Posted by: sargodale | April 18, 2010

All finished and the European Studies Conference

Well it’s finally done.  It’s hard to imagine that after over a year of work and research, I have a reached the end.  It’s a nice feeling, but also a tiny bit sad.  I also find it hilarious that right after I submitted my final copy that this article popped up in my Google Reader:

Shaimiyev had a huge impact on memory construction in Tatarstan, and I touch on this a bit in my thesis.  However, given his recent retirement, I think it would be interesting to expand on his role a little bit more.  Maybe I’ll save that for my next research project.

After turning in my thesis, I was lucky enough to be one of seven student participants in the annual European Studies Conference.  It was a great experience to share my work with my peers and also hear their completed research.  I realized that I had been so focused on my own thesis, that I hadn’t really spent the time listening to other’s progress.  It was a great experience, and I thank all the organizers for a great weekend.

Stay tuned to hear about how my defense turns out (April 29th at 9:30 AM!)

Posted by: sargodale | April 14, 2010

Quickly approaching the end….

With just three days left until the thesis is officially due, I’m busy making final edits.  It seems weird that soon I’ll be done with something that has been a major part of my life this past year.  At times its hard for me to comprehend all that I have done, but I know I’ll be relieved when it’s all finally over.  It’s certainly been an experience.

Stay tuned for information about my Defense date!

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Posted by: sargodale | February 9, 2010


Really working through the thesis now.  I’m very pleased at how my topic has evolved.  I’m even thinking about adding a different section about Tatar language policy.  I think it really reflects the national memory that the Tatars have constructed for themselves in a post-Soviet setting.

I signed up to present my research at an Honors Colloquium on the 25th.  I’m excited and a little nervous, but I know this will be great practice for my defense.

Keep checking back for updates! I’m really liking what gets put down on paper.

Posted by: sargodale | January 20, 2010

Start of the new semester

Well my last undergraduate semester has started.  I’m using my relaxed senior schedule to spend a lot of extra time on my thesis. My goal is to write five pages a week, maybe even two pages a day. Currently I’m working on the Bolghar capital section. It’s really interesting to read about the differing interpretations of Bolghar history. The Russians tend to publicize this idea that the Bolghar Khanate is not in any related to the Kazan Khanate (and therefore by extension the Tatarstan Republic). Meanwhile, the Tatars are quick to claim that a direct connection does in fact exist between the two states. While I think that both are tenuous arguments, they both speak a lot to how each side views the Tatar national identity. Exited to continue working on this portion of my thesis.

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Posted by: sargodale | December 19, 2009

Hello….long time

Well it’s been a very long time since I’ve updated this long.  Senior year has taken its toll on me much more than I could have ever suspected.  But the semester is over, and I have no excuses now to just buckle down and finish this thesis!

Since the summer, I’ve developed an outline of where I expect my project to go. Right now I have my introduction completed, and am just fixing up a few weaker sections.  The intro mostly deals with the theoretical aspect of memory studies, and how that will relate to my research.  Since I’m planning on focusing on physical sites as indicators of Tatar memory, I primarily discuss literature which does the same thing.

Now that I’m almost done with my intro, the most difficult and theoretical part of my work, I can focus on the sites of memory:

The Kul-Sharif mosque

The ancient Bulgar capital

Ğabdulla Tuqay

Posted by: sargodale | August 9, 2009

Back from Kazan

I recently returned from my summer trip to Kazan. Over the next few days I’ll be trying to collect my impressions of my trip to the city. It was a great opportunity for me to experience another culture beside Russian up close. I really do believe that living in Kazan will provide new insights for my research into the history of Volga Tatar colonization over the past several centuries. The last few days I was in the city, were mainly filled with very long walks to different areas. I was able to collect a large number of photographs of monuments to various important Kazan citizens. I plan on analyzing these pictures to see who gets remembered, for what they are remembered, and how that relates to the modern Tatar identity.

The articles and book sources that I have collected over the past two months should be useful guides during my coming months of research. I even have some sources in Russian that I intend to use information from! The next few days will be filled with organizing various sources. I still need to find more information on Siberia, if I seriously intend on using it as a comparative study with the Russian colonization of Kazan. I’m very pleased with what I have accomplished over the past two months, and know that this preliminary research will be extremely helpful for my year long study of Russian colonization.


Posted by: sargodale | July 30, 2009


This past weekend, we took a trip down the Volga to the old capital of the Volga Bulgaria, Bolgar. The city is extremely old, some of the buildings were actually constructed in the 8th century. Volga Bulgaria was a powerful entity in the Volga region, until the Mongols arrived and created the Kazan Khanate. From that point until Ivan the Terrible’s capture of Kazan, Bolgar (or Bulgar) remained an important religious site. Today, you can still some of the mosques and tombs that were used for religous services hundreds of years ago, except now these buildings are located right next to Orthodox Churches. The skyline of this city alone can tell an interesting story of how Kazan and the surrounding areas have changed under the influence of Russian rule. I’m hoping that later I can post some of the pictures I took during our trip to Bulgar. For now, here is just a general screenshot of the area:


The large spire in background is part of the original mosque, which most likely was constructed in the 800s. Right behind the spire, is a traditional Orthodox Church, which would have been built sometime after Ivan the Terrible captured Kazan as part of the Russian Empire. It’s interesting to see these two building side by side, considering how they both represent a dramatic shift in Tatar national identity over several centuries. More of my pictures from Bulgar also demonstrate an interesting narrative on the evolving Tatar identity.

Unfortunately, my time in Kazan is quickly winding down and soon I’ll be returning to the States. It’s been indescriable living in this city for the past two months, and my time here has been extremely helpful for my thesis research. I already have a lot of background information gathered, and am looking forward to returning to campus and actually getting my thesis started. This summer of prelimenary research has been a great help for the work that I will be conducting over the course of the academic school year!


Posted by: sargodale | July 20, 2009

Ğabdulla Tuqay

This past Saturday I visited a real Tatar village about an hour outside of Kazan. It’s the place where one of the most, if not the most, famous Tatar poet was born. His name is Ğabdulla Tuqay (1886-1913), but he is often referred to as the Tatar Pushkin, because of his transformation of the Tatar language.


It was very obvious that the Tatar guides who showed us around his family home and his museum, were very proud of Tuqay and his accomplishments. He has an interesting biography, which I hope to explore further on in my research. I also plan on visiting his museum in Kazan, which apparently has Tuqay’s death mask on display.

Being in Kazan and witness firsthand the dynamic between Tatar and Russian culture is an enlightening experience. It’s apparent that the Tatars have assimilated into Russian culture, but there still remains a desire to preserve the Tatar culture. Going to places like Tuqay’s birthplace only reinforces the idea that while Tatarstan is part of the Russian Federation, it also exists separately from the Russian identity and national narrative. I’m looking forward to further exploring this relationship between the Tatars and the Russians in my future research. This weekend I’ll be traveling to the old capital of the Volga Tatars, so stay tuned!


Posted by: sargodale | July 14, 2009

Other areas of focus…

Being in Kazan has only affirmed my desire to devote a portion of my research to the Russian colonization of the Tatar people. I’d still like to choose another area, possible as a comparsion to the polices used in Kazan. Going through some articles on the subject of Russian colonization, I’ve decided to also include Siberia in my research. I believe that Siberia will offer an interesting contrast to Kazan. Both are still territories within Russia, but both underwent very different versions of colonization during the Tsarist and later the Soviet periods. Siberia itself has a very interesting history, and contains a large number of different ethnic groups, many of which were articfically created during the Soviet nationalisation period.

I think picking both Siberia and Kazan would move my research into an exciting, new direction. Stay tuned for more updates!

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Posted by: sargodale | July 12, 2009

Kazan: A Brief (really brief) History

            Since I have decided to focus on Kazan as one area of my research, a little background history of the area is necessary. Kazan is the current capital of the Tatarstan Republic in the Russian Federation. Prior to this, Kazan was part of the Bulgar state, a powerful principality that in 922 converted to Islam. For the next several centuries, the Mongols overran Kazan, during their campaigns across Eastern and Central Europe. When the Mongols were driven out of the territory, the Muscovy princes slowly began to absorb Kazan into their territory, culminating with Ivan the Terrible’s complete capture of the city in the sixteenth century.

            Since that time Kazan and the ethnic Tatars of the region, have undergone a serious of repressive and progressive colonial policies. Many Tsars tried at first to forcefully convert the Islamic Tatars to Russian Orthodoxy. At times brutal measures were used to carry this out. It was not until Catherine the Great came to power that more progressive religious policies were enacted. In the Soviet period, however, any former religious freedom was replaced by official state atheism. These changing religious policies have created an interesting cultural identity in modern Kazan. While a large portion of the Tatar population still purports to be Muslim, many are nonpracticing.

            Even though the Kazan Tatars were one of the earliest ethnic groups to become part of the Russian Empire, they have managed to impressively preserve their cultural identity. Today, many Tatars still practice traditional customs, and the Tatar language is in wide use. The two official languages of the Tatarstan Republic are Tatar and Russian, and most signs in Kazan are in both languages. Of the Tatars whom I have met in Kazan, many are extremely proud of their cultural history, and will talk at great lengths about the accomplishments of the Kazan Tatars. I am hopeful that my research will provide an insight in to how such a strong national identity was able to exist after hundreds of years of Russian colonial rule.


            I still have not decided what other areas I would like to examine in my research, although I am leaning more towards Siberia and possibly the Caucasus. Both of these areas, as well as Kazan, are still parts of the Russian State, and it would be interesting to see the differences in colonization towards each area.


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