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Nation, Language, Islam

Helen M. Faller

Chapter 5. Repossessing Kazan

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“Since the Millennium the spirit of Kazan has changed. It’s no longer a provincial city.”
Young Tatar journalist, 3 July 2006

  • 1 The language courses are part of a larger program to improve government bureaucrats’qualifications (...)

1Recalling Yakovlev’s proposal in 1928 to allocate greater administrative resources to economically and culturally dominant Soviet nationalities, it is understandable how controlling a city provides a nationality symbolic dominance over a broader territory. Not by accident then, beginning in 1986, Tatar nation-builders—most of whom migrated from Tatar-dominant villages in the 1960s and 1970s—attempted to repossess Kazan in a number of ways. Their measures included instituting bilingual education; increasing the number and breadth of periodicals published in Tatar; implementing a slight increase in the number of hours of television programming in Tatar and drawing up plans for an all-Tatar channel; changing the order of local news broadcasts so that the Tatar one airs before the Russian one; opening a second Tatar theater in Kazan; proposing other projects to promote Tatar and other non-Russian cultures; and encouraging russophone government bureaucrats to take government-sponsored Tatar language courses.1 During sovereignty’s heyday, these efforts tended to be ignored, discounted, and occasionally resisted by people oriented towards Russian language and culture, revealing the resilience of Russian colonial attitudes and the fragility of Tatarstan political authority.

2This chapter moves from the topic of intellectuals’ idealistic conceptions concerning how to create a Tatarstan nation to the question of how these concepts play out on the ground. It focuses on physical and linguistic changes to Kazan’s urban terrain, first discussing Tatar-speakers’ repossession of Kazan through monumental building projects and then describing how Tatar language has gone public.

From Republic to City

  • 2 The Tatar class was one of those the Tatarstan government sponsored.

3Kazan residents are generally pleased by the improvements in how their city looks. A Russian-speaking Tatar bureaucrat I met in 2000, while observing his Tatar-language class, told me that the ways Kazan has changed gives him endless pleasure.2 “Before,” he explained, “I only liked to drive around my city at night because then you couldn’t see all the grime.” Similarly, an ethnic Russian teacher whose husband drove me home from an evening event at the Lab School in the fall of 1999 smiled with evident pride as we discussed the ways in which Kazan had become beautiful since the onset of sovereignty. When I returned to Kazan after its Millennium celebrations in 2005 everyone I encountered expressed delight in the city’s beautification. While these changes to the city’s face have had the overall effect of transforming Kazan from a muddy provincial backwater to a desirable tourist destination in the eyes of local inhabitants, many of them have been the subject of controversies that illustrate both how the distribution of wealth and power shakes out inequitably in the post-socialist period and the difficulties of projecting Tatarstan sovereignty.

4Kazan’s beautification was a cornerstone of Tatarstan sovereignty. After the 1990 Declaration, the Tatarstan government drastically cut the amount of money it paid into Moscow’s coffers and began to invest some of the revenues generated from natural resources, industry, and tax collection in Tatarstan’s infrastructure. During this period, in addition to local education and ethnic organizations, the government funded a gasification project to bring central heating to village homes; the restoration of historical landmarks, including houses of worship; and the transformation of Kazan into a capital city in which Tatarstan people could take pride. Kazan’s beautification falls into two periods with differently valenced significances—those made as a component of Tatarstan’s projection of sovereignty (1990–2000) and those made in preparation for Kazan’s Millennium celebrations (2001–2005). Although some construction straddles the two periods, both chronologically and ideologically, all the building projects eventually became leached of their symbolism as representations of Tatarstan’s political viability and imbued with the depoliticized showcase spirit of Kazan as a culturally Tatar city. As part of this process, Tatarstan’s Day of the Republic on August 30 turned into Kazan’s Anniversary as a city, and Kazan’s Millennium, originally planned to commemorate Tatars’ long political presence in the region, was celebrated on that day.

Kazan’s New Face

Figure 5.1. Kazan Kremlin from Below

5Among the construction projects central to Tatarstan sovereignty were developing the park within the Kazan Kremlin, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000; building the Tatar State Humanitarian University on the Tatar side of Lake Bulak, opened in 2005; constructing the first five stations of the Kazan Metropolitan, beginning in 1997; and erecting Kol Shärif Mosque, the largest in Russia. Projects more closely connected to presenting Kazan as a showcase city include opening the first remote branch of the Hermitage Museum in the Kazan Kremlin, designed and realized by TAIF—a consortium in which President Shaimiev’s son Radik plays a key role; erecting the Millennium Bridge across the Kazanka River; creating Tugan Avylym [My native village], a restaurant compound that emulates an idealized Tatar village; fashioning the paved pedestrian Petersburg Street, the design of which recalls that city’s canals and bridges; and completing the Yanga Ippodrom [The new hippodrome], a colossal entertainment complex that contains a horse racetrack, fair-grounds, and indoor exhibition space. In preparation for the Millennium Kazan also renovated the old TSUM department store by the train station and built a new three-story department store on Bauman Street. Both buildings have escalators, a novelty to which Kazanians have quickly adapted. (Previously, they had to travel to Moscow to ride on one.) In addition, dozens of new office buildings went up in the city center—most of which still stood empty with large “For Rent” signs in their windows a year after the celebrations were over.

6The cost of fixing up the city for the Kazan Millennium was stupendous—250 billion rubles (over $9.5 billion) were spent over four years. Seventeen billion rubles alone (over half a billion US dollars) were invested in building the world’s most expensive subway line—8.7 km of track, which is richly decorated with exquisite tile mosaics of figures from Tatar folklore. Since the money culled from taxes not paid to Moscow no longer existed, funding had to come in the form of sponsorship by European companies—for example, the British computer corporation Oracle contributed at least £40,000 through the European Association of Historic Towns and Regions—and loans from Moscow banks.

7Perhaps the most successful sovereignty-building project was the creation of a downtown pedestrian mall, modeled after the Arbat in Moscow, out of Bauman Street—previously a busy, grimy thoroughfare. A half-dozen blocks in length, Bauman quickly became Kazan’s central promenading destination for outdoor amusement, noisy entertainment and fun. Bauman Street is home to stores so expensive they are referred to as museums and merchants with folding tables selling religious souvenirs and pirated foreign movies and music with lyrics they don’t understand. Young women dress up and flock to Bauman Street to promenade and drink beer. Rock musicians set up their equipment and jam on Bauman in the summertime and Tatar pensioner women play sad songs on accordions there year round. Azeris working in the central bazaar selling clothes that arrive in Kazan through endless networks of brothers go to Bauman Street on their days off looking for a little fun, as do rowdy drunken sailors on Russia’s Naval Forces Day. Kazan’s first McDonalds sits on Bauman Street next to one of the city’s few automatic teller machines. Turkish, Tatar, and other cafés line it. Tourists have their pictures taken in front of Bauman’s many fountains as souvenirs of their visit to Kazan.

8The opinion among Kazan’s entrepreneurs seems to be that the entertainment market is endlessly expanding. Around 2004, Radik Shaimiev completed building a pyramid-shaped structure covered in reflective black glass touted, while under construction, as a future entertainment center for the people. At that time, some Kazanians were excited by the prospect of an indoor venue they could visit during the long winters when their apartments become claustrophobic, but they have been disappointed. When I went to visit the Pyramid in 2006, the security guard at the door didn’t want to let me pass through the metal detector and enter the building until, speaking accented Russian, I exclaimed, “I’m American and I’ve heard so much about the Pyramid. I just have to take a look around!” This was the kind of ploy required to gain entrance to élite Russian establishments (five-star marble hotels and stores selling western goods) in the early 1990s. It was like stepping back in time. Dark like the interior of a sarcophagus, the Pyramid’s grim interior recalled Soviet restaurants— empty all the time but with no room for outsiders. Its luxury services—a beauty spa, a bowling alley, billiards, a discotheque, a fitness center, a bar with a nautical theme—are priced out of range for all but Kazan’s richest residents.3 The Pyramid revives Soviet-period caste-like divisions between the privileged few and ordinary citizens.4

Figure 5.2. The Pyramid

9Radik Shaimiev’s company TAIF was also granted property rights to one of Kazan’s finest buildings, the grand Dom Kekina, a prerevolutionary structure erected by Volga German businessman L.V. Kekin in 1903–1904. Before 1917, the building’s ground floor housed shops, with apartments located on the upper three stories. In 2001, it was still abandoned— boarded up and full of broken glass. By 2006, it had been renovated. It was gorgeously appointed with a high-end private beer hall and a men’s clothing boutique. The Tatar-Bashkir Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty had taken up residence on the top floor, but most of the building still stood empty and large “For Rent” sign adorned one face of the building.

Figure 5.3. Dom Kekina, with “For Rent” Banner

  • 5 I tried to revisit the exhibition again in 1998 and encountered a gathering of business entreprene (...)

10Spaces designed to promote sovereignty are often exploited for other purposes. Perched up high above the banks of the Kama River in the center of one of Kazan’s most pleasant garden districts is what used to be the Lenin Monument. Now renamed the National Cultural Center, the building houses a museum full of artifacts from Tatar history. On display are costumes from different eras, volumes of ethnography about Tatars, and a half-brick, said to be the last remnant of the Kazan Kremlin to survive Ivan the Terrible’s assault in 1552. The exhibition is significant because it presents archaeological evidence for the existence in Kazan of an established government—signifying civilization to Soviets—predating the Russian invasion. Organized school fieldtrips to the exhibition could constitute part of a strategy to quell complaints by Tatar parents concerned their children lack national self-respect. But the building only seems to open for special events. Indeed, the one time I managed to see the exhibition in 1998, it was my third attempt to gain admittance to the museum. My landlady had a personal contact among the building staff who let me in and turned on the lights in the exhibition hall. The implicit prestige I had as a foreign guest swayed both my landlady and her personal contact to extend me hospitality. Otherwise, I may have never seen the half-brick and other artifacts.5

Figure 5.4. Wreckage in the Old Tatar Quarter

  • 6 Moving people from their centrally located houses into outlying apartments isn’t necessarily a sea (...)

11In addition to installing gas lines in village homes without central heating, the Tatarstan government engaged in a program to improve housing conditions within Kazan, similar to Khrushchev’s campaign in the 1960s to provide self-contained living quarters for people living in communal apartments. The Tatarstan campaign targets people living in prerevolutionary wooden structures wired for electricity, but without indoor plumbing or central heating, who are moved from their residences in the center of town to apartments located on its outskirts. Relocation occurs by decree—residents have no say over when and where they move or, indeed, whether they agree to do so. The structures the government demolishes predate 1917 and usually feature antique architectural elements, like elaborately hand-carved wooden buttresses and window frames of an artisanal quality no longer produced.6 In their place modern multi-storied apartment buildings with underground parking designed for sale to Kazan’s nouveau riche and high-level government bureaucrats are erected.

12One of the Tatars who organized Tatar discotheques at the National Cultural Center told me that there had been a proposal in the 1990s to make one of Kazan’s oldest streets, located between the Kremlin and the Parliament and close to the National Cultural Center, into an outdoor museum. However, the authorities decided the plan was too expensive. The only new construction on the street was a block of apartments for government bureaucrats who had become affluent from the privatization of state-owned property and industries.

13As in the 19th century, the Old Tatar Quarter hosts Kazan’s central food, clothing, and household goods bazaars. By the 1990s, it had an Islamic University, half a dozen mosques, and several mädräse. According to Tatar ethnologist Damir Isxakov, the population of this section of the city—some six thousand people—is approximately 40 % ethnic Tatar, which constitutes the most demographically homogenous concentration of people in Kazan. In the late 1990s, Isxakov and a colleague, Yagfar Garipov, proposed creating a “Tatar Reservation” there—all irony intended. They suggested that culturally Tatar types of activities should be encouraged in the Old Tatar Quarter, first and foremost by prohibiting alcohol consumption within the Quarter’s boundaries. Their proposal never advanced past the stage of being drafted on paper, its state in the summer of 2000. Since then, the Quarter’s antiquated houses have fallen into a state of increasing disrepair and many retain only their exterior façades. There is a lot of public grumbling about the Tatar Quarter’s decay, especially concerning the irretrievable shambles into which German ethnographer Karl Fuchs’ house has fallen.

14By the time of Kazan’s Millennium celebrations, Shaimiev had lost popular support among both Tatar- and Russian-speakers, high in the 1990s when he was lauded by most for his ability to maintain peace in Tatarstan. Particular complaints came in the form of criticism of his son’s activities, including Radik’s monopoly over Tatarstan’s Tatneft gas stations. As a Russian cab driver tactfully elucidated the problem during a taxi ride in 2006, “How is it that thousands of years of geological activity should come to be in the ownership of a single individual?”

“Reconstructing” Kol Shärif Mosque

  • 7 Sayid Kol Shärif was the spiritual leader who led the last defenders of Kazan against the invading (...)

15Each substantial change to Kazan’s appearance has incurred some amount of controversy. The next part of this chapter concerns a big change to the city’s landscape, one that was multiply contentious. This is the “recreation” of Kol Sharif Mosque, destroyed in 1552 by Ivan the Terrible. Poised on the edge of the hill that overlooks several of Kazan’s main thoroughfares and visible from most parts of the city and several miles downstream on the waters of the Volga River, Kol Shärif Mosque dominates Kazan’s horizon.7 The controversies surrounding its construction may demonstrate better than any other Tatarstan example the difficulties of putting nation-building ideals into practice.

  • 8 I know this firsthand from the shocked disapproval with which Tatars reacted when I admitted being (...)

16Kol Shärif Mosque is important to the Tatarstan government and individual Tatars for at least two reasons. The first is that it promotes religiosity. Tatar nation-builders deem atheism responsible for the immoral behavior that took place during the Soviet period. They advocate a view that people without religious faith are unreliable because they have no moral foundation.8 Nation-builders regard the high rates of church attendance among Americans, which they equate with religious devotion, as the basis for our prosperity as a nation and what they perceive as a largely crime-free society and a history without genocide. Nation-builders consequently avow that part of decolonization should consist in promoting faith among people in Tatarstan by building houses of worship, one for every village. This for them is an essential step in developing a society rooted in the morality that undergirds physical and emotional health and economic well-being.

  • 9 The filth of the bazaar pertains to actual filth, the bad associations former Soviets still hold c (...)
  • 10 The money to build the mosques is rumored to have come from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Ara (...)
  • 11 Kucukcan (2005); Mite (2006).

17By the late 1980s, Kazan’s one functioning mosque stood in the old Tatar Quarter, in tsarist times considered remote from local centers of power and to this day associated with the filth of the bazaar.9 There were only two other mosques in the republic. In 1998, a government official informed me that 300 mosques, 100 churches, and 20 other houses of worship had been constructed.10 By the time Kol Sharif Mosque opened in 2005, Tatarstan had 1,014 mosques—50 in Kazan alone—and 176 other houses of worship.11

  • 12 Although the majority of ethnic Tatars are nominal Muslims and a growing number have been becoming (...)

18Kol Sharif likewise has importance as a major project to promote Tatar culture and, as Tatar nation-builders see it, balance out the hegemony of Russian cultural influence. Because Tatars equate Tatar culture with Islam, erecting a big image of Islam constituted an essential symbolic step in the project to repossess Kazan as a Tatar city.12 The mosque’s location within the walls of the Kazan Kremlin—itself both the seat of the Tatarstan government and a museum—which has only housed churches since 1552, is profoundly and intentionally significant.

Slippery Nations

19Erecting Kol Shärif—locally referred to as its “recreation”—was overseen by the Kol Shärif Foundation. The foundation coordinated a government-sponsored project to collect funds and oversee the design of the mosque and its construction by Turkish builders. During construction, the Kol Shärif Foundation was housed in the same building in the Kremlin as the foundation to restore the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral— Blagoveshchensky Sobor—built in 1561–1562 to commemorate Ivan the Terrible’s conquest of Kazan. President Shaimiev issued the edicts decreeing the restoration of both buildings in 1995. In July 2005 the Our Lady of Kazan Icon, returned to Russia by Pope John Paul II before his death, was installed in Annunciation Cathedral in a ceremony involving Shaimiev, Patriarch Alexius II, and 10,000 Christian pilgrims.

  • 13 Prior to 1917 Kazan had a sizeable Catholic community, but it doesn’t figure in Safin’s reckoning, (...)

20I met with the director of the Kol Sharif Foundation, Fadbir Safin, a pleasant, but rather nondescript government bureaucrat in July 2000. Safin spoke a few lines to me in Tatar at the beginning of our conversation, but clearly felt more at ease speaking Russian and stopped stumbling over his words once we switched languages. He informed me that before Ivan the Terrible’s conquest of Kazan in 1552 the Kremlin contained five mosques, which were subsequently replaced by Russian Orthodox cathedrals. He said that Orthodox Christians were the only of Kazan’s four major religious communities—Muslim, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Lutheran—represented there until Kol Sharif began to be “recreated” in 1996.13

  • 14 A Tatar version appeared sometime after May 2001. However, the unmarked URL, that is, the one with (...)

21When I first visited the Kol Sharif Foundation’s offices, Safin gave me the organization’s website address and told me to come back with questions after I had looked at it. The website—no longer live—had versions in Russian and English.14 It provided material about the history of Kol Shärif Mosque, the stages of its construction, citations from President Shaimiev’s edict, and information on how to donate to the Foundation. Asserting the centrality of the mosque’s construction to Tatarstan nation-building, the Russian-language Main Page opened thus:

Kol Shärif Mosque’s re-creation ranks on a par with the Republic of Tatarstan’s Declaration of Sovereignty in terms of its significance and scale of accomplishment by enriching and imbuing the Declaration with concrete substance.15

  • 16 The paragraph in which this statement appeared reads as follows. “We are grateful to everybody who (...)

22The page on Historical Information concluded in the same vein. “Since that time [1552], the nation has been remembering the legendary image of the mosque.” The declaration that the mosque’s re-creation is in the interest of all the people of Tatarstan, regardless of age, occupation, or ethnicity appeared in both the English and Russian versions, while the claim that Kol Shärif represents “the symbol of Islam in Russia” was asserted only in the English-language version.16

  • 17 “Many organizations, businesses and banks in the Republic have made donations to the Kul Sharif Mo (...)

23Although the Kol Shärif website promised that donors’ names “will remain in the hearts of contemporaries and thankful progeny and will enter the Memory Book and be eternalized on a Memorial Plaque in the mosque,” it didn’t identify any of them.17 When I asked Safin who the donors were, he responded, in oblique Soviet bureaucrat style, that they were primarily kolkhozes—collective farms—and organizations of oil workers, as well as “some private individuals.” (Meanwhile, it was common knowledge among Kazanians which local businessmen, politicians, and who among their acquaintances had made contributions to the foundation.) When I pressed Safin regarding the identities of these individuals, he declined to reveal them. Instead, he obviated the question by explaining that the private individuals included not only Muslims, but also Russians, Jews, and a delegation of Volga Germans.

  • 18 See Schamiloglu (2000), inter alia. Indeed, Tatars only started to accept that appellation in the (...)
  • 19 Tatarstan Constitution (1997: 5).
  • 20 All-Russia Census (2002).

24Citations from different pages of the Kol Shärif website point out the larger contradictions in the Tatarstan government’s nation-building project. The use of the term “nation” on the historical page begs the questions of what nation this refers to, envisioned by whom, and inclusive of whom. Certainly, no Tatar nation existed in the 16th century.18 However, this isn’t the crux of the matter. For even if Tatarstan’s present-day Tatar-speaking or ethnic Tatar or Muslim communities—which comprise three different, if overlapping, groups of individuals—could be determined to descend directly from the people of the Kazan Khanate, nearly half of Tatarstan’s population would be excluded from the nation. Meanwhile, Tatarstan’s official ideology includes all nations living on the republic’s territory. Accordingly, the first article of Tatarstan’s original 1992 Constitution begins, “The Republic of Tatarstan is a sovereign democratic government, expressing the will and interests of the whole multi-ethnic people of the republic.”19 Inclusiveness is moreover indicated by the use of Russian and English on the Kol Sharif website to the initial exclusion of Tatar, which 9.2 % of Tatarstan’s ethnic Russian population conceded knowing in 2002.20 Tatar nation-builders have never resolved this discrepancy.

Contested Designs

  • 21 Kol Shärif webpage:
  • 22 I don’t know the details of the debate that prefaced the acceptance of this condition, being infor (...)

25Erecting Kol Shärif Mosque was enshrouded in several controversies, all of which concerned not alienating ethnic Russians. Two of these involved the structure’s design. Shibhaddin Märjani, the 19th-century Tatar historian, wrote that the 16th-century mosque had eight minarets, but little else is known about its appearance or where exactly it was located on the Kremlin’s hilltop.21 One condition of Kol Shärif’s “recreation” the Tatarstan government eventually came to accept was that the mosque not overshadow the role of Christianity in the republic by standing higher than any of the churches located nearby.22 This concession caused displeasure among Tatar-speakers because the need to take height into consideration in order to accommodate Russians belied the assertion the second Kol Shärif Mosque was a recreation of the first.

26A second design controversy pertained to the religious symbolism of the structure. In 1996 an architectural competition was held to determine the plan for the new mosque, but, due to predictable tensions provoked by erecting an enormous Islamic symbol in the heart of Tatarstan’s government, the blueprint was modified after building began. The new blueprint possessed what Safin described to me as a Muslim foundation—two squares superimposed upon each other at forty-five degree angles—and a cupola resembling a khan’s crown atop a structure shaped like a tulip. The sides of the building on the lower level are composed of pointed arches, which, Safin said, looks simultaneously like an open Quran and a Russian Orthodox cathedral. The latter was important, Safin stressed, because Tatarstan is a multinational republic. While some Tatar-speakers accepted the accommodationism apparent in the mosque’s modified design, others complained that the project had lost its original symbolic thrust. They didn’t want their symbol of Islam to look like a church.

Figure 5.5. Kol Shärif Mosque, with Söyembike Tower in background

The Controversy over Bones

  • 23 See Verdery (1999) for similar controversies over questions of bones and post-socialist nations an (...)

27The largest controversy surrounding Kol Shärif s construction, however, had nothing to do with how it was built, but rather involved the ground on which it was to stand. When workers began excavations to lay the mosque’s foundations, they discovered human bones in the soil.23 Popular sentiment among Tatar-speakers, fueled by newspaper articles printed in the Tatar-language press, held that the bones belonged to “Tatar” soldiers who had died defending the Kremlin during Ivan the Terrible’s conquest. People who expressed this opinion claimed that not giving the remains a proper burial demonstrated the conquerors’ extreme brutality, and for some, “Russian” brutality in general.

28When I asked Safin about the bones during our 2000 interview, he denied that they belonged to Kazan’s defenders. First, he said that there had been a monastery on that site in the 18th century and that excavators had discovered its graveyard. Then, he said the bones probably belonged to Whites who fought against the Reds during the Civil War (1917–1922), adding that bones cannot be preserved for five centuries. “They only last a hundred years,” he assured me. Both Safin’s explanations for the skeletons’ existence made them “Russian,” or at least not chiefly “Tatar.” The first undoes Tatar-speakers’ accusations that Russians treated human remains without due respect. The second lays blame at the feet of the Bolsheviks, whose reputation is already sullied, taking the heat off Russians, imagined in this context as a population of post-1552 invaders. Safin’s statements reflect his position as a bureaucrat and hence a public representative of the Tatarstan government, who must simultaneously straddle different, sometimes competing, demands for representation by local Tatars and Russians, while enduring yet other pressures from Russia’s central government in Moscow.

  • 24 I looked for the Gorky Park monument during my 2006 visit to Kazan, but it had disappeared. In its (...)

29Despite Safin’s assertions, Kazan’s Tatar-speakers maintain their own opinions about the provenance of the Kremlin bones. The week after I spoke with Safin, I stumbled across two unknown-soldier memorials for the defenders of the Kazan Khanate, one in the Tatar Cemetery and the other among some graves in a corner of Kazan’s Gorky Park.24 When I asked acquaintances about the monuments, they affirmed that the bones found on Kol Shärif’s construction site were Tatar and had consequently required proper interment. They explained that TOTs members had brought a truck to the site—which is restricted to all but government vehicles—loaded the bones into it, and buried them during a special ceremony.

30In July 2001 I returned to the Kazan Kremlin and interviewed Fayaz Xüjin, the chief archaeologist in charge of the excavations of the Kremlin. I encountered a diminutive man with a sunny countenance and a calm, self-assured demeanor. Employed by the History Institute, which is part of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, Xüjin, like Safin, receives his salary from the Tatarstan government. I found out later that Xüjin enjoys a high level of respect among other Tatar scholars as an honest man.

31Unlike Safin, Xüjin allowed me to conduct the entire interview in Tatar. During our interview, which took place in his office on a Saturday afternoon, I mostly listened. Xüjin talked for nearly two hours, careful to provide straightforward answers to my questions. He explained that once UNESCO declared the Kremlin a World Heritage site the Russian government began to value his team’s archaeological work. He told me that a monastery had indeed stood in the 18th century on the site where Kol Shärif was going up. However, beneath the stratum that corresponded to the 18th century, about a meter below today’s topsoil, they had discovered a layer where everything was charred. It extended over the entire area of the Kremlin. The charred stratum corresponded to 1552 and it contained bones.

32The following week I met with Niyaz Xalit, a round-faced man of middle stature with a blustering manner and Director of the Kremlin as an Open-Air Museum. I went to see Xalit with a friend of mine, Güzel, who works at the National Museum. She said that the meeting would be of interest to her, but it turned out that she was also hoping for some work freelancing as a tour guide. Xalit began our conversation in Tatar. After a few sentences, like Safin, he switched to Russian. While we were still speaking Tatar, Xalit complained that he had been unemployed during the Soviet period for being a dissident. After the interview, Güzel told me that that was hogwash. “He was a bureaucrat then too,” she said. When I asked him about the bones, Xalit took a different spin from either Safin or Xüjin. He immediately protested, “That was a mistake, but we rectified it as quickly as we could. We didn’t realize they were human. But, as soon as we did, we gave them a proper burial in a Russian cemetery.” Confused by Xalit’s response, I asked why they took the bones to a Russian cemetery if they were Tatar. He replied, “The bones were all mixed up. There were even animal bones among them, but they were primarily Russian. The site was the graveyard of a Russian monastery.” I told Xalit that I had met with Xüjin a few days earlier and that he had informed me the bones were definitely from the period when Ivan IV had conquered Kazan. Xalit bristled with what seemed feigned anger, saying that he had to meet with Xüjin later that day and that he would inform him that they were Russian bones. This outburst had its probable intended effect. I didn’t want to cause the archaeologist any trouble and so I immediately stopped asking pointed questions.

33At the end of our meeting, Xalit called in a couple of his tour guides, a young man and woman, both in their early twenties, and introduced me to them. He made a point of specifying that his guides had to be able to give tours in both Russian and Tatar, as well as in some third, foreign, language. As a way, it seemed, of heading off any protests from me that requiring bilingualism might constitute discrimination against Russians, he proclaimed, “Russians have had ten years to learn Tatar. It’s their own fault if they haven’t done so.”

34I soon discovered that Xalit had made beneficial use of those ten years. When I mentioned the meeting to my Tatar teacher a day or two later, she asked whether Xalit had done the interview in Russian or Tatar. I replied that the interview had begun in Tatar, but the majority of it had taken place in Russian. She said that this wasn’t surprising because Xalit had only started studying Tatar within the past few years. “Until sovereignty,” she added, “he had been completely russophone.”

35The day after our interview I decided to dodge Xalit’s bullying tactics and try to learn more about the bones by taking tours of the Kremlin. Because the explanations offered for the bones’ existence differed dramatically depending upon the language in which they were offered, I planned to do the tour twice, once in Russian and once in Tatar, to see if the guides told different stories in each language. So as to remain anonymous, I asked my research assistant Gulnaz, a bilingual Tatar college student, to telephone the number Xalit had given me. Shortly thereafter, Gulnaz called to tell me that the woman who answered at the Open-Air Museum would need some time to find a guide to give a tour in Tatar, but that we could have a tour in Russian the following day at noon.

36We arranged to meet our guide just outside the Kremlin on the square where the monument to Tatar poet Musa Jälil stands. The tour guide specified that she would be wearing red shoes and a colorful skirt. We spotted her instantly—a short woman with short brown hair and glasses, in red shoes. The tour guide greeted us in Russian. Turning away from the guide I asked Gulnaz, in Tatar, to ask questions for me. The simplest way to keep the guide from discovering I was a nosy American seemed to be to avoid talking to her, since she would eventually notice my accent. However, this ploy turned out to be both awkward and ridiculous, since the guide understood the questions I put to Gulnaz in Tatar and answered in Russian.

Figure 5.6. Söyembike Tower, inside the Kazan Kremlin

37The guide told us that a school group would be joining us for the tour and so the three of us walked through Spassky Tower’s whitewashed archway and entered the Kremlin, where we joined up with a busload of elementary school children and their teachers. The tour was dull at first— it was one of those too hot July days when the humidity causes feet to swell and the road grit infiltrates the openings in sandals and lodges between toes. A lot of the children looked just as bored as I was and their teachers kept admonishing them to behave and pay attention. Suddenly, I noticed that the teachers were scolding the children not only in Russian, but also, it seemed, in Tatar. I asked Gulnaz whether the children were Tatar and she said she wasn’t sure. “Some of the children seem as if they might be Russian.” I watched their interactions a little longer and slowly it dawned on me that everyone was Tatar, even the little boy with the platinum hair and the foxlike narrow face. Before I was absolutely certain, we arrived at the spot considered to be the site of the original Kol Shärif Mosque, across the lane from the contemporary building site. The tour guide stopped and addressed the children, “Here stood the mosque of our people. Our ancestors defended it to the last man.” Apparently, she already knew that the children were all Tatar, having been informed which village the group came from.

38As we started to walk towards the location where the Turkish workers were fashioning the minarets for the new Kol Shärif Mosque, I asked the tour guide, in Tatar, about the bones that had been found underground. She replied that she would answer my question presently. It occurred to me at that moment that perhaps Xalit had been playing with the slipperiness of Kol Shärif’s location. It could be that both he and the archaeologist were right. The bones found on the site where the new Kol Shärif mosque was being built were “Russian,” while those found at the spot it was speculated the old one stood were “Tatar.” This thought was prompted by the guide’s pronouncement that Tatars had defended Kol Shärif to the last man, which meant that she accepted the likelihood that there were Tatar remains in the Kremlin.

39When we emerged into the lane, the guide informed the children that the new Presidential Palace was at its far end and asked, switching to Tatar, whether we should walk down to see it. No one offered a response. After a few moments of silence, I exclaimed in Tatar, “Let’s go!” Everyone turned to look at me in astonishment.

40By the time we had viewed the exterior of the Presidential Palace and made our way back uphill to the mosque’s construction site, the feel of the group had become much more relaxed. The children had stopped fussing and the teachers had stopped scolding. We moved together in a steady rhythm, no longer observing the polite distance of strangers. The sense that we had to put up a front for the Russians—having learned there were none among us—was gone. We were down home now and could have all comfortably changed into our bathrobes. I asked the guide about the bones a second time. She said, “There are Tatar bones all over the place. It’s true that excavations for the new mosque unearthed a graveyard attached to an 18th-century monastery, but there were Tatar bones there too, left unburied after Kazan fell to Russia.”

41A few days later, one of my American professors, Uli Schamiloglu, a historian at the University of Wisconsin, was in town and I met up with him and his good friend local ethnologist Damir Isxakov at Café Giuseppe on Kremlin Street. Since Damir knows everything that happens in Kazan, I told him the stories of the bones and asked him why the bureaucrats had felt compelled to lie to me. He responded that they needed to include Russians physically in the heart of the Tatarstan nation and therefore had to give Russians claim to the bones found inside the Kremlin.

Post-Soviet Space

42The remainder of this chapter concerns how Tatar-speakers have attempted to repossess Kazan by expanding the domains in which they speak the Tatar language. It continues to explore how ideologies are translated into practices, moving from large-scale representations of repossession to the minute, mundane interactions of everyday life. In order to explain these quotidian processes, this section engages with ideas of how people divide the world into private and public spheres. It suggests that conceiving of the movement of Tatar language into previously public, and consequently, Russian-speaking, domains as domestication may be heuristically productive.

  • 25 Neary (2006).
  • 26 This is similar to Yurchak’s (1997) point concerning how Soviets created parallel realities during (...)
  • 27 Gal (2002b). The notion of nonce and enduring embeddings of the personal and informal borrows from (...)

43The domestication described here is not a reflection of the feminized domestic that constitutes a subset of the private sphere.25 Rather, it refers to the way in which people render familiar, comfortable, and their “own” space they habitually occupy, but do not inhabit.26 Domesticated spaces exist in a liminal position perceived to exist between the private and public. Limen literally means threshold. Therefore, domestication may be understood as the creation of a porous threshold around an activity of uncertain permanence. It entails both nonce and more enduring embeddings of the personal and the informal in otherwise public space.27

  • 28 These analyses of postsocialist space include Buchli (2000); Gal (2002a, 2002b); Kiar and Naiman ( (...)

44Building upon earlier analyses of postsocialist space, I would like to make three interrelated points about publicness and privateness in Tatarstan that have salience for other contexts.28 First, it’s not only how people use language that indicates the ways they imagine private and public, but also the language they use. That is, in situations of asymmetrical diglossia, speaking the non-hegemonic language can and often does signal privateness. Second, while the generally recognized appositional discursive embedding of public/private binaries holds true for Tatarstan, a sphere exists that is domesticated and therefore not public, but nonetheless not considered private. Third, the coexistence of these two circumstances encourages processes that alter the normative rules for conversational exchanges beyond the nonce re-calibrations of private/public. Indeed, over time they can change how public space is constituted.

  • 29 While Habermas’(1989) theory of a unified public sphere has been called into question (Calhoun 199 (...)
  • 30 See Fitzpatrick (1994, 1999, 2006).
  • 31 Gerasimova (2003).
  • 32 These analyses include Buchli (2000); Fitzpatrick (1999); Neary (2006); Reid (2006). Former Czech (...)
  • 33 Gal (2002a: 9).
  • 34 Gerasimova (2003); Harris (2006).

45Soviet people have had good reason to perceive private and public as immutably separate.29 Most pervasively, this perception was fueled by the threat of arrest, which affected different people to varying degrees, but nevertheless touched every Soviet’s life.30 Informing to the secret police was a widespread practice and tool for ideological control and most people have living memories of being informed upon, informing on others, or both. Therefore, people have the habit of being careful about what they say in public, often confining the expression of their most intimate opinions to spaces imagined as private, quintessentially, the kitchens of their apartments.31 While the Soviet state made incursions into reconfiguring home life along socialist lines, particularly in the 1920s, mid-1930s, and late 1950s an ideological imagining first of the hearth and later the kitchen as the place of greatest domesticity and the most honest, chest-baring confessions and communions nevertheless persisted.32 As linguistic anthropologist Susan Gal notes, “the major characteristics of public talk were understood to be insincerity, mendacity, the need to dissimulate (if one was a performer) and to decode (as audience or addressee)....By contrast, talk in private was supposed to be intense, emotional, heartfelt, and trusting.”33 This binary existed notwithstanding the fact that the majority of Soviets living in large cities, housed either in communal apartments (even after Khrushchev’s housing campaign) or in separate apartments where even whispered intimacies were broadcast to neighbors through thin walls and airshafts, could only experience a kind of “public privacy.”34

  • 35 Gal (2002a, 2002b). The words denoting “one’s own” are svoi and üz, while “other” is a translation (...)
  • 36 Boym (1994).
  • 37 Gal (2002a); Verdery (1996). See also Sheila Fitzpatrick’s (2003) review of several recent volumes (...)

46The perception of a stark division between private and public means that to this day former Soviets discursively partition their world through a series of shifting, fractal recalibrations between what they designate as their “own” and “other.”35 Linked to the linguistic calibration of places and people into one’s “own” and “other” is the care that former Soviets take of their “own,” often interior, space and the disdain with which the majority treat what they perceive to be exterior, public spaces—which are everyone’s and therefore end up belonging to no one.36 Consequently, private garden plots were more productive than collective farms and people put enormous energy into caring for their government-bestowed apartments, while neglecting the exterior space within their buildings and the yards that surround them.37 Anyone who has been a guest in a former Soviet’s home will have been struck by the stark contrast between the filthy landing outside the door to their host’s apartment and the lovingly maintained corridor just inside the threshold.

  • 38 Slessor (2002).
  • 39 See Casey (1996) and Turner on liminality (1967 and subsequent works). For example, Sierra Leonean (...)

47Stepping over a threshold is always a marked activity. Thresholds serve as both connections between outside and inside and the boundaries that separate them from each other.38 They are often the locations of ritual transitions, including communions between the living and the dead.39 In Russia thresholds are precarious places, across which it is considered bad luck to hold a conversation with someone who is not “other.” Shaking hands or embracing over a threshold is a misstep that requires immediate rectification.

Figure 5.7. Typical apartment building stairwell

48While the danger of arrest has diminished in the past 20 years, though perhaps only temporarily, the markedness of the threshold may nonetheless be increasing. Ex-Soviets perceive the space beyond their thresholds as increasingly filled with disorder, crime, alcoholism, pornography, and drug addiction. In most of the former USSR, public space is generally less policed than it used to be. Many public places, habitually neglected by government authorities, fall into ever greater disrepair.

  • 40 Pesmen (2000b: 184).

49Anthropologist Dale Pesmen notes the marked separation of inside and outside created by Soviet thresholds and links this to an increased restriction in movement beginning in the 1930s that affected entrance into buildings, migration into cities, and movement across state borders.40 People’s demeanors are also remarkably different depending upon where they stand in relation to the threshold. Ex-Soviets can be openly hostile without apparent reason in public domains, such as shops or on public transportation, but hospitable to a fault in their own homes.

  • 41 Boym (1994).

50Guests passing over an ex-Soviet threshold into what Svetlana Boym calls “the community of one’s own inner circle” enter the prikhozhaya.41 There they remove their shoes, don a pair of proffered slippers, and find a place to leave their outer garments. Women examine themselves in the mirror that always hangs next to the doorway, smooth their hair, apply lipstick, and straighten their clothing. Upon leaving the ritual is performed in reverse. Among Slavs, but not Tatars, if you leave and realize you have forgotten something, you must look again in the mirror—as a preventative measure against bad luck—before stepping a second time over the threshold out into the world.

Domesticating the Workplace

  • 42 See Dunham (1990) on Soviet “bourgeois” comforts.
  • 43 Bershtein (2006).

51In the former USSR, people habitually domesticate their workplaces. Though modernist efficiency was a priority, at least at the ideological level, in Soviet plans to create built space, human comfort never was.42 Therefore, workplace domestication is more necessary there than in countries where individual consumerism has historically fueled the economy. The Soviet government’s abhorrence of cafés as places where people would squander time better spent in socialist labor encouraged workplace domestication, since there was often no comfortable place to eat away from home.43 Moreover, the requisite individual thrift imposed by the command economy and the impoverishment most ex-Soviets have experienced since its collapse causes domestic expansion into habitually occupied space to be greater than it might be elsewhere.

52Spaces created for tea drinking—which always includes some eating— offer the clearest example of workplace domestication. Unlike Americans, people in the former Soviet Union don’t sip beverages or nibble food alone at their desks while they work. Instead, they take tea-drinking breaks during which the working collective—that is, the group of people who work together in a single room—sits down together around a table to drink, eat, and chat.

53Domesticated space is always fragile. Rules of hospitality dictate that to eat or drink in front of people who are not eating and drinking is unacceptably rude. Therefore, it is always somewhat awkward for all involved when someone not invited to the table stumbles upon people drinking tea. Such stumbling constitutes an infringement of the public and undomesticated upon domesticated space. The intruder either must be excluded, and told to come back after the shop clerks or librarians or postal workers have finished having their tea, or offered a seat at the table.

54Schoolteachers domesticate their classrooms by taking responsibility for their upkeep. They supply the window curtains, usually financed by their pupils’ parents, and other decorations; create their own visual teaching aids by hand; and paint the walls themselves. Their pupils are responsible for cleaning the floors and the chalkboards under teacher supervision.

55Beyond this, teachers occasionally create domesticated nooks within their classrooms. At the Lab School in the 1990s the Tatar teachers had a domesticated space behind the bookcases at the rear of a classroom. Several desks lined the walls. A freestanding wardrobe, crowded with coat hangers, and a bookcase served as an impermanent wall. A mirror hung next to the opening into the rest of the room. Books stood in bookcases and piled up on desks, as did stacks of student papers, while tea-drinking things—an electric kettle, tea cups, spoons, and small plates—each had their own place in a set of shelves. The sponge rubbed over a crude bar of scentless, grey-brown domashnoe (domestic) soap for washing the cups, spoons, and plates had previously served as a teacher’s pantyhose. (There were no sponges or dish soap in the USSR.) Along with tea, teachers and their guests would consume homemade preserves, boiled out of fruit the teachers and their extended families had gathered wild or grown on dacha plots or in their natal villages. Thus, different from the fleeting connections people in consumer-based economic systems may have with the industrially produced objects occupying their domesticated work spaces— disposable coffee cups and printouts of digital photographs—most of the objects these women used emerged out of a history of interactions with them. And yet, they did not consider this space to be private. They always took care to watch what they said in it, which differed from the less formal, more relaxed demeanors they eased into upon entering their apartments or automobiles.

Floating Domestication

  • 44 See Bowen (2006); Eicher (1995); Göçek and Balaghi (1994); Mandel (1989); and Rowe (1998) among ot (...)
  • 45 Tatars living in the diaspora in Russia, Central Asia, Helsinki, Poland, or Burlingame, California (...)

56As Tatars shed the practice of trying to pass for Russian, they have come to mark themselves more frequently with emblems of ethnic identity. These emblems are primarily religious, since religious identity has become part of public self-presentation. Their introduction constitutes a kind of floating domestication of public space. Similar to other contexts where sensitivity to group identity is heightened, the religious cues people in Kazan employ simultaneously signify bundled national and political affiliations.44 While not every affiliation has an emblematic semiotic representation, certain find expression in external, removable markings that correspond loosely to three different metropole orientations—Kazan, Moscow, and Mecca. Many Russians regard Moscow as the center of the polity they inhabit, whereas Tatars of rural origin often view Kazan as their metropole and some see Moscow as inimical to their polity. Meanwhile, religious Tatars feel oriented towards Mecca and the Arab world.45 The practice of displaying religious emblems is gendered, with women seeming more inclined to do so than men. Though since women rarely drive automobiles, perhaps they simply more visibly display symbols of floating domestication as they circulate through Kazan’s urban landscape on foot and public transportation.

  • 46 The appropriate Russian way to cover your head with a scarf is to fold it in half diagonally, fold (...)

57Women mark their nationality year round. In summer their clothing allows them to display Christian crosses—equated with Russianness—or the crescent-moon pendants and small leather pouches containing prayers in Arabic—which mark Tatarness. In summer and winter alike, women in Kazan wear headscarves and shawls, which convey affiliatory inclinations. Scarves with certain patterns symbolize Russianness. These include any all-black scarves or black scarves with somberly colored designs and rich red, saffron yellow, and deep green flower motifs. Russians may well not wear such scarves, but a woman who does is almost always Russian. These scarves cannot be worn inside a mosque. Younger women who wear scarves don’t cover their heads with them, unless they are in church, but instead drape them over their shoulders.46

Figure 5.8. Old Tatar women favor white headscarves

58Old Tatar women of rural origin are most likely to mark their ethnicity in everyday life, but without necessarily stressing the religiously Muslim aspects of their identity. That is, while they cover their heads in most weather, they don’t do so primarily to show their observance of shariat. In warmer weather, old women wear lightweight white or grey wool scarves or, in summer, flowing pure white cotton. These they tie at the nape of the neck—without first folding them into a triangle as is the habit among Russian and Ukrainian women—so that the front edge of the scarf spans their ears and the back part of the scarf hangs freely over their shoulders. In winter, they wear thick scarves knitted from natural, undyed sheep’s or goat’s wool, which cover their foreheads and necks. Younger Tatar women also wear the thick wool scarves in winter, though they tie them over their shoulders and around their waists under their heavy winter coats or drape them around their necks. Even though these scarves are the warmest thing a person can wear during Kazan’s frigid winter, Russian women don’t seem to like them, probably because of their association with rural life.

  • 47 Russians on occasion convert to Islam and adopt modest dress. In 2000 three Russians were reported (...)
  • 48 Not wearing makeup is a highly marked practice in formerly socialist countries (Drakulic 1991).
  • 49 See Bennigsen and Wimbush (1985) and Cocoran-Nantes (1995) on Islam during the Soviet period.
  • 50 Cole (1994) claims that the veil plays a similar role in other Muslim societies.

59Religious Muslim women, including mädräse students, wear their headscarves pulled down over their foreheads and covering their necks, like devout Muslims in other countries. Unlike most older women, they cover their heads mainly to mark their adherence to Islamic law. They are Muslim first and Tatar second, but they are nearly all Tatar.47 While sovereignty was still vibrant, women who covered up in this fashion were generally young, usually under thirty and stood out among their peers for wearing no makeup.48 More recently, however, more and more women who achieved adulthood during the Soviet period are adopting the hijab. Such women express great interest in Arab countries, tending to idealize their social relations and cultures, and long to visit them for study or the hadj. Women who veil are introducing religion, an aspect of life that was once private to the point of secrecy, into the public sphere.49 At the same time, the veil keeps their bodies private while they move through public space.50

60Besides domesticating habitually occupied space with tea-drinking places, people in Tatarstan domesticate the vehicles they drive with decorations, regardless of whether they are privately or publicly owned. Bus-drivers often scotch-tape magazine pictures, usually of scantily clad women, and other images around their seats, thereby marking the area as domesticated. The Muslim prayer beads called tisbä, green plastic disks imprinted with prayers in Arabic, and much less frequently Christian crosses or Orthodox icons hang from the rearview mirrors of private vehicles, police cars, taxis, ambulances, and buses.

61Decorating vehicles carves up Kazan along national lines. While the articulated purpose of these religious symbols is to protect the driver and passengers from accidents—a real and constant danger on Russian roads—they also serve as territorial markers. When I asked Tatar ethnologist Damir Isxakov about this practice, he told me that Tatars started to mark their vehicles in the 1980s in reaction to Russians, who had begun to hang crosses on their rearview mirrors. Since the late 1990s, however, the majority of visible cues in Kazan vehicles identified their drivers as Muslim and hence Tatar.

Figure 5.9. Car with Tisbä

62Men on foot also sometimes mark their nationality using religious symbols. Russian men are often completely unmarked, unless it is by crosses worn around their necks, usually concealed beneath their shirts. Non-Russian men may identify themselves by wearing their national hats, which are variously ascribed for Tatars, Uzbeks, and other Muslim nationalities. These forms of headgear—called töbäte in Tatar—are predominantly worn by old men, but younger practicing Muslims also wear them or the white skullcaps worn by devout Muslims elsewhere.

63Despite the existence of this complex semiotics for marking national, religious, and potentially political affiliation, most Kazanians do not mark their affiliation in their daily dress. In the winter, which lasts at least six months of the year, every woman who can afford to wears a fur coat and hat and tall insulated leather boots. And every man with the means wears a fur hat and a lined shearling coat. Consequently, language proves to be the most consistently salient marker of domestication.

Domestic Languages

  • 51 The domains in which it was spoken had contracted, as had its overall functionality as a means of (...)

64As a result of Soviet nationalities policies, by the 1980s Tatar bore the signs of a dying language, considered a kitchen language—as opposed to a fully developed literary one—or something to be spoken only within rurally marked domains.51 By contrast, Russian was generally accepted as the language of both universal and civilized communication. However, in Kazan though Tatar language was imagined to symbolize Tatar “domestic” life, even there it was not necessarily dominant.

  • 52 Wertheim (2003).
  • 53 A birthday party I attended for a Tatar woman in her 80s provides a typical example of how gatheri (...)

65Although most Tatars say they speak Tatar at home, they often use Russian without noticing.52 This depends upon a number of factors, including whether they are fully competent speakers of Tatar, whether there are Russians present, or whether they are watching Russian-language television. At social events involving alcohol consumption in their homes, Tatar-speakers tend to say more toasts in Tatar than when they are drinking in more public domains, for instance, at teachers’ gatherings in school buildings. However, the practice of drinking heavily—doing endless shots with obligatory toasts shored up by fatty food—is culturally “Russian.” Frequently, the standard speeches Tatars make are calqued from Russian. Therefore, even Tatar-speakers uncomfortable speaking Russian have a tendency to switch into that language when saying toasts. Often toasts begun in Tatar end in Russian.53 Gatherings where everyone is proficient in Tatar are rare. Urban Tatars under fifty years of age usually speak more Russian than Tatar and, as I noted in the previous chapter, Kazan social networks tend to be ethnically mixed. Thus, when ethnic Russians or Tatar friends or family with poor knowledge of Tatar are invited to the homes of dominant Tatar-speakers, hospitality norms dictate that some or all interactions should take place in Russian.

Tatar-Inflected Domains

  • 54 See Wertheim (2003, 2006) for more on pure Tatar [saf tatar tele] and on performance Tatar as a sp (...)

66Even though Tatar homes in Kazan may not be completely Tatar-speaking, certain Tatar-dominant spaces exist beyond the domestic threshold. Some of these are conceived as rural enclaves, like the bazaar or the Agricultural and Veterinary Universities. Others have political or religious significance. Yet others possess a politically Tatar valence, including the TOTs building and the Tatar World Congress, both adjacent to Freedom Square. In the TOTs building, speaking Russian is inappropriate—university-aged Tatars have been documented suffering performance anxiety there due to their inability to speak “pure” Tatar.54 TOTs has become inactive since 2000 and as a result, the Tatar World Congress, which focuses on promoting Tatar culture, especially in the diaspora, has become the sole Tatar-dominant political organization.

67In mosques the language to speak, except when praying in Arabic, is Tatar. However, the international Muslim community—umma—is supposed to supersede national boundaries. Thus, even though Islam is considered iconic of Tatarness, and despite outrage from some Tatar-speakers, in an effort to reach out to russophone Tatars and gain new Russian-speaking converts the religious hierarchy has accepted the use of Russian for teaching about Islam. In spite of this decision, the language I heard spoken whenever I visited a mosque was Tatar. And when I attended Friday prayers at Kol Shärif Mosque in 2006, knowledge of Tatar was presumed. Indeed, the post-Soviet proliferation of mosques in Tatarstan has increased the use of Tatar outside the home. In particular, the colossal Kol Shärif packed with believers during religious services acts as a Tatar-speaking center and elevates the language from the quotidian bazaar to the celestial purity experienced in the women’s balcony and (most likely) among the men who pray together on vast carpet covering the ground floor.

From Public to Domesticated

68In the spring of 2000 my research assistant Gulnaz arranged for me to meet the infamous Tatar nationalist Fäüzia Bäyrämova. In order to see her, we had to travel from Kazan to Yar Chally, Tatarstan’s second largest city and the home of Kamaz Trucks, where Bäyrämova lived, some 130 miles to the east. Meeting early in the morning, Gulnaz and I flagged down an unofficial taxi. Gulnaz asked the driver, an old man, in Russian whether he would be willing to take us to a roundabout on the edge of town from which minibuses travel east to other Tatarstan cities. He acquiesced and we took our seats in the back of his car. After the man had driven for several minutes in silence, Gulnaz suddenly asked the man, in Tatar, if he were Tatar. When he responded in Tatar that he was indeed Tatar, a conversation ensued. Calling him by the Tatar kin term for older brother or uncle (abiy), Gulnaz explained to him where we were going and why, speaking much more openly than she does when talking to Russians. In this case Gulnaz recalibrated the automobile’s domain. She considered the car public when we entered it and therefore used Russian in a formal interaction that concerned business. The car thereafter became domesticated, as Gulnaz and the driver conversed in Tatar. This example likewise demonstrates how Tatar is perceived as a language of intimate interchange, for Gulnaz was willing to talk about things in Tatar with the driver that she will not discuss in Russian with Russian-speakers.

69Similarly, when Tatar teachers working in Russian schools come to work, they pass through the Russian-dominant domains of public transportation and the school as a whole into the room they share as an office. As they hang up their coats and hats on the pegs by the door, they shift from speaking mostly Russian to speaking almost entirely in Tatar. By the time they have fixed their hair and gathered their books to head off to class, the code shift is complete. On a nippy day in late October 1999, one of the Tatar teachers at the English School entered the Tatar teachers’ office from outdoors. She greeted those of us already in the room in Tatar, “Isänmesez!” but then switched to Russian to ask, “Aren’t you cold?” The head teacher responded in Tatar, “We have all been indoors for sometime now.” All the conversation in the room thereafter, until I left a couple of hours later, took place in Tatar with the only Russian words spoken the titles of specific government institutions. The head teacher later informed me that she didn’t consider the teacher who spoke in Russian qualified to do her job: she had received her position as a result of political connections. In this case the teacher not only physically moved from a public to a domesticated domain, but her speech patterns also underwent domestication with subtle pressure from the head teacher.

Ideally, Harmony

70One Wednesday afternoon in November 1999 I was drinking tea with Hayat apa, who, without speaking knowledge of Russian, migrated to Kazan at the age of 17 to apply to university. Hayat apa asked me what a scholarly friend of hers, with whom I had met a few days earlier, was working on these days, and then provided the answer herself, “Bilingualism among the Working Class.” Hayat apa took a sip of her tea and declared, “I don’t consider that bilingualism.” She explained her meaning, “When there is pressure [nagruzka] to speak in broken language [na lomanom yazyke], that’s not bilingualism. It used to be that shop girls from the village, no matter how badly they spoke Russian, wouldn’t respond in Tatar to requests made in that language. To speak Tatar was considered uncultured [nekul’turno] and ill mannered [nevospitano].” Hayat apa continued, “For there to be bilingualism, there must be harmony. There has to be a kind of purity of mind, a harmony of feeling that allows a person to pursue the study of two languages without feeling resentment.”

  • 55 Unlike most Tatar statements about verbal hygiene (Cameron 1995), this one concerns the hegemonic (...)

71Knowing that Hayat apa is deliberate in everything she says, I realized that she made this statement, with its ideology of linguistic purism to clarify for me—the foreign ethnographer—the changing status of Tatar language.55 Though Hayat apa appears to disdain working class people, since they don’t have the leisure to study Russian without the practical need that can cause resentment, this isn’t the case. Rather, Hayat apa is reacting to a situation in which, as she perceives it, working-class people demeaned themselves, denying their national language and self-worth by insisting on speaking Russian, a language in which they could barely communicate, to other Tatar-speakers. Hayat apa’s view represents an idealized political economy of bilingualism in which the standing of each language both reflects and reproduces social equality among its native speakers. In contrast to this ideal, subsequent to World War II, Tatar-speakers were often ashamed of their knowledge. Even in 2006, some 20 years after glasnost was instituted, Tatar and Russian languages did not enjoy equal status.

72Before the Soviet Union’s collapse, people not otherwise employed as agricultural workers were regularly requisitioned to help bring in the annual harvest, with brigades of “volunteers” organized around workplaces and educational institutions. For example, schoolchildren in northern Russia brought in the potatoes, while those living in Kyrgyzstan picked cotton. Different people have different opinions about this practice—some volunteers I knew in St. Petersburg found it to be great fun and recall nighttime bonfires, fresh air, and opportunities for romance, while others complained that it interrupted children’s education. But everyone has stories about agricultural volunteerism. Reixana xanym, a city-born school-teacher with a cranky sense of humor, told me this story.

  • 56 The entire interchange was reported to me in Russian, as follows:

73During an October harvest, Reixana xanym stayed in a Tatar peasant woman’s house with a bunch of women of village origin who were trying to seem urbane by affecting not to know Tatar. One night the faux urbanites were chatting among themselves as they lay in bed. The peasant woman said to them in Tatar, “Why are you still gabbing? It’s time to sleep.” The faux urbanites pretended not to understand and asked Reixana xanym what the peasant woman had said. A bit of a troublemaker, Reixana xanym interpreted the peasant’s words into Russian, “She said, ’Why are you talking so quietly? I want to hear what you’re saying.’” The faux urbanites began to speak louder and the peasant woman asked, “Why are you making so much noise?” Again, the women asked Reixana xanym what the hostess said. She told them, “That’s enough talking. She wants you to sing a song.” The women started to sing in Russian. The peasant woman lost patience at this point and yelled, “That’s enough. I’m going to kick all of you out of the house,” at which moment the faux urbanites immediately fell silent.56

74This story may contain more drama than verisimilitude. Indeed, information provided by Reixana xanym, a busybody old maid who thrives on gossip, is often unreliable. Nevertheless, the story is important because Reixana xanym shared it with me as an illustration of how Tatars used to be made ashamed of being Tatar, which was most significantly indicated by not speaking unaccented, standard Russian. Thus, not being able to speak Russian fluently, or speaking it with Tatar-inflected phonology, or speaking Tatar in addition to Russian were all bits of linguistic knowledge that marked Tatars as subordinate to Russians. Many Tatars made great efforts to throw off these markings, which is why, as historian Nail Garipov pointed out to me during our interview, the majority of urban Tatar intellectuals are russophone.

Pragmatic Tatar

75On more than one occasion when Tatar-speakers introduced me to new people, the new acquaintances praised my knowledge of Tatar and half-joked, “We won’t be able to keep any secrets from her.” This suggests that Tatar’s role as a language used to create intimacy and solidarity entails a function as a code for keeping secrets from outsiders. Not surprisingly, exchanges of secrets can be somewhat malicious, as when I observed two old maid schoolteachers, who usually conversed in Russian, switch into Tatar to gossip about a man dressed in an Orthodox priest’s habit standing directly in front of them. Or they can be used as a kind of private aside, as when a Tatar university administrator who otherwise insisted on speaking Russian with me, switched into Tatar to tell me not to lose heart when my fiance was hospitalized with a life-threatening illness. Most frequently, though, using Tatar seems to grant a person certain license to ask favors and extend village interactional mores into urban terrain.

76I observed an example of this pragmatic use of Tatar early in my field-work, in 1998, on a trolley bus. An elderly woman boarded the bus to find that there were no vacant seats. She was rather corpulent and needed both hands to hold onto the bar above her head so as not to be tossed about as the bus dipped in and out of gaping potholes. The elderly woman held a plastic pail in one hand and had difficulty grasping its handle and the bar at the same time. She looked around and noticed that two seated women were quietly conversing in Tatar and appealed to them in that language to take her pail onto their laps. At first, they looked affronted and were only willing to cram the pail into the space between their seats and the bus’s grimy wall. But, the elderly woman insisted that the pail was clean and the two seated women eventually agreed to hold the pail on their laps at the risk of soiling their clothes, thereby granting the woman making the request the consideration due one’s “own.” The elderly woman succeeded in extending village mores into her urban environment by using the language of domestic life in a non-domestic domain.

Domesticating Public Space

77From the perspective of Tatar-speakers, Kazan’s public space during the Soviet period was inimical. Indeed, urban space, in contradistinction to Tatar villages, continues to be ideologized as Russian-speaking and, hence, the domain of Russians. As a school administrator explained to me in 1999, “Tatar grandmothers should be able to make all their daily household purchases using their native language without fear of discrimination.” Tatar-speakers don’t want to eject Russians from urban public domains, but rather to change the rules for public interactions.

78Moments of conflict reveal social contestation, either because of ongoing disagreements about what behavioral norms should be or because those norms are changing. The following examples of verbal conflicts demonstrate how linguistic domestication changed the interactional norms in Tatarstan public space during sovereignty. Each example concerns an effort to curtail the use of Russian in public and a corollary demand that Tatar receive recognition as a government language.

  • 57 * Italics indicate Tatar and bold denotes Russian.
  • 58 The assertion was not nationalist in Fasold’s (1987) sense because the clerk switched to the hegem (...)

79The first example is an interchange that occurred in 1998 in a food store with the Tatar name Bäxät [Happiness]. A man approached the deli counter and greeted the rosy-cheeked shop clerk standing behind it with the standard Russian “Zdravstvujte [Hello].”*57 In response, with a broad smile on her face, the clerk proclaimed loudly enough for everyone in the shop to hear, “Isänmesez! Zdravstvujte ne ponimaem [Hello! (Tatar). We do not understand the word “zdravstvujte” (Russian)].” The shop clerk thus asserted her right to be addressed in her native language—a change from the circumstances Hayat apa described. The clerk simultaneously domesticated a public sphere with Tatar, albeit using Russian metadiscursively to make clear to all present exactly what was occurring.58

  • 59 The Tatarstan Academy’s validity was called into question by a Tatarstan prosecutor in 2005, since (...)

80In 1991 President Shaimiev created a Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, as part of an investment in developing and maintaining research and educational institutions with a focus on Tatar language, culture, and history.59 At first, the primary language of communication in those institutions was Russian. For example, at the History Institute, in the late 1990s the official business of meetings usually took place in Russian, while utterances in a low register of formality, such as telling latecomers, “Take a seat,” occurred in Tatar. People who followed these patterns of code-switching explained to me that they found speaking Tatar at work difficult, even when all present were Tatar-speakers, both because they had received their intellectual training in Russian and because they were so well-trained not to use Tatar away from home. However, by 2006 with the introduction of a new generation of colleagues, Tatar had become the dominant language at the History Institute. The Institute had become linguistically domesticated, perhaps through exchanges like the one below.

81In 2000, I was waiting in the reception office of a Tatar-dominant, government-funded language research institute. The institute was Tatar-dominant in two ways, first, by housing researchers who work only on topics pertaining to Tatar language and culture and, second, in contradistinction to similar institutes, both Tatar and Russian were used in official meetings, such as dissertation defenses. However, like all workplaces in Kazan, even though the institute was Tatar-dominant, not all its employees were fluent in Tatar (which I discovered when I asked the librarian the location of the toilet and was greeted with a blank stare). As I sat waiting to see the institute’s director, a crew from the Tatarstan Republic Television Station entered the room. A member of the crew, a man in his twenties, greeted everyone sitting in the reception area with the Russian “Dobryi den’ [Good day].” Before anyone else responded, a man a generation older than the crewmember looked up from his desk and scowled in Tatar, “Tatarcha söiläshä! [Speak Tatar! (familiar)].” The young man said nothing in response. Age and linguistic knowledge imputed his elder with cultural authority that demanded respect.

82The third example demonstrates that the authority that older Tatars wield over younger ones doesn’t depend upon working at a prestigious occupation. As do many people with low-status jobs, the women who operate the food concession stands located in the lobby of the main building of Kazan University speak Tatar publicly. In June 1998, I was purchasing food from one such stand when the vendor instructed a student who ordered his lunch in Russian to speak Tatar, using me as an example to shame him:

  • 60 Wertheim (2006).

83While the vendor’s insistence that the student speak Tatar was clearly provoked by my efforts to converse in that language, the exchange in the research institute, where no one knew me, indicates that hearing “Tatarcha söiläshä” can happen even in the absence of fieldworker effect.60 Such incidents—frequent during sovereignty—served as embarrassing reminders to young Tatars that they were unequipped to meet their elders’ demands. They represented a significant shift in the expectations for conversational interactions from those current during late socialism, as illustrated by Amina xanym, who once confided to me over a bottle of homemade spirits, “Before, my son used to say to me, ’Mama, why are you speaking that barbaric tongue? Stop cursing right now!’ Now, he asks me why I didn’t teach him Tatar.”

84The fourth example represents the kinds of attitudes that must have persuaded Amina xanym’s son to devalue his mother’s native language. In 1999 the Kazan city government estimated that at least 10 % of public transport riders were traveling zaitsem (bunny-style), that is, without paying their fares. In 2001, conductors were installed on all public transportation, but for a several years the city waged an aggressive campaign to catch transgressors. Teams of ticket inspectors would swarm trams and buses at central stations and escort people without valid tickets to mobile holding pens, where they would be detained until they paid a fine. In December 1999 a middle-aged, female ticket inspector accosted me as I stepped off a train at Kazan’s central stop. I had been conversing in Tatar with a couple of old women during the ride, so when the inspector asked for my ticket, I responded with the Tatar word “Xäzer,” as I searched my pockets. Exhibiting a Soviet-period attitude, the inspector sneered in disgust and jeered at me in Russian, “Chto eto znachit, xäzer? [What does that mean ’xäzer’?]” I retorted, “Eto znachitseichas po-tatarski, v odnom iz vashei gosudarstvennykh yazykov [It means ’just a moment’ in Tatar, in one of your government languages]” and held out my ticket. The inspector became frightened and returned my ticket to me without bothering to examine it.

85Linguistic domestication changed the expectations for public interactions among some native speakers of Russian. For example, a russophone Tatar Interpol officer I knew planned to leave Tatarstan because his ignorance of Tatar had a deleterious effect on his career. Likewise, a Russian-speaking Tatar businessman running for political office in 2000 explained, when asked during a meeting with voters, that while he was only learning to speak Tatar, his children studied it hard at school and spoke well.

  • 61 See Verdery (1996) on the economy of shortage under socialism and how it contrasts with western mo (...)

86Similarly, Alina, an ethnic Russian, after working as a clothes merchant at an outdoor bazaar for four years, began to try to acquire enough ability in spoken Tatar to engage potential customers in their native language. She hoped to increase her sales for, she told me, “There are some very rich Tatar women coming in from the countryside to buy things and they don’t want to spend their money where the merchants don’t speak Tatar.” Alina’s words reveal how conventions for face-to-face interactions in what Kazanians consider public domains have shifted as a consequence of the movement of Tatar outside domestic space, facilitated in this case by the post-Soviet expansion of market relations which allows consumers the choice to make decisions about purchases based upon nationalist feel-ings.61 Once Tatarstan became officially bilingual in 1990, knowledge of Tatar became a requirement for advancing in government hierarchies. As long as sovereignty held sway, russophone Tatars and other Russian-speakers tried to find ways to integrate themselves into bilingual society.

87A final illustration of how linguistic domestication has affected language-choice norms comes from a Russian woman, Lena, a convert to Islam who had adopted Muslim modest dress. Indicating the extent to which the hijab symbolizes not only Tatar nationality, but also knowledge of the Tatar language, Lena reported that she was frequently embarrassed because Tatar women would address her in Tatar and she couldn’t respond. Lena complained of the discrimination she encountered because of her faith in the school where she worked as a teacher, but remained devoted to her newfound religion. After converting, she expelled the family dog from her apartment because of the Islamic belief that their barking scares away angels. The dog lived on the landing outside their door off scraps it begged from the neighbors. Lena had also coerced her husband to convert—threatening to leave him if he didn’t—and converted her parents, who were likely the only Muslims in the southern Russian town where they lived. After meeting me, Lena was inspired to begin studying Tatar, having decided to bring the language into her home.


88Although during sovereignty Tatar-speakers began to repossess Kazan, the authority behind that repossession was tenuous and, furthermore, diffused by divergent opinions concerning what it should consist in. Exploring what occurred when Tatars introduced a big symbol of Islam into the heart of Tatarstan’s government exemplifies some of the tensions inherent in having to find positive ways to physically include Russians in Kazan’s past and present. The controversies surrounding the “recreation” of Kol Shärif Mosque mirror the tenuousness of Tatarstan sovereignty and its ultimate lack of political authority. Tatar-speakers continue to have to accommodate dominant “Russian” desires in constructing Tatar national institutions and to adhere to “Russian” historical fictions when they publicly recount the relations between the two communities.

89Recognizing the existence of a domestic sphere, ideologized as intermediary between private and public, explains how Tatar is becoming a public language in the post-Soviet period. Until perestroika, speaking Tatar was predominantly confined to the most domestic space, that is, one’s “own” kitchen or to domains marked as rural—one’s “own” village, the bazaar and Kazan’s Agricultural Institute. Therefore, the choice to speak Tatar in domains that are considered public and urban can be understood as an expansion of domestic space into the public sphere. Tatars have attempted to linguistically domesticate, and thereby repossess, Kazan in the post-Soviet period by redefining the norms for public interactions.

90Efforts to linguistically domesticate Tatarstan’s Russian-speakers haven’t endured because of pressure from Moscow to dismantle sovereignty. However, linguistic domestication has significantly affected how Tatar-speakers behave in public space. In 2006, they spoke freely among themselves in public domains, no longer looking around to see if there were any Russians within earshot they might offend with their “barbaric” language. At the same time, Russian-speakers no longer exhibited any signs of feeling compelled to learn Tatar as a way to demonstrate their respect for Tatar culture and people. Moving Tatar out of the metaphorical kitchens and villages into Kazan’s streets didn’t create feelings of harmony, as Hayat apa so earnestly hoped. Instead, people’s worldviews have continued to diverge along linguistic lines and Tatar-speakers have become increasingly cocooned in their own discursive worlds where their efforts to live according to an ethos of negotiated peace have little effect on broader society.

91The next chapter explores how people in Kazan interpret who strangers are. Arguing that language is perceived as an indicator of a person’s race, it demonstrates that, while the basis for political change in Tatarstan emerged from an acceptance of reified national cultures, as defined by Soviet colonial institutions, the categories people use to evaluate unknown people have shifted since the Soviet Union’s collapse.


1 The language courses are part of a larger program to improve government bureaucrats’qualifications. In addition to the Tatar language, they studied management theories and other subjects.

2 The Tatar class was one of those the Tatarstan government sponsored.

3 See for more details.

4 Fitzpatrick (1999).

5 I tried to revisit the exhibition again in 1998 and encountered a gathering of business entrepreneurs in the cafeteria. The rest of the building was closed. On a third occasion I entered the National Cultural Center, in 1999, to observe a history conference attended by President Shaimiev and former Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov not open to the general public. The fourth time I was in the National Cultural Center, in December 2000, I went there to dance at a Tatar discotheque held in its capacious front hall. And my final visit, in June 2006, was to participate in the Tatar Youth Forum, an international event organized by the Tatar World Congress, likewise not open to the general public. On none of these occasions was the exhibition hall open, though, based upon their interests, people at the latter three events would likely have embraced the opportunity to view the artifacts on the second floor of the building.

6 Moving people from their centrally located houses into outlying apartments isn’t necessarily a seamless process. For instance, in 1998 my landlady took me to a house on the edge of the Old Tatar Quarter in which she and her family had lived in 1939. She spoke to a woman sitting on a wooden chair in front of the house, stringing beads, and discovered that the building officially no longer existed. (The words of the woman stringing beads were, “Ne chislaetsia.”) According to government records, it had already been destroyed. Similar to what anthropologist Bruce Grant (1995) discovered on Sakhalin Island, there are people in Kazan whose residences fell through the bureaucratic cracks. Beyond this, being registered at one residence, while actually residing at another, was a common strategy for obviating Soviet anti-inheritance laws. Usually both residences existed on the books, which meant that they at least had electricity and received mail delivery. For example, in 1993 a friend in St. Petersburg had herself registered at her grandmother’s room in a communal apartment, while she continued to live with her parents. When the old woman passed away, she would receive the room.

7 Sayid Kol Shärif was the spiritual leader who led the last defenders of Kazan against the invading troops of Ivan the Terrible in 1552 (Xalit 1997). In Russian “Kol” is transcribed “Kul.” I have chosen to use the Tatar spelling, except when citing other people’s work.

8 I know this firsthand from the shocked disapproval with which Tatars reacted when I admitted being an atheist.

9 The filth of the bazaar pertains to actual filth, the bad associations former Soviets still hold concerning making money through resale (spekulatsiia), and the foul language bazaar workers are supposed to use.

10 The money to build the mosques is rumored to have come from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, via Turkey.

11 Kucukcan (2005); Mite (2006).

12 Although the majority of ethnic Tatars are nominal Muslims and a growing number have been becoming increasingly religious since the collapse of the Soviet Union, nearly 1 % of Tatars identify as Christians, according to the 2002 All-Russia Census.

13 Prior to 1917 Kazan had a sizeable Catholic community, but it doesn’t figure in Safin’s reckoning, perhaps because few Catholics are left. Note that the religions he lists are different from the four religions legal in Russia—Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. See Xalit (1997) for an account of the events that led up to the mosque’s construction.

14 A Tatar version appeared sometime after May 2001. However, the unmarked URL, that is, the one without any additional notation after the word “kulshärif” indexed the Russian pages, which indicates that Russian is the basic, normative version.

15 Kol Shärif webpage: Last accessed 30 April 2003; no longer live as of December 6, 2006. (All translations mine.)

16 The paragraph in which this statement appeared reads as follows. “We are grateful to everybody who supports this sacred common cause. Their names will stay in hearts of contemporaries and thankful progeny, will enter the Memory Book and be perpetuated in the Memorial Plaque. Only with your help the Kul Shärif mosque will again become the Moslem centre of education, the symbol of Islam in Russia,” Investors page, English.

17 “Many organizations, businesses and banks in the Republic have made donations to the Kul Sharif Mosque Foundation. Agricultural workers have made the weightiest contributions. Donations are being made by people of various ages, professions, and nationalities. The cultural intelligentsia has taken an active part in benefit events, held under the aegis of the Foundation. No city or region of the republic has remained on the sidelines. The re-creation of the mosque has in truth become an affair of all the peoples.”

18 See Schamiloglu (2000), inter alia. Indeed, Tatars only started to accept that appellation in the 19th century, whereas it is debatable whether Tatars even today constitute what has traditionally been considered a nation in western scholarship. See Zakiev (1991) for evidence of the former and Gellner (1983) for an example of the latter.

19 Tatarstan Constitution (1997: 5).

20 All-Russia Census (2002).

21 Kol Shärif webpage:

22 I don’t know the details of the debate that prefaced the acceptance of this condition, being informed of its existence only while visiting Kazan in 1998.

23 See Verdery (1999) for similar controversies over questions of bones and post-socialist nations and Abu Al-haj (1995) and Shnirel’man (1996) for examples of how contestations over the interpretations of archaeological excavations can be employed in the establishment national histories on particular territories.

24 I looked for the Gorky Park monument during my 2006 visit to Kazan, but it had disappeared. In its place a highway had been constructed.

25 Neary (2006).

26 This is similar to Yurchak’s (1997) point concerning how Soviets created parallel realities during public events. See also Humphrey (2002).

27 Gal (2002b). The notion of nonce and enduring embeddings of the personal and informal borrows from Gumperz’s (1982) discussion of conversational code-switching.

28 These analyses of postsocialist space include Buchli (2000); Gal (2002a, 2002b); Kiar and Naiman (2006); Rittersporn, Rolf, and Behrends (2003); and Siegelbaum (2006).

29 While Habermas’(1989) theory of a unified public sphere has been called into question (Calhoun 1997[92]), most of us continue to ideologize publicness and privateness as separate realms in our daily lives (Gal 2002a, 2002b). See Yurchak (2006) for a comparable criticism of the notion of the dissimilating individual in Soviet society.

30 See Fitzpatrick (1994, 1999, 2006).

31 Gerasimova (2003).

32 These analyses include Buchli (2000); Fitzpatrick (1999); Neary (2006); Reid (2006). Former Czech dissident Vaclav Havel (1986) claimed that living in truth only occurred in what he called the hidden sphere; see also Mandelstam (1970). Ries (1997) provides examples of how Russian “private talk” was performed during the perestroika period.

33 Gal (2002a: 9).

34 Gerasimova (2003); Harris (2006).

35 Gal (2002a, 2002b). The words denoting “one’s own” are svoi and üz, while “other” is a translation of chuzhoi and yat, in Russian and Tatar, respectively.

36 Boym (1994).

37 Gal (2002a); Verdery (1996). See also Sheila Fitzpatrick’s (2003) review of several recent volumes on Soviet everyday life for the London Review of Books. Before the Soviet Union’s collapse, maintenance of these exterior spaces was imposed through officially organized “volunteer” efforts, known as subotniki. See Drazin (2002) to learn about the energies postsocialist Romanians invest in caring for their apartments.

38 Slessor (2002).

39 See Casey (1996) and Turner on liminality (1967 and subsequent works). For example, Sierra Leoneans pour libations to the spirits of the dead just outside the thresholds of their homes as part of an act of communion with them.

40 Pesmen (2000b: 184).

41 Boym (1994).

42 See Dunham (1990) on Soviet “bourgeois” comforts.

43 Bershtein (2006).

44 See Bowen (2006); Eicher (1995); Göçek and Balaghi (1994); Mandel (1989); and Rowe (1998) among others.

45 Tatars living in the diaspora in Russia, Central Asia, Helsinki, Poland, or Burlingame, California or Australia may imagine Kazan as their ancestral homeland, even if they have little knowledge of it as a place.

46 The appropriate Russian way to cover your head with a scarf is to fold it in half diagonally, fold back an inch’s width of cloth along the length of the fold, which covers the front of one’s head, cross the two corners on either side of the face and tie them at the nape of the neck over the triangle that hangs in back. The Ukrainian way of headscarf tying differs from this in that the scarf is completely gathered off the neck’s nape.

47 Russians on occasion convert to Islam and adopt modest dress. In 2000 three Russians were reported to have converted to Islam the previous year.

48 Not wearing makeup is a highly marked practice in formerly socialist countries (Drakulic 1991).

49 See Bennigsen and Wimbush (1985) and Cocoran-Nantes (1995) on Islam during the Soviet period.

50 Cole (1994) claims that the veil plays a similar role in other Muslim societies.

51 The domains in which it was spoken had contracted, as had its overall functionality as a means of communication. Dorian (1981) writes on language death in general, while Wertheim (2003) has made a close analysis of the functional shrinkage of Tatar language among young Kazanians.

52 Wertheim (2003).

53 A birthday party I attended for a Tatar woman in her 80s provides a typical example of how gatherings in Tatar homes can become subjugated to Russian language. The birthday celebrant was Tatar-dominant, as were her two sisters and brother-in-law, also in attendance and hosting the party. Two of the sisters had worked in a factory before retiring at age 55, while the third sister had been one of Hayat apa’s teachers. The teacher’s husband had been an administrator at Kazan’s Tatar-language Kamal Theater for much of his life and was still revered there. All four were village born and bred. The younger relatives present ranged from passive to full bilinguals. The old couple has two adult children—an unmarried daughter and a married son—and one grandchild. The daughter, a schoolteacher like her mother, has a fairly good command of colloquial Tatar. The son, in his forties, used to be a skilled factory worker with a good salary, but has been doing odd jobs since his factory shut down in the late 1980s. He can manage a sentence at a time in Tatar, but not maintain a conversation. The son is married to a Russian from Kazakhstan. She has some passive knowledge of Tatar. When I met their nine-year-old son in 1999, he appeared to be completely russophone. However, after going to a Tatar summer camp in 2000 in Finland, where there is a significant Tatar diaspora, he began to speak Tatar and to perform Muslim prayers. The other Tatar family members present were 50–60 years old and seemed fully bilingual. Apart from me, non-family members invited to the party included two Russian women with whom the birthday celebrant had worked in the factory. In deference to the Russian guests— no one would want them to feel excluded—the elder relatives spoke more Russian than they usually did at home. Most of the toasts at the event were made in Russian. Even when speakers began their toasts in Tatar, they tended to slip into Russian somewhere in the middle of their speeches. In fact, only the 86 year-old brother-in-law said a toast from start to finish in Tatar. Despite this, some Tatars who toasted entirely in Russian subsequently sang songs in Tatar. No Russian songs were sung. Over all, most conversation occurred in Russian, with some interjections and code-switching into Tatar.

54 See Wertheim (2003, 2006) for more on pure Tatar [saf tatar tele] and on performance Tatar as a speech genre.

55 Unlike most Tatar statements about verbal hygiene (Cameron 1995), this one concerns the hegemonic language.

56 The entire interchange was reported to me in Russian, as follows:

Khozyaika: Chego vy vsyo boltaete?
Kyzlar: Chto ona govorila?
Reixana: Ona skazala,“Pochemu vy tak tikho govorite? Ia khochu chtoby mne bylo slyshno.”
Khozyaika: Pochemu vy tak shumite? Kyzlar: Chto ona skazala?
Reixana: Khvatat’bol’tan’e. Ona khochet chtoby vy pesniu speli.
Kyzlar stali russkuju pesniu pet’.
Khozyaika: Khvatit. Ia vas vsekh vygoniu iz doma.
Kyzlar srazu zamolchali.

57 * Italics indicate Tatar and bold denotes Russian.

58 The assertion was not nationalist in Fasold’s (1987) sense because the clerk switched to the hegemonic, nationist language of Russian, to make herself understood.

59 The Tatarstan Academy’s validity was called into question by a Tatarstan prosecutor in 2005, since it wasn’t created at the behest of the Russian government. See “Prosecutor Questions Legal Status Of Tatarstan Science Academy,” Daily Review from Tatarstan, RFE/RL Daily Tatar-Bashkir Service, 17 May 2005.

60 Wertheim (2006).

61 See Verdery (1996) on the economy of shortage under socialism and how it contrasts with western models of consumer-driven markets.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 5.1. Kazan Kremlin from Below
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Légende Figure 5.2. The Pyramid
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Légende Figure 5.3. Dom Kekina, with “For Rent” Banner
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Légende Figure 5.4. Wreckage in the Old Tatar Quarter
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Légende Figure 5.5. Kol Shärif Mosque, with Söyembike Tower in background
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Légende Figure 5.6. Söyembike Tower, inside the Kazan Kremlin
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Légende Figure 5.7. Typical apartment building stairwell
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Légende Figure 5.8. Old Tatar women favor white headscarves
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Légende Figure 5.9. Car with Tisbä
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