Posted by: sargodale | July 9, 2009

Kazan

In reading several articles on the topic of Russian colonization, I’ve decided to focus a portion of my research project on the city of Kazan and the Volga Tatars. Kazan was once the capital of a Tatar kingdom, before it was captured by Ivan the Terrible and assimilated in the Russian Empire. After centuries of Russian rule, the Kazan Tatars have managed to preserve their culture, with the addition of obvious Russian cultural influences. In general, the Tsarist and Soviet policies towards Kazan were much more different than those used in places like Siberia and theĀ Caucasus. The Kazan Tatars were primarily Muslim, so religious policies were an important part of the Russian administration in Kazan.

By choosing Kazan as one area of focus, I’m planning on examining how different aspects of Tatar culture have beenĀ persevered. Below is one example of cultural preservation and national identity in Kazan. It is a picture of the Kul Sharif mosque, which is a replica of the mosque that Ivan the Terrible destroyed when he first conquered Kazan. It was constructed in the post-1991 era, and is an interesting symbol of Kazan’s cultural history.

Kul Sharif Mosque

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I think it’s a shame that we Americans have such a hard time conceiving of all the different peoples that exist in the vast area encompassed by the former USSR. Rather than being aware of individual ethnic groups such as the Tatars and Chechens, we tend to assume that monolithic political structures correspond to a uniform ethnic \Russian-ness\. This could not, of course, be further from the truth. However, with the Second Persian Gulf War and all the news coverage on conflicts (and later reconciliation) between Shi’ite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Sunni Kurds, it is possible that Americans are getting a better sense that political boundaries do not correspond neatly to ethnic boundaries.

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