Reflections on Eight Months in Kazan
Gary Guadagnolo has recently completed his Title VIII Combined Research and Language Training Program in Kazan, Russia. Gary reflects on his experience on his experience abroad...
I have just returned from Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, where I spent eight months studying the Tatar language and conducting pre-dissertation research in local archives and libraries. Through the American Councils Title VIII Combined Research and Language Training Program, I have been able to fine-tune my proposal for my dissertation project, which will examine the transformation of Tatar daily life in the 1920s and 1930s through the lens of language, religion, and physical space. This period has intimate connections to the contemporary linguistic and cultural situation in Kazan. I hope that my research will enlarge our understanding of one of Russia’s many national minorities and how their history, culture, and language interacts with that of ethnic Russians. One of the major achievements of this semester has been learning how to read Tatar as written in the Arabic and Latin alphabets used in the 1920s and 1930s. Documents in these scripts provide a Tatar perspective that I am eager to incorporate into my ongoing research.
In addition to my classroom and archival activities, I have had unique opportunities to explore several cities in Tatarstan and gain an increased understanding of daily life there. In January, I traveled to the city of Elabuga to participate in a roundtable of historians discussing the study of Russian history from a provincial perspective and also presented a paper in a graduate student conference in my department of the Kazan Federal University Institute of History. I was invited to discuss discuss American life and culture in both primary and secondary schools and also made several presentations in Tatar in undergraduate and continuing education classes at the university. I benefitted greatly from meeting with a number of historians and graduate students at KFU; I know that these conversations are only the beginning of a lifetime of meaningful relationships and scholarly collaboration. Cumulatively, I must say how thankful I am to have had this opportunity to live in Kazan for the past academic year. Kazan, heralded as “Russia’s Third Capital,” is an exciting place that offers not only plenty of opportunities for scholarly endeavors, but also a wealth of history, culture, and diversity. I already look forward to returning.
At the grave of Gabdulla Tukai, the most famous Tatar poet