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Nation, Language, Islam

Helen M. Faller

Chapter 6. Kazan in black and white

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“There isn’t any such awareness. That’s because there are dark-skinned Russians and you don’t know who’s Russian and who’s Tatar. When I walk around, I don’t feel swarthy. I don’t think about it at all. No one here pays attention. Turks come here and they look like Tatars. Azeris come and they look like Tatars...”
Älfiye, Tatar university administrator, January 2000

1Älfiye is tall, gentle, classically beautiful, and gracefully slim—a university administrator in her forties with olive skin, black hair, and brown eyes that betray a profound weariness. She spoke here in response to a question I asked about whether an awareness of swarthiness [smuglost’] exists in Tatarstan. The question came from a desire to understand whether Älfiye conceived of Tatarstan as different from the Russia she had just described in the story of a trip she once made to the central Russian city of Orel:

I traveled there with a friend. I’m Tatar and she’s Tatar. And I immediately felt that we were like some kind of Caucasians or Chechens. All of a sudden, I’m so black. Black hair. Black eyes. Swarthy skin. The children followed us around, staring like this.

2Älfiye made a blank face with wide eyes and a gaping mouth.

Just like that. And the local people were all light. They all looked alike. They had small, light eyes and big noses. All very ugly.

3She laughed.

The mayor of the town looked like that—light hair and eyes and a big nose. And everyone there looked like that. Apparently all part of the same family.

4Älfiye’s story implies that inbreeding in Orel has caused everyone to look the same, while Kazan’s cosmopolitan variation means that people who are victims of discrimination, or even violence, in other parts of Russia are safe here. Another implication—confirmed by several other Tatars—is that so many Russians in Kazan look “Asiatic” that Russians can’t insult “swarthy” strangers because they would inevitably end up victimizing one of their own.

  • 1 Dominguez (1986); Urciuoli (1991, 1996); Williams 1989.
  • 2 Thus, scholars regularly review the racial taxonomy created by 18th-century Swedish biologist Carl (...)

5The creation of racial categories always entails a distancing of the Self from an Other in ways that promote power relationships, beneficial to the people who designate them in ways that make for differential access to status, wealth and other resources.1 While scholars have analyzed how the creators of racial categories use belief in immutable difference to make sense of the unknown, less attention has been paid to the experiences of the people who are racialized.2 Enduring racism can entail tolerating insults, demeaning epithets, threats, and violence—the accumulation of which provokes a visceral reaction among people with the experience. While racialized people may make friends or even marry members of the dominant group, the experience of racism remains imprinted on their psyche and that imprint defensively dictates that people in the dominant group are fundamentally, essentially different from them and capable of betrayal. Feelings of racial difference run deep.

6Not least because Tatars were Soviets, it’s not possible to identify a territorial boundary that separates post-Soviet from Tatar space or a historical moment that constitutes a clean break between Soviet and post-Soviet time. Moreover, descriptions of race ideologies only provide approximate models of how people think. Consequently, disentangling Soviet, post-Soviet, and Tatar ideas about race is both analytically and experientially difficult. Nonetheless, this chapter analyzes two competing racial ideologies circulating in Tatarstan—one widely prevalent in Russia, which is based on phenotype and nationality, and another local Tatar ideology that is tied to language, behavior, and religious faith. While the perception of pathologized darkness in the Other, in contradistinction to the light Self, prevails in both ideologies, the measure of difference is calculated using non-comparable criteria.

Race in Russia

  • 3 Feinstein (2000).

7In order to understand the consequences of racism in Russia, it is necessary to understand how race works there. Alexander Pushkin, the Russian poet of noble origin credited with creating Russian literary language in the early 19th century—when literate Russians were enamored with the delicate turns of phrase made in literary French—was the great grandson of an African slave. There is no writer in Russian history considered to be more essentially Russian or a greater Russian genius than Pushkin, and yet when he studied at the Imperial Lyceum outside St. Petersburg, the other students took one look at his African features and nicknamed him “Monkey.”3

  • 4 Lemon (2002b).

8Like Pushkin’s poetry, the practice of calling unusual-looking people by derogatory names is a legacy passed down to present-day Russians. In cities outside Tatarstan, it has been common practice for Russians to arbitrarily insult people they identify as “black” by calling them “chernaia zhopa” [black ass] or “churka” [nigger]—sometimes to their faces.4 In Kazan, Tatars have told me, the epithet was more mild—chaplashka [little hat]—which refers to the yarmulke-like töbäte Tatar men traditionally wear. But Tatars only mentioned the chaplashka epithet to me after 2000. While it looked like there was hope of creating an integrated Tatarstan nation, they spoke of being harassed not for looking Tatar, but for speaking Tatar.

  • 5 See a 2002 discussion in Slavic Review 61(1) with regards to this matter.
  • 6 See Hirsch (2002); Lemon (1995, 1996, 1998, 2000b, 2002b); and Weitz (2002).

9Although race is not a term used in local discourse to describe essential difference, ex-Soviets nevertheless believe that there are categories of people essentially different from each other.5 And while race in the US and some other countries is based primarily on skin color, in the former Soviet Union essential difference—considered to be slippery, sometimes hidden, yet revealed “in the blood”—is defined by nationality.6 People refer to certain nationalities as “black”—Roma as well as Armenians, Georgians, Chechens and other people from the Caucasus Mountains region—or “southerners”—again Caucasians, and Tajiks, among others. They may call nationalities from the east, including native Siberians, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks “aziaty”—a term always intoned with a derogatory sneer.

Figure 6.1. A Nazi Poster on Kazan Street, 2006

  • 7 Certainly, the link between language and race is not confined to the post-Soviet context. See Morg (...)

10While ex-Soviets generally use phenotype to determine a person’s essence, they also consider language to be a racial indicator.7 This tendency emerges from the Soviet ideology still resonating through school textbooks, mass media, and other authoritative sources that each nationality possesses a discrete national language and involves a kind of psychological juggling. On the one hand, people recognize that nationality is mutable and languages can be acquired. On the other, their gut reaction is that nationality and language reveal something about a person’s deep and unchanging inner nature.

  • 8 Open Society Justice Initiative. 2006. Ethnic Profiling in the Moscow Metro.
  • 9 See Lemon (2000b). Passport regime enforcement began in the 1990s as a result of bombings in Mosco (...)
  • 10 Politkovskaia (2003). See also Lemon (2000a) on the Russian understanding of kavkavskij natsional’ (...)

11A law dating from the Stalinist period—no longer on the books, but nonetheless enforced once more beginning in the mid-1990s—requires everyone in Russia to carry an internal passport indicating domicile registration at a verifiable address.8 In most Russian cities, and Moscow in particular, the police habitually stop pedestrians to check their passports on the basis of external appearance or vneshnii vid.9 According to assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaia, serving in Chechnya, where significant numbers of Russian police officers fulfilled their military duty, has made officers overly aware of what ex-Soviets call the “Caucasian type” and desensitized them to violence.10

12In 2001, I met a pair of displaced Armenians from the Republic of Georgia who were living in Moscow. One was a university student and the other a young schoolteacher specializing in Russian literature. The student’s university was able to provide her with the necessary documentation to register her passport at her Moscow address. The teacher’s school, however, didn’t have the appropriate bureaucratic authority to register her, and even though she lived and worked in Moscow, she was registered in another Russian city—the only place in the country where her family owned property. Police interference in the two women’s everyday movement was never-ending and they were always on the lookout. When they saw police officers on the street, the women would split up. Believing that the undocumented schoolteacher looked “Russian,” they hoped the police would only stop the “Caucasian-looking” student, whose papers were in order. They told me that members of their community had been detained by the police and never heard from again. They also said that it was easy to bribe the police if you had any money—about $2 was enough to get them to leave you alone, but they didn’t have this kind of money, especially not to spend each time they were asked for their papers.

13While I was in Moscow again in 2006 a nanny from Uzbekistan told me that an English family she had worked for the previous year had given her a laptop computer as a gift. The nanny had had to transport the computer from the family’s centrally located apartment to her rented room far outside town in a factory suburb, during which time she had been afraid that the police would stop her and take the computer away. The nanny recounted that she was delighted when she managed to get the laptop home because she could finally start corresponding by email with her daughter in Tashkent, whose education she was paying for out of her wages.

  • 11 Open Society Justice Institute (2006).

14The anxiety these women suffer from is real. However, according to a report released by the Open Society Justice Institute in 2006, statistically, non-Slavic women are much less likely to be stopped by the police than men. While apparent non-Slavs made up less than 5 % of metro riders observed in a 2005 study, they constituted over 50 % of those the police stopped.11

15Race also matters in Russia because rates of racially based violence are on the rise. For instance, in 2005, Human Rights First reported that 31 people, including children, were murdered and 411 assaulted for racist reasons, while estimating that the real number of hate-based attacks is much higher, but not reported to the police because the authorities are reluctant to prosecute the crimes.12 The numbers continue to increase year-by-year, with 97 murdered and 525 assaulted in 2008, up 13 % from the previous year, according to the SOVA Center, a Russia-based NGO.13 What numbers cannot represent, however, is the tangible feeling that a wave of violence is threatening to rear up from beneath a veneer of social calm. Moreover, the numbers don’t explain how race is understood in Russia. For example, why does Caucasian mean “black” in Russia, whereas in the US “Caucasian” is the bureaucratic term for whiteness?

  • 14 American Association of Physical Anthropologists Statement on Biological Aspects of Race. 1996. Am (...)
  • 15 See Wolpoff and Caspari (1997); Goodman (2005); and Lewontin (2005), for example.
  • 16 Hirschfeld (1996).

16The reason for this disparity is that race has no biological basis.14 Physical anthropologists have discovered that the genetic variation within any population we consider to constitute a race is greater than the variation between any two populations. Thus, only 6–10 % of DNA accounts for genetic variation between the groups we classify as races, while 85 % of variation occurs within linguistic or national populations.15 That is, scientific evidence does not support a link between racial phenotypes and genetic makeup. Consequently, social scientists have come to define race as the perception of immutable, essential difference—something created through social interactions—which makes race a real part of lived experience, but nonetheless accounts for the slipperiness of racial boundaries.16

  • 17 Titova (1999).
  • 18 Busygin, Zorin, and Stolyarova (1991).
  • 19 Interview with Güzel Stolyarova, 20 November 1999.

17In Tatarstan the situation is unusual with respect to the rest of Russia. Rates of marriage among different nationalities are high—until 1990, 20 % republic-wide and 25 % in Kazan.17 The children of mixed parentage marriages as a rule consider themselves Russian, and become so linguistically and in bureaucratic records, such as their internal passports.18 Though Tatars began to give voice to negative attitudes towards intermarriage in the 1980s, there is no statistical evidence to demonstrate a change in practice.19 As a result, in Kazan the phenotypical markers Älfiye reported people in Orel employing to identify outsiders are unreliable. Police inspections target locations, notably the city’s bazaars, where people from outside Russia do business, and are infrequent enough to make the evening news. And because Kazanians pay little attention to phenotype, language assumes primary importance as a racial identifier. While Russian monolinguals and Tatar bilinguals alike realize that languages are acquired, they nonetheless consider linguistic knowledge core to understanding who a person is.

Scratch a Russian...

  • 20 Lemon (1996, 2000a).
  • 21 This is what English anthropologist Caroline Humphrey (2002: 35) calls “the pervasive residue of t (...)

18Soviets tended to have ambivalent feelings about non-Russian nationalities. On the one hand, they sometimes totemized certain “noble” or “free” national minorities in cinema, literature, and stage performances.20 On the other, in mixed company, Russian-identified people often considered it polite to overlook national difference, as if not being Russian were an unsightly handicap.21 Indeed, Soviet people often masked their non-Russianness, revealing when loosened up by drink the existence of Ukrainian, Polish, Caucasian, German, or other non-Russian ancestry.

  • 22 Pohl (1999).

19By contrast, in post-Soviet Kazan, not only many Tatars, but also people of other nationalities, embrace and celebrate their non-Russianness. This is clearly illustrated by the changing fates of Russia’s Volga Germans, whom Catherine the Great invited to the Middle Volga region from Germany in the 18th century. One of several nationalities Stalin deported wholesale as “Nazi collaborators” with 24 hours notice, on August 28, 1941, 750,000 Volga Germans were loaded into train cattle cars and forcibly removed to Central Asia, where they were dumped without provisions.22 The urban Germans died first and in the greatest numbers. However, because their constitutions were tougher, many rural Germans survived the harsh conditions of the Kazakhstan steppe.

20While most Volga Germans stayed in Kazakhstan until the opportunity to “repatriate” to Germany arose after the Soviet Union’s collapse, enough returned to Kazan to reestablish a Lutheran church congregation and run a community center. The Germans I met in Kazan told me that as children they were called “fascists” and “enemies of the people” on a regular basis. One man who had tried to hide his nationality most of his life explained, “You end up being an enemy of your own country.” However, things have improved significantly, the same man acknowledged. “Brezhnev said that soon there wouldn’t be any Tatars, any Russians, but just one Soviet people...Now there is the development of nationality and that’s good because, without that, life loses a lot.”

21The “development of nationality” that occurred during perestroika included a blossoming of interest in German identity. When Kazan University’s sole German instructor during late socialism told me about the first gathering of Kazan Germans in the mid-1980s, her eyes lit up. She recounted that the people who came filled a university lecture hall with the capacity to seat 500 people. All of them emigrated to Germany. She said that wave after wave of people came to learn about their German identity and then leave the country.

22Germans, like other persecuted Soviets, often married outside their group in an effort to distance themselves from danger. At a Lutheran church service I met Rashid, whose mother was German. His father was a Tatar who met his wife while serving in the Volga German city of Saratov. Rashid told me that he knew Tatar and learned German when he was stationed in East Germany. As of 2000 he was leaning towards his maternal line of descent, ingratiating himself with Kazan’s German community, and hoping to emigrate. Similarly, a student I met at the Jewish School confessed that she is less than “half Jewish” by blood even though she has Jewish lineage on both her mother’s and father’s side. The Soviet Union’s collapse opened up opportunities for Rashid to become German and the student to become culturally Jewish.

23These ethnic reconfigurations are part of a fluorescence of difference, an exploration of the realms of post-Soviet possibilities, that has occurred all over the former Soviet Union. They demonstrate the porosity of ethnic boundaries. Despite this, ex-Soviets in Tatarstan continue to evaluate national categories in binary absolutes—Russian or Tatar—using language as the primary indicator of identity. Illustrating this is an incident I observed in 2000 where linguistic knowledge was accepted as an ethnic boundary. It was the final exam for a group of russophone Tatarstan government bureaucrats who had just completed a two-month course in Beginning Tatar. The exam was oral. A panel of three examiners sat at a table at the front of the room. They summoned each student one by one and asked them questions such as “What is your name?” “Where do you work?” and “Describe your family.” One of the examiners was their teacher, another the city administration bureaucrat who organized the program, and the third was an elderly Tatar gentleman the students had never seen before. When the unknown gentlemen entered the classroom, he asked the other examiners, “Who are they? [Alar kemnär?],” who responded, “Russians [uryslar],” which was inaccurate since there were three Tatars and a Chuvash among the students being tested.

  • 23 See Wertheim (2003).

24At other oral exams, I likewise observed Tatar examiners refering to students who weren’t fluent in Tatar as “Russian,” though the students represented various nationalities. While using ethnic designations in exam situations reflect students’ level of language acquisition, one might expect the examiners, who are all bilinguals, to be aware of the complexity of the identities that lie behind the shorthand they use. But, this shorthand is in widespread use. Many Tatars gloss all non-Tatars as “Russian” because it is in opposition to Russian hegemony that they assert themselves.23 Thus, even though people in Tatarstan seem singularly aware of the fact that ethnic identity can be shifting, multiply read, and based more than anything on behavior and participation in certain kinds of social networks, they frequently fall back upon essentialist models that link language with nation.

Social Evolution and Race

  • 24 Zorin, V. Iu. et al. (2004).
  • 25 Wertheim (2003).

25Even so, my conversations with Tatars indicate that they recognize national boundaries as unclear, and occasionally, arbitrary indicators of people’s essence. This is particularly apparent with regards to the plasticity of the boundaries that divide Tatars from Bashkirs, whose titular republic, Bashkortostan, lies on Tatarstan’s eastern border. According to the 2002 Russian census, 24 % of Bashkortostan’s population is Tatar.24 In the 1920s, when the republics were created, a quarter of Tatars in the Middle Volga region ended up in Bashkortostan.25 However, because of their potential for cultural dominance, the Bashkortostan government refuses to grant Tatars living there full linguistic rights. This is both the product and cause of some bad feeling between Bashkirs and Tatars.

  • 26 For information on Bashkortostan sovereignty, see Graney (1999a, 1999b) and Walker (2003).

26Bashkirs have historically been a minority in their own republic. In order to increase Bashkirs’ numbers (and thereby legitimate Bashkortostan’s existence), during the Soviet period, Bashkortostan Tatars were often persuaded to register as Bashkirs. Tatars considered this an undesirable step—Bashkirs are slated with lower status than Tatars in Soviet social evolutionary models—even though as a result they enjoyed the special privileges afforded members of a titular nationality, including education and job opportunities. Several Tatars I met from Bashkortostan said that in the postwar period and again during Bashkortostan sovereignty Bashkortostan police confiscated Tatars’ internal passports and changed their inscribed nationalities without permission.26 Tatarstan Tatars are well aware of these actions. Some invoke it to justify their often-condescending attitude towards the Bashkir nationalist movement, which many consider inauthentic since, they insist, Bashkirs do not really exist as a nation.

27At the same time, Tatars sometimes choose to see national differences between themselves and Bashkirs as essential. The following example demonstrates the simultaneous existence of a Soviet racial ideology in which essence gives rise to particular practices and a Tatar one according to which essence emerges from practice. Dilbara, a middle-aged school-teacher specializing in English and French, has limited speaking ability in Tatar. She’s nearly six feet tall, with dyed black hair, olive skin, beautifully pronounced cheekbones, and slit grey eyes. On one occasion when we were sitting in a Kazan café, I started probing her to expand upon ideas she had previously expressed with regards to racial difference, saying that I didn’t understand how she could speak of Bashkirs, who share linguistic, historical, religious, and cultural similarities with Tatars, as Asian, and Tatars as European.

28Dilbara put down her teacup and, as if to a small child, painstakingly explained to me that Bashkirs were Mongoloid, while Tatars are European. She noted that Bashkirs, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks are European by language group—by which she meant Turkic-speaking—but not by ethnic type. I questioned her explanation and she asserted that Tatars’ predecessors were sedentary, while Bashkirs descend from bellicose, nomadic peoples. When I objected that her criteria relied upon defunct forms of economic organization, Dilbara eventually admitted that Tatars were a mixture of European and Asian peoples, though, she insisted, “In Tatars, the European had clearly won out,” and cited the Big Soviet Encyclopedia as her authority. Later that day, Dilbara telephoned me at home to read me the definition of the “Asian-American race” from that encyclopedia, which encompassed all the “nomadic” peoples of Russia and Central Asia—including Bashkirs—as well as Native Americans. After she finished, I reiterated that I still considered the racial boundary between Tatars and Bashkirs artificial. Dilbara repeated that Bashkirs are bellicose and nomadic. She then added that they are heathens. “They have horses, nomadic dwellings, and kumys”—a drink made of fermented horse milk. “By contrast,” she asserted, shifting the unit of analysis from purported practices to nationality, “Tatars are comprised of different nations—

  • 27 Kalmyks are considered Asian in Soviet ethnography.

29Kalmyks, Bolgars, and Finns.”27 However, on other occasions Dilbara informed me that most Bashkirs have a Tatar parent and they only choose Bashkir identity for pragmatic reasons. Despite the fact that Dilbara acknowledged that Bashkirs were not necessarily genealogically different from Tatars, she insisted that there were essential differences, for instance, that Tatars are clean, while Bashkirs are dirty—a quality she attributed to the latter’s nomadic way of life.

  • 28 See Silverstein (1996b) for a theorization of orders of awareness, which explores the cognitive me (...)

30Dilbara’s opinions about Bashkirs demonstrate a complex interweaving of ideological strands about what makes for difference. In this interweaving, ascribed mode of production, as determined by the way Soviet ethnography employed social evolutionary models, not only creates groups ex-Soviets perceive as bounded, but freezes racial difference between them. Dilbara is aware that nationalities were ascribed as a result of people’s purported stage of evolutionary development and the machinations of nationality politics, which were usually mutually informing.28 Even so, since she has absorbed notions of national and racial difference based upon Soviet ethnographic categories, in her mind the difference is absolute and immutable.

Competing Phenotypes

31Ex-Soviets living in different regions of the USSR, and hence with different histories of social relations, possess varying ideas with regards to Tatars’ race. In Tatarstan, Tatars are generally considered to be European and white. As a Polish Kazanian complaining to me about practices of preferential admission to higher education institutes pointed out, “We have racism here too, but the difference is that we’re all white.” By contrast, in other European parts of the former Soviet Union, people think of Tatars as aziaty or even black. The head Tatar teacher at the English School told me she had lived in Ukraine for a year, where people didn’t believe she was Tatar. “They said that Tatars are black and have slanted eyes. They insisted that I must be a Jew.” They even decided that her name, Fäniye—derived from the Arabic word for science—was “really a Jewish name.” Similarly, Äminä Apakaeva told me that before the USSR’s collapse (when they could still afford such luxuries), she and her mother came home deeply tanned from a summer holiday in Crimea via Moscow. There they entered a store where a Russian clerk, shocked that they could speak Russian, mistook them for Arabs and had difficulty believing that such exotic people lived in the heart of Russia.

32Russians living in Tatarstan often say they perceive Tatars as familiar, even frequently “forgetting” that most Tatars are Muslim. A Russian landlady I rented an apartment from in July 2001 complained, as she showed me around, about some Turks and Moroccans who had previously lived in the place. When I asked what they did, she responded mysteriously, “Muslims are strange people.” I pointed out that Tatars are Muslims too, to which she responded, “Tatars are different, not like other Muslims. They’re our own people.” Meanwhile, Central Asians have told me they consider Tatars European, essentially the same as Russians because Tatars colluded in advancing Russian imperialist aims in Central Asia. This illustrates the extent to which racial perceptions are about power.

  • 29 Ponomarev (1966).
  • 30 Tatar is already a plural in Mongolian.
  • 31 Uli Schamiloglu, personal communication.
  • 32 Schamiloglu (2000).

33Soviet sources refer to Chingis Khan’s Great Horde as the Tatar-Mongol Invasion and the Golden Horde’s rule as the Tatar-Mongol Yoke.29 Among the ranks of Chingis Khan’s invading army was a conquered tribe called “Tatar,” who fought in the avant-garde.30 Because they encountered Tatars first, subjugated people identified the whole invading apparatus as “Tatar.”31 Russians subsequently imposed the ethnonym “Tatar” upon all Muslims and Turkic-speakers absorbed into the Russian Empire before the 19th century, effectively equating the invaders with indigenous people. Some contemporary “Tatars” refuse that ethnonym, preferring to call themselves Kazan Turks or Bolgars, after the city-state conquered by the Great Horde in 1236.32 Many Russians outside Tatarstan blame the “Mongol-Tatars” for what they consider to be Russia’s backwardness and brutality. Occasionally, they criticize Europe for its lack of thankfulness—after all, Russia bore the brunt of the Tatar yoke and acted as a buffer, thereby saving Europe from being overrun. When engaging in this rant, Russians not only exoticize Tatars by making them into racial others, but they conflate the Mongol leaders of the Golden Horde state with present-day Tatars living in their midst.

  • 33 In Russian vernacular, to do something like “white people” connotes having adequate resources to n (...)
  • 34 Pesmen (2000a).

34Russians who complain of the “Mongol-Tatars” use the invocation not only to explain what they perceive as the entire country’s backwardness, but also their own status as not quite European, not quite “white.”33 Russians see their not-quite-white status both as an impediment to a “normal” standard of living and the source of an admirable exoticness “in the blood.” They frequently discuss how they look typically Tatar or obviously have some Tatar blood in their genealogical woodpiles. For example, early in our friendship a woman I know in St. Petersburg (who happens to be of Karelian descent, but identifies as “Russian”) explained that she was different from me by pointing to her slanted “Tatar” eyes—the implication being that they were the result of centuries of “Mongol-Tatar” rule. She thus deployed Tatarness as a trope for explaining Russian exoticness to an outsider, somewhat comparable to how she and other Russians invoke the “Russian soul.”34

35While the stereotypes of Russians as light-haired and light-skinned and Tatars as dark-haired, slant-eyed, and high-cheekboned are in circulation in Tatarstan, they aren’t dominant the way they are in other parts of the former Soviet Union. When non-Tatars in Kazan point out features they consider indicative of Tatar phenotypes, they are not distancing themselves from the rest of “white people,” but rather, attempting to demonstrate their inherent connections to Tatars. This is because Kazanians recognize two nested ideologized phenotypes for Tatars.

36The first phenotype Tatarstan people recognize is the “Mongol type.” The Mongol type conforms to notions among European Soviets from outside Tatarstan about what Tatars look like. The stereotype implies that Tatars originated as Mongol invaders from the east, who destroyed Russia in the 13th century and then ruled it despotically. It suggests that Tatars are not indigenous to Russia. Consequently, acceptance of the existence of the Mongol type as characteristically Tatar intimates that Tatars do not have the right to claim Russia as their homeland and that they are not entitled to the same rights accorded to indigenes. Most important among these rights, considering Tatars’ precarious position within the Russian Federation, is the right to be considered authentic patriots.

37In the fall of 1999, during a conversation with a class of Tatar teenagers at the Lab School, I asked what Tatars look like. They pointed out the girl in the class who, several agreed, represented the Mongol type. She had olive skin, a long, thin face, brown hair and slanted brown eyes. To demonstrate the veracity of her classmates’ assertion, the girl pulled up the outer corners of her eyes with her index fingers in order to show me that she had “eyes like this.”

38As soon as the Mongol type girl pulled up the outer corners of her eyes, another girl—with mahogany hair, coffee-with-cream skin and dark almond-shaped, sparkling eyes—protested. “Real Tatars are redheads! They have light skin and green eyes.” This is a description of the “Bolgar type,” that is, what people living in the city-state of Bolgar at the time of Chingis Khan’s invasion are supposed to have looked like. Talk of the Bolgar type almost always occurs after reference to the Mongol type. It acts as a refutation of the accusation that Tatars are Asian others—invaders from the East—and an assertion that they belong in the Middle Volga region.

  • 35 Silverstein (1996b) discusses other situations in which people hold two competing ideologies simul (...)

39The adolescents’ explanations of what Tatars look like echo discussions I often heard in the company of adults. These adult discussions usually took place without my prompting and, as the children’s ready exclamations demonstrate, must have been transpiring in my absence. Tatars’ devotion to evaluating phenotypical stereotypes implies that discourses on race have deep ideological significance for them. It likewise suggests that these stereotypes compete for dominance within two overlapping power structures—one Russian and one Tatarstan—in which each stereotype is “true.”35 Yet, at least for the time being, Tatar-speakers accept the coexistence of both ideologized phenotypes.

Performing Race

  • 36 Wipper (1947[1922]).

40In the 1930s Joseph Stalin commissioned the great film director Sergei Eisenstein to make a trilogy celebrating the legacy of Ivan the Terrible as the founder of the Russian state. He ordered Eisenstein to base his films on the adulatory book Ivan Grozny (1922) by Robert Wipper, a Soviet historian of German descent.36 Stalin approved of the first film in the trilogy. The second film was soundly criticized for ideological inaccuracies. The third was never made.

  • 37 Valerie Kivelson, personal communication, with regards to the lubok paintings.

41Ivan the Terrible, part I (1944) is a brilliant and stirring work of art, created during a period of surging Russian nationalism, which features an ominous soundtrack by Sergei Prokofiev. Shot in black and white in the barren steppes of Kazakhstan—to which Mosfilm had been evacuated during World War II—its exaggerated film noiresque portrayals of Russia in the Middle Ages possess a captivatingly nightmarish quality. The film portrays Tatars, the first non-Christians Ivan subjugated during Muscovy’s military expansion, as Asian savages. While lubok paintings and other medieval representations of Russians and Tatars don’t show the two groups as phenotypically different from each other, Ivan the Terrible does.37

42Resembling no Tatars I’ve ever seen, the Tatars in the film have dark brown skin, high cheekbones, black hair, and slanted eyes. They exhibit bloodthirsty tendencies and non-native speech patterns. They rudely storm into Ivan’s castle and present him with a knife, suggesting that he should use it to kill himself. Then, when Ivan, justified by Tatar provocation, advances on Kazan—a pathetic citadel atop a mound in the middle of a desert plain—the Tatars brutally slay each other, rather than meeting death at the hands of “uncircumcised heathens.” The film presents Tatars as bloodthirsty “insolent foreigners,” as Ivan calls them, who cannot speak Russian properly and make vain threats, immediately cowering when confronted with the righteous, popular, and courageous Ivan.

  • 38 And in Russian: from Ivan Grozny, part I (1944)
    Kazan’Moskvadrujbu rvët. Soyuz Moskvojgōnchaet. V M (...)

43Other than the imam who proclaims that Tatar prisoners should die at Tatar hands, Ivan the Terrible’s only speaking Tatar character delivers his lines in accented Russian, boorishly coarse and full of grammatical and phonological mistakes. He addresses Ivan using the informal ty, instead of vy; uses an imperative verb form when he should use a third-person, singular ending; pronounces [k] as [g], rounds [o]s that should be schwas, says [iu] instead of [u]; pronounces [k] as [ts], and [sk], [ts], and [kh] as explosives. A translation of his speech into English might read, “Kazan breaks its friendship Moscow. The alliance for Moscow ends. To Moscow with war goes...Kazan big. Moscow small. Moscow is finited. Our great khan present send. Rustian czar—do not make shame. Rustian czar— finite with yourself.”38

  • 39 Nichols (2003: 186, 211).

44This speech is based upon a Chinese-Russian pidgin, attributed to Siberian natives, which sociolinguist Johanna Nichols has identified in Russian texts dating from the 19th century and earlier. Nichols argues that this stereotypical Siberian way of talking, which includes an entire body of grammatical and lexical traits, serves to mark speakers as “racially Asian” and over time has degraded them “into a virtual parody of the inarticulate, irrational Other.”39 This tradition continued well into the 20th century and can be glimpsed in Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Alexander Rublev (1966), which depicts Asiatic Tatars butchering Russian grammar while they take advantage of Russian half-wit girl.

Figure 6.2. “Tatars” in Eisenstein’s film, Ivan the Terrible

45A few years before Ivan the Terrible, part I appeared in Soviet movie theaters, the first Tatar opera, Altynchäch, was staged in Kazan. It was created by Tatar dramaturg and founder of the Tatar State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Musa Jälil. Jälil was a prolific writer and Head of the Tatar Writers Union when he entered the Soviet Army to fight in World War II. Taken prisoner by the Nazis in 1942, he was executed in 1944 for attempting to organize a prison break. Until 1953, when the poems Jälil wrote in prison were first published in the USSR, he was considered a traitor to the Soviet state, which posited that all POWs colluded with the Nazis. In 1957 Jälil was posthumously granted an Order of Lenin.

  • 40 Akchurin et al. (2006).

46Altynchäch, which won a Stalin Award in 1941, attempts to refute accusations that Tatars are external others by depicting them as a peaceful peasant community of European Bolgars enslaved by Asian invaders.40 Altynchäch—“Goldenhair” in Tatar—is the lead female character, a sweet, modest, blonde-haired Bolgar maiden. The lead villain is Kolaxan, an invader resembling the Tatars in Ivan the Terrible, whose Asianness is indicated by his nomadic costume and slanted eyes and high cheekbones. Kolaxan’s other Asian attributes include a court full of near-naked belly dancers—shocking by comparison to the modestly dressed Bolgar maidens, a dancing Chinaman with impossibly long fingernails, and some visitors in fezzes from the Ottoman Empire. The opera’s plot is simple. When Kolaxan discovers a golden strand of Altynchäch’s hair in the forest where she had been picking berries with her girlfriends, he feels compelled to capture her in hopes of making her his wife. Altynchäch resists Kolaxan’s advances and eventually regains her freedom.

  • 41 To this day “bride capture” frequently masks elopement in cases when potential marriage partners l (...)

47Ivan the Terrible represents Russians as having no ties to the Golden Horde, even though Muscovy acquired political power because of its efficiency at extracting tribute on the Golden Horde’s behalf. Similarly, Altynchäch presents Tatars as victims of the Golden Horde. Though Altynchäch’s plot bears a similarity to Pushkin’s epic poem Ruslan and Ludmilla, with Kolaxan’s character playing a comparable role to the evil sorcerer Chernomor, the opera’s implications extend beyond the medieval fairytale motif of knightly chivalry and captured maidens. In the Soviet period, the hegemonic understanding of bride capture was as a throwback to barbaric and “Asian” tribalism, and nothing has changed since.41 As an acquaintance from a central Russian town crudely joked when I told him what this book was about, “Tatars raped my grandmother,” a claim similarly made by the opera Altynchäch. Victimized by bride capture, the Bolgars in Altynchäch become representationally allied with Russians and distinguished from the Asian invaders.

48According to the program for sale at the performance I saw in 1999— printed in Tatar, Russian, and English—the opera is historically accurate in showing how Bolgars maintained their independence under Mongol rule. Many of the participants in that production were either Russian—for example, the producer—or closely allied with Russian institutions, such as Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater. The role of Tugzak—described in the program as a legendary figure symbolizing the Tatar homeland—was sung by someone with a Russian name. The Tatar friend I watched Altynchäch with wasn’t sure if the artist was Russian or not, since she sang in Tatar. Her reaction reveals how knowing Tatar language trumps other indicators of identity.

  • 42 See Uehling (2004) for the effects of this perceived status on Crimean Tatars. Europe’s borders ha (...)

49Altynchäch provides Tatars with the opportunity to perform themselves as the Bolgar type. As Bolgars, they are European, indigenous to the Middle Volga region, sedentary, civilized, modest in dress and behavior, and ideally blonde. That Altynchäch not only embraces and reproduces Soviet representations of racial difference, but also continues to be staged, demonstrates that Stalin-period racial ideologies continue to enjoy authority. Being perceived as enemies of the Soviet state during Stalin’s rule resulted in arrest, execution and forced exile. Consequently, during sovereignty, Tatars were careful to emphasize that they were indigenous to the Middle Volga region and European.42

Tatar Faces

  • 43 Even so, Tatar-speakers are not always cognizant of whether they are speaking Tatar or Russian. In (...)

50Though it is difficult to know who is who in Kazan, people do nevertheless attempt to gauge difference and similarity on the basis of phenotype. Tatars generally confided more easily in two dark-skinned, dark-haired American women whose stays overlapped with mine than they did in me—a bleached blonde with fair skin. Moreover, no one used Tatar with me as a first language of interaction, unless instructed to do so, though people invariably accepted the possibility that I might be a Tatar once they heard me speak. Thus, while Tatars say that they don’t pay attention to phenotype in their assessments of a stranger’s essence, they nevertheless do. All the same, language is a higher order indicator of essence than phenotype.43

51Claims that Tatars and Russians make regarding a lack of awareness of phenotype contribute to the amicable relationships among nationalities in Tatarstan. At the same time, the persistence with which Tatarstan Russians declare their similarity to Tatars manifests their displeasure with Tatar demands for attention to how they are different from Russians. Because Russians feel that they have been polite by ignoring Tatars’ nationality like an embarrassing physical disability, they are confounded by the appearance of Tatar nationalist feelings, seemingly out of nowhere. Thus, Tatarstan Russians’ inattention to phenotype stems not only from a perceived mutual likeness, but also from a desire to erase difference and live in an integrated fashion with those Tatars who do not insist upon speaking Tatar and engaging in other non-Russian behaviors.

52Unlike Russians living elsewhere, when Tatarstan Russians talk of how they look Tatar, they are not making reference to their own “backwardness” vis-à-vis the citizens of countries more prosperous than Russia. My first Russian landlady in Kazan, Alevtina, was an overall unsavory person—had a bad character, as people say there. For example, Alevtina rented me a filthy, run-down apartment at top dollar and then complained about performing maintenance to prevent the decrepit, carbon-encrusted hot water heater from catching fire. Alevtina was also a national chauvinist. The evening I agreed to move into her place, she showed me, at my request, the location of the nearest grocery store. As we walked across the courtyard behind the building towards the street, she asked me how I liked Kazan. I responded that I liked it very much. “People are so nice, especially in comparison to other parts of Russia I have visited.” She interjected with sudden venom, “But, the Tatars are nasty! Everything was fine and then all the Tatars became nationalists.” On other occasions, she told me that the Tatar language was too simplistic for sophisticated communication and once she referred to Fäüzia Bäyrämova, Tatarstan’s most vociferous Tatar nationalist, as “that idiot, who only became a nationalist to make money” (though she didn’t repeat those words when I recorded her views on tape). At the same time, Alevtina, a redhead with high cheekbones, green eyes, and saffron skin, considered herself to have a typically Tatar face. She claimed to have lots of Tatar friends and to know Tatar language (the latter claim was patently untrue).

53Another Russian woman I knew in Kazan, a self-centered old maid who considered it insulting when Tatars speaking among themselves didn’t switch to Russian when she came within earshot of their conversations, told me that she frequently gets mistaken for a Tatar. She has grey hair, cheekbones set high in her broad face, large round grey eyes, a small nose and a full mouth. She said, particularly when she goes to the public bathhouse, and wears no clothing or jewelry that mark nationality, Tatar women approach her and say things to her in Tatar she doesn’t understand. This woman is enchanted with her own looks and didn’t seem to find being mistaken for a Tatar to diminish them in any way.

54A third Russian woman, Nadezhda, married into a Tatar family, a family so Tatar, a mutual acquaintance once joked that they barely speak Russian. Unlike Alevtina and the vain pensioner, Nadezhda isn’t mistaken for Tatar. However, her in-laws call her a “black Russian” because of her dark coloring and she frequently expresses her solidarity with them by calling attention to her high cheekbones and stating that she must have some Tatar ancestry.

Tatar Racial Ideologies

  • 44 The emotional, though not the linguistic, aspect of this phenomenon bears a resemblance to Raymond (...)
  • 45 Xujieäxmätov (1998), inter alii. Although the belief that essence become fixed through practice re (...)

55While Soviet racial ideologies dictate that national difference is biological, Tatarstan ones contend that differences between people become essential and immutable through repeated practices. Tatar ideas about racial difference tend to be shaped more by interchanges between people than they are by more typical racial indicators, such as phenotype, blood, or genealogy. The interchanges which reveal essential difference, and even create it, occur within a certain emotional range—almost like a musical key—and are expressed as part of particular linguistic practices.44 Tatars not only consider that a person’s essence reveals itself through behavior, but also that repeated behavior affects that essence.45 And while people who identify as members of other nationalities in Tatarstan do not explicitly state this opinion, they nevertheless often adhere to it in practice.

  • 46 Schimmel (1992) describes the other four pillars, providing a nice overview of the basic tenets of (...)

56The idea that behavior can alter essence, as opposed to the notion that essence makes for certain kinds of behavior, bears some structural similarities to Islam. Being a Muslim is a journey involving an ongoing series of repeated practices that shape a person’s inner constitution and outward demeanor. According to the Quran, the only requirement for becoming a Muslim is the declaration of faith, which constitutes submission to God’s will, and acknowledgment of Muhammad as God’s prophet. Muslims are supposed to strive towards fulfilling the other four pillars of Islam according to their individual abilities.46 Over time this striving—jihad—brings the faithful closer to achieving a life lived in harmony with God’s wishes.

57The pillar that has the most salient effect on how Muslims live everyday is namaz—called salat in Arabic—the ritual prayers adherents perform five times daily. The first prayers are said before dawn and the last long after sundown, at prescribed times that vary throughout the year according to the number of hours of daylight. Namaz requires dedicated discipline and calendrical regulation. During namaz, Muslims say prayers in Arabic they may not understand and progress through a series of movements that bear a similarity to yogic poses. In addition to its potential physical benefits, namaz is an act of meditation that ideally provides adherents a grounding moment of renewed purpose away from the hubbub of daily life. It is an act of remaking the self.

  • 47 Lysenko (1948).
  • 48 See Fitzpatrick (1999) and Zinoviev (1985), inter alia.

58At the same time, the belief that practice alters essence recalls the genetics of Trofim Lysenko, Director of the Soviet Academy of Genetics from 1940–1964. Lysenko didn’t believe in Darwinian natural selection. Rather, he posited that characteristics acquired during the lifetime of an organism could be passed on to its offspring.47 While Tatar ideas about race contain elements antithetical to Soviet ideologies that treat race as an immutable absolute, they nonetheless bear a resemblance to Lysenkan genetics, with its relationship to ideas about the new Soviet man in circulation during the Soviet period.48

Race and Language Choice

59By 1989, according to historian Uli Schamiloglu, who visited the city for the first time that year, Kazan was almost completely russophone. The only people he observed speaking Tatar in public were women past retirement age for whom not assimilating would no longer entail a threat to their careers or well-being. Introducing republic-wide bilingual education in 1993 profoundly changed that situation. Since the 1980s, more and more people speak Tatar in public domains—on public transportation, on the streets and in businesses, cultural institutions, and government offices.

  • 49 See Urciouli (1991, 1996).

60Really speaking Tatar, as opposed to greeting people with a pragmatic Isänmesez, implies connection to a system of nuanced linguistic practices and cultural values. This system is historically tied to the emotional values Tatar-speakers uphold as proper and about which Russian-speakers are largely ignorant. Consequently, as in all asymmetrical bilingual situations, speaking or not speaking a particular language emerges from deep feelings about likeness and difference.49

61During sovereignty, deciding whether Tatar or Russian was the appropriate language to speak in any particular situation caused confusion for outsiders and partial bilinguals just learning the rules for bilingual interactions. At the same time, the conventions were changing, in part as a result of the introduction into the social field of new speakers—mostly passive bilinguals who were activating their dormant knowledge. In 2000, how bilingual speakers chose which language—or code—to use followed a hierarchy of decision-making criteria, as represented here, based upon observation and verified for accuracy with native experts.

Figure 6.3. Code Choice Tree—Tatarstan, 2000

62What this tree makes clear is that the circumstances in which Tatar was spoken in 2000 were particular and few, while Russian was nearly ubiquitous and omnitemporal. The tree doesn’t adequately account for all observed behavior, both because individual agency is unpredictable, and more importantly, because the rules for interaction were in flux. Instead, it captures a synchronic moment in which Soviet and post-Soviet linguistic conventions coexisted. Since sovereignty’s demise, the choice has become easier. While Tatar-speakers are freer to use their language in public without fear of harassment and do so more than they used to in non-intimate and informal domains, they are less likely to speak Tatar to strangers. In 2000, however, the question of which to speak in what contexts was highly contested.

Suppliant Citizens

  • 50 The temptation may be great to envision this within a Foucauldian paradigm (1995). Unfortunately, (...)
  • 51 Wertheim (2003).
  • 52 See Verdery (1996) for a similar situation in Transylvania and Humphrey (2002) for more on post-So (...)

63The Soviet Union’s centralized administration was highly bureaucratic and encouraged a culture of rudeness among people with even a modicum of institutional power. To this day, if a post office, train station, state-run store, or other government building has an entrance with double doors, one is always locked. Those wanting to enter a building have to queue for the chance to do so, forcing them to measure their steps to comply with the movements of the other people making their way indoors and placing them in a subordinate position with respect to the authorities they encounter once inside.50 Individuals seeking services become suppliants who frequently have to bend over and speak to government employees through narrow slits in wooden shutters or sheets of plexiglas. They speak with the knowledge that these openings may be slammed shut in their faces at any moment for no clear reason. Not knowing what language to use to approach a postal or sales clerk, a bank teller, or a librarian can exacerbate already-existing feelings of anxiety. Because of the radical uncertainty— both political and economic—of post-Soviet life, being able to personalize interactions with non-intimates in order to maximize network-building possibilities remains extremely important. Thus, Russian-speakers who sell goods at Kazan’s bazaars study Tatar so as to increase their sales volumes.51 Even as people in Kazan become more differentiated from each other, it becomes ever more vital for them to be able to find commonalties.52

  • 53 ”New Russian” was a term applied to people who profited economically from the collapse of the Sovi (...)
  • 54 For an elucidation of heteroglossy see Bakhtin (1981). For more on Soviet-style command economies, (...)

64Besides conducting business at work and in public spaces like post offices and banks, two activities in which almost all city residents participate are traveling on public transportation and shopping in food stores and markets. Although the number of private vehicles is growing, most families only have one. As a result, everyone has experience riding public transportation, which almost always entails communication with strangers. Passengers need to speak to purchase their tickets from conductors or drivers, ask other passengers to pass their fares forward on crowded buses, or to inquire whether the people standing between them and the door are getting off at the next stop. And even though the number of self-serve grocery stores in Kazan has steadily increased since 1991, shopping at them remained a relatively rare practice in the early 21st century. The commodities sold in self-service stores were pricey for all except New Russians, as the nouveaux riches who benefited from state collapse were called.53 The more conventional, Soviet-type shops, which were still in the majority as of 2006, required customers to ask clerks for items kept out of reach behind counters. Moreover, because of the command economy’s chronic shortages—during late socialism the Moscow-Kazan train was jokingly called the Kolbasa Train because it was always packed with meat passengers brought home—these conversations contain the heteroglossic echoes of previous appeals to clerks to hand over hoarded goods.54 In the late 1990s the main shortage was of money to pay for goods.

65For people without knowledge of the subtle pragmatics of code choice, in the 1980s-1990s Kazan’s sociolinguistic field was nearly unnavigable. Even when Russian-dominant people could manage a few words in Tatar, they couldn’t always be sure who was Tatar and who wasn’t. Moreover, if they identified someone as Tatar, that person might not have functional capacity in the language. Using Tatar with strangers who feel uncomfortable speaking the language can be as big a gaffe as speaking Russian to someone who prefers Tatar. Despite the fact that Soviet minority nationalities were previously shamed for speaking their “barbaric” languages in the presence of Russians, ironically in the post-Soviet period non-Russians feel shame for not knowing their “native tongues” fluently. Accordingly, speaking Tatar to a Tatar who is not fully bilingual can elicit reactions of embarrassment or anger. Likewise, making the mistake of speaking Tatar to an ethnic Russian can cause offense. Both may result in an infelicitous conclusion to a desired transaction.

66Although sovereignty meant that Tatar-speakers became freer to use a language other than Russian in Kazan’s public spaces, pressures to use Russian still persisted not, as before, because daring to use another language was discouraged through petty acts of ostracism, like being forced off public transport, or more serious consequences, such as loss of employment or imprisonment on charges of bourgeois nationalism. Rather, promoting bilingualism complicated Kazan’s sociolinguistic field. It was often easier not to insult people and thereby lose face by using the default language in conversations with strangers. At the same time, speaking Russian did not guarantee speakers the access to special privileges of intimacy so necessary to negotiating everyday life in the ex-Soviet Union. During sovereignty the uncertainty concerning which language to speak in buses, stores, markets and similar public places was palpable. Since sovereignty has waned, however, this uncertainty has yielded to an expectation that one should speak Russian with strangers, though the social structures created during sovereignty persist.

Language and Emotion

  • 55 This division between subordinate and dominant languages is similar to what Woolard (1989) found f (...)
  • 56 Solidarity as in Brown and Gilman’s (1960) and Woolard’s (1989) analyses of other contexts. See Ur (...)

67Beyond the anxiety created by not knowing how to verbalize appeals for life’s necessities, language choice is emotional because it taps into linguistic practices that convey cultural values. Kazan bilinguals have generally held the opinion that speaking Tatar connotes intimacy and solidarity and perceive Russian as a non-intimate code associated with authority, status, power, and even brutality.55 Nevertheless, speaking Tatar to a Tatar fluent in the language can also be inappropriate. Conversing in Tatar or certain other non-Russian Soviet languages in public marks a person as a rural migrant, that is, “uncultured” and “ill-mannered,” in Hayat apa’s words, as well as uneducated and an outsider in Kazan. Thus, speaking Tatar to a Tatar-speaking stranger may be understood not as an expression of solidarity, but rather as an affront because it presumes intimacy.56 Moreover, since Russian has historically been used as the language of authority, approaching someone in Tatar may be interpreted as an attempt to undermine that person’s institutional clout.

68An example from my first trip to Kazan in 1997 should clarify how Tatars can perceive the oppositional roles of Tatar and Russian languages. One fine June day, two proper-looking middle-aged ladies were riding in the no. 4 trolley from Gorky Park towards Freedom Square, conversing quietly in Tatar. Standing a few feet away from them were three boys, around 7–8 years old, traveling by themselves. The boys were talking loudly in Tatar, fidgeting and moving about carelessly in the manner of little boys. One of the ladies pulled herself even more erect, interrupted what she was saying to her companion in Tatar, turned to the boys, and reprimanded them in Russian: “Ne khuliganite!” [Stop acting like hooligans!] The lady then turned back to her companion and resumed speaking Tatar. She used Russian as the language of authority to enforce Tatar norms of behavior.

69How speaking Russian reinforces institutional authority in post-Soviet Kazan may similarly be seen in a serious of infelicitous exchanges I had with the woman who managed the xerox department in the National Library’s main branch. In our first encounter, I didn’t follow protocol when presenting her the newspaper articles I needed copied and she began to chastise me in Russian for not knowing how to do things correctly. After hearing her address someone else in Tatar, I realized she was a Tatarspeaker and tried to ameliorate our relations by talking to her in that language. Unlike most Tatar-speakers I met who happily spoke Tatar with me, the xerox department manager refused to acknowledge my code shift and maintained Russian in all our subsequent exchanges. Eventually our relations broke down completely. She complained that her work collective could no longer make my copies—despite the fact, another librarian informed me, that they received a commission on each copy made—because it was too much work. Her final words on the matter were, “We don’t even have time to drink tea [My dazhe chai pit’ ne uspevaem].” Had our interactions taken place in Tatar, it might have been harder for her to assert this refusal. Speaking Russian allowed her to maintain emotional distance and be rude and arbitrary in her decision-making.

70My inclination to make this interpretation is prompted by another incident in which refusal to speak Tatar was employed to maintain emotional distance. The final conversation I had with one of my research assistants, Elvira, was a falling out. I broke contact after we had several disagreements over money. During a subsequent trip to Kazan, I didn’t get in touch with her and she tracked me down, telephoning me the evening before my departure. Her tone was bullying and aggressive—“How dare I not call her when she was my friend?” During our half-hour long dispute, Elvira rebutted all my efforts to converse in Tatar, which I knew better than she did by then, repeatedly using Russian to respond to my Tatar utterances. Elvira’s refusal to switch into Tatar differed significantly from our usual speech pattern of moving back and forth between the two languages. Since Tatar was a language she used only with her closest family members, it constituted the most intimate code in her repertoire. That is, Tatar was a language through which Elvira expressed solidarity and love rather than status or authority. Thus, I believe Elvira felt too vulnerable when speaking Tatar to keep her guard up and put up a good fight. Moreover, her disinclination to argue in Tatar seems to dovetail with the Tatar cultural prohibition against arguing. If she had allowed the switch to Tatar, she would have been obligated to engage in negotiation, not accusation.

Like Heaven and Earth

71When I asked Tatar children at the Lab School whether Tatars and Russians are different, the quickest among them exclaimed, without pausing to think, “Like Heaven and Earth.” When I probed deeper, I found that the children’s sense of immutable difference between themselves and Russians was based as much or more upon their perceived emotional disposition as upon what Russians looked like. This discovery was upheld by the racial ideologies the school’s Tatar and Russian teenagers explicitly articulated, as well as those elicited from them experimentally.

  • 57 My thanks to Larry Hirschfeld for his help in developing the methodology for this experiment.

72During a visit to Kazan in 1998 I polled the adult Tatars I met to learn what makes Tatars and Russians different. Their most frequent answer was that a room full of Tatars would probably contain more brunettes, suggesting that little attention was paid to phenotype. In an attempt to disprove this hypothesis, I developed two simple experiments for eliciting phenotypical stereotypes, which I introduced during my first meetings in 1999 with the self-identified Russian, Tatar, and Jewish children to whom I gave conversational English lessons at the Lab and Jewish Schools.57

73The first experiment consisted of asking each child to draw a picture of his or her family members and then describe their physical features in detail. To provide an example and ease the children’s embarrassment about their claimed lack of drawing skill, I sketched pictures of my own family on the classroom chalkboard, calling attention to features considered racial elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Each time, I described my father as having dark skin, my mother as light, and myself as somewhere in between. I also called attention to my father’s large nose, but not out of context with respect to the other physical features I noted. Only at the Jewish School did one boy, who tries to pass as a Jew even though he’s an Orthodox Christian, react by exclaiming, “Your father’s Jewish!” In all the classes where I conducted this exercise the children responded most to the large paunch I gave the family cat, which they found to be very funny.

  • 58 Lemon (2000a) describes the importance of lightness and darkness as racial features in Moscow.
  • 59 Hirschfeld (1996, 1997). See also Bronson and Merryman (2009) on US children’s sensitivity to race

74Describing their own pictures, Tatar, Russian, and Jewish children all paid careful attention to eye and hair color, face (usually “round”) and nose shape (“straight” or “upturned”), and eyebrow thickness. However, despite my cue that darkness and lightness were potentially important features, none of the hundred or so children I tried this experiment with mentioned skin color.58 Nor did they say anything about high cheekbones, slanted eyes, or other racialized features. I showed the pictures the children had drawn to several adults and asked their opinion. Everyone I consulted replied that children are not aware of phenotype and asserted that there is no racism in Tatarstan. These results differ significantly from Hirschfeld’s findings in the US, where children demonstrate a high degree of awareness of phenotype as a gauge of essential, racial difference.59

75In the second experiment I showed eleventh grade Tatar and Russian classes at the Lab School and seventh-eighth grade children at the Jewish School photographs of people and asked them who was in them and how they knew. Their sensitivity to nationality as a primary identity was so high that in response to the question “Who are they?” the children invariably replied “Tatar,” “Russian,” or occasionally “Jewish!” I found that they consistently made mistakes in identifying people’s nationalities based upon criteria for differentiation of which they were dead certain.

76When I showed photographs of a birthday party to a group of 16-year-old Tatar children, a girl who had previously asserted that darkness was a Tatar trait said she recognized the two Russian guests not because of their comparative “lightness,” but because Tatar women like to wear their hair smoothed away from their foreheads, preferably covered by a scarf, while the Russian women had puffed up, permed hair. The children also pointed out that the Russians looked “so grave,” while all the Tatars were smiling. They decided that the only child in the photograph—a brunette whose mother is Russian and father Tatar—was Tatar because “He’s such a handsome boy,” but mistook his Tatar uncle for Russian.

77I spent less time with a Russian class of 16-year-olds at the Lab School than I did with their Tatar peers because they shunned me after I showed them western press coverage on the war in Chechnya. However, while I still held their interest, I asked them, as I did nearly everyone I met in Kazan, how Russians and Tatars are different from each other. In response they listed the stereotypical features of the Mongol type—high cheek bones, dark skin, narrow eyes, and black hair. As with the Tatar class, the Tatar children in the Russian class often described their own nationality in ways that didn’t match their appearances. Additionally, they claimed that some features Tatars consider to be Tatar were in fact Slavic—their own group of self-identification. They told me that Slavs have broad foreheads and that they smile openly from their souls [dushevno], which is similar to Tatars’ understanding of open countenance or achyk bet described below. Recalling both Lysenkan genetics and Tatar ideologies that practice generates essence, one of the Russian children made an oblique reference to historical narratives that equate Tatars with Mongols. She carefully explained to me that Tatars have narrow eyes due to centuries of living on the open steppe where they had to squint against a constant wind. To drive her point home, she stood up and narrowed her eyes as she peered across an imaginary steppe. When I pointed out that Tatarstan is densely forested and therefore not the steppe, neither she nor the other children had anything to say in response.

78During a later session I showed the same birthday party photographs to the Russian class. They recognized the two Russian guests as Russian because, they said, they had open, smiling expressions, in contrast to the “dour-faced” Tatars. Based upon this assumption, they likewise mistook several Tatars in the photographs for Russians.

79Some of the children’s mistakes, I propose, come from their experiences of interacting with strangers, for they all mistook people they saw to be smiling for members of their own nationality. However, they perceived smiling differently, which indicates that children of different nationalities learn culturally specific emotional expressions. This, in turn, suggests that the profound differences Russians and Tatars perceive in each other are based upon something much deeper than the state-imposed category of nationality.

The Light of Faith

80Kazan Tatars say that iman nury—the light of faith—emanating from a person’s face is an indicator of his or her internal composition. For Tatars iman nury not only indicates essence, but is also intricately intertwined with the locally held belief that Tatar is the language of intimacy and solidarity and Russian the external, authoritative voice of potential brutality. Despite the fact iman nury is central to how Tatar-speakers parse the world as they move through it, Russian-speakers in Kazan seem entirely ignorant of its existence. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about iman nury is that, with some effort, a person can learn to perceive it, after which iman nury becomes a tangible and obligatory part of how the world is ordered. After spending three months in Kazan and becoming somewhat conversant with Tatar speech practices, I began to be able to identify Tatar-speakers by the look on their faces. In other words, I could see iman nury.

  • 60 This was corroborated by the written responses they provided to a matched guise test I conducted w (...)

81Early in the group interviews with bilingual urban Tatar teenagers at Kazan’s Lab School, I asked them what languages they use with whom. They responded that they use Tatar or Tatar and Russian with their parents.60 With people outside their homes, they said, it depended. Choosing shopping as the sphere of activity in which they most often needed to decide what language to use with strangers, they told me, if a merchant spoke Tatar, that was the language they would speak. The question of language choice came down to trying to discern a person’s nationality based upon visible markers.

Figure 6.4. Iman nury, photo courtesy of Liliya Karimova

82The teenagers explained that figuring out who was Tatar was much easier in stores and indoor markets, where the clerks wear nametags, than at outdoor markets where they do not. “If there is a Tatar name written on the clerk’s nametag, then it is a safe bet that she speaks Tatar,” one teenager explained. Another added, “But, it happens that a person has a Tatar first and last name and doesn’t know a word of Tatar.”

  • 61 Paul Werth (2000) notes that before the 1917 revolution some 10 % of Tatars were Käräshen, while F (...)

83What these teenagers mean by a “Tatar name” is a Muslim one. However, in addition to Muslim Tatars, there are Christian Tatars or Käräshennär—less than 1 % of Tatarstan Tatars according to the 2002 Russian census, though their numbers are thought to be much higher. Käräshennär were converted under tsarist rule and are supposed to have names indistinguishable from the “Russian” names of other Orthodox Christians, though they often don’t.61 One can never be entirely sure who’s Tatar. Neither phenotype nor clothing nor markers of “authentic” identity like names provide absolutely reliable information. For example, once I asked a merchant with a “Russian” name printed on her badge if she were Tatar and she replied, “Yes, I am a Muslim.” I also encountered merchants with Muslim names who could or would not speak Tatar with me.

84The second indicator of Tatarness named by bilingual adolescents was something harder to read than a nametag. They said, “Tatars have a different look about them. Their eyes are different. Their gaze is somehow different.” I started asking adults about this gaze and they informed me that it was iman nury or the light of faith. Although the devout Sveta apa considers that all religious people, no matter what their faith, possess iman nury, everyone else I spoke to asserted that it was a Muslim quality. For example, Dilbara had this to say of my fiance, a Turk from Turkey:

85D. As soon as I saw him, I knew he wasn’t from Germany or a country like that. I knew...I don’t know how to say it in Russian...
me Say it in Tatar and I will try to understand.

86Dilbara then invoked the wisdom of Feyzie apa, an elderly aunt living in the US. Because Feyzie apa never lived under Soviet rule, Dilbara and her family consider her an authority on authentic Tatarness.

87D. Feyzie apa says, in the faces of Muslims there is a light.
me I understand.
D. So when I saw him I knew that he was from a Turkish country, or maybe an Arab, from that world... It comes from speaking Tatar. Russians don’t have that light.
me Does this light come to a person through Tatar language?
D. Yes. If you keep on speaking Tatar, you will have that light too.

88[Russian in bold and Tatar in italics]

89Thus, the act of speaking Tatar is thought to affect one’s internal disposition in a way that brings the speaker closer to Islam. Interesting in this exchange is Dilbara’s insistence that speaking Tatar is a Muslim practice and her presupposition that Muslims—for she glosses all Turks and Arabs as Muslim—speak Tatar. Indeed, the assumption not only that Muslim and Tatar are synonymous terms, but that all Muslims speak Tatar is common among Kazan Tatars. For example, Liutsia xanym, the only person I met who insisted she could differentiate Tatars from Russians without fail, responded when I asked her how she picked out Tatars, “I can always tell a Muslim.” This reproduces the perceived iconic relation between Islam and Tatars. For when I asked Liutsia xanym about Käräshennär, she asserted that they were Russians. But, not all Muslims, especially at the bazaar where Liutsia xanym says she tries to speak as much Tatar as possible, are Tatars. Many merchants are Uzbek, Kyrgyz, or Azeri, that is, speakers of other Turkic languages, but some are also Tajiks, who speak an Indo-European language closely related to Farsi. Even though Liutsia xanym habitually expresses disdain for Islam, she constructs the boundary between Tatars and Russians as one of Muslims and non-Muslims.

90In the case of my fiance, however, religious background coincided with linguistic ability. Not only was he nominally a Muslim, but he also spoke standard Tatar. Therefore, despite the fact that Dilbara’s comment revealed her provincial perspective regarding the kinds of people who inhabit the earth, the particular case did bear out her observation. What may have been more salient, however, in regards to how she perceived my fiance was his absolute ignorance of Russian. Consequently, in the estimation of Dilbara and other bilingual Tatars, he was cut off from the world ideologized as external to intimate relations—where the light of faith can be extinguished.

91Another way Tatars refer to the gaze they perceive to differentiate them from potentially inimical others is as achyk bet or open countenance. Lacking the religious implications of iman nury, an achyk bet consists of a forehead relaxed from a frown, a mouth modestly closed with its corners slightly upturned, a gaze firmly connected to the people in one’s immediate vicinity, and most importantly a constant warm, loving smile emanating from the eyes. Although maintaining an open countenance can be learned and performed at will, it is nonetheless considered central to being Tatar.

92The Tatar lexical term achyk denoting “open” also means “light,” as in English understandings of a light, airy room. As such, achyk gets semantically paired with the term karangy or dark, etymologically derived from the word for black, kara. Karangylyk—the abstract noun meaning “darkness”—refers to a lack of openness, a state of being closed off to the needs of other people. This is part of a local racial ideology in which lightness and darkness are binary opposites, not at the surface level of phenotype, but deep in one’s emotional constitution.

93Tatars strive towards lightness and openness, which is why they wear white headscarves, in contradistinction to the black ones worn by Russians and some other Muslims. Indeed, very white headscarves are a subject of great admiration among Tatars. Likewise, if a Tatar man wears a crisp, white shirt, women’s estimation of his attractiveness immediately swells. Tatars’ desire for light and openness is reflected not only in clothing, but also in preferences for interior décor.

  • 62 Soviet restaurants’lack of transparency can be metaphorically extended to the non-correspondence b (...)

94Astonishingly, Tatar-speakers’ preference for lightness is complemented by an attraction to darkness among Kazan’s Russian-speakers. This attraction reveals itself, inter alia, in the places Russian-speakers’ like to go for entertainment. One afternoon in December 1999 a Russian-identified schoolteacher of English language, who inherited her Tatar surname from her grandfather, took me to her favorite café. The café was in a dark basement below street level, decorated to look like a craggy cave with stalactites and stalagmites plastered onto its rounded walls. The lighting there was so low that it was difficult to make out our drinks standing on the table between us. On a later occasion, I took two female Tatar university students there. The Tatar students felt extremely ill at ease in the dimly lit café, hunching their shoulders and kept their eyes fixed on my face, as if it were dangerous to look around. They humored me in my desire to go there because I was their elder and a foreigner, but they couldn’t wait to get out of the darkness and back into the open air, where they finally felt enough at ease to admit their discomfort. The places they liked to go were brightly lit with white walls and white curtains framing big windows that look out onto the street. When I asked the Russian-identified teacher what she thought of the most popular of these, the House of Tea, she said she didn’t like it. The bright openness of the House of Tea’s interior made her feel as if she didn’t have any privacy. The teacher’s taste recalls the aesthetics of Soviet-period restaurants and the newly constructed Pyramid, dimly lit with heavily curtained windows so people from the street can’t see what goes on inside.62

95Differences in Tatar and Russian tastes in restaurant décor are echoed in their places of worship and homes. As a rule, Tatar mosques have high domed ceilings and numerous windows. They are brightly lit by natural light and chandeliers. Orthodox churches, by contrast, tend to be dark, largely windowless, and lit mostly by burning candles. Tatars express a physical aversion to these candles, saying the candles smell of death and venture that they are made from tallow rendered from pork fat, which is haram or forbidden, in Islam. This parallel extends into the home. Russian-speakers often wallpaper their apartments in somber tones. Their furniture, bed coverings, rugs and other decorations are usually dark, even drab in color. A lot of Tatar-speaking Tatars live in drab places as well, but many with money decorate their apartments with white walls, crystal chandeliers, and light-colored carpets. Moreover, even when Tatars’ apartments are drab, they like to cover tables, samovars, and the pillows on beds with delicate white lace coverlets. While Russians wear slippers at home to keep their feet warm and the dirt from the street from penetrating beyond the threshold, in the homes of some Tatars with strong village ties, people walk around in socks. One teenage girl I talked to about this bragged that she only wears white socks at home, which she considers a testament to how clean her house is kept.

Figure 6.5. Kazan’s House of Tea (no flash)

Figure 6.6. Inside St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow (with flash)

Figure 6.7. A Tatar Apartment in the Old Tatar Quarter, Kazan

Surrounded by Russians

  • 63 Plov is a dish considered to be Uzbek, but in practice it has become pan-Soviet. Some Kazan Russia (...)

96Some Tatars told me that achyklyk [lightness] and karangylyk [darkness] not only demarcate ethnically bounded physical space, but behavioral interactions as well. In November 2000 I was taken unannounced to visit a friend’s brother. It was a Saturday and the brother was away in the village. His wife Fuliya, a daycare worker and new mother, welcomed us and told us to sit in the living room while she made “tea.” After about 20 minutes, she called us into the kitchen and served us a feast of plov, homemade jams, cakes, and black tea.63 After we ate, my friend went into another room to make some telephone calls, and I had ample opportunity to talk to his sister-in-law. This was my first return visit to Kazan since learning to speak Tatar fluently. Because I was a new acquaintance and spoke to her brother-in-law only in Tatar, Fuliya accepted me as a Tatar-speaker.

97At one point during our conversation, the doorbell to the apartment rang and she excused herself to answer it. When Fuliya came back, she explained to me in Russian that the neighbor wanted to know if she and her husband still needed to be driven to their village in order to fetch a piece of furniture. I asked if the neighbor were Russian, pointing out that she had switched languages. Switching back to Tatar, Fuliya responded that the neighbor was indeed Russian. There were Russians living in the apartments on either side of theirs. The one she had just talked to was not nice, while the one on the other side was okay. She added that they visit with each other, but not in the real way. Fuliya said that everywhere in the building she and her family were surrounded by Russians. There was only one Tatar family, living below, “But, they are like Russians.” When I asked how, Fulya told me they were karangy, like Russians, while Tatars are usually achyk. She elucidated, “They have constant scandals and wars. The family can’t get along because they don’t give anything to each other.” Her statement implies that openness implies generosity, while darkness is associated with selfishness.

98Fuliya’s opinions represent those of someone who maintains strong connections to village life—as evidenced by the fact that she cooks with herbs and dairy products from her home village—while living in an urban environment. Unlike most Tatars of village origin with whom I spent time in Kazan, Fuliya is not an intellectual. Daycare workers receive one or two years of education beyond high school. The only reading material I saw in her house was the Tatar women’s magazine Söyembike, which, she said, she doesn’t have time to read. Moreover, in contrast to most Tatars living in Kazan, her Russian wasn’t fluent. Fuliya’s newness to the city and relative lack of sophistication in dealing with outsiders, by contrast to the other Tatars I knew, suggests what they also endure, but do not divulge. Fuliya is a member of an enclave, a village Tatar in Kazan who feels surrounded by an urban Russian sea. Her perception of that sea’s karangylyk, as opposed to the achyklyk of Tatar-speaking society, reveals the existence of an ideology of racial difference based on structures of feeling that inverts race-based notions of blackness dating from the Soviet period.


99This chapter explores the particularities of two non-comparable racial ideologies operating in Tatarstan. The first is an ideology broadly circulating in Russia, based on a belief in immutable essence in the blood according to nationality that has external manifestations in language and “black” or “Asian” phenotypes. This ideology has increasingly deleterious effects as rates of race-based violence escalate in the post-Soviet period. Moreover, this ideology essentializes Tatars as the “Mongol-Tatars” who “enslaved” Russia during 300 years of the Golden Horde’s rule. In an effort to avoid this stigma, Tatars cast themselves as “European indigenes,” who likewise suffered at the Golden Horde’s hands.

100In contradistinction to other parts of the former Soviet Union, people in Tatarstan do not necessarily rely on phenotype as an identity marker. Historically high rates of intermarriage have made it difficult to tell who is Russian and who is not. Indeed, Kazan Russians, even those who dislike Tatars, don’t mind resembling them. As a result, Kazanians depend upon markers they are not always able to read accurately to attempt to guess strangers’ linguistic competencies, important because approaching people in positions of power—shop and post office clerks, bank tellers, and so on—requires being able to create personalized connections to ensure that transactions have felicitous outcomes.

101At the same time, a second racial ideology is in circulation. This ideology purports that practice can alter essence. Thus, according to Tatarspeakers, speaking the Tatar language, radiating iman nury and maintaining achyk bet, striving towards achyklyk [openness, lightness], cleanliness, and peace differentiates people from the karangylyk [darkness] of scandals and wars. This ideology is reflected not only in language, but also in dress, places of worship, home décor and eating establishment preferences. Just as Tatar-speakers strive for lightness in these things, Russian-speakers are drawn to darkness. What both ideologies have in common is that the person in the subject position perceives him- or herself as white/light, while the Other is black/dark.

102These differences became apparent as a direct result of Tatarstan’s sovereignty movement, since knowing who speaks Tatar only began to matter once people started using the language in previously undomesticated domains. While guessing who speaks which language has become a less burning question since Putin asserted Russia’s authority over Tatarstan in 2000, Tatars’ feelings of being surrounded by potential enemies have only grown stronger since then. If sovereignty’s birth catalyzed the process of divergence among the worldviews held by Tatarstan residents, its demise solidified the differences in the discursive worlds people there inhabit.

103The next chapter continues to explore the question of how Tatars perceive essential difference by examining the circulation and meanings of the song genre mong. Focusing on mong as a discursive locale for the concentration of nationalist sentiment and as a practice that reproduces that sentiment, it demonstrates that mong is both considered essential to being Tatar and something that allows Tatars to depart from the everyday practices that require them to display optimism and achyk bet.


1 Dominguez (1986); Urciuoli (1991, 1996); Williams 1989.

2 Thus, scholars regularly review the racial taxonomy created by 18th-century Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus or 19th-century anthropologists’work on cranial types.

3 Feinstein (2000).

4 Lemon (2002b).

5 See a 2002 discussion in Slavic Review 61(1) with regards to this matter.

6 See Hirsch (2002); Lemon (1995, 1996, 1998, 2000b, 2002b); and Weitz (2002).

7 Certainly, the link between language and race is not confined to the post-Soviet context. See Morgan (2002) and Urciuoli (1991, 1996) for starters.

8 Open Society Justice Initiative. 2006. Ethnic Profiling in the Moscow Metro.

9 See Lemon (2000b). Passport regime enforcement began in the 1990s as a result of bombings in Moscow that were blamed on people from the Caucasus region.

10 Politkovskaia (2003). See also Lemon (2000a) on the Russian understanding of kavkavskij natsional’nost’.

11 Open Society Justice Institute (2006).

12 See

13 See and

14 American Association of Physical Anthropologists Statement on Biological Aspects of Race. 1996. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Vol. 101: 569–570.

15 See Wolpoff and Caspari (1997); Goodman (2005); and Lewontin (2005), for example.

16 Hirschfeld (1996).

17 Titova (1999).

18 Busygin, Zorin, and Stolyarova (1991).

19 Interview with Güzel Stolyarova, 20 November 1999.

20 Lemon (1996, 2000a).

21 This is what English anthropologist Caroline Humphrey (2002: 35) calls “the pervasive residue of the Soviet tendency to ignore difference in the subject peoples for the sake of commonality,” that is, to encompass other people and assume they are the same or ‘benignly overlook’their differences.

22 Pohl (1999).

23 See Wertheim (2003).

24 Zorin, V. Iu. et al. (2004).

25 Wertheim (2003).

26 For information on Bashkortostan sovereignty, see Graney (1999a, 1999b) and Walker (2003).

27 Kalmyks are considered Asian in Soviet ethnography.

28 See Silverstein (1996b) for a theorization of orders of awareness, which explores the cognitive mechanics whereby people’s awareness of certain phenomena can shift.

29 Ponomarev (1966).

30 Tatar is already a plural in Mongolian.

31 Uli Schamiloglu, personal communication.

32 Schamiloglu (2000).

33 In Russian vernacular, to do something like “white people” connotes having adequate resources to not be overextended. Once when I was riding in a car with Russian friends in St. Petersburg and we had ample room for everyone, one of my friends commented that we were traveling “like white people.”

34 Pesmen (2000a).

35 Silverstein (1996b) discusses other situations in which people hold two competing ideologies simultaneously.

36 Wipper (1947[1922]).

37 Valerie Kivelson, personal communication, with regards to the lubok paintings.

38 And in Russian: from Ivan Grozny, part I (1944)
Kazan’Moskvadrujbu rvët. Soyuz Moskvojgōnchaet. V Moskvu vojnoj idët...
Kazan’—bol’shoi. Moskva—malenkii.
Moskva gonchilsia.
Nash velikii khan podarok poslai.
Riustskii tsar—zor ne imei.
Riustskii tsar—sam sebia gōnchai.
Grammatically correct, this text would read: Kazan’s Moskvoj druzhbu rvët. Soyuz s Moskvoj konchaet. Na Moskvu vojnoj idët. Kazan’—bol’shoi. Moskva—malenkii. Moskva konchilsia. Nash velikii khan podarok poslal. Russkii tsar’—pozor ne imei. Russkii tsar’—sam sebia konchai. For the original script, see Eisenstein (1964).

39 Nichols (2003: 186, 211).

40 Akchurin et al. (2006).

41 To this day “bride capture” frequently masks elopement in cases when potential marriage partners lack the wealth needed for traditional marriage ceremonies. See Bringa (1995) for the same practice among Bosnians.

42 See Uehling (2004) for the effects of this perceived status on Crimean Tatars. Europe’s borders have moved significantly eastward since Moscow conquered Kazan in the 16th century. See Seegel (2006).

43 Even so, Tatar-speakers are not always cognizant of whether they are speaking Tatar or Russian. In her work, sociolinguist Suzanne Wertheim calls attention to “Tatar onstage” style, which, she observes, differs from the everyday codeswitching that arises from a non-awareness of language (Wertheim 2003, 2006). Wertheim’s observation is illustrated by the words of a highly placed Tatarstan government official, who in 1999 informed me, “We speak in Tatar and write in Russian,” even though, at the time, Russian was the dominant language of spoken government business. Since Putin suspended Tatarstan sovereignty, however, government officials, including the one quoted here, speak more Tatar at work.

44 The emotional, though not the linguistic, aspect of this phenomenon bears a resemblance to Raymond Williams’(1977) elusive description of “structures of feeling,” taken from E.P. Thompson’s (1963) work on the English working class.

45 Xujieäxmätov (1998), inter alii. Although the belief that essence become fixed through practice recalls Gilroy’s (1987) ethnic absolutism, it differs significantly in that it represents a counter-hegemonic discourse.

46 Schimmel (1992) describes the other four pillars, providing a nice overview of the basic tenets of Islam.

47 Lysenko (1948).

48 See Fitzpatrick (1999) and Zinoviev (1985), inter alia.

49 See Urciouli (1991, 1996).

50 The temptation may be great to envision this within a Foucauldian paradigm (1995). Unfortunately, his paradigm can’t account for why anyone would have wanted to keep speaking Tatar, given all of the disciplinary measures speaking it could have visited upon a person.

51 Wertheim (2003).

52 See Verdery (1996) for a similar situation in Transylvania and Humphrey (2002) for more on post-Soviet radical uncertainty.

53 ”New Russian” was a term applied to people who profited economically from the collapse of the Soviet Union’s socialist system. See Humphrey (2002) for more on New Russians as a social category.

54 For an elucidation of heteroglossy see Bakhtin (1981). For more on Soviet-style command economies, see Verdery (1996).

55 This division between subordinate and dominant languages is similar to what Woolard (1989) found for Catalan among its speakers.

56 Solidarity as in Brown and Gilman’s (1960) and Woolard’s (1989) analyses of other contexts. See Urciuoli (1991, 1996) for a similar situation among a community of New York Puerto Ricans.

57 My thanks to Larry Hirschfeld for his help in developing the methodology for this experiment.

58 Lemon (2000a) describes the importance of lightness and darkness as racial features in Moscow.

59 Hirschfeld (1996, 1997). See also Bronson and Merryman (2009) on US children’s sensitivity to race.

60 This was corroborated by the written responses they provided to a matched guise test I conducted with them.

61 Paul Werth (2000) notes that before the 1917 revolution some 10 % of Tatars were Käräshen, while Fagan (2002) states that 8 % of Tatars in Tatarstan are Orthodox. Käräshennär were a separate census category in the 1920s and again during the 2002 all-Russian census. In 2002 some Muslim Tatars objected to the reintroduction of the category Käräshen as an attempt to lessen the credibility of Tatar calls for pluralism in the Russian Federation by artificially diminishing their numbers.

62 Soviet restaurants’lack of transparency can be metaphorically extended to the non-correspondence between the dishes listed on menus and their cost and what is served. See Dovlatov (1993) for some black humor on dining in Soviet restaurants. In the post-Soviet period, Russified Kazanians evince adoration for McDonalds, while Tatarspeakers tend to consider the food to be unhealthy.

63 Plov is a dish considered to be Uzbek, but in practice it has become pan-Soviet. Some Kazan Russians once served it to me for Easter dinner. It consists of pieces of meat, carrots, raisins, and spices cooked with rice.

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 6.1. A Nazi Poster on Kazan Street, 2006
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Légende Figure 6.2. “Tatars” in Eisenstein’s film, Ivan the Terrible
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Légende Figure 6.3. Code Choice Tree—Tatarstan, 2000
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Légende Figure 6.4. Iman nury, photo courtesy of Liliya Karimova
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Légende Figure 6.5. Kazan’s House of Tea (no flash)
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Légende Figure 6.6. Inside St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow (with flash)
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Légende Figure 6.7. A Tatar Apartment in the Old Tatar Quarter, Kazan
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