Нәүрүз-2011: Five Days, Thirty-Three Plays, Fifteen Languages

Logo of the Nauruz FestivalKazan’s stages again welcome the biennial Nauruz International Theater Festival of Turkic Peoples, which opens tomorrow, Monday, May 30 and runs through Friday, June 3. In just four days, theater troupes from across the Turkic world will perform 33 plays in 15 different languages, from Gagauz (Moldova) to Tuvan (Russia), from Khakass (Russia) to Turkmen. Continue reading

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Defining nation

Last fall, in a small park near our apartment, I noticed Bulgarist graffiti on a Soviet mural of Lenin. The proclamation that “We are Bulgars, and not Tatars!” has a long history behind it of the changing shape of Tatar historiography. I still run into proclamations of this sort from time to time, and the Neo-Bulgarist symbol, the rune in the middle of this mural, can be occasionally be seen spray-painted on various buildings in downtown Kazan. I haven’t yet explored this fairly fringe phenomenon within Tatar identity. Even beyond neo-Bulgarist circles, the Bulgar origin is of growing importance, as we can see in the Bulgar reimagination of Islam in Shygyrdan, Chuvashia, and most visibly in former president Mintimer Shaimiev’s Renaissance Fund and its “restoration” of the ruins of Bulgar.
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The Old Library

Basement of the closed stacks. Old building of the Lobachevsky Library at Kazan University

The volumes at right are regional newspapers from the 1850s to the early 1900s.


Following up on some leads on early Tatar theater (drawn from the bibliographies of the works below, which I discovered through Madina Goldberg’s recent dissertation on the topic at Michigan), I was directed to the closed stacks to consult a bound volume of newspapers. Usually, patrons fill out request slips, and the necessary materials are brought to a reading room for consultation. In this case, I was introduced to a very nice little man who proceeded to guide me through the closed stacks of the old building of the Lobachevka Library at Kazan University. When I go back there soon, I’ll see about taking more photos — it’s like stepping back in time about 100 years or so.

For now, I have two shots of the corridor in the basement below the library where my newspaper was being kept, at right here. I’m sure that the whole arrangement here would cause an American archivist or preservations specialist nightmares, but I felt incredibly privileged to be admitted to this enchanting space. My escort left me alone with the newspapers while I stood in the corridor and looked for the right issues and took my notes, reinforcing the basic decency and trust that I’ve met at every turn in my archival and library work.

Basement of the closed stacks. Old building of the Lobachevsky Library at Kazan University

Some shelving solutions look worrisome. I very much hope that no misfortune befalls this building.


But I found what I was looking for — more details on how the first professional Tatar theater troupe was received by Nizhny Novgorod society when they came to perform at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair for the first time in July-August 1907.

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Alphabet reform

Detail of library holdings stamp showing old orthographyIn one of the copies of Nikolai Ashmarin‘s An Attempt at the Study of Chuvash Syntax, Part 1 [Опыт исследования чувашского синтаксиса ч.1] (1903), a the Lobachevsky Library at Kazan Federal University, I encountered the holdings stamp shown here. It reads, “R.S.F.S.R Kazan University Library”. The surprising part is that Kazan University and Library are written with the 10-value [и-десятеричное] letter for /i/, “i”, which was replaced in all cases by the current 8-value [и-восьмеричное] letter, “и” with the orthographic reforms declared by Lunacharsky on January 5, 1918 [December 22, 1917, O.S.].  Thus, a stamp like this shouldn’t have been made long after the decree. But the stamp also includes the name Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (R.S.F.S.R.). The post-revolutionary name of Soviet Russia was not conclusively settled until the first Soviet Constitution was passed on July 19, 1918. In particular, the federative portion really shouldn’t have been there until the middle of 1918.

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Shurale Online

We took our son to the Tinchurin Theater on January 4, to see a perfomance of the company’s children’s production for New Year’s — Shurale Online (Шүрәлә Online). Many theaters in Russia have daily children’s performances from the end of December to after Orthodox Christmas and the end of the school holiday, around January 11. Continue reading

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Конференция : Этногенез удмуртского народа. Этнос. Язык. Культура. Религия.

Программа конференции, записи и фотографии отдельных докладов пленарного заседания 25 ноября 2010 г., записи и фотографии докладов секции “Религия. Культура.”, 26 ноября 2010 г.

Conference program. Recordings and photos of selected presentations from the plenary session on 25 November 2010. Recordings and photos of presentations in the section “Religion. Culture” on 26 November 2010.

After I finish collecting and tagging the audio and photos from this conference, I’ll add my thoughts on several of the presentations, interspersing them with the section listing below. Several of the presentations raise serious questions about nationality and religion in Udmurtia and the broader region, so engagement with any of the materials in comments would be wonderful.

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Grinnell in Russia

This was originally posted on an unofficial, closed site run by the Grinnell community in November 2010, and I’ve migrated it here to make it more accessible and hopefully more useful.
In Катанов, Николай Федорович, and Л А Берг, eds. Иператорского казанского университета почетный член, профессор и библиотекарь Иосиф Феодорович Готвальд / род. 13 окт. 1813 г., умер 7 авг. 1897 г. Казань: Типо-литографія Императорскаго университета, 1900. :
108. Рукопись И.Ф. Готвальда: “Русский перевод отношения Союза академических воспитанниц из Гриннеля от 8 декабря 1890 года к ректору казанск. Университета по поводу прав, даваемых женщинам университетом 3 стр. 2*. Цена 15 коп. (ст. 235)

Wha-what? I’ll be taking a look at that soon. Not really part of my Boren research, but not what I was expecting to run into. Continue reading

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