neighbors, colleagues, friends, and relatives.

  • 6 Handler (1988).

4Drawing upon terminology anthropologist Richard Handler used to analyze nationalism in Quebec, I describe the loosely defined group of sovereignty activists seeking to create change in Tatarstan and more broadly in the Russian Federation as “nation-builders.”6 Perestroika provided Tatar-speakers an opportunity to openly oppose what they perceived as institutionalized discrimination against their national language and culture and to advocate for its end. The Soviet Union’s subsequent collapse gave them a chance to create a society for their children more equitable than the one in which they grew up.

  • 7 Accounts of post-Soviet nationalisms often deride nation-builders’intentions, citing the fact that (...)
  • 8 Iskhakov (1998); Khakim (1998); Khakimov (1996); and Walker (1996).
  • 9 O’Conner (2006: 282).

5Tatarstan’s nation-builders are educators, politicians, students, journalists, artists, and intellectuals. They constitute the Tatar élite of Kazan. Many are former communists, but like other ex-Soviets, decolonization has fundamentally transformed them in ways they didn’t expect.7 Until Vladimir Putin became president of the Russian Federation in 1999, the politicians among them had fairly successfully brokered power sharing with the central authorities in Moscow.8 In August 1990, the year before the Soviet Union collapsed, Boris Yeltsin visited Tatarstan and urged Russia’s polities to “take all the sovereignty they could swallow.”9 That same month, Tatarstan declared sovereignty and announced that the republic had two official government languages, Tatar and Russian. In 1992, Tatarstan adopted its own Constitution and in 1994 concluded a bilateral treaty upholding sovereignty with Moscow.

  • 10 Language plays a key role in how people perceive the world they inhabit. We know this from the wor (...)

6Based on the fundamental premise in linguistic anthropology that language not only describes and mediates but also creates reality, this book examines Tatar nation-builders, who are all Tatar-Russian bilinguals.10 It is not concerned with the experience of monolingual Russian-speakers in Tatarstan, but rather what is taking place there unheard and unperceived by Russians—that is, by people unfamiliar with Tatar discursive worlds— and the significance of that for Russia as a whole.

A Few Words about Publics

  • 11 Anderson (1991) and Habermas (1989).
  • 12 Anderson’s work doesn’t account for the various sources from which people acquire information in a (...)

7Scholars commonly define publics as groups of people who imagine themselves to constitute a unified, undifferentiated, homogenous whole. This belief emerges primarily from the theoretical work of anthropologist Benedict Anderson and sociologist Jürgen Habermas.11 Anderson proposes that print media catalyze the development of national identity. Individuals living in different regions of a state read newspapers published in standardized national languages. As a result, it is assumed, they all imagine themselves belonging to the same undifferentiated nation.12 While Anderson’s theory purports to describe the development of nationalism in nineteenth-century Europe, it has been freely applied to radically dissimilar contexts.

8Habermas describes the emergence of a “public sphere” created by and accessible to the 18th-century European, primarily male, bourgeoisie, originating in and centered on coffeehouses, literary salons, and print media. Discourse in the public sphere promoted Enlightenment ideals of equality, human rights and justice, but was subsequently enfeebled by the growth of state capitalism and commercial mass media. Both theorists’ approaches are culturally and historically particular. Their application to other times and places presumes that the experiences of literate, propertied, bourgeois European men are universal.

  • 13 Calhoun (1997); Gal and Woolard (2001); Silverstein (2000).
  • 14 Lutz and Abu-Lughod (1990).

9Moreover, Anderson’s and Habermas’s ideas about the development of national cultures rely on a simplified understanding of people’s relation to standardized languages.13 Both, for instance, assume that consumers of print media identify with a single standardized national language employed within a unified public sphere. The work of linguistic anthropologists on indexicality shows, however, that dissimilarly positioned speakers of a language will vary in their affective relations to it.14

  • 15 Duranti (1997); Hanks (1990); Jakobson (1970).
  • 16 Boas (1938); Sapir (1985[1949]); Whorf (1941). Lucy (1992a, 1992b) has continued this vein of rese (...)
  • 17 Silverstein (2000: 125).

10Indexicality refers to the ways that speakers divide physical categories such as space and time, as well as social ones such as degrees of intimacy and rank through lexical terms such as here, there, you, we, now and then. These are differently structured in different languages, and thus cause speakers of different languages to parse the world in quite different ways.15 In the earliest recorded and perhaps best-known example of this phenomenon, anthropologist Franz Boas discovered that speakers of different languages perceived colors differently depending upon the color terms available in the languages they spoke.16 Whorfian effects, as linguistic anthropologist Michael Silverstein names the phenomenon in homage to the famous linguist, occur at the cognitive level, conjuring into existence a habitual thought world. Silverstein defines this as “a complex, emergent, partly analogically driven conceptual orientation that is absolutely ‘real’ to the people in whom it emerges.... We reveal and affirm this thought-world to ourselves each time we use fashions of speaking about matter in ‘space’ and ‘time,’ that is, every time we formulate a sentence.”17 In a multilingual society, it follows, the existence of different habitual thought worlds will make for the existence of multiple publics, loosely bound by the circulation of particular forms of discourse. But even when speakers of a particular language inhabit overlapping thought worlds, and so may seem to make a single public, individual variation in speech practices and life experiences will mean that no two thought worlds are completely identical. In bilingual situations, like the one in Tatarstan, speakers of the subordinate language are furthermore linked by their uneven knowledge of the hegemonic language. Not quite part of the same public that represents monolingual Russians, because their knowledge of Russian varies, neither do they comprise a unitary group. This places them in different relations not only to Russian-speaking Russians but also to other, variably competent, russophone Tatars.

  • 18 My text signals moments of divergence using “referential,” “worldview,” and “discursive” to denote (...)

11Assuming the existence of habitual thought worlds, I explore another means by which language influences how people see the world. Instead of examining the ways grammatical categories structure quotidian life, I focus on discursive worlds and the multiple, variegated publics they more or less encompass. My research reveals that increasing the number and breadth of the domains for doing things in a subordinate language can make for a divergence in the discursive worlds inhabited by speakers of that language from those of people who only speak the hegemonic language.18 As the arena of available activities in the Tatar language expanded, greater communication occurred across previously existing boundaries, and this changed Tatar-speakers’ worldviews, particularly their conceptions of national difference.

  • 19 Chaterjee (1991), Kelly and Kaplan (2001); Silverstein (2000).
  • 20 Anderson (1991: 6 and 7, respectively). Similarly Gellner’s (1983) and Hobbsbawm’s (1990) theories (...)
  • 21 As pointed out by Barth (1969).
  • 22 See Silverstein (2000) for an exegesis of this point.
  • 23 Grojean (1982).

12Building upon other criticisms of Anderson’s work, I hold that the ways in which Tatars imagine their nation territorially, religiously, and linguistically fluctuates as much as other aspects of their identities.19 In particular, I take issue with Anderson’s assertion that nations are imagined “as both inherently limited and sovereign” defined by “finite, if elastic, boundaries.”20 For all their concern with sovereignty, Tatar nation-builders do not consider their nation to be limited by finite boundaries. My research suggests that Anderson’s model of the nation is incorrect, not only for “the Tatar nation,” which does not fit Europe’s historical trajectory of development, but for all nations. And here is why. First, the boundaries delimiting any group of people are always both permeable and subject to significant change over time.21 Second, the processes whereby the social groups we call nations come into being and perpetuate their existence are fraught with tension, uneven, and always incomplete. For these reasons, defining a nation or public in any kind of sustained way is not possible. Third, groups imagined as homogenous contain internal differentiation with respect to social position, gender, class, region of origin, age, ethnicity, education, political views, profession, sexual orientation, race, and so on. Members of that group consequently read, or otherwise interpret information available to them, variously. That is, publics are always multiple and fragmented, even when they represent speakers of the same language.22 Fourth, half the people in the world are bilingual, which means that they may not feel affiliated with just one language.23 Fifth, Anderson’s approach promotes an unsophisticated view of people who, though they consider themselves as belonging to the same nation, often recognize and even promote internal diversity.

Historical Background

  • 24 The ethnonym “Tatar” first appears in 8th-century Chinese sources (Schamiloglu, personal communica (...)

13Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, is located on the confluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers. Situated like Rome atop seven hills lush with greenery, Kazan is a little over 600 miles southeast of Moscow, in the European part of Russia to the west of the Ural Mountains. It has been inhabited for more than 1,000 years, according to recently unearthed archaeological evidence. This discovery makes Kazan significantly older than Russia’s two leading cities—Moscow by 200 years and St. Petersburg by over 700 years—which Tatars view as a point in favor of their civilized status.24

  • 25 Pelenski (1974).
  • 26 An Orthodox Christian, Turkic-speaking group called Chuvashes, whose contemporary language appears (...)
  • 27 Shnirel’man (1996). Previous to this, Turkic dialects were represented by runes. Grave headstones (...)
  • 28 Werth (2002).

14Before Russia colonized the region, Kazan was the center of the Kazan Khanate (1438–1552), a daughter state of the Golden Horde twice the size of present-day Tatarstan.25 Kazan Tatars claim descent from the city-state of Bolgar, now an archaeological site 100 miles south of Kazan. Bolgar was occupied by Turkic-speaking Muslims from at least the 10th through the 13th centuries, when, in 1230, Chingis Khan’s Great Horde invaded from the east.26 Claiming descent from Bolgars is significant because it defines Tatars as both European and as indigenous to the region they currently inhabit, and not invading newcomers descended from troops in Chingis Khan’s army and Asian, as Russians often allege. In 922, influenced by the missionary work of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, Bolgars converted to Islam—Tatars imply that it was a mass conversion—and began writing in Arabic script.27 When speaking of medieval Tatar history, Tatar Muslims do not hesitate to point out that they became monotheists 66 years before Prince Vladimir of Kiev adopted Orthodox Christianity. Even though up to 10 % of Muslim Tatars had converted to Orthodoxy by the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the majority of present-day Tatars nevertheless iconically equate Islam with Tatarness.28

  • 29 There were Nestorian Christians among highly placed Chingisid bureaucrats and the Russian Orthodox (...)
  • 30 Pelenski (1974).
  • 31 See also Grey (1964). Ostrowski (2002) explains that it was only after Ivan tried to coopt Tatar l (...)

15After Chingis Khan died, his sons cooperatively established a state, known as the Golden Horde, that ruled Eurasia for approximately 250 years. The Golden Horde’s official religion became Islam, though the state tolerated other faiths.29 Moscow developed dynamically under Golden Horde rule, accumulating political power and wealth, a result of its success in exacting taxes for the government from other Russian city-states.30 When the Golden Horde collapsed, several daughter states, including the Kazan Khanate, continued to receive taxes sporadically from Russian principalities, though wars were chronic among the Golden Horde daughter states. This changed in 1552, when Ivan the Terrible, Prince of Muscovy, detonated a bomb in Kazan, according to an eyewitness, and captured the city.31

  • 32 According to Prince Kurbsky’s account in Karamzin (1892). See also Kappeler (2001).
  • 33 Kappeler (2001).
  • 34 Karamzin (1892). See Halperin (1985), Kappeler (2001), Karamzin (1892), and Pelenski (1974) for a (...)
  • 35 Pelenski (1974). Batunsky (2003) disagrees with this claim, advocating instead a belief that Islam (...)
  • 36 See Karamzin (1892).

16Ivan IV razed Kazan and put to death every Kazanian he could find.32 He instituted a policy of forced conversion to Orthodox Christianity and decreed that the remaining Muslims be removed from Kazan or drowned.33 His conquest was part of an effort to expand the Principality of Muscovy, for once Ivan had conquered Kazan, and subsequently Astrakhan, in 1556, he declared himself Tsar of All Russia.34 Although, at a later date, the Russian state claimed religious reasons for conquering Kazan, at the time of conquest the Middle Volga region’s primary attractions were economic.35 Perceived ethnic differences based upon linguistic knowledge were not incorporated into the historiography of Kazan’s demise until the 19th century.36

National Categories in Socialist States

  • 37 Soviet social evolution was strongly influenced by 19th-century American ethnologist Lewis Henry M (...)

17The Soviet Union was a vast territory that spanned 11 time zones. The work the Bolsheviks needed to accomplish in order to make administrative decisions about how to divide and govern that territory after the October 1917 revolution was likewise vast. At the outset, Soviet administrative policies were deeply influenced by two basic precepts of Marxian thought. The first precept was that human social organization develops along a single universal path of social evolution, while the second proposed that nations are the fundamental unit of human social organization, with some classified as “great historic nations” and others as unviable, small, and lacking their own history.37

  • 38 See Hirsch (1997) for a description of this process. Languages came to stand for nations to the ex (...)

18Beginning in 1924, the Soviet authorities employed linguists, ethnographers, and statisticians in the state-building process of categorizing people living in the Soviet Union by nationality. This required intellectuals to reconceive imperial bureaucratic categories, which had been imposed on the basis of religion and native language, and to decide which groups actually constituted a nationality and which should be absorbed into a neighboring group. Creating the Soviet nations and nationalities that would comprise the USSR required the tidy categorization of an untidy reality: Soviet ethnographers had to schematize the patterned but nonetheless changing practices that comprised people’s everyday lives. One thing remained constant, however: as peoples came to be identified with nations, and as nations required national languages as essential components of their national culture, languages came to stand for nations.38

  • 39 Wolpoff and Caspari (1997). Aisylu, who appears elsewhere in the text, pointed out to me that when (...)

19The practices that came to identify differences among official national cultures included life rituals, such as those performed at funerals, births, and particularly marriages; aspects of material culture, such as clothing, types of abode, and various kinds of utensils and tools; and forms of art, such as literary genres, music, and theatre. The codification of national languages was essential to this process of differentiation. For Turkic peoples, slight differences in speech patterns, dress, musical genres, and other potential expressions of social status and personhood came to indicate the existence of different nations, much as clinal variation in human morphology has historically been perceived racially.39

  • 40 See Austin (1991).
  • 41 Gellner (1983) asserts that statehood is central to nationness.
  • 42 Hirsch (1997).
  • 43 Work by linguistic anthropologists on the relationships between language and nationalism illustrat (...)
  • 44 Brubaker (1996: 23).

20While at first the trend was to create a proliferation of nationalities, by the late 1930s this had turned into an officially sanctioned effort to absorb smaller groups into larger national-territorial units.40 The result was somewhat paradoxical. Soviet nations were conceived according to a western European model which granted them language, territory, and history, but denied them statehood.41 As historian Francine Hirsch points out, fitting Soviet people into a comprehensive conceptual framework with national, territorial, and standardized linguistic boundaries gave rise to nationalism where it previously did not exist.42 Nineteenth-century European nations were built on speakers of what seemed (though weren’t actually) common languages living within the same territorial state borders.43 By contrast, 20th-century Soviet nations emerged from processes that divided people living within one state in ways that helped to maintain Russian hegemony. Moreover, national membership was complicated by state policies that, in the words of sociologist Rogers Brubaker, “established nationhood and nationality as fundamental social categories sharply distinct from the overarching categories of statehood and citizenship.”44

  • 45 This occurred to Kazan Tatars, a third of whom ended up living in neighboring Bashkortostan (Schaf (...)

21The Soviet Union was eventually determined to consist of 15 union republics, with each union republic containing numerous autonomous republics and regions. The borders the state drew caused many Soviets to live outside their titular national territories.45 The Russian Republic was granted 89 autonomous polities, among which Tatarstan remains one. Autonomous republics were a level lower in the Soviet administrative hierarchy than union republics, which was the status of Russia itself and the other 14 republics that became “independent states” after the USSR’s collapse.

  • 46 When these decisions were being made in the 1920s, by contrast, one explicit reason provided for d (...)
  • 47 Fändäs Safiullin, Russian Duma Deputy, Interview, June 1998.

22During the process of nation formation in the 1920s, some Kazan activists sought to have Tatarstan declared a union, rather than an autonomous, republic. Contemporary Tatar politicians claim that, in making Tatarstan an autonomy, Soviet authorities split the Tatar population between Tatarstan and Bashkortostan—the autonomous republic on Tatarstan’s eastern border—to prevent Tatarstan from becoming too powerful a polity.46 Before the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991, Tatar nation-builders tried once more to elevate Tatarstan’s status to that of a union republic, again without success.47 They also suggested uniting the two republics territorially to strengthen their joint ability to make political claims against the government in Moscow and appeals to the outside world, but Bashkortostan declined.

  • 48 Grant (1995).

23Early Soviet nationalities policies were remarkable for simultaneously promoting diversity and demanding conformity.48 The USSR created “national cadres”—non-Russian intellectuals and bureaucrats to occupy posts in the newly created state structure—in a process called korenizatsiia [rooting]. Then, it arrested or shot members of these national cadres who did not follow the state’s dictates closely enough. It promoted the fluorescence of non-Russian language varieties and then took measures to cut the number of schools teaching them.

  • 49 Brubaker (1996); Lemon (2000); Slezkine (1994b); Suny (1997); and Verdery (1996).
  • 50 Brubaker (1996). This is frequently referred to as the piataia grafika [the fifth entry] because o (...)
  • 51 Slezkine (1994b) coined the term “ethnic particularism,” which informs my use of “national particu (...)

24Each Soviet citizen carried an internal passport listing his or her nationality, which was supposed to be based on “mother tongue,” imbuing nationality with bureaucratic, and hence political, form in daily life.49 As Brubaker notes, in every bureaucratic encounter, whether it was borrowing a library book or purchasing a bus ticket or applying for a job, Soviet citizens had to present their internal passports and have the information in them, including their nationality, noted down.50 Soviets thus received constant reinforcement of themselves as members of a particular nationality. All the same, beginning in the 1960s, the Soviet state took steps to discourage national particularism, marked by ethnographers’ sudden employment of the term “ethnos” to refer to groups of Soviet people.51

  • 52 Neglect to the Soviet Union’s provincial infrastructure included a concerted lack of upkeep of bui (...)

25Under Soviet rule, Russia’s 89 internal polities were required to hand over much of their foodstuffs and other resources to the central government in Moscow, while few expenditures were made to maintain the infrastructure of the regions, as they came to be called.52 When perestroika began, several regional polities tried to negotiate the retention of some locally generated revenues from industries (oil and car manufacture in Tatarstan) and taxes in order to reinvest them locally. Because the most assertive of these polities were the official territories of titular nationalities, efforts by the regions to negotiate economic self-rule became ethnically colored.

26Soviet economic domination was matched by a program of cultural control. Resources for Tatar national schools declined sharply during the Soviet period. There were 31 such schools in Kazan in 1917, but, by 1945, only two remained. By 1990, there were none to which parents who cared about their children’s future would choose to send them. Tatar-language education was confined to villages and there was a stigma against speaking the language outside Tatar villages, the bazaar, or the domestic sphere (as variously defined).

  • 53 Williams (1977) on structures of feeling and Martin (2001) and Verdery (1996) on the effects of So (...)

27At the same time, as “Soviet” lost much of its staying power as a supra-ethnic identity marker, identification according to the already-existing category of nationality became more salient. Though ex-Soviets began to express opinions that would have been previously inexpressible, they nevertheless tended to view relations between social groups using Soviet categories of analysis—as most fundamentally between nations or peoples. Post-Soviet nationalisms do not reveal the existence of age-old ethnic rivalries, but rather emerge from structures of feeling constructed by Soviet nationality policies.53 The social evolutionary theories of Marx and Engels continue to permeate post-Soviet thinking about the relationships between levels of civilization, language, and nation.

  • 54 This may be due to a greater scarcity of resources distributed through ethnicized social networks, (...)
  • 55 Tatars and Volga Germans were never satisfied to learn that I was American. Rather, they wanted to (...)

28In post-Soviet Russia, people who call themselves Russian, especially those living in urban centers, may treat adherence to a national identity as if it were evidence of backwardness. By contrast, in the provincial capital where I carried out my research, nationality remains an extremely important, perhaps even the most important, identifier of who a person is.54 Indeed, Kazanians who have suffered discrimination as a result of their minority nationality status—especially Tatars and Volga Germans—possess a heightened awareness of nationality as an essential identity category.55

Tatarstan Sovereignty

  • 56 Damir Isxakov cited in an RFE/RL Report, 17 December 2001.
  • 57 Zorin (2004).
  • 58 Much of this repatriation consists of Tatars (and others) whose families left for Central Asia to (...)

29In 1989, according to the Soviet census, Tatarstan’s population was 3.6 million (one million in Kazan). Of this number 48.5 % were Tatars, while Russians comprised the republic’s second largest nationality at 43.3 %, followed by single-digit percentages of Chuvash, Ukrainians, Mordvins, Udmurts, Mari, and Bashkirs. Tatars became a majority in the republic, accounting for 52 % of the population in 2001, when the percentage of Russians was estimated at 42 %.56 The 2002 All-Russian Census attests that Tatarstan’s population grew to nearly 3.8 million, with Tatars making up 53 % of the population, while Russians dropped to 39 %.57 These statistics are significant because they show that, along with Russian out-migration, Tatarstan policies facilitating the repatriation of people originally from Tatarstan seem to have made an impact.58

  • 59 Walker (2003).

30Following its declaration of sovereignty in 1990, in 1991, Tatarstan’s leadership refused to accept the legitimacy of the Russian Federation’s presidential elections. Only 36.6 % of Tatarstan’s eligible voters participated in the election that made Boris Yeltsin Russia’s president, while over two-thirds turned out to elect Mintimir Shaimiev president of Tatarstan.59 In 1992, under pressure from the Moscow government, which was sure that sovereignty wouldn’t enjoy support among Tatarstan’s majority

31Russian population, Tatarstan held a popular referendum on sovereignty. The Tatarstan electorate was asked to respond “yes” or “no” to the following question:

Do you agree that the Republic of Tatarstan is a sovereign state, the subject of international law, forming its relations with the Russian Federation and other republics and states on the basis of legal agreements?

32To many people’s surprise, 61.2 % of voters supported the measure, even though Moscow carried out fear-inducing media blitz propaganda campaign declaring that a “yes” vote would result in civil war and, on polling day, the Russian army carried out demonstrative tank maneuvers along Tatarstan’s borders, while the Russian air force dropped leaflets from overhead.

33In addition to ratifying its Constitution in 1992 and concluding a bilateral treaty with Moscow in 1994—which some nation-builders considered an unnecessary concession—, Tatarstan forged economic agreements with foreign states. During sovereignty, the strength of Tatarstan’s government and its concrete, if sometimes corrupt, efforts to improve life for people in the republic caused everyone who lived there to experience life differently from people elsewhere in Russia. This difference was visible as soon as one crossed into Tatarstan, for example, by the fact that public spaces like bus terminals and fences were suddenly covered in fresh paint, in contradistinction to the typically unrelenting drabness of rural Russia.

  • 60 In 1998, 80 % of Tatarstan’s financial capital still came from Moscow.
  • 61 The percentage of locally collected revenues that go directly to the center is disputed, but may b (...)
  • 62 Tatarstan’s modified constitution states, “The sovereignty of the Republic of Tatarstan shall cons (...)

34In 1994 the Russian government discovered that Tatarstan was only transmitting 6–7 % of locally collected taxes to the center, instead of the 30 % earmarked for the federal budget.60 In 2000—his first year as Russia’s President—Vladimir Putin came to Kazan during the annual Sabantuy celebrations in June and held a 24-hour-long closed-door meeting with Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiev and Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rahimov. According to a source close to Shaimiev, Putin threatened to “discover wahabbists” on the two presidents’ territory, which he would use as justification for “making a Chechnya” out of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, unless both republics relinquished their adherence to the powersharing agreements they had concluded with Moscow in 1994. Whatever actually happened behind those closed doors, Tatarstan immediately agreed to cede at least 50 % of the revenues generated on its territory to Moscow, which, as in Soviet times, were not redistributed back to the republic.61During his tenure as president, Putin implemented a number of centralizing measures that applied equally to all Russia’s 89 regions. These ineluded “harmonizing” regional constitutions and laws to comply with the Russian Federation’s, even when their adoption predated Russia’s, as was the ease with the Tatarstan Constitution; placing local publications, distilleries, and regional secret police, who have heightened their surveillance, under Moscow’s direct control; and making regional presidents, such as Mintimir Shaimiev, who had previously been popularly elected, his appointees.62 Beyond this, Putin directed special measures at Tatarstan, namely his demand that Tatarstan’s 1994 bilateral treaty with Moscow be annulled. As a result, Tatarstan had to renegotiate its status vis-à-vis Russia’s central government in a new treaty finally signed in July 2007 after years of heated debate.

35The new agreement refers to the 1992 referendum as a basis for the original 1994 treaty, but doesn’t contain the word sovereignty. It states that the Republic of Tatarstan is a subject of the Russian Federation, which will conclude agreements jointly with the Russian Federation regarding Tatarstan’s economy, environment, and culture. It grants Tatarstan the right to pursue relations with international organizations “in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in accordance with the procedure established by the Government of the Russian Federation” and Tatarstan citizens the right to a special insert in their domestic passports bearing the Tatarstan State Seal.

  • 63 Graney (2009).

36While political scientist Katherine Graney maintains that Tatarstan government officials’ continuing ability to negotiate with Moscow provides evidence that sovereignty is still alive, I hold that Tatarstan sovereignty as a popular movement no longer exists and that Tatarstan nation-builders’ aspirations have become largely denuded of political thrust.63 My claim that sovereignty is dead reflects the perspective of once-hopeful Tatar-speakers whom I consulted after 2001 about the effects of Putin’s visit and the subsequently renegotiated political relations with Moscow. When asked what changes had occurred to sovereignty, they responded that sovereignty no longer existed.

37Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, a shift in the status of Tatarstan’s two primary languages and consequent changes in the rules that dictate which language interlocutors should use in interactions have taken place. As long as sovereignty held sway, the pragmatic use of Tatar was perceived as necessary for navigating bureaucratic structures. During that time, the stigma against speaking Tatar lifted. People who did not know any Tatar during the Soviet period often studied it—government bureaucrats, university students, and school children—but didn’t employ their minimal knowledge outside the classroom. Even so, the number of domains in which people spoke Tatar without fear of harassment expanded—including universities, schools, government ministries, shops, sidewalks, restaurants, and museums. Passive speakers activated their linguistic knowledge and active speakers of Tatar came to feel comfortable using the language in all domains.

  • 64 Faller (2000, 2006).

38Even though sovereignty elevated the status of Tatar language and the domains in which Tatar is spoken have increased since the Soviet period, Russian nonetheless remained more widely used in schools, media, and other public domains. The overwhelming majority of media consumed by children, even those studying in Tatar classes, is exclusively in Russian and Russian is the hegemonic language in Kazan schools, even in Tatar classrooms. Though Tatar teachers delivered their lessons to students in Tatar, most conversations among Tatar children at school occurred in Russian. All the same, when speaking Russian to each other, children inserted phrases and made jokes in Tatar. These speech patterns created a certain kind of solidarity among them that they couldn’t share with their monolingual Russian schoolmates. Thus, the introduction of new Tatarstan ideologies complicated an already-existing two-tiered system of national identification, so that children came to identify with nations as peoples, for example, Tatars or Russians, as well as with territorial governments, that is, Tatarstan or Russia.64

Categories of People

  • 65 Raviot (1992).
  • 66 Censuses are unreliable, both as sources of information on nationality percentages and self-report (...)

39In the 2002 All-Russia Census, nearly 80 % of the Russian Confederation’s population stated that it was Russian, while about 4 % chose Tatar as their nationality. Of Tatars living in Russia as a whole, 81 % claimed knowledge of Tatar language, as opposed to 0.1 % of Russians. Almost 100 % of Russians in Russia reported fluency in the Russian language, compared to 96 % of Tatars. In Tatarstan, 99 % of Russians and 93 % of Tatars claimed fluency in Russian. The figures for Tatar language are 4 % and 94 %, respectively.65 A combined total of 53 % of Tatarstan’s 3.8 million population—including Russians, Tatars, Käräshens (Christian Tatars), Chuvash, Bashkirs, Mordvins, Mari—affirmed that they knew the Tatar language.66

  • 67 Wertheim (2003). By 2000, according to a Tatarstan government official, 45 % of Tatar children liv (...)
  • 68 Zorin et al. (2004); Damir Isxakov, personal communication (2001); and Raviot (1992), respectively (...)

40One of the core features of Tatarstan’s post-Soviet sociolinguistic field is a fundamental asymmetry between Tatar-speakers and non-Tatar-speakers, which defies attempts to think of Tatarstan language communities as bounded units. In the late 1990s, about half of Tatars in Tatarstan spoke Tatar at some level, with fluency rates higher in villages than in cities.67 Nearly all Tatars are functionally bilingual in Russian. The percentage of “Russians” in Tatarstan claiming to know Tatar rose to 4 % in 2002 from 3 % in 2001 and only 1.5 % in 1991.68 This asymmetrical distribution of linguistic proficiency stems from the fact that participation in Soviet and (subsequently Russian) society requires the ability to communicate in Russian. Consequently, Tatar-speakers possess cultural knowledge of the world inhabited by monolingual Russian-speakers, even if their knowledge of that world is not deep. By contrast, monolingual Russian-speakers frequently do not even perceive and certainly rarely acknowledge the world around them transpiring in Tatar and other low-status languages. The result is that bilingual Tatars are part of a Russian language community, while the converse is not true.

  • 69 Gal and Woolard (2001) on the messiness of categories.
  • 70 Like mutual intelligibility (Hymes 1967), whether or not a person is bilingual is not objectively (...)

41Aware that sociolinguistic categories, such as language and speech communities, are constructed out of the messy variability of social inter-action, I nevertheless attempt to classify speakers.69 Therefore, when I use the term “Tatar-speaker,” I am referring to bilingual Tatar-Russian speakers who self-identify as Tatar. Just as mapping people’s national identity is difficult, so is comparatively gauging their level of bilingual ability.70 Tatars generally say that “to know Tatar” is to be fully conversant in Tatar quotidian speech and literary language. Since the domains in which Tatar and Russian are spoken in Kazan—where most tasks cannot be accomplished speaking Tatar language—are not socially equivalent, bilingualism cannot be judged by the ability to engage in the same kinds of linguistic exchanges in both languages. Consequently, my evaluation of whether a person is Tatar-speaking or not is based upon limited observation and self-reporting. Bilingualism often becomes a topic of ideological discourses about linguistic purism, as many Tatar-speakers say they are not fully bilingual because they do not know Tatar literary language, only everyday speech. Connected to this difficulty in categorizing speakers is the problem of separating passive from active bilinguals. Even though an unknown number of Kazanians have activated their previously passive knowledge of Tatar language over the past 25 years, it is not clear to what extent or how frequently they use this knowledge.

42When I use the term “Russian,” I am primarily referring to monolingual Russian-speakers who identify as Russian by nationality. Like “bilingualism,” however, this is messy as many, if not all, “Russians” descend from multiple and variegated backgrounds, some of which include strong “Tatar” influence.

  • 71 See Humphrey (1998, 2002) on post-Soviet Russia.

43Tatarstan Russians and Tatars do not belong to culturally distinct groups of people, that is, they do not occupy separate cultural fields or even social networks. However, since perestroika, people who identify as “Tatar” have been taking steps to figure out what that means. Partially as an attempt to distance themselves from the chaos and hopelessness of daily life in post-Soviet Russia, they have practiced being Tatar through trying to speak Tatar and pressuring other people to speak it, by reviving Muslim practices, as they understand them, and by embracing idealized Tatar social relations and cultural practices.71 The result of these repeated processes is that what it means to be “Tatar” in Kazan is becoming increasingly different from what it means to be “Russian.”

  • 72 Brown and Gilman (1960).

44Like most everyone, Tatars tend to perceive the world as divided between “us” and “them.” These divisions become differently configured depending upon subject position, setting, and the kind of solidarity being emphasized at a particular moment.72 Tatars, like other Soviets, subscribe to an ideology which posits that a person’s “native language” is the standard national language ascribed to his or her nation. Consequently, divisions between the Self and Other are often made along lines of perceived native language. Perceived religion also becomes a boundary-creating device. Certainly, neither religion nor language determines national culture. Nonetheless, the discursive worlds Tatarstan people inhabit are differently configured depending upon whether Tatar or Russian is their primary language of orientation and affiliation. At the same time, while Tatarstan’s Tatar-speaking, ethnic Tatar, and Muslim communities overlap, they do not encompass a single group of people.

Definitions

  • 73 Elsewhere includes Flynn (2000), Hussain and Miller (2006), and Kvistad (1999), among others. This (...)
  • 74 For more on the changing definitions of “sovereignty” during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, (...)
  • 75 In fact, both Stalin and Lenin thought that a nation had the right to enter into federal relations (...)

45Throughout this book, “nation-building” refers to what is elsewhere called patriotic nationalism, civic nationalism, or statism, based on participation in democratic institutions, while “nationalism” refers to exclusionary nationalism based on perceived ethnicity.73 Nation-builders therefore are people engaged in creating inclusive Tatar and/or Tatarstan nationalism. “Sovereignty” is a slippery term, worthy of its own treatise.74 At sovereignty’s height as a movement, approximately 1989–1992, when Tatars engaged in daily mass protests in Freedom Square, Tatar sources employed the term interchangeably with “independence.” During my field-work in 1997–2001, Kazanians used sovereignty to describe Tatarstan nation-building efforts and the right to national self-determination Vladimir Lenin had proposed in 1914.75 In 2000, when President Putin began to exert pressure on Tatarstan to succumb to his dictates, many former supporters of sovereignty began to ask aloud, “What has sovereignty done for me?” In that context, sovereignty referred to the special circumstances existing in Tatarstan vis-à-vis its relationship to Russia. When I returned to Kazan in 2006, what sovereignty meant was no longer disputed—it was generally agreed to no longer exist.

Research Methods

  • 76 The city of Yar Chally is called Naberezhnye Chelny in Russian.

46Since 1997, I have made seven trips to Tatarstan, spending approximately 18 months there, primarily in Kazan. In addition, I visited other sites, including Tatar villages, Tatarstan’s post-industrial city Yar Chally, a few Tatarstan towns, the archaeological site of Bolgar, Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and several dachas owned by russophone Tatar friends.76 In order to develop a broad understanding of prevailing attitudes, I cultivated relationships with people who represented different positions in Tatarstan’s sociolinguistic field and thus held varying opinions of Tatarstan sovereignty.

  • 77 I spent more time with the Tatar classes at the Lab School than with the Russian ones, although I (...)
  • 78 Gabdullah Tukay is the most revered Tatar national poet, who died in 1913.

47During my most intensive research period (1999–2001), I concentrated on studying how nationalist ideas were being transmitted by the Tatarstan government through bilingual education. I spent most of my time in Kazan classrooms observing the circulation of the language ideologies that emerged in connection to teaching the Tatar language to schoolchildren and to adult government bureaucrats improving their qualifications. I worked mainly in three schools: the Lab School—a demanding, university preparatory school with gifted students from families of limited means, including refugees from Central Asia; the English School—a specialized school in English instruction filled with élite children from families with extensive financial and political resources; and the Jewish School—a school established in the late 1990s which receives funding from the Israeli government where children—90 % of whom are Jewish—learn Hebrew, Israeli history, and intellectual, cultural, and social values that the local community considers Jewish.77 These schools are grooming grounds for Tatarstan’s future leaders. I likewise spent time in ordinary schools for ordinary children of all nationalities and a special Tatar gymnasium. I visited many other schools and educational institutions in the region and frequently attended scholarly conferences on education, bilingualism, Russian federalism, and other topics. I attended dissertation defenses and worked extensively in the archives of the Tatarstan National Library, the Kazan State University Library, and the Library at Kazan’s Institute for Language, Literature, and Art. I conducted formal interviews with Tatarstan nation-builders and activists of Russian, Jewish, and German nationality, which I usually tape-recorded or videotaped, as well as less formal interviews with people who were not public figures. I attended public celebrations of May Day, Memory Day (which marks Ivan the Terrible’s capture of Kazan), the Tatarstan holiday Sabantuy, the birthday of the Tatar national poet Gabdullah Tukay, a Russian funeral, and political meetings held by local Tatarstan candidates before the 2000 elections.78 I visited numerous museums. I became well acquainted with the ethnographers at the Tatarstan Academy of Science’s Institute of History. I gathered information from Internet list-serv exchanges, blogs, and Tatarstan websites.

  • 79 The experiments to elicit racial ideologies were developed in consultation with Larry Hirschfeld. (...)
  • 80 My design was based on similar work performed by Bilaniuk (2005), Laitin (1995, 1998), and Woolard (...)

48In the schools where I conducted research, I observed Tatar-language lessons, history and literature lessons, and hallway and cafeteria interactions. Because of the high symbolic and real capital associated with knowledge of English in the former USSR, Kazan school officials agreed to allow me access to schoolchildren if I provided regular instruction in conversational English. I used the English lessons as an opportunity to conduct weekly interviews with the children and perform simple experiments designed to elicit racial ideologies.79 I also surveyed adults and children on the domains in which they use different languages and developed a matched guise test to numerically evaluate children’s language attitudes that I ran with some 200 Russian and Tatar children in the Lab School, the Jewish School, and a non-specialized high school. In addition to conducting research in classrooms, I spent time with Tatar teachers in the their staff rooms and lunch rooms gathering information on their attitudes towards Tatarstan sovereignty and other related issues.80

49Because I speak fluent Tatar in addition to Russian, I became something of a local celebrity. Newspapers, radio, magazines, and television interviewed me on several occasions (the headline often read something like “American Speaks Tatar!”). I was asked to give a paper on the state of bilingualism in the US at a conference at Kazan’s new Tatar University and to contribute scholarly articles in Tatar to local publications. I received endless, generous invitations to people’s homes, visiting pupils and teachers during holiday celebrations, and was a frequent visitor to half a dozen Tatarstan households, observing both secular and religious— Muslim, Jewish, Christian—holidays, as well as birthdays and other celebrations. I also spent time with people informally: inviting them to my apartment, going to the muncha or banya—bathhouse—with them, visiting the Tatar cemetery, going swimming in Kazan’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, skiing in Gorky Park, going to the theatre, and promenading on frosty evenings. I made frequent trips to the city’s main clothing bazaar, where a Tatar friend of mine worked, and got to know merchants of different nationalities, including itinerant workers from Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. During time spent in Tatar theatres, I became acquainted with several actors and administrators and acquired familiarity with Tatar theatre’s repertoire. I spent a month with a group of Aikido practitioners, who had little interest in political questions, and several months interacting with members of a club of university-aged Tatars almost exclusively interested in nation-building. I went dancing at the chaste Tatar discothèque in the former Lenin Monument and at Kazan’s sole gay club, where sex is on public display.

50My ethnographic data came from interactions with people of different ethnic, social, and educational backgrounds. My consultants ranged from village-born Tatar-speakers, who communicated in Russian with difficulty, to urban-born Russian monolinguals, who knew only a few key Tatar words, and included people with varying ranges of ability in the two languages. Middle-aged, village-born, Tatar intellectual women, who took me under their wing, often provided me initial entrée into various networks. But, I also became acquainted with their younger and older relatives and friends, some of whom identified more with the city than the countryside—many of whom were not Tatar or had little formal education.

51Doing fieldwork changed the way I conceived of the research project because certain assumptions I made when beginning my research turned out not to be true. My initial proposal concerned the transmission and interpretation of national ideologies as they filtered down through government hierarchies to the children considered to be their ultimate recipients. Thus, I planned to examine how intellectuals’ national ideologies were interpreted into textbooks; how teachers interpreted those textbooks in the classroom; how those teachers conveyed their interpretations of national ideologies to children; and how the children interpreted them. I planned to spend most of my time in classrooms to collect data on how these ideologies were or were not accepted and how they changed during diffusion. But, I found these were not the most compelling set of questions to emerge from doing ethnographic research in Tatarstan.

52Rather, a more interesting set of questions, in my opinion, concerned the ways in which Tatar national ideologies do not fit the model proposed by Anderson and other scholars who put forward similar theories about the relationships between language and nationalism. Works on nationalism often suggest that people experiencing national feeling imagine themselves as a homogenous, unified, bounded national unit, dangerously exclusionary of outsiders beneath a public veneer of respectability, and ready to disavow historical facts that might imply that they once felt less national than they do at present. However, Tatars supportive of sovereignty did not conform to this model of nationalism in four specific ways.

53First, I found that Tatars didn’t tend to expound a single, unifying, purist, national ideology. This is most clearly manifested by the materials on the song genre mong in Chapter 7. When I asked people about the vast individual variation in Tatar understandings of mong, they said that they didn’t expect Tatars to all think uniformly. Even in terms of religious faith, so central to how Tatars present themselves as different from both Russians and their Soviet-period selves, everyone I spoke to gave varying interpretations of what faith meant and what role it should play in their lives. The one exception to this—the only person I encountered who was exclusionary and purist in the ideology she expounded—was Fauzia Bayramova, leader of the nationalist Ittifaq Party. However, Bayramova has been effectively exiled from mainstream Tatar society both discursively, as well as physically, since she no longer resides in Kazan, but rather in the post-industrial city of Yar Chally, about 140 miles away from Tatarstan’s capital.

  • 81 Wei (2000) and Wei et al. (2002) present a sophisticated exposition of these analytical conundra.
  • 82 Providing just one example of this a Tatar-speaking teenager once told me her mother objected to h (...)

54Second, literature in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology often gives the impression that there are average speakers of a language. Yet, I found it impossible to locate “average” Tatar-speakers in Kazan. Rather, it turned out that everyone was positioned in multiple ways both linguistically and with regards to their social networks.81 Third, I discovered that the boundaries between “Tatar culture” and “other cultures” were permeable and shifting. This was true not only in terms of trying to parse shared traditions, histories and practices, but also with regards to how people produced boundaries. Sometimes, Tatar-speakers would gloss other non-Russians—Orthodox Christian but Turkic-speaking Chuvash, Käräshen Tatars (also Orthodox, not Muslim), and russophone Jews—as Russian. At others, they would underline the differences between these groups and “Russians.”82

  • 83 This expectation was influenced by Shnirel’man’s (1996) description of Tatars’attitudes towards me (...)

55Fourth, I expected that Tatar nation-builders would be inclined to deny that they had played an active role in Soviet institutions, especially membership in the Communist Party.83 However, I found that not only people not particularly supportive of sovereignty, but also Tatar nation-builders, accepted the Soviet past and saw their current efforts as emerging from the social and political structures of that period. Only one person I met attempted to modify his personal history to make his current role appear “authentic”—Niyaz Xalit, Director of the Kazan Kremlin as a Museum, who appears in Chapter 5.

56In sum, these disjunctures between theory and people’s actual lives influenced the ways I came to conceptualize the processes of national reconfiguration occurring in post-Tatarstan. As a whole, they demonstrate that the near-axiomatic acceptance of Anderson’s notion of how imagined communities do the work of nationalism is mistaken. Accepting Anderson’s theory bleeds dry the variation that exists in the agency of the people whose lives we study and discounts their ability to think reflexively about how they are positioned culturally, socially, and historically.

Taking a Stand

  • 84 My effort is influenced by work on Russia by Lemon (1996); Paxson (2006); and Yurchak (1997, 2005) (...)
  • 85 Any unflattering depictions of “Russians” are not more targeted at Russians than descriptions of t (...)
  • 86 See in particular Poliakov (1992).

57As a token of respect to the individuals who made possible the research needed to write this book by opening up their lives to me, I attempt to draw attention to a group of people who have been rendered practically invisible in external imaginings about who lives in the former Soviet Union. I expect that one of the primary criticisms of my work will be that I seem to unquestioningly accept the existence of peoples, nations, the reified cultures ascribed to those nations—and to reproduce the falsehood that they exist. My goal, however, is to represent Tatar-speakers’ perceptions of their own practices and ideologies, as I understand them, and to demonstrate how nationness is a real lived experience for them.84 Moreover, if I seem to depict the actions of some Russians in an unflattering light, I only describe what people who identify as “Tatar”—an ethnic and religious minority—live with every day.85 If my writing appears to idealize Tatars, it is not intentional. They suffer from the same shortcomings and faults all people do and I don’t wish to deny them their humanity. My purpose is to demonstrate how the things Tatar-speakers consider culturally Tatar inform their everyday practices and how they view the world differently from people who do not have access to Tatar language. This has significance for the future of the region as a whole. Some scholarly work on non-Russian ex-Soviets has promoted pathologized representations of them.86 This sometimes involves a triadic relationship whereby Russians are seen as exotically backwards and despotically Eastern—or Oriental—by comparison to Europeans or Americans, but normalized and

  • 87 Said’s Orientalism (1979) is the seminal work on how caricatures of “Orientals” have invaded weste (...)

58“European” when compared to Soviet Muslims, who take on the characteristics of the “Other” at such moments.87

Chapter Organization

59This book is organized into eight chapters, each addressing the question of how the discursive worlds inhabited by Tatar-speakers differ from those of monolingual Russian-speakers. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the historical conditions that contributed to how bilingual Tatar-speakers viewed the world prior to Gorbachev’s reforms in the mid-1980s. This chapter demonstrates that in the 1960s and 1970s even fully integrated Tatar bilingual intellectuals experienced life differently from monolingual Russians. Chapter 2 compares letters to the editor published in Tatarstan’s Russian- and Tatar-language Communist Party newspapers during the years marking the USSR’s collapse. The letters in Russian all presume the same terms of debate, no matter what the authors’ nationalities are, while the Tatar-language letters depict a world irreconcilably different from the one apparent in the letters published in the Russian language. These letters document the divergence of Tatarstan’s discursive worlds in publicly circulating texts. Chapter 3 offers a fresh approach to work on the development of Soviet nationalities by describing how orthography reflects competing, even volatile, politics. It follows the Tatar alphabet’s orthographic acrobatics since the 1920s—from Arabic to Latin to Cyrillic and back to Latin scripts—with each transformation representing a change in ideas about what the Tatar nation ought to be. Chapter 4 explores Tatar nation-builders’ ideas regarding how to develop a Tatarstan nation in the absence of a state. It describes the language-embedded Tatar cultural beliefs that influence those ideologies, stressing the postcolonial hegemony of increasingly intrusive post-Soviet Russian rule. Chapter 5 explains how repossessing Kazan as a culturally and linguistically Tatar city was fundamental to attempts to create a Tatarstan nation. Because one result of Sovieticization was to exclude non-Russian linguistic and cultural elements from Kazan’s past and present, Tatar nation-builders attempted to strengthen Tatarstan nationhood by introducing Tatar language and cultural objects into Kazan’s urban space. The authority behind this effort was fragile, undermined, in part, by having to find positive ways to include Russians in Kazan’s past. Chapter 6 describes how Soviet categories of nationality overlap with ideologies of essentialized, or racialized, difference, disclosing that Tatarstan people live with two sets of competing racial ideologies—one based on phenotype and another emerging from a person’s emotional constitution, or “inner world.” Tatarstan provides a uniquely insightful example of how racial categories are socially constructed, particularly since Tatars themselves acknowledge awareness of the processes through which essentialized difference emerges. Chapter 7 explores discourses surrounding what Tatar-speaking Tatars consider another indicator of essential difference, the melancholy song genre mong. Mong demonstrates how nationalism taps into and emerges from an emotional state that exemplifies victimhood, while reflecting the flexibility of Tatar nationalist feelings. By way of conclusion, Chapter 8 describes the extent to which Kazan’s publics have become multiple since the Soviet Union’s collapse. The most powerful illustration of this multiplication lies in the mutually irreconcilable opinions that Kazan schoolchildren express about Chechnya. Beyond this, as the Russian government has clamped down on Tatar political activity, many once-secular nation-builders have discarded their interest in language revival to enshroud themselves in Islam. At the same time, more diverse ways to be “Tatar” have emerged as a new generation of urban, hip Tatar-speakers has come of age. Though Tatarstan sovereignty no longer exists as a political mass movement, its social effects nonetheless prevail.

Notes

1 Austin (1961) describes the power of words to make things happen through what he calls the perelocutionary force of performative speech acts.

2 Turkic languages are also spoken by neighboring Bashkirs and Chuvash, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Tuvans, many other peoples in Eurasia, and of course Turks living in Turkey. Culture—which I believe exists—consists foremost in pervasive feelings about how relations among people and relations between people and their environment ought to be and serves as a persuasive mechanism for orienting people in the world. (Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990; Geertz 1973). Furthermore, cultural values are primarily conveyed through language with the result that translations of many specific experiences from one language to another are power-laden in ways that render them incomplete (Silverstein 1998; Jaffe 1999; Niranjana 1994).

3 Bhabha (1990).

4 Fanon (2004) also notes that decolonization modifies men fundamentally. Bakhtin (1991: 293).

5 Columbia University economist and former Russian government advisor Jeffrey Sachs was a leading advocate of applying neoliberalist “shock therapy” to the Russian economy. See Humphrey (1998, 2002) and Verdery (1996) for contrary views of neoliberalism.

6 Handler (1988).

7 Accounts of post-Soviet nationalisms often deride nation-builders’intentions, citing the fact that many of them are former Communists and therefore, it is implied, opportunists and inauthentic democrats. My interviews demonstrate that former Soviets may accuse their peers of opportunism. See Beissinger (1996) and Lauševič (1996) for similar accusations. My analysis, while recognizing that people’s intentionality does not remain fixed across situations and therefore cannot be frozen into tidy taxonomies, nonetheless attempts to provide a different perspective as to why Tatars may now think increasingly in national terms since the 1980s.

8 Iskhakov (1998); Khakim (1998); Khakimov (1996); and Walker (1996).

9 O’Conner (2006: 282).

10 Language plays a key role in how people perceive the world they inhabit. We know this from the work of Benjamin Whorf in the early 20th century. This is commonly referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. See Gal (1989, 1992, 2002a, 2002b, 2006); Gal and Irvine (1995); Gal and Woolard (2001); Irvine (1989, 1993); Irvine and Gal (1994, 2000); Jaffe (1993, 1996, 1999a, 1999b); Kroskrity (2000); Kulick (1992); Morgan (2002), Lemon (1991, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000a, 2000b, 2002a, 2002b); Lucy (1992a, 1992b); Philips (1982); McElhinny (1998); Silverstein (1992, 1996a, 1996b, 1998, 2000); Wertheim (2003, 2006); Woolard (1985, 1989, 1998a, 1998b), among others.

11 Anderson (1991) and Habermas (1989).

12 Anderson’s work doesn’t account for the various sources from which people acquire information in a given language, i.e., parents and family, schooling, religious milieux, work, friends, and so on. And it doesn’t account for bilingualism within a nation-which likewise existed in 19th century Europe (whether Haut Deutsch and vernacular Germans or the multiple varieties of French that were spoken before the speech of people from Ile de la Cité became the standard).

13 Calhoun (1997); Gal and Woolard (2001); Silverstein (2000).

14 Lutz and Abu-Lughod (1990).

15 Duranti (1997); Hanks (1990); Jakobson (1970).

16 Boas (1938); Sapir (1985[1949]); Whorf (1941). Lucy (1992a, 1992b) has continued this vein of research.

17 Silverstein (2000: 125).

18 My text signals moments of divergence using “referential,” “worldview,” and “discursive” to denote the meaningful signs—indexes, icons, metaphors, metonyms—that began to circulate more freely among Tatar-speakers in the post-Soviet period.

19 Chaterjee (1991), Kelly and Kaplan (2001); Silverstein (2000).

20 Anderson (1991: 6 and 7, respectively). Similarly Gellner’s (1983) and Hobbsbawm’s (1990) theories of nationalism exclude the possibility that nation-builders may not advocate congruency between the national and the political.

21 As pointed out by Barth (1969).

22 See Silverstein (2000) for an exegesis of this point.

23 Grojean (1982).

24 The ethnonym “Tatar” first appears in 8th-century Chinese sources (Schamiloglu, personal communication). In the Russian Empire, however, it appears to have been applied to Turkic-speaking Muslims not engaged in transhumance, but rather agriculture or trade, and therefore includes people living in the region of Kazan, as well as in Crimea, Siberia, and sometimes Azerbaijan. Providing evidence that the ideology about what makes for civilization is shared, some Russians deny the validity of the methods Tatar archaeologists used to date the coins.

25 Pelenski (1974).

26 An Orthodox Christian, Turkic-speaking group called Chuvashes, whose contemporary language appears to more closely resemble the Turkic dialect (there are inscriptions in Arabic as well) on Bolgar grave markers, likewise claim descent from Bolgars. See Shnirel’man (1996) for a somewhat contentious discussion of Bolgar’s legacy.

27 Shnirel’man (1996). Previous to this, Turkic dialects were represented by runes. Grave headstones from the period previous to the Great Horde’s descent upon Bolgar in 1238 bear inscriptions in Arabic.

28 Werth (2002).

29 There were Nestorian Christians among highly placed Chingisid bureaucrats and the Russian Orthodox Church was exempted from paying taxes.

30 Pelenski (1974).

31 See also Grey (1964). Ostrowski (2002) explains that it was only after Ivan tried to coopt Tatar leaders and install his own candidate on Kazan’s throne that he attacked.

32 According to Prince Kurbsky’s account in Karamzin (1892). See also Kappeler (2001).

33 Kappeler (2001).

34 Karamzin (1892). See Halperin (1985), Kappeler (2001), Karamzin (1892), and Pelenski (1974) for a more comprehensive account of the conquest of Kazan.

35 Pelenski (1974). Batunsky (2003) disagrees with this claim, advocating instead a belief that Islam is inherently inimical to Russians.

36 See Karamzin (1892).

37 Soviet social evolution was strongly influenced by 19th-century American ethnologist Lewis Henry Morgan. According to Morgan (1995[1877], 1996[1851]), peoples or nations are all supposed to start as savages and then advance through barbarism to civilization. Aryans were civilized. Morgan posited that cognitive development powered the development of political institutions. Engels (1993[1884]) borrowed from Morgan though for him and Marx the engine powering evolution was changes in the means of production. See Engels (1977[1849]).

38 See Hirsch (1997) for a description of this process. Languages came to stand for nations to the extent that, for example, Tatar-speakers sometimes speak of language death as the genocide of a nation.

39 Wolpoff and Caspari (1997). Aisylu, who appears elsewhere in the text, pointed out to me that when there were inter-national festivals—cultural exchanges between Soviet peoples—delegations of other Turks (she mentioned Kazakhs) were never sent to Tatarstan because the Soviet authorities wanted to maintain the myth that Soviet Turks possessed different cultures.

40 See Austin (1991).

41 Gellner (1983) asserts that statehood is central to nationness.

42 Hirsch (1997).

43 Work by linguistic anthropologists on the relationships between language and nationalism illustrates how linguistic differences can index cultural ones, which may be variously defined as national, regional, or otherwise indicative of groupness (Schieffelin, Woolard, and Kroskrity (1998); Silverstein (1996a, 1998). Language ideologies, as they are called, concern the ways in which perceptions about languages—their level of sophistication, their ability to express certain kinds of ideas or, by contrast, relative limitedness vis-à-vis other languages—are not in fact about the languages themselves, but rather concern power relations between speakers of dominant and subordinate languages or dialects (Kulick 1992). Language ideologies constitute both the conscious and unconscious systems of ideas people hold about the relationships between linguistic features and groups of people (Gal 1992). Moreover, linguistic anthropologists and sociolinguists point out that language ideologies not only influence the speakers who are the subject of study, but likewise influence analysts’perceptions (Irvine and Gal 2000; Milroy 2001; Silverstein 1998). As Irvine and Gal put it, “[T]here is no view from nowhere” (2000: 36). That is, everyone inhabits at least one discursive world. In their seminal work together, Gal and Irvine identify three semiotic processes through which language ideologies construct difference and similarity (Gal and Irvine 1995, Irvine 1995, & Irvine and Gal 1996, 2000). They name these processes iconization, fractal recursivity, and erasure. Iconization entails a shift in the sign relationship so that linguistic features which once only indexed social groups or activities come to iconically represent them, as if a linguistic feature somehow depicted or displayed a social group’s enduring essence. Fractal recursivity involves projecting an opposition that exists at one level of a relationship between language and social organization onto another level of relationship. Erasure refers to a simplification of the sociolinguistic field which renders some people or phenomena invisible. Influenced by Herder (1993), Soviet language ideologies equated the discovery of a language with that of a nation. According to this ideology, a nation’s language expresses its culture and its essence (Philips 1992). See also Bauman and Briggs (2000) for other contexts in which this ideology holds true.

44 Brubaker (1996: 23).

45 This occurred to Kazan Tatars, a third of whom ended up living in neighboring Bashkortostan (Schafer 1995), as well as in more famous examples like Nagorno-Karabakh.

46 When these decisions were being made in the 1920s, by contrast, one explicit reason provided for dividing up the area where Tatars lived into Bashkiriia (the neighboring republic to the east) and Tatariia was to give Bashkirs, who have always been numerically few, a chance to develop as a nationality (Schafer 1995). Indeed, despite the reported practice of converting Tatars into Bashkirs, after World War II, Tatars still out-numbered Bashkirs in late Soviet Bashkortostan. Official figures from the 1989 Soviet census put the percentage of Tatars living in Bashkortostan at 28.4 %, while stating that Bashkirs comprise 21.9 % and Russians 39.3 % of Bashkortostan’s population (cited from Graney 1999). Tatars I spoke to at Kyzyl Tang, Bashkortostan’s official Tatar newspaper, on 6 July 2000 provided the following figures: 48 % Russian, 35 % Tatar, and 16 % Bashkir. The 2002 All Russia Census reports that Bashkortostan’s population has significantly shifted: Russians are 36.3 %, Bashkirs 29.8 %, and Tatars 24.1 % (Zorin 2004). None of these statistics are reliable.

47 Fändäs Safiullin, Russian Duma Deputy, Interview, June 1998.

48 Grant (1995).

49 Brubaker (1996); Lemon (2000); Slezkine (1994b); Suny (1997); and Verdery (1996).

50 Brubaker (1996). This is frequently referred to as the piataia grafika [the fifth entry] because of the line where nationality was indicated in domestic passports.

51 Slezkine (1994b) coined the term “ethnic particularism,” which informs my use of “national particularism” here. On ethnos see Bromley and Kozlov (1989) and Masanov (2003).

52 Neglect to the Soviet Union’s provincial infrastructure included a concerted lack of upkeep of buildings and roads and scant provision of basic services—running water, especially hot water, indoor heating, and telephone.

53 Williams (1977) on structures of feeling and Martin (2001) and Verdery (1996) on the effects of Soviet nationalities policies.

54 This may be due to a greater scarcity of resources distributed through ethnicized social networks, as in Verdery (1996).

55 Tatars and Volga Germans were never satisfied to learn that I was American. Rather, they wanted to know what my ancestors were because, the Tatars asserted, “We know there are Tatars in America” while the Germans asked, “What is your father?”

56 Damir Isxakov cited in an RFE/RL Report, 17 December 2001.

57 Zorin (2004).

58 Much of this repatriation consists of Tatars (and others) whose families left for Central Asia to avoid the authority of Soviet rule in the 1920s–1930s and now find themselves unwelcome in post-Soviet “nationalizing” Central Asian states.

59 Walker (2003).

60 In 1998, 80 % of Tatarstan’s financial capital still came from Moscow.

61 The percentage of locally collected revenues that go directly to the center is disputed, but may be up to 70 % (Graney 2009).

62 Tatarstan’s modified constitution states, “The sovereignty of the Republic of Tatarstan shall consist in full possession of the State authority (legislative, executive and judicial) beyond the competence of the Russian Federation (Article 1, Tatarstan Constitution, www.tatar.ru).” The 2002 Constitution is a thin pamphlet, by comparison to the original, tome-like document adopted in 1992.

63 Graney (2009).

64 Faller (2000, 2006).

65 Raviot (1992).

66 Censuses are unreliable, both as sources of information on nationality percentages and self-reported linguistic knowledge. A russophone Tatar friend confessed to me she reported herself and her daughter as Russian in 2002 because she didn’t want to be identified with what she perceives as the backwardness of Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiev. One way in which language ideologies play out in Tatarstan is that not all Russians consider themselves fluent in Russian language, while many who claim to know Tatar can only produce a few ill-formed phrases in the language.

67 Wertheim (2003). By 2000, according to a Tatarstan government official, 45 % of Tatar children living in Tatarstan cities knew Tatar fluently. Statement by K.M. Minnullin, “Tatar Schools in Tatarstan and Beyond” Conference, 24 February 2000.

68 Zorin et al. (2004); Damir Isxakov, personal communication (2001); and Raviot (1992), respectively. Indeed, during my fieldwork period, I only met one self-identified Russian who was actively bilingual in Tatar and she was living in a village several hundred kilometers east of Kazan. According to the 2002 All Russian Census, only 99 % of self-identified Russians in Russia can respond affirmatively to the question, “Vy vladeete li russkim iazykom?” [Are you fluent in the Russian language?] Even people who answered “no” had to fill the survey out in Russian.

69 Gal and Woolard (2001) on the messiness of categories.

70 Like mutual intelligibility (Hymes 1967), whether or not a person is bilingual is not objectively knowable.

71 See Humphrey (1998, 2002) on post-Soviet Russia.

72 Brown and Gilman (1960).

73 Elsewhere includes Flynn (2000), Hussain and Miller (2006), and Kvistad (1999), among others. This division follows a similar one made by Brubaker (1998) and Hobsbawm (1990).

74 For more on the changing definitions of “sovereignty” during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, see Walker (2003).

75 In fact, both Stalin and Lenin thought that a nation had the right to enter into federal relations with other nations, to complete secession, and to sovereignty (Slezkine 1994a: 416).

76 The city of Yar Chally is called Naberezhnye Chelny in Russian.

77 I spent more time with the Tatar classes at the Lab School than with the Russian ones, although I spent time with both types of classes at school functions and in the hallways.

78 Gabdullah Tukay is the most revered Tatar national poet, who died in 1913.

79 The experiments to elicit racial ideologies were developed in consultation with Larry Hirschfeld. See Hirschfeld (1996, 1997) for a complete description of those methods.

80 My design was based on similar work performed by Bilaniuk (2005), Laitin (1995, 1998), and Woolard (1989).

81 Wei (2000) and Wei et al. (2002) present a sophisticated exposition of these analytical conundra.

82 Providing just one example of this a Tatar-speaking teenager once told me her mother objected to her boyfriend because he was Russian, while on another occasion, she reported that he was Chuvash.

83 This expectation was influenced by Shnirel’man’s (1996) description of Tatars’attitudes towards medieval history.

84 My effort is influenced by work on Russia by Lemon (1996); Paxson (2006); and Yurchak (1997, 2005), among others.

85 Any unflattering depictions of “Russians” are not more targeted at Russians than descriptions of the desperation with which Soviet people lived in Sheila Fitzpatrick’s Everyday Stalinism or the inefficacy of policies that affect Central Asian women’s lives in Yvonne Corcoran-Nantes’Lost Voices.

86 See in particular Poliakov (1992).

87 Said’s Orientalism (1979) is the seminal work on how caricatures of “Orientals” have invaded western scholarship.

© Central European University Press, 2011

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