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Nation, Language, Islam

Helen M. Faller

Chapter 8. Words Apart

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Today marks the anniversary of the day Ivan the Terrible captured Kazan. People came out of cafés and stores to watch the procession commemorating Xater köne as it traveled down Pushkin Street from Freedom Square on its way to the Kremlin. Eavesdropping on the conversations of the people standing around watching it, I overheard the end of a disagreement between two women in their late fifties or early sixties. One, a bleached blonde, drowned out the words of the other, whose hair was dyed red, vocalizing condescendingly in Russian, “You don’t understand, little one, they are starving us!” The redheaded woman turned out to be a Tatar-speaker. She looked to be significantly older, not younger, than the woman who had the last word.
Field notes, October 15, 1999

  • 1 Under Soviet rule such a demonstration would have been shut down in a matter of minutes. See Alexe (...)
  • 2 Mari are Finnic-speaking animists and Chuvash are Orthodox Christian Turkic-speakers, both indigen (...)

1Listed in the Tatar Islamic calendar under October 15, Xäter köne or Memory Day is an annual event that began in 1989.1 Each year, people commemorating Memory Day, who range in number from several hundred to several thousand, gather at Freedom Square at around 10 in the morning. Some are Kazan Tatars. Others are Mari or Chuvash.2 Political speeches are made. Popular Tatar singers sing songs. The memory of Ivan the Terrible’s massacre of the Kazan Khanate’s defenders is invoked. Sometimes speakers mention Russia’s current policies—Putin’s campaign against Tatarstan sovereignty or the endless war in Chechnya. After the rally, young people dressed as historical personages—Söyembike, Kazan’s last Tatar ruler, and her warriors [batirlar]—take their places in the back of a flatbed Kamaz truck. The truck leads the procession, followed by a van with a loudspeaker and demonstrators carrying banners in Tatar and Russian. The year I observed Xäter köne the van issued forth announcements in both languages. In Tatar, the speaker exhorted Tatars not to forget what happened in 1552. In Russian, he reminded listeners that “Christians and Muslims live in harmony in Tatarstan and that Russian imperialism slanders Islam, the most just of all religions.” In past years, after reaching the Kremlin, the demonstrators would hold Muslim prayers at the base of Söyembike Tower and then lay flowers in a sign of mourning for those who perished in 1552. Since 2005 they pray inside Kol Shärif Mosque.

  • 3 Vaisov and Imamov (1993); Gaffar (1991), for example.

2Tatars who write about Xäter köne in the press make it clear that the event is not intended to foment bad feeling against Russians. They stress that Russians also lived in the Kazan Khanate and died during its conquest, just as there were Muslims fighting on the side of Ivan the Terrible. Nevertheless they maintain that because Islam was the dominant religion of the Kazan Khanate, even Tatars who aren’t religious or who are Käräshen should respect the need to pray as Muslims in honor of Xäter kone.3 However, as the epigraph to this chapter implies, these niceties fall on deaf ears.

Figure 8.1. Söyembike Surrounded by her Warriors

Figure 8.2. The Marchers Prepare

3The analysis in this book demonstrates the social effects of Tatarstan’s sovereignty movement, revealing some of the ways in which sovereignty contributed to the division of Soviets in Tatarstan into groups inhabiting increasingly differentiated discursive worlds. Once Gorbachev initiated his program of reforms in 1986, a lack of ideological stability and the sudden absence of previously existing material resources compelled Kazanians to seek out new ways to orient themselves to a world radically different from what they knew previously. Moving towards those new orientations has had the unintended consequences of changing people’s subjectivities and their worldviews—in effect, it catalyzed the unmaking of Soviet people.

4An overview of Tatar-speakers social and historical conditions demonstrates that prior to the Soviet Union’s collapse even fully integrated Tatar bilingual intellectuals in Kazan experienced life differently from monolingual Russians. Letters to the editor published in Tatarstan’s Russian- and Tatar-language Communist Party Organ newspapers document this divergence in discursive worlds. Examining the alphabet reforms that have taken place since the 1920s reveals competing attitudes towards ideologies of the nation and whom it includes. These national ideologies emerge from deeply embedded cultural beliefs and practices. They make themselves manifest in physical space, as Tatars reclaim Kazan by building Tatar cultural and religious monuments and populating Kazan’s public domains with the Tatar language through an ongoing process of linguistic domestication. In Tatarstan, speaking the Tatar language has other implications as well, since it taps into a local racial ideology that essential difference emerges from repeated practices, whereas racial difference in Russia as a whole is based upon a person’s national identity. Most significantly, these practices include the melancholic song genre mong, which strengthens Tatars’ connections to one another because of the variation with which Tatar-speakers are encouraged to articulate its meaning and contributes to their increasingly profound feelings of difference from people who do not speak Tatar.

5While the specific processes that make for differences between Tatarspeakers and non-Tatars are particular to Tatarstan, as a phenomenon they represent the kinds of changes taking place in people’s subjectivities throughout the former Soviet Union as the discursive worlds people inhabited previous to glasnost and perestroika underwent abrupt reconfiguration. This reconfiguration consisted both of an immense expansion in potential access to infinitely varied information and experiences and a simultaneous contraction of peoples’ material ability to obtain that access.

6This final chapter presents definitive empirical evidence for Soviet people’s unmaking. It describes the multiplication of Russia’s publics by showing that living in different languages has increasingly caused people to inhabit different discursive worlds, even as they occupy the same physical space. It illustrates this proposition by showing how children in Russia, at whom transmissions of conflicting and competing national ideologies are aimed daily, make different sense out of them depending in great part upon their primary language of identification. It also explains how many nation-builders have shifted their focus from language to religion and describes the emergence of a new movement of urban Tatarspeakers.

No Longer Soviet

7While a handful of die-hard old-age pensioners doggedly continue to participate in Soviet holidays, such as annual May Day celebrations, the only people under 50 who attend the event are university-aged anarchists cheerfully selling copies of their newspaper, The Kazan Anarchist. In place of an overarching Soviet identity, people in Kazan now feel affinity to other kinds of publics that lack the finite, inelastic boundaries of the Soviet Union. For example, Kazan Jews say they feel stronger affinity to the local Jewish community now that they are allowed to openly celebrate holidays like Purim and perform Jewish religious rites like bar mitzvahs. At the same time, they have ties to the state of Israel, from whom they receive funding for their school, and more strongly, to all their friends and family members who have emigrated from Russia to other parts of the world.

8Like Kazan Jews, Volga Germans have reacquired one of their pre-revolutionary houses of worship and freely perform the Lutheran religious services that bind them together as a community. Yet, deeper involvement in their local community of identification simultaneously serves to remind Volga Germans of their ties to the state of Germany, which both sends the pastors who read the Sunday sermons at their church and material aid in the form of donations, and serves as a destination to which many of them hope to “repatriate” themselves.

9Also as a result of sovereignty, other Kazanians hold diverse views regarding where the metropole lies—Kazan, Moscow, or Mecca— depending upon place of origin, nationality, and level of religiosity. Sovereignty has simultaneously altered Kazan. The city’s increasing beautification and reinvigoration from its prior state of provincial capital decrepitude has given birth to increasing pride of place among Tatarstan residents. Like Tatar-speakers, Russian-speakers express deep satisfaction in the changes the city has undergone and can exhibit a patriotic love for Kazan. This multiplication of imagined metropoles reflects a loss of authority on the part of the Russian state, no longer capable of maintaining the hegemonic idea that the Russian way is the best way.

10Beyond this, despite their strong emotional connections to their tugan yak or native territory, Tatars also conceive of the communities they belong to exist in at least two further ways not defined by state borders. First, when they envisage themselves as part of an ethnic Tatar community, they picture people like themselves to inhabit—in addition to Tatarstan—Bashkortostan, parts of Siberia, Moscow, St. Petersburg, the city of Gorky, Japan, Turkey, Australia, Canada, and Burlingame, California. These places all contain Tatar diaspora communities that Tatarstan’s printed, radio, and television mass media have actively documented since the 1980s. Second, when Tatars speak of themselves as belonging to the umma, that is, the worldwide Muslim community, they express affinity to Turkey, Arab states, Central Asians, Muslims in Europe and America, and, of greatest significance to the discussion at hand, Chechens.

The Scourge of Chechnya

11While the Tatar national revival provoked negative reactions from Russians from its very inception, the rupture between how Tatar-speakers and Russian-speakers perceive the world became starkly apparent to Tatarspeakers only with the onset of the Second Chechen War in 1999. In Russia’s first ever decade of democratic government, public opinion indicted Boris Yeltsin for beginning the first Chechen War, while Russia’s demoralizing defeat in 1996 contributed to Yeltsin’s loss of popular support. Like Tatarstan, Chechnya is an ethnically inflected polity within Russia containing a Muslim indigenous population. Also similar to Tatarstan, Chechnya engaged in a vigorous political movement for sovereignty beginning in the 1980s, based upon the Leninist right to national self-determination. In contrast to Tatarstan, the Chechen government insisted upon its right to secede from the Russian Federation. In 1994, Russia invaded Chechnya and plunged the lives of all Chechnya’s inhabitants, including the ethnic Russians living there, into chaos. While 1994 was the year that Tatarstan implemented its new bilingual education curriculum, it marked the last year in the 20th century that children in Chechnya attended school on a regular basis.

  • 4 There is some speculation that Putin’s own FSB planted the bombs (Feifer 2009).

12The Russian government and Russian-language media, unofficially once more under government censorship, represent all Chechens as traitors and a criminally “dangerous element.” Well before any Chechens were clearly implicated in terrorist acts, the Russian government treated them all like terrorists. In 1999, nearly 300 people died in a series of apartment building bombings in Moscow and the Caucasian republic of Dagestan. Vladimir Putin, who was Russia’s Prime Minister at the time, blamed Chechen separatists and used the explosions as his primary justification for starting a new war in Chechnya in 1999 which was supported by most Russians.4 Since then, Chechens have become completely marginalized in their own state and some have committed acts of desperation befitting pariahs. These acts include suicide bombings (the first Chechen men began to kill people in suicide attacks in 2000 with Chechen women following suit in 2001), the hostage crisis at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theatre in 2002, the gory Beslan school occupation in 2004, perhaps the explosion on board the Nevsky Express Train that killed 27 in 2009, and so on.

13Monolingual Russian-speakers tend to accept the Russian government’s representations of these conflicts. Russian-speakers I consulted often viewed the war as an effort to protect the country from Chechen “bandits.” By contrast, Tatar bilinguals frequently expressed sympathy for Chechens’ plight as outcasts within their own state. They were predisposed to see the war as one against the people of Chechnya—a genocide perpetrated against “our own citizens”—and bemoaned the tragic and unnecessary loss of life it causes both Chechens and Russian soldiers. How Kazan bilinguals viewed the war is illustrated by the following two examples.

14Even though she had retired many years previously, in 2000 Tatar-speaking Nur apa still occasionally worked as House Manager at Kazan’s House of Actors. Sometimes she would finish work too late to catch public transportation to her apartment in the New Tatar Quarter and would take a taxi home. One night, in a cab, she started talking to her driver. She could tell he wasn’t Russian. So she asked, “Are you Muslim?” “Yes, I am,” he replied. “Are you Tatar?” she inquired. “No, auntie, I am not Tatar.” “What nationality are you?” Nur apa asked. “Oh, auntie,” the driver responded, “you don’t want to know what nationality I am. It’s such a terrible thing.” He seemed to be on the brink of tears. Nur apa insisted, as was her nature, and discovered that the driver was Chechen. He didn’t like to tell strangers because they usually reacted with horror and disgust. When they reached Nur apa’s building, she got out of the car, walked around to the driver’s door, and opened it. She bent over and embraced the driver, murmuring, “Oh, my son, my son,” before she walked up the four flights of stairs to her apartment.

15In the summer of 2001, I was at a late-night wine-drinking party with a bunch of Tatar intellectuals in their 40s. The lingua franca was Tatar. One intellectual, Ilsiye, explained the recent changes in Tatarstan society. Ilsiye said, “Before, Tatars and Russians were all part of one homogenous society. But now it seems that we are on two separate paths because Tatars want to develop a more humanitarian society based on pluralism. I used to have Russian friends, but I don’t anymore.” The breaking point was the Chechen War. Ilsiye was shocked to discover that her well-read, Russian intelligentsia friends thought it necessary to annihilate the entire Chechen people, “Not just the terrorists, but all of them. Previously,” she concluded, “we Tatars lived with Russians because we wanted to, but now we live with them because we have no choice, because we are afraid of Moscow.” However, it is not only linguistic ability, but likewise contexts and patterns of language use that influence people’s attitudes. Several Tatar-speakers I interviewed in Moscow and St. Petersburg, who neither share Tatarstan Tatars’ fear of military invasion by Russian forces nor actively participate in the broad-reaching Tatar-speaking networks available to people living in Tatarstan, had little sympathy for Chechens’ plight.

Perspectives from Kazan Schoolchildren

16Attitudes towards Chechnya among Kazan’s schoolchildren likewise provide a telling example of how thought worlds have become divided based upon primary language of identification. Like the pupils I observed in several Kazan schools, children from the Lab School’s Tatar and Russian classes socialize together in the hallways and at school events, including dances and celebrations of Teacher’s Day, International Woman’s Day, and Halloween. They also sometimes date across linguistic lines. However, even at the Lab School, organized according to progressive, democratic principles, children in the Tatar and Russian classes viewed the war in Chechnya from irreconcilably different points of view.

17Many children in the Russian classes described themselves as ethnically mixed or even as Tatar, but did not speak Tatar at home. Indeed, the fact that they moved through a world configured in Russian language seemed to imply unwavering identification, at least in public, with the Russian nation as a collective of people. At the beginning of our first conversational English lesson in the fall of 1999, the eleventh grade Russian class asked me, without prompting, what Americans thought about the war in Chechnya. I responded that those Americans who knew where Chechnya was were appalled by reports that Russian troops were committing atrocities there. The class claimed ignorance of any such reports. In order to inform them, I downloaded several articles from the Internet from US-news sources, which reported that Russian troops were raping and murdering unarmed Chechen civilians, and brought them to our next meeting. The teenagers quickly scanned the articles. Most of them responded immediately to the allegations with outrage and anger, which they directed towards me. One girl, in particular, who identified as half-Tatar, half-Russian stood up and exclaimed that it was insulting to the young men who were dying to defend the country from terrorists to entertain the possibility that atrocities were being committed. Another boy, who identified as Russian, claimed that there is slavery in Chechnya and it must be stopped. The only exception to the general consensus came from a boy who identified as half-Tatar—his mother was Tatar—who said that Putin was a double dealer. All the other children, many of whom weren’t ethnic Russians, including one who prided himself that his grandfather—a painter—was from the United Arab Emirates, supported the war unquestioningly. Apparently reproducing opinions expressed by their parents and Russian-language Moscow media sources, the Russian-speaking children said the war was a just struggle against terrorists and any act bordering on criticism of Russia’s troops, including reading foreign-press articles claiming Russian soldiers have committed atrocities, was an inflammatory insult to the Russian nation. After this meeting, the whole class stood me up at the time appointed for our next lesson the following week. That was the thankful end to our conversational English lessons, though we continued to spend time together informally at school events.

18When Hayat apa, the class teacher of the eleventh-grade Tatar group, learned about the articles I had given the Russian-identified children, she asked that I furnish her class the same materials, for, she explained, “They have to receive information from as many sources as possible.” I brought the articles to my next English lesson with the Tatar class and we read through them together. The Tatar girls were generally very shy about discussing any matters pertaining to sex in front of the boys. On one occasion when the topic of birth control came up, they ushered the male students out of the classroom, giggling nervously, and locked the door behind them, literally barring them from participation in the discussion. On this occasion, the girls were deeply somber, but expressed no shock whatsoever: They told me they were not surprised to learn that Russian soldiers were engaging in drunken hooliganism and raping and murdering girls. The boys remained completely silent. The Tatar class, like their parents, considered the war in Chechnya and general discrimination against Chechens to be acts of brutality by Russia against its own people and yet another example of Russian imperialist aggression against Muslims.

  • 5 Even so, Kazan Tatars were always quick to point out, Russian-identified people in Tatarstan are m (...)

19Home language seemed crucial to how the students interpreted competing ideologies of nationhood. During Putin’s ascent to power in 1999–2000, attitudes among Tatarstan adolescents towards Tatarstan’s bilingual education policies generally parsed into two types—ethnically Tatar children proud of speaking Tatar who hoped to create a pluralist, bilingual society on Tatarstan territory and everyone else. Children in the former group embraced, if loosely, Tatarstan policies of multiculturalism and rejected exclusionary Russian nationalism. (By the time they reached their mid-20s, as Russia became increasingly conservative and xenophobic, their idealism was largely snuffed.) By contrast, most non-Tatars and many Russian-speaking Tatars dismissed Tatarstan ideological pluralism as a mask for exclusionary Tatar nationalism.5

  • 6 Before US anthropologists could freely conduct research in Russia, Paul Friedrich (1979) analyzed (...)

20During sovereignty, a pervasive shift took place among members of Tatarstan’s bilingual population with regards to how they comprehend the Russian pronoun for “we”—my.6 Before the Soviet Union collapsed, older Tatar-speakers explained, they generally felt included in the category connoted by my. Since, many have discovered that my excludes them. Thus, the two groups of children to which I showed news items on Chechnya reacted differently because the Russian-identified pupils perceived themselves as part of a single solidary group with the “Russian” soldiers represented in Moscow media—who in fact come from every nationality living in Russia—while the Tatar-identified children felt alienated from that group. When bilinguals hear the pronoun “we” voiced in the hegemonic language, Russian, they are more likely to perceive “we” as excluding rather than including them.

21Parallel to this shift is one in the speech of Russia’s president. When the Soviet Union split up, for the first time since before the 1917 revolution it became necessary to find a way to talk about Russian territorial nationhood. As a result, the imperial-era term “rossiiskoe,” meaning pertaining to the territory of Russia, was revived and used by President Yeltsin and others to refer to the nation. While Yeltsin remained president, Russian national ideologies projected a relatively inclusive vision of the state. By contrast, almost immediately after assuming office, Putin began to speak of the nation as “russkoe,” a term which means “ethnic Russian” and suggests that Russians are the state’s only authentic citizens.

22As ideologies projected by the government in Moscow about who belongs in the Russian nation have shifted from including the inhabitants of Russian territory to focusing on ethnic Russians exclusively, a parallel shift has occurred among Russia’s population. Those for whom standard Russian is the language of national identification ally themselves with Russia’s nationalist ideologies, while those who speak another language at home are inclined to feel alienated from these ideologies. Moscow’s attempts to unify a Russian public around the cause of war against a terrorist enemy has in fact served to cement divisions in public opinion and the objective social distance among Russian citizens. As a result of the second Chechen War, Tatars have begun to see their differences with “Russians” as irreconcilable.

23Chechnya is pivotal to understanding the political field of perceived possibilities for national belonging in Russia. If the terrorist acts attributed to and committed by Chechens provide any valuable lessons, it is how desperate the question of who belongs to the Russian nation became under Putin’s rule. The Russian government asserted that it could not allow Chechnya to secede, since secession would incite other Russian regions to break away, thus implying that military action against Chechen rebels must continue in order to maintain Russian statehood. Consequently, while Chechen rebels do not have the option of seceding from the Russian Federation, individual Chechens no longer have any place in it. Similarly, Kazan’s Tatar-speakers, who feel a connection to Chechens through their shared religion and aspirations for sovereignty, also feel less and less that the Russian state is willing to accommodate them as full-fledged citizens.

The Role of the Media

  • 7 Specter (2007).
  • 8 Stolyarova (2007).

24Around 1999, the Russian government increased content censorship of Russian-language media. When television stations broadcast news critical of the war in Chechnya or any other Putin initiative, the Russian government would begin economic corruption charges against their owners, seizing control of the stations and the owners’ other assets. This is part of a concerted policy, according to New Yorker writer Michael Specter, to keep the airwaves criticism free.7 Because very few Russians read newspapers since the excitement of perestroika ended and prices soared to reflect the real costs of production, the Russian government largely ignores what is printed in publications like Anna Politkovskaia’s Novaya Gazeta. Even so, the mainstream Russian print media for the most part ceased criticizing the central government as soon as Putin assumed power. Indeed, a 2007 article by St. Petersburg Times’ writer Galina Stolyarova reveals that newspaper journalists regularly receive detailed memos with precise instructions with regards to what stories to cover and how.8

25In Tatarstan the situation has played out somewhat differently. Few, if any, Russian-identified people consume Tatar-language media. Consequently, what happens in the Tatar news is beyond the boundaries of their referential worlds and, to all intents and purposes, nonexistent. Moreover, unlike Russian-language television, which was riveting in the 1980s-1990s, Tatar-language television has by and large always been mind-numbingly dull. The only channel broadcasting in Tatar is the government station TRT, solid in its conservative, establishment orientation. However, the battle for sovereignty and the ongoing debates about how to realize it kept the Tatar-language press dynamic long after perestroika had been laid to rest. Perhaps because Shaimiev’s government still harbored hopes of achieving sovereignty in 2000, censorship had not been fully extended to the Tatar-language media. Thus, at the time, in contrast to Russian sources, official Tatar-language publications framed Chechnya in terms of the unnecessary loss of life the war causes both Chechens and Russia’s sons of all nationalities drafted to fight there. By 2006, the Tatar press had lost its vibrancy. Finding Tatar-language publications in Kazan had become extremely difficult and most of what was printed in Tatar had been stripped of political and ideological implications. In 2007, Tatar opposition journalists working in print media, radio, and online publications were targeted. They suffered increased harassment by the FSB (the KGB’s new acronym) and received threatening telephone calls suggesting that they “not lose their heads.” One prominent opposition journalist was fired in October 2007 and another was mysteriously run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver around the same time.

  • 9 Iskhakova (1999).
  • 10 The BBC lost its broadcast permit for Russia in 2008. “‘Wall Street Journal’Letter Highlights Russ (...)

26Certainly, television and newspapers aren’t the only information media available to Tatar-speakers. In fact, Tatar sociolinguist Zäitüna Iskhakova’s work demonstrates that bilingual Tatars tend to read newspapers in Russian, but listen to Tatar radio.9 In the past, Tatar radio included the government-sponsored Tatar-language station channeled into the kitchen of every urban apartment for a low subscription price and the illicit Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Tatar-Bashkir Service, which has been on the air since 1949. However, Tatar radio has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, with numerous commercial FM stations that play lightweight pop music springing into existence. In May 2005, the government-sponsored Tatar-language station was privatized and the old broadcasters were laid off. In-depth Tatar literary programs are no longer on the air. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has come under threat as the Russian government attempts to ban FM stations from broadcasting foreign programming.10 While RFE/RL would continue to exist as an Internet service, people in Tatar villages, most of whom don’t have access to functioning computers or the know-how to maintain them, would effectively be cut off from the alternative news source.

The Accumulated Experience

27There is a Tatar saying, “Have a Russian friend, but keep an axe on your hip” that expresses the suspicion with which Tatars have learned to view friendly overtures from Russians. This suspicion can be visceral and involuntary, as I learned when a Tatar friend, seeing me dressed in a fur hat that made me look Russian, literally jumped back in alarm when I greeted him. As the Russian government dismantled sovereignty, this feeling of suspicion grew stronger and many Tatars have come to see their situation, living on earth surrounded by a Russian sea, in increasingly cynical terms. Thus, even though the Federation Council approved new legislation in July 2007, acknowledging Tatarstan’s special status—allowing Tatars to carry Tatar-language inserts in their internal passports and requiring Tatarstan presidential candidates, hand-picked by the Russian president, to speak Tatar—the law which suffered long, heated passage through the Russian Duma is largely void of political substance. More indicative of the political climate in the Russian Federation, Putin’s regime has reintroduced the Stalinist-period practice of show trials. Those found guilty of terrorism and jailed include Muslims participating in home prayer meetings and members of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, among others.

28Tatars’ cynicism makes itself apparent in a shift from their prior inclusionary emphasis on linguistic competency in Tatar language to an exclusionary focus on religion and in-group marriage. In contrast to their prior conduct (1997–2001), when I stumbled over Tatar words during a 2006 visit to Kazan, most of my interlocutors immediately switched to Russian, reflecting an apparent sense of hopelessness that non-Tatars could learn to speak Tatar. And, a significant change from the Soviet period, when a quarter of marriages in Kazan were nationally mixed, Tatars now seem more inclined to marry other Tatars.

29When, in 1999, I asked Tatar ethnographer Rosalinda Musina about mixed marriages, she said she thought the divorce rate was higher among people who had married outside their nationality, with a change taking place since the beginning of perestroika. Musina suggested that interest in single nationality marriages was increasing. She cited as reasons for this increase the fact that a spouse from a person’s own nationality will observe familiar traditions and customs and know one’s national language.

30Musina is middle-aged and therefore grew up with the internationalist ideologies prevalent under Soviet rule. By contrast, Tatars in their mid-20s with whom I spoke seven years later in 2006 about mixed marriages expressed much more absolutist opinions. Over beer and savory crêpes at a new Internet café, Liliya, a former student from the Lab School, told me she had a girlfriend engaged to marry a Russian. She was worried about her friend to whom she had said of her choice, “I really love Dima, but I feel pity for you. Aerym bulasyn—you will be all alone.” Later, I asked Altinay, one of Liliya’s classmates, what she thought of mixed marriages. She responded without hesitation, “It’s necessary to continue our kind. Who will the child be? What if the in-laws christen the child?” Both these young women chose to marry Tatar men, even though they speak more Russian than Tatar on a day-to-day basis.

From Language to Faith

  • 11 Thanks to Liliya Karimova for this information.

31Though language still has deep resonance for those Tatars attempting to preserve and revive Tatar culture, it no longer has a central role in Tatarstan’s Muslim institutions. Study at Kazan’s mädräses—Islamic higher education institutions—occurs at first in Russian and then later, as students acquire knowledge of the language, in Arabic. This is part of a concerted effort not to exclude Russian converts or Tatars with insufficient knowledge of Tatar language.11

32Because Islam is so central to Tatar identity, particularly in opposition to the Christianity associated with Russians, increasing Muslim religiosity illustrates how many Tatar-speakers’ worldviews have diverged from those of people they identify as Russians. For many, being Tatar has come to entail observing or at least acknowledging the Islamic calendar, with particular attention paid to the holy month of Ramadan. During Muslim holidays, even non-religious Tatars will respect Muslim traditions by observing the prohibition against drinking alcohol.

  • 12 While some Soviet Muslims practiced Islam to a lesser or greater extent, they did so clandestinely

33In 2000, before Putin cracked down on Tatarstan sovereignty, increased observance of Islam was particularly pronounced among people under the age of 30 whose upbringing mostly occurred during the period of increased freedom of speech initiated by Gorbachev’s reforms. Since then, more Tatars who grew up under Soviet rule have sought refuge in religiosity. Islam’s resurgence has affected the lives of all Tatarstan people—a frequent topic of discussion, it has unequivocally brought center stage values foreign to the official atheist doctrine of the Soviet period.12

  • 13 See Poliakov (1992).

34Being a practicing Muslim requires not only the observance of annual rituals like fasting during Ramadan, but also adhering to other rites, most notably performing namaz—the five daily prayers. Religiosity therefore requires people to alter their everyday rhythms to conform to a concept of time different from the one previously dominant under state-imposed atheism.13 Observing Islam may also alter household structure. A Muslim household should only contain halal food, not necessarily easy to obtain living amid pork-loving Russians, and dog-owners are supposed to get rid of their pets. Moreover, Islam influences how people think about the future. For instance, a teenage girl at the Lab School, who covered her head when she went out in public, planned to go to university in the United Arab Emirates, where, she hoped, people on the street would not stare at her because she wore a headscarf.

  • 14 See Wertheim (2003, 2006) on saf tatar tele and other purist Tatar language ideologies. Shariq Klu (...)
  • 15 See for images from Shariq Klub’s 2009 iftar gatherings.

35The contemporary Shariq Club, founded in 1989 by members of TOTs as a meeting place for Tatar youth and modeled after its prerevolutionary predecessor, provides an example of how Islam has become an increasingly important marker of Tatarness. Though Shariq Club’s leaders state that they prefer humanitarian Muslim values to the capitalist materialism they associate with western culture, the club’s primary purpose has been secular—to provide a haven for Tatar students and young professionals to meet and learn more about their native culture from each other and from elder politicians, poets, singers and other cultural leaders. Shariq’s members strongly emphasize language and the young people switch from their normal practice of speaking a mix of Tatar and Russian to talking in what is called saf [pure] Tatar language while attending Shariq’s gatherings.14 Beginning in 2000, Shariq started honoring Ramadan by holding fast-breaking feasts, celebrating the holiday one evening that year, four evenings in 2007 and then every evening of the month in 2008, 2009 and 2010. However, Shariq Club’s practice doesn’t adhere to Tatar religious norms—it’s not the all-female avuz achuy members perform. Men are present during the entire ritual and celebration, and from the photographs posted on their website, it’s apparent that few of the women participants dressed in Muslim modest dress.15

36A loss of hope in their ability to create sustained political change or to live in freedom has caused many former nation-builders and other Tatars to increasingly turn to religion as a source of inspiration and refuge, to burrow deeper into Islamic teachings as a way to protect themselves from the outside world. When I returned to Kazan in 2006, I discovered that several middle-aged women I knew, raised under Soviet atheist rule, had become significantly more religious. They had begun attending Friday prayers at Kol Shärif Mosque and wearing Islamic attire. It was a surprise to visit these women at work and find them dressed in clothing radically different from what they had previously worn, especially since their new wardrobes made manifest their conservative religious beliefs and allegiance to a narrow segment of Tatarstan society.

37One woman, Bibijan, worked in a government ministry. I went to her office to learn what new developments had occurred over the previous five years and found her wearing full hijab, with only her face and hands visible. We spoke for a while of official government matters. Bibijan seemed to lack her prior enthusiasm for her job and appeared uninterested in the state of affairs under her purview. I requested permission to ask a personal question. She acquiesced and I said, “In the time I knew you before, you didn’t wear a scarf and now you do. Can you tell me about that?”

38Immediately, Bibijan’s face brightened and the light of her faith started to stream forth like a self-sustaining force. She wouldn’t let me record the conversation and it was difficult to take notes or remember her words, caught up as I was in the momentous power of her religious charisma. The few notes I jotted down outline the following story. There was a terrible fire in Bibijan’s apartment. Everything was burnt, down to the floorboard joists and the bricks in the walls. The only thing that survived was her Quran. It took three months to clean up the damage and as she cleaned, Bibijan’s head was full of questions, the foremost being why the Quran survived the fire. With these questions on her mind, she would open her Quran to a page at random and find the answers on the very page she had opened to. During this period, she said, she absorbed the Quran’s lessons, which she listed as follows:

It is important to live in the proper manner.
People must be treated with respect.
It is wrong to lose your temper.
All the prophets are necessary.
We are all Muslims.

39In 2004, Bibijan had the opportunity to make the hadj. She didn’t feel she was ready, but her niece Gulnaz urged her and then a sponsor for her trip appeared out of nowhere. Bibijan knew it was time to make the sacred journey. She put on the headscarf for the hadj and never took it off again, she explained, for two reasons. First, Allah says she should wear it, and second, it is a means of maintaining her health by protecting her internal energy from the outside world. As a bureaucrat employed by the Tatarstan government, Bibijan’s awakening of faith exemplifies how former nation-builders have shifted their attention from the political to the religious.

40Bibijan’s revelation—the questions she had about why the world is unfair and her search for answers—is not an experience confined to her alone. Rather, the helplessness she felt sitting in her charred home is a small-scale depiction of the despair many Tatars feel as they reflect upon their place in the world. Without the ability to implement lasting political change, even in their daily interactions with Russians, many are withdrawing inward into a discursive world spiritually and ideologically configured in ways that bring comfort and provide meaning.

A New Spirit

41Whether or not the cause is Kazan’s Millennium, as the young journalist cited in the epigraph introducing Chapter 5 claims, or a coincidental series of processes, by 2006, Kazan was no longer the provincial city it had become under Soviet rule. The city’s new spirit of cosmopolitanism revealed itself in many things. Cell phones had become ubiquitous. Old customs for arranging to meet people were discarded as the night-before verification phone call was replaced with, “Call me on my mobile when you want to meet.” There was also a greater diversity in how people looked. Although some young men still walked around with right arms bandaged as a result of fistfight injuries, not all of them wore their hair uniformly short. Hipster fashion had caught on, especially among university students. Previously, tattoos had been homemade and indicated that a person had served prison time. After the Millennium, professionally needled upper-arm barbed wire bands and long shoulder tats adorned twenty-something males, while symmetrical ink designs spanned the lower backs of some young women. Piercings had also become fashionable, particularly pierced navels. One of the girls from a Lab School Tatar class, at the time in her early 20s, showed up to our reunion with a pierced eyebrow. A few young women even noticeably began to dress according to an MTV-fashion, feminist-influenced model that does not conform to the reigning ex-Soviet standard that unrelentingly privileges ultra-femininity over comfort.

  • 16 See Leap (1993) for a thorough analysis of the features and variations within American Indian Engl (...)

42In addition to diversification in how Kazanians dress, a new speech genre had appeared. This is the marked Russian spoken by Tatars in their teens and twenties. Not the accent of native Tatar-speakers who had to learn the Russian language as adults in order to fit into Kazan society, these Tatars are perfectly fluent in the dominant language. Their spoken Russian lacks the pronounced nasality of standard Russian and is marked by a somewhat slow tempo and Tatar phonological influence. Consonants are softer—[ch] is pronounced as [sh] and the [a] in Russian “da” is pronounced as a front vowel. Their Russian speech recalls the way that many American Indians inflect their English, even if it is the only language they speak.16

  • 17 Humphrey (2002).

43Beyond this, a visible spread of wealth meant that more and more cars crowded Kazan’s streets. As before, there were too few traffic lights and crosswalks at busy intersections. Previously, drivers would hold their courses, even if pedestrians walked directly in their paths. By 2006, they were more likely to slow down or stop, treating other Kazanians more like their fellows. People on foot in Kazan have always exhibited this kind of patience, so this change in behavior may simply indicate that more pedestrians had the money to drive cars, when previously only the small segment of “New Russians,” known for their over-the-top vulgarity, could afford automobiles built for speed.17 This change in drivers’ behavior seemed to mark a growth in Kazan’s middle class. Increased wealth also meant that goods sold in markets, which used to be grown locally or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, were often the product of distant trade. For instance, I went to central food bazaar to buy fruit in June 2006 and the apples I purchased from a Tatar merchant turned out to be Braeburns imported from New Zealand.

  • 18 Sabantuy celebrations occur throughout the month of June. First, villages host festivities, then T (...)
  • 19 Indeed, a Ukrainian pupil in the Lab School’s Russian class (who supported the war in Chechnya) cl (...)

44The Tatarstan government has poured millions of rubles into making Tatar culture attractive. Most visible are the expensive alterations to Kazan’s facade in preparation for the 2005 Millennium celebrations, described in Chapter 5. Along with these building projects, in proper Soviet style, the Tatarstan government sponsors colorful holidays as a tactic to win over public opinion. The most popular of these is Sabantuy. Originally a pre-Islamic spring celebration, much like the Central Asian holiday Nauryz that occurs in March, Sabantuy is now observed in June.18 Sabantuy marks the completion of the summer planting with festivities that demonstrate contestants’ strength, endurance, and dexterity. The festivities traditionally include public displays of physical prowess—greased pole-climbing contests, races with contestants balancing raw eggs on wooden spoons held in their mouths, tugs of war, three-legged races, and Tatar wrestling matches in which the winner or batir is rewarded with a live sheep, which he ceremoniously drapes over his shoulders. Once a regional celebration, in the 19th century Sabantuy developed into an all-Tatar festivity. By the late 20th century, Sabantuy had become a holiday enjoyed by all.19

  • 20 See Petrone (2000) for a full account of Soviet national celebrations during the Stalinist period (...)

45Formerly, each of Kazan’s districts sponsored its own local celebration. In 2006, the city government instituted a large-scale Sabantuy at the Yanga Ippodrom, to which I was invited as a part of a delegation of honored guests. (Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin attended as well, though he sat a story above my group in the invitation-only pavilion, literally at a higher level in the honor hierarchy.) It was a gargantuan affair, free to the general public and lasting from 10 in the morning till six in the evening. The main arena was an enormous sound stage covered in astro-turf with a backdrop of cartoon Tatar village houses. At all times, two or three acts were performing simultaneously in the center of the arena, while horse races took place in a distant right hand corner. In the first hour of the exposition, dancing troupes costumed as trees, chickens, break-dancers, acrobats, samovars, monkeys in Tatar national dress, lady bugs, children’s toys, angels, and butterflies came out on the field one after the other in quick succession. At the same time, there were rushes of bicyclists and motorcyclists, a chariot race, a costumed tug-of-war, and, off to one side, men climbing a greased pole. Professional dancers in costumes representing Tatarstan’s different nationalities—costumes the Soviet government determined for each nationality during the 1920s state-building period—performed traditional dances with great verve.20 The scene was overwhelming in its profusion of color and activity, particularly since the temperature was 100 degrees Fahrenheit. After an hour of watching these exuberant performances, some of my fellow guests decided to explore the fairgrounds and we left our glassed-in pavilion for the outdoor heat.

46Once outside, we discovered a sun-saturated world filled with thousands of people milling about exploring a World’s Fair-like exposition. The fairgrounds had been divided into sections, each representing a specific region of Tatarstan, save the generic “Russkaia derevnia” or Russian Village. Each regional section held a stage with musicians performing local songs, people milling about in local costumes and food stands with goods for sale. One section held a pen with farm animals waiting to be petted and another hosted a miniature pond populated with live fish. The exposition provided an opportunity for each region to competitively display the fruits of its labors in a manner that recalled Soviet-period public exhibitions. One of my companions explained that what we were seeing resembled Sabantuy in large villages, where each kolkhoz or collective farm has a stand to show off and sell goods. A few hours later, sated after wandering around under the hot sun, lunching on lamb kebab with ketchup, drinking beer and eating ice cream, we called our driver from a cell phone and left the celebration. The streets of the city were empty of all but a few pedestrians. Everyone was at Sabantuy.

47Another government-endorsed event, albeit narrower in scope, occurring at the same time as Sabantuy was the Second All-World Tatar Youth Forum. The Forum included a number of journalists and 584 delegates from Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Örenberg, Penza, Moldova, Crimea, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, China, Spain, and the US. The delegates were responsible for paying their travel to Kazan, but the Forum’s official sponsor, the Tatar World Congress, which received financial support from two Tatar bankers and the Tatarstan government, provided housing in dormitories and hotels and all meals during the four-day event. The Tatar World Congress also covered the costs of the delegates’ local transportation to Forum events including a trip to Kyrlai, the native village of the most celebrated Tatar poet, Gabdullah Tukay, several hours from Kazan in the Archa Region. Altogether we filled 10–12 large tour buses. In addition to visiting Kyrlai, participants attended a presentation of a new series of books the History Institute was publishing on Tatar history; listened to a special Sabantuy concert; participated in a conference on contemporary problems in Tatar culture; had an excursion around the Kremlin; attended Friday prayers at Kol Shärif Mosque; went to Kazan’s Sabantuy celebrations; and staged a Gala Concert in which a few dozen Forum delegates performed. The Forum’s acknowledged purposes were to instill in far-flung Tatars pride and knowledge of their native culture and to introduce young Tatars to each other so that they might marry and produce Tatar children. The Forum also had political implications, as presenters like Fäüzia Bäyrämova pronounced, “We have built the foundation of a Tatar government, but it rests with you to put on the roof. Struggle for an independent Tatar government!”

48The delegates were a diverse group of people. Except for the two Spaniards, who tried to communicate in English with little success, everyone spoke Russian and many spoke Tatar. Most were university students, although some were still in high school. Though not all spoke Tatar, they were all cultural activists and members of Tatar groups, which is how the Tatar World Congress identified them as likely participants. As a group, they were good-natured, curious, and well mannered.

49In fact, the only quietly visible point of tension among the delegates was the division between the dozen or so conservative Muslims and everyone else. This first became evident at the Sabantuy celebration organized for participants in Kushlauvich Village, close to Tukay’s native village Kyrlai. There we ate a dinner of tasty plov cooked outdoors over a fire in large metal kazans, accompanied by apples, dried apricots, cookies and copious cups of hot tea. Then, a concert was staged on the village green. A young Tatar pop star performed and people danced on the grass. in front of her. On one side of the green there was a hill on top of which eight or ten female delegates wearing headscarves—one of whom was in blue jeans and a shirt that exposed her midriff—stood and watched from a distance while everyone else moved about with great abandon. This tension became more palpable on the last day of the Forum, during the Gala Concert. Several female delegates performed belly dances and one young woman from Crimea slinked suggestively as she sang a siren song. During these performances the women wearing headscarves and a few of the men averted their gazes from the stage, tangibly withdrawing from the group. One couple got up and walked out of the auditorium in the middle of a performance. The withdrawal from the group’s activities by the conservative Muslims is incongruous with habitual Tatar social behavior, revealing a conflict between disparate norms for being a proper Muslim and an ideal Tatar.

50Since 2000, young Tatars have begun creating Tatar-language protest music. The music is by necessity underground, since the Tatarstan government has banned from the FM radio stations songs that do not fit the happy-go-lucky formula of idealized village life. Even so, when I attended a Tatar disco at Tugan Avylym in 2006, everyone knew the lyrics of Ilsiye Bädrätin’s song Bez (which describes another “we”) and sang along at the top of their lungs—monglessly—when the dj played it.

  • 21 Thanks to Vagiz Sultanbikov for help translating Bez.

Figure 8.3. Lyrics to First Verse of Bez (We)21

  • 22 Üzebez states that goals of the mini-action contest are as follows: broadening the spheres in whic (...)

51Despite the loss of financial support from arrested Russian business tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Üzebez, the loose confederation of young urban Tatar-speakers that calls itself the “movement of the new generation,” founded in 2005, continued to hold its annual “Min tatarcha söiläshäm (I speak Tatar!)” actions to coincide with the birthday of Tatar poet Gabdullah Tukay. Held on Bauman Street on April 26 from 2006–2010, the actions include concerts and Tatar karaoke, and in 2010, active participation by the Tatar World Congress, the Tatar Youth Forum, and the Tatarstan Ministry of Culture. Üzebez has popularized the action by staging contests in 2008 and 2009 in which participants organized their own mini-actions—the winner received an award and prizes during the big April 26 event.22 As a result, mini-actions have been staged in two of Kazan’s largest department stores—Kolt’so and MEGA (the latter owned and operated by IKEA). MEGA suggested that the merchants renting retail space in the complex try speaking Tatar at work too. As a result, in several stores’ glass front windows, alongside the stickers indicating which credit cards are accepted, some retailers also display Üzebez’s “Min tatarcha söiläshäm” sticker—a means of attracting Tatar-speaking customers. Another mini-action involved schoolchildren from a village outside Kazan, who greeted incoming passengers on an international flight to Kazan’s airport with Tatar songs and dance. In the neighboring republic of Mari-El, Tatars staged a “Min tatarcha söiläshäm” action and subsequently Mari-speakers organized their own “I Speak Mari” action. In the absence of private backing, Üzebez has begun to receive support from the Tatar World Congress and the Tatarstan Ministry of Education and Science. As a result, Azerbaijani participants in Kazan’s Third Tatar World Congress Forum for Youth staged a “Min tatarcha söiläshäm” action in Baku at the Tatarstan Government Representative in September 2008 during Ramadan, which included dispersal of “I Speak Tatar” badges and dictionaries of My First 150 Words of Tatar, and Tatar cuisine served as part of the fast-breaking feast.

52That same month, September 2008, Üzebez hosted an iftar feast at Shariq Club, which they described on their blog as follows:

The movement’s participants have undertaken the gargantuan task of creating an urban Tatar youth subculture that answers the needs and spiritual requirements of our young people....Of course the road is long, thorny, difficult, but also crucially necessary. All those gathered were in agreement with this thesis. This monolithic agreement allows us to regard our future with hope. For the question of consolidation and uniting in the Tatar community is no less crucial. Another task the movement’s coordinators set themselves is seeking out and generating a new cohort of Tatar leaders who by their conception should develop into the Tatar nation’s new élite. We underline that we mean a genuine élite in the authentic and not in the bourgeois sense of the word. This elite needs to “lead” Tatars into contemporary society without losing its own ethnic face. Tatars must endure the cruel grasp of globalization and processes that annihilate ethnic particularities and emerge victorious.23

53The reference to globalization recalls Safin’s treatise in Tatar yuly.

54Üzebez has grown tremendously since being established by just three people in August 2005. They regularly host roundtables on problems in the Tatar-language press, organize concerts of alternative Tatar music artists, including Ilsiye Bädrätin and the rap group Ittifaq named after Fäüzia Bäyrämova’s political party, and stage parties focused on tasting and learning how to make popular Tatar delicacies. In 2008, they began to solicit the Russian government to give Tatar the status of Russia’s second government language. They are pleased with the noise this initiative has made in the media and the Russian Duma. Using new technologies such as the Internet (blogging, YouTube videos, and Facebook postings) and consumerism (patronizing stores where clerks will speak Tatar with them and working on creating a “Tatar brand” to attract tourists to Tatar culture) this new generation has taken significant steps to unite various Tatar groups and encourage other ethnic minorities, such as the Mari, to stand up for the right to speak their native languages in public spaces. An offspring of Shariq Club, and with some shared membership, Üzebez’s leaders embrace egalitarianism and niche marketing in ways that sets them apart from the mass political movement of their village-born elders. They embody Kazan’s new spirit.

Parting Words

  • 24 Sekretutka is a combination of the Russian words for “secretary” and “prostitute.”

55The USSR’s collapse exposed Russia’s demographic crisis. It suddenly became evident that the country’s “European” population was shrinking fast—the result of severe alcoholism, deaths from heart failure, high rates of abortion and miscarriage, and, eventually, emigration. Rates of HIV/AIDS exploded on former Soviet territory, as women and girls often found the only way to survive is through prostitution: whether as mistresses, streetwalkers, sekretutkas or trafficked slaves.24 Yeltsin’s slovenly drunken rule helped to further destabilize the country. His key blunders include his botched economic reforms known as “shock therapy,” which impoverished the masses and allowed Communist Party apparatchiks to personally benefit from the privatization of Russia’s most lucrative industries; shelling the Russian White House in 1993 to push his constitution through parliament; his failed war in Chechnya (1994–1996); the continual devaluing of the ruble, especially in the August 1998 economic crisis, which caused many ex-Soviet citizens to lose their faith in a better future along with their carefully accumulated savings; back wages unpaid for months and even years to teachers, factory workers, and other employees fundamental to Russia’s everyday operation; and the penury of begging pensioners who couldn’t even afford bread. All this chaos created fertile ground for the establishment of Vladimir Putin’s order-seeking government in 2000.

56Since Putin began the second Chechen War in 1999 a menacing pall of anxiety has hung over Russian people of all nationalities, whether or not they acknowledge it. The type of shadow it casts, though always one of fear, varies depending upon how individuals situate themselves within the structures they traverse and which alliances they choose to make. For instance, for mothers, fathers and schoolteachers, it can take the form of repressed grief that the boys they raise will become soldiers and may die in the army if they can’t pass their university entrance exams. For some, it manifests itself as an ever-present fear of terrorism and kidnappings committed by Chechens and other “Caucasian types.” For others, it is the chronic anxiety of persecution, as unidentified government forces give them “warnings” to desist from certain activities or the police engage in racial profiling. For others still, the anxiety takes the form of generalized xenophobia that pervades their daily existence.

57As a result of Putin’s pressure and the concessions he demanded from Russia’s regions, Tatarstan sovereignty no longer exists as a political movement. The majority of Tatar-speakers have lost hope in the possibility of changing their society into one more equitable than that which existed during the Soviet period. Because they feel they lost so much then and regained relatively little since the USSR began to crumble in 1989, they often suffer more from the anxiety and despair affecting Russia’s population as a whole. These feelings have manifested themselves in two different trends—an exponential increase in religiosity (which is indeed pervasive across former Soviet territory) and the targeted activism of a new generation of 20-something Internet-savvy Tatar-speakers proud of their language and culture. What these two trends mean for Russia’s future development as a multi-national state is unclear, though it is unlikely that a peaceful transition towards inclusive pluralism will occur in the foreseeable future. Even so, the deep social effects of Tatarstan’s political movement for sovereignty prevail, at least for the time being.


1 Under Soviet rule such a demonstration would have been shut down in a matter of minutes. See Alexeeva (1990).

2 Mari are Finnic-speaking animists and Chuvash are Orthodox Christian Turkic-speakers, both indigenous to the Middle Volga Region.

3 Vaisov and Imamov (1993); Gaffar (1991), for example.

4 There is some speculation that Putin’s own FSB planted the bombs (Feifer 2009).

5 Even so, Kazan Tatars were always quick to point out, Russian-identified people in Tatarstan are more moderate in their attitudes towards other nationalities than Russians elsewhere.

6 Before US anthropologists could freely conduct research in Russia, Paul Friedrich (1979) analyzed Russian fiction to study how pronoun use reveals relative social distance between characters and relations of power and solidarity (Brown and Gilman 1960).

7 Specter (2007).

8 Stolyarova (2007).

9 Iskhakova (1999).

10 The BBC lost its broadcast permit for Russia in 2008. “‘Wall Street Journal’Letter Highlights Russia’s Crackdown on International Media.” RFE/RL In The News. February 1, 2008

11 Thanks to Liliya Karimova for this information.

12 While some Soviet Muslims practiced Islam to a lesser or greater extent, they did so clandestinely.

13 See Poliakov (1992).

14 See Wertheim (2003, 2006) on saf tatar tele and other purist Tatar language ideologies. Shariq Klub’s meetings occur weekly when it is not under pressure from the authorities not to hold meetings.

15 See for images from Shariq Klub’s 2009 iftar gatherings.

16 See Leap (1993) for a thorough analysis of the features and variations within American Indian English.

17 Humphrey (2002).

18 Sabantuy celebrations occur throughout the month of June. First, villages host festivities, then Tatarstan’s towns, followed by its cities, and finally, the capital Kazan celebrates the holiday.

19 Indeed, a Ukrainian pupil in the Lab School’s Russian class (who supported the war in Chechnya) claimed she loved going to celebrate Sabantuy with a Tatar friend in the friend’s home village.

20 See Petrone (2000) for a full account of Soviet national celebrations during the Stalinist period and the creation of national costumes for these displays.

21 Thanks to Vagiz Sultanbikov for help translating Bez.

22 Üzebez states that goals of the mini-action contest are as follows: broadening the spheres in which Tatar is spoken, raising the language’s status and attracting young people to the values of Tatar culture (

23 Again, see

24 Sekretutka is a combination of the Russian words for “secretary” and “prostitute.”

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 8.1. Söyembike Surrounded by her Warriors
Fichier image/jpeg, 77k
Légende Figure 8.2. The Marchers Prepare
Fichier image/jpeg, 81k
Légende Figure 8.3. Lyrics to First Verse of Bez (We)21
Fichier image/jpeg, 118k

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