Nation, Language, Islam

Nation, Language, Islam: Tatarstan's Sovereignty Movement

Helen M. Faller
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 348
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctt1282hg
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  • Book Info
    Nation, Language, Islam
    Book Description:

    A detailed academic treatise of the history of nationality in Tatarstan. The book demonstrates how state collapse and national revival influenced the divergence of worldviews among ex-Soviet people in Tatarstan, where a political movement for sovereignty (1986-2000) had significant social effects, most saliently, by increasing the domains where people speak the Tatar language and circulating ideas associated with Tatar culture. Also addresses the question of how Russian Muslims experience quotidian life in the post-Soviet period.

    eISBN: 978-963-9776-90-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

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

  7. Chapter 1 HOW TATAR NATION-BUILDERS CAME TO BE
    (pp. 29-74)

    In 1930 at the Sixteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR, General Secretary Joseph Stalin pronounced into existence the policy of sliyanie—which he called a necessary and natural coalescence of the people of the Soviet Union into a single culture. Sliyanie gave the authorities license to exert growing, often covert, pressures towards the linguistic and ethnic russification of non-Russians, which only subsided somewhat after Gorbachev implemented his failed policy of perestroika in 1986.¹

    In 1938—the year of the Great Purge—russification pressures increased. The Soviet government declared Russian the language for use in communications between the...

  8. Chapter 2 WHAT TATARSTAN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (1990–1993) REVEAL ABOUT THE UNMAKING OF SOVIET PEOPLE
    (pp. 75-108)

    These lines, from a letter to the editor written by a Tatar living in Moscow and published in Tatarstan’s Tatar-language former Communist Party newspaper, reveal a passion for Tatarstan sovereignty during its heyday in the early 1990s that the newspapers’ editors and Tatarstan government officials wished to have circulated among readers. Prior to glasnost and perestroika the Tatar-and Russian-language press in Tatarstan was effectively one. Indeed, Tatar-language articles were often translations of pieces published in the Russian-language press. However, by 1990—the year Tatarstan declared sovereignty—Tatar-language letters to the editor evoked an imagined political order based upon a particularly...

  9. Chapter 3 CREATING SOVIET PEOPLE: THE MEANINGS OF ALPHABETS
    (pp. 109-142)

    Neither of the participants in this exchange spoke Russian as a native language. Yet, they both took for granted that formally introducing the band’s leader required following the Russian convention of addressing a person by first name and a patronymic constructed according to Russian morphology. Rather than question the appropriateness of using a Russian convention, the speakers focused on the pronunciation of a particular letter and treated that as the imposition of Russian cultural dominance.

    This chapter begins to address the question of why people in the former Soviet Union think that language equals culture. It describes how Soviet nationalities...

  10. Chapter 4 CULTURAL DIFFERENCE AND POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES
    (pp. 143-176)

    Äminä xanym is a working-class käräshen (Christian) Tatar pensioner married to a Muslim. She gave up speaking Tatar in early adulthood in part because her son used to chide her for “saying curse words”—a Russian speech genre taboo for women. Her statement above reflects attitudes common among Tatarstan people and inhabitants of provincial Russia. She misses the Soviet days when there was stability and enough to eat. She is angry at Americans for ruining her life and she hates the shitbag democrats [srannye demokraty] in the Russian government for their inability to provide for the people.

    Äminä xanym’s statement...

  11. Chapter 5 REPOSSESSING KAZAN
    (pp. 177-216)

    Recalling Yakovlev’s proposal in 1928 to allocate greater administrative resources to economically and culturally dominant Soviet nationalities, it is understandable how controlling a city provides a nationality symbolic dominance over a broader territory. Not by accident then, beginning in 1986, Tatar nation-builders—most of whom migrated from Tatar-dominant villages in the 1960s and 1970s—attempted to repossess Kazan in a number of ways. Their measures included instituting bilingual education; increasing the number and breadth of periodicals published in Tatar; implementing a slight increase in the number of hours of television programming in Tatar and drawing up plans for an all-Tatar...

  12. Chapter 6 KAZAN IN BLACK AND WHITE
    (pp. 217-256)

    Älfiye 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...

  13. Chapter 7 MONG AND THE NATIONAL REPRODUCTION OF COLLECTIVE SORROW
    (pp. 257-282)

    The myth about the duck pulling the earth out of the sea may be understood as a metaphor for how a significant number of Tatar-speakers see their position as inhabitants of the Russian Federation. Many Tatars say they feel surrounded by an undifferentiated sea of Russians—who speak a language Tatars don’t feel comfortable speaking; operate according to social rules incomprehensible and often offensive to them; and are emotionally constructed in ways that simply do not make sense.

    What does make sense, by contrast, to Tatar-speakers is something they call mong. Mong is a generalized feeling of grief-sorrow, a type...

  14. Chapter 8 WORDS APART
    (pp. 283-308)

    Listed 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,...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-328)
  16. Index
    (pp. 329-333)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 334-334)