The Kazan Herald www.kazanherald.com
October 14, 2011
No. 6 (15)
Tatarstan’s first and only English newspaper
Made in Kazan Hosts Minnikhanov Outlines Third Lecture Series Plans for Republic
by Alina KHALIMOVA Made in Kazan held its third lecture series, entitled “Expand Your Horizons 3,” in Korston Hotel from 28 September to 1 October. More than 1200 residents of Kazan attended the four‑day series of lectures by industry lead‑ ers on topics ranging from business to man‑ agement to culture to fashion to design. The slogan for “Expand Your Horizons 3” is “more ot uma,” a mixture of English and Russian that literally means “more from mind.” The lectures were on a range of topics, from business, to management, to culture, to even fashion and design.
The roughly 1200 people who attended the lecture series were selected by a panel from a pool of applicants who submitted brief biographical information and brief essays about different topics concerning the city. “We must make more events like this, be‑ cause it forces people to think on a new cre‑ ative level and inspires them to achieve their goals,” said Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin dur‑ ing opening remarks on 28 September. Sofiko Shevardnadze of Russia Today and Anton Krasovsky of NTV spoke about the state of Russian media. “There is no need to think that media makes people foolish, and people
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New York State Delegation Visits Kazan A delegation from New York State spent five days in Kazan during the first week of Sep‑ tember, as part of a trip to Russia designed to build economic and cultural ties between the United States and Russia. Led by New York State Assemblyman Alec Brook‑Krasny, the bi‑partisan delegation vis‑ ited Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kazan. Ac‑ cording to a press release published on 11 September, the visitors from New York State were particularly impressed with the Tatarstan
leg of their trip, which was arranged thanks to an invitation from Farid Mukhametshin, Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council. The delegation had a busy schedule dur‑ ing their stay in Kazan. They met many politi‑ cians, most notably President Rustam Min‑ nikhanov and several of his ministers, Mr. Mukhametshin and other members of the State Council, and Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin and members of his staff. They also toured educational establishments, including Kazan
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Ersnt & Young Working Closely
with Tatarstan Government by Wyatt FORD Ersnt & Young and the Republic of Ta‑ tarstan are in the midst of the early stages of “Terra Futur,” the working title of a project to develop an infrastructure to support in‑ ternational‑level quality of life for future res‑ idents of Tatarstan. “We are all focused on bringing invest‑ ment and production into new regions, but we forget about the people side,” explained Polina Nemirovchenko, Regional Develop‑ Continued on page 2
ment Director of Ernst & Young in Russia, in an interview with The Kazan Herald. “We have a lot of people coming to open production or factories, but we don’t consider what their families will be doing. The idea of this proj‑ ect is to think about the social infrastructure of people coming to work for investment projects.” Today, Ms. Nemirovchenko and Julia Ste‑ fanishina, a senior manager at Ernst & Young who specializes in real estate development
by Rustem YUNUSOV Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov summarized the re‑ public’s achievements since he took office at the beginning of 2010 and outlined plans for the future in his annual address to the State Council today. President Minnikhanov began the address by reminding the State Coun‑ cil of the economic results of 2010, the first year in Tatarstan history when industrial output exceeded 1 trillion rubles. That year, foreign investment in Tatarstan totaled 300 billion rubles, exports increased by 40 per cent, real income increased by 7 per cent, and industrial production by more than 6 per cent. The president stated that Ta‑ tarstan’s ambitious goal of doubling gross regional product to 2 trillion rubles by 2016 is on track, thanks mainly to the performance and future outlook of the republic’s large corpo‑ rations. Tatneft, TAIF, Nizhnekam‑ skneftekhim, and Kazanorgsintez to‑ gether provide more than 60 percent of the republic’s industrial output. Small and medium enterprises have been less successful according to President Minnikhanov, who un‑ derscored the importance of being on the lookout for innovative projects. “Our goal is to integrate Tatarstan into global corporate networks, not only through production, but also through increasing the republic’s share in in‑ novative products and services,” he explained. In the address, President Min‑ nikhanov also outlined other future plans. The republic’s main priority continues to be modernizing educa‑ tion. This year, over 7 billion rubles were allocated to Kilechek, the re‑ public’s education development strat‑ egy. As part of Kilechek, which means ‘future’ in Tatar, the president has de‑ manded a three‑year overhaul of the school system, a process that will be‑ gin in 2012. Tatarstan’s second priority is healthcare. President Minnikhanov emphasized the fact that many posi‑ tive changes in the republic’s health‑
care system are currently underway. Tatarstan is an active participant in federal programs designed to improve blood services, health care for car‑ diovascular diseases, cancer, and other injuries, according to the pres‑ ident. He also mentioned that a 5.6 billion‑ruble facelift and overhaul of more than 40 health facilities will be‑ gin in the near future. President Minnikhnov likewise drew special attention to reforms of transport and social infrastructure that is underway and will continue, thanks to federal investment in sports programs. “We have won the right to host the 2015 World Acquatics Cham‑ pionship and the 2018 World Cup, thanks to the development of sport and ongoing, large‑scale prepara‑ tions for the Universiade,” he said. “The legacy of these events will play a powerful role in improving the health of the population, by making sport accessible and widespread.” More than 100 billion rubles of di‑ rect investment into Kazan have been planned in preparation for the Uni‑ versiade, according to the presi‑ dent. Another important priority for the republic is improving English‑lan‑ guage instruction. President Min‑ nikhanov announced the launch of English for the Republic of Tatarstan, a program that will be implemented in cooperation with Education First, an international education company. According to the president, the pro‑ gram “will enable every English teach‑ er in the republic to master the nec‑ essary language skills and give them the opportunity to interact on a daily basis with native‑speaking English teachers via the Internet.” President Minnikhanov returned to the theme of English later on in the address, emphasizing the impor‑ tance of incorporating its use by those working in fields related to tourism, including police officers, medical personnel, taxi drivers, restaurant workers, emergency workers, and journalists. Photo courtesy of RT President Press Service.
The Kazan Herald
October 14, 2011 No. 6 (15) Event
Made in Kazan Hosts Third Lecture Series
Kazan Celebrates Mechanicians’ Day
mustn’t think that they always will see what they want,” said Ms. She‑ vardnadze. Founder of Executive MBA and Lex Legumagister + Open Law Fatima Shanaeva discussed managing risks that Russian businessmen face. “It is possible to hostilely take over a company with the help of a notary,” she warned. “This process is begun by checking companies for their le‑ gally weak areas. More often than not, people who ask to check your documents are not real notaries. For this reason, it is best to check their credentials in the notary database.” Evelina Khromchenko, copy edi‑ tor of Les Editions Jalou Paris, sug‑ gested that Russians, especially women, should think more about the clothes they wear, especially when in foreign countries. Russia’s Cirque du Soleil Vice Pres‑ ident Craig Cohon talked about be‑ coming successful. “The best thing to do is to try to realize your dreams, not just try to earn money,” he advised.
British Urban Theorist Richard Smith challenged the audience to imagine t‑shirts in the global world of the future, when the icon‑ ic “I love NY” is replaced with “I love NY‑LON,” or New York and London. “There are three main cities, London, New York, and To‑ kyo, and they’re making global‑ ization,” he argued. Vladimir Dolgov, chief executive of Google Russia, predicted that the future world will be a more synchro‑ nized one, when programs and ap‑ plications are released simultane‑ ously all over the world. Loren Andres, Richard Smith, Ser‑ gey Aleksashenko, Elena Perever‑ zeva, Andrei Gordeev, Vecheslav Glazichev, Natalya Sindeeva, and Ekaterina Khramkova also delivered lectures. During the closing ceremony of the event, Mayor Metshin awarded iPads to the nine best respondents to the essays written during the ap‑ plication process.
Ersnt & Young Working Closely
with Tatarstan Government projects, presented their company’s findings from the first stage of the proj‑ ect to a multilateral work‑ ing team of Tatarstan gov‑ ernment officials which included the Minister of Industry and Trade Ravil Zaripov, deputy ministers from the Ministry of Econ‑ omy and the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Protection, and rep‑ resentatives from the Min‑ istry of Construction, Ar‑ chitecture and Housing, among others. “Terra Futur” is just one of several projects that Ernst & Young officials are scheduled to discuss in a meeting with Tatarstan President Rustam Min‑ nikhanov on 7 October, according to Ms. Nemirovchenko. Tomorrow’s meeting is the latest step in a year‑ long courtship between the Republic of Tatarstan and Ernst & Young. The multinational company opened an office in Kazan in December 2010 after a meeting between Ernst & Young managing partner Alexander Ivlev and Pres‑ ident Minnikhanov. The grand opening of this of‑ fice was celebrated in February 2011, in a cer‑ emony attended by many of the republic’s top gov‑ ernment officials and busi‑ nessmen. “Tatarstan has a great potential. The region has demonstrated strong eco‑ nomic growth, attracting keen interest from foreign investors,” read an Ernst
& Young press release on 3 February. “Strong eco‑ nomic growth and the sig‑ nificant potential of the lo‑ cal labor market make Ta‑ tarstan a good platform for major national projects.” That same month, a report on the business cli‑ mate of various regions of Russia conducted by the New Economic School, with support from Ernst & Young, was released. The report, entitled “Measur‑ ing the Business Environ‑ ment in Russia Regions,” concluded that “the Re‑ public of Tatarstan is the leader” of the 10 regions surveyed. News of the report broke in March, touting Tatarstan as Russia’s most business‑friendly region. “As a place to do business, Tatarstan came in first and Moscow last in a survey of 10 regions released Tues‑ day,” reported Anatoly Me‑ detsky of The Moscow Times on 16 March. Ernst & Young’s Mr. Ivlev was cited in that same article as having said that Ta‑ tarstan officials “were the first to ask for the details of the survey in an attempt to improve the regional business climate.” In June, President Min‑ nikhanov met with Ernst & Young’s CIS Sub‑Area Managing Partner Karl Jo‑ hansson while in St. Pe‑ tersburg. “We see a big potential in the republic,” explained Ms. Nemirovchenko. “We think that it is one of the most innovative and most
developing regions of the Russian Federation. We were thinking of Tatarstan as a good location to op‑ erate in, and the govern‑ ment of the republic, namely the Prime Minister and then President Rus‑ tam Nurgaliyevich Min‑ nikhanov, supported our initiative and our wish to open an office in Kazan.” The Kazan office cur‑ rently has 20 employees, the majority of which are graduates from Kazan uni‑ versities. “We think that the level is very good,” said Ms. Nemirovchenko, com‑ menting on the quality of applicants they have seen in Kazan, a sentiment that corroborates the Febura‑ ry 2011 report’s finding that Tatarstan had the “most favorable assess‑ ment of workforce educa‑ tion levels.” Ernst & Young is work‑ ing closely with various ministries and sectors of the government, but they are also continuing to work in the private sector. “We do have normal busi‑ ness relations with com‑ panies which work in Ta‑ tarstan,” she said. “We are working in all spheres in which we have expertise, or capability to bring some knowledge.” The company is like‑ wise interested in the flourishing of Islamic fi‑ nance in Tatarstan. “We are looking very atten‑ tively into this subject,” said Ms. Nemirovchenko, explaining that they have a separate practice work‑
ing on attracting Islamic finance. Ernst & Young current‑ ly has eight offices in Rus‑ sia and 18 total in CIS countries. The company, which provides assurance, tax, transaction, and ad‑ visory services, is known as one of the so‑called big four accountancy firms, along with Deloitte, KPMG, and PriceWaterHouseC‑ oopers. Of the big four, PriceWaterHouseCoopers also has an office in Ka‑ zan, which it has been op‑ erating since 2007. “The company is dy‑ namically growing,” Ms. Nemirovchenko declared, explaining that Ernst & Young considers its role as instrumental in helping to encourage better business practices in Russia. “Some things that are normal for European companies, in a lot of Russian companies are new. We as a company see one of our missions to raise the level of under‑ standing of financial op‑ erations, level of reporting, and corporate culture,” she said. Ms. Nemirovchen‑ ko cited the Western pref‑ erence of using indepen‑ dent board directors as an example of one common practice that had yet to catch on in Russia. “We are playing this educational role, plus we are trying to improve as much as we can in all the areas of business,” she repeated. “We are happy to be here, and hope it will continue developing fur‑ ther and further.”
by Alina KHALIMOVA President Minnikhanov Touring the Exhibition on Mechanicians’ Day. Alina Khalimova / The Kazan Herald. Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhnov joined in the celebration of Mechanicians’ Day on 21 Septem‑ ber at Kazan Avation Institute’s Olymp complex. An exhibition of work highlighting innovation in automo‑ tive and electronic technology was on display for stu‑ dents, professional mechanicians, and intrigued am‑ ateurs. “Today we have seen the work of our young scien‑ tists, a display that affirms the fact that the field of en‑ gineering is developing in Tatarstan,” remarked Pres‑ ident Minnikhanov at the day’s closing festivities. “Our republic is one of the leaders in this sphere through‑ out Russia, with 150 businesses employing nearly 140,000 people.” Among the many guests of honor at the ceremony were managers from several of those companies, in‑ cluding Kamaz, Kazan Helicopter Plant, Tatelectro‑ mash, and Kazancompressormash. The concert portion of the program, which includ‑ ed a variety of singing and dancing numbers, was topped off with a vocal performance by Kazan State Technical University student Karina Ziganshina.
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The Kazan Herald
October 14, 2011 No. 6 (15)
New York State Delegation Visits Kazan
Federal University and School No. 178, technology centers IT Park and Idea Technopark, Kazan’s main mosque and churches, and facilities related to the three up‑ coming sporting events that will be held in Kazan: the 2013 Uni‑ versiade, the 2015 World Aquat‑ ics Championship, and the 2018 World Cup. The delegation’s decision to visit Tatarstan tied in with the cul‑ tural and political goals of the trip, which included bilateral cooper‑ ation in fighting terrorism and de‑ veloping cultural dialogue. Addi‑ tionally, it serves as evidence that Kazan has stepped into its role as Russia’s third capital, a title that it was awarded in 2009. Both sides involved in the visit have expressed satisfaction that they will be able to find ways to collaborate in the future, both politically, economically, and culturally. During the course of the del‑ egation’s stay, The Kazan Her‑ ald was able to sit down with Anton Konev, Democratic Coun‑ cilman from Albany who spear‑ headed the U.S. efforts to orga‑ nize the trip. The Kazan Herald: Explain the US and New York State interest in developing a relationship with the Republic of Tatarstan. What, in your opinion, sets Tatarstan apart from other regions in Russia? Anton Konev: Tatarstan has a number of distinctive features that distinguish it from other re‑ gions in Russia, which, in fact, brought us here. First, the repub‑ lic is different in its level of au‑ tonomy, both in laws and agree‑ ments. Second, it is ethnically diverse. Third, New York is an ec‑ onomically prosperous state in America, just as Tatarstan is one
of the most prosperous regions in Russia. These three facts are the basis of our relationship. Tatarstan and New York also have common interests in tech‑ nology, culture, and the inter‑ relationship of culture and reli‑ gion. Today we discussed the fact that, in Tatarstan, Islam is not ex‑ tremist but tolerant, educated, and cultured. The attitude towards Muslims in America and Europe has changed a great deal since 11 September 2011. Even if we are speaking cautiously and po‑ litically‑correct, the attitude is bad, because all Muslims are be‑ ing judged. There were and are a small group of extremists, but their voices have been heard. They sent their message very loudly. It is a question of under‑ standing that the majority of Mus‑ lims are not extremists, but good people with whom it is possible to communicate and develop eco‑ nomic relationships. This is very important. It is in and of itself astonish‑ ing that, in Tatarstan, a rabbi stands quietly next to an imam and no one is confused — to the contrary, such actions are even encouraged. This all‑inclusive approach is, in theory, the Amer‑ ican way, on which the country was founded. We can learn a lot from Ta‑ tarstan, seeing as the republic is very experienced in such relations and has resolved its inter‑religious issues so professionally and suc‑ cessfully. We are also interested in de‑ veloping economic relation‑ ships, for example, in green technology. KH: What were the steps that led to this visit?
AK: In January 2010, a del‑ egation of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan visited the United States, where we signed an agreement of coop‑ eration. A lot of work lead from that agreement to this trip. Through a special program pro‑ vided by the U.S. State Depart‑ ment, the Legislative Fellowship Program of American Councils, Dmitry Mikheev, Chief of Staff of the Economic Committee of Ta‑ tarstan’s Parliament, was able to carry out an internship in our of‑ fices. It was Dmitry Mikheev who later arranged our visit. The U.S. State Department also sponsored my presence in this delegation. At the State Department, there is a sense that this work is his‑ torical. This was the first visit of its kind to Russia. KH: Today you visited Ka‑ zan’s IT Park. Did you find any‑ thing interesting there? AK: Today we visited the IT Park, and tomorrow we are go‑ ing to Idea Technopark. Ameri‑ can Councils, the U.S. Depart‑ ment of State, and New York State Congressmen were already familiar with the operations of these parks and Tatarstan’s in‑ novations in the IT industry be‑ fore our visit, thanks to Dmitry Mikheev. I know that an article about the advanced level of tech‑ nology will soon be printed in the American press. Some very promising projects were shown to us: a part of Glonass‑112, an emergency re‑ sponse system, medical innova‑ tion, and e‑Government, among others. Some of these initiatives are already underway in the Unit‑ ed States, but, in others, Tatarstan is well ahead of many states, in‑ cluding New York.
KH: Tell us about the dif‑ ficulties of assimilation that faced emigrants from the So‑ viet Union to the United States. How did you become a deputy, and how do you see your future career? More specifically, how do former USSR citizens feel living in America? AK: Immigrants from former Soviet countries are very suc‑ cessful in modern America. The chairman of our delegation, New York State Assemblyman Alec Brook‑Krasny, has often spoken about this phenomenon. The Rus‑ sian educational system is very solid and respected in America: people who were educated in Russia have become very suc‑ cessful in the United States. The participation of Russians in Amer‑ ican politics is relatively recent, but now a lot of Russians are be‑ coming involved in politics. I have a lot of Russian‑speaking voters. It is a small percentage of my con‑ stituency, to be sure, but it is its own separate bloc. This is very important in politics. KH: Recent history has seen a trend of Russian citi‑ zens emmigrating to the Unit‑ ed States. In your opinion, is there any possibility that these immigrants might return to Russia? AK: I think that this could hap‑ pen in the near future. All the pre‑ conditions for this to happen are being put in place. KH : W o u l d y o u c o m e back? AK: I’m still young. I don’t know where fate will lead me, but I cur‑ rently have no such plans. KH: What were the reasons for the changing alignment of political forces in Washington
after the 2010 Congressional elections? AK: In America we have a two‑party system, so such chang‑ es occur regularly. There are two rules in politics — there are no permanent friends and no per‑ manent politicians. Anyone can be replaced. It often happens that, after elections, many politi‑ cians loose a clear sense of what their voter base is. What in fact happened in 2010 was that the Republicans defeat‑ ed the Democrats. Politics is like a pendulum, only this one swings unpredictably. Of course, the en‑ tire situation has hindered Presi‑ dent Obama’s policies and po‑ litical plans. In a true two‑party system, control can pass from one hand to another. This is hardly possible in a two‑party system where there is a 90/10 breakdown in control. Two‑party systems demand more fluctuation. KH: What is your assess‑ ment of Russian politics, or of Tatarstan politics? AK: There is democracy here. People can choose what they like and what don’t. If the system does not work for the voters, they will vote differently. KH: In what form do you en‑ vision further cooperation be‑ tween Tatarstan and the Unit‑ ed States? AK: A favorable climate and fertile ground for bilateral relations are currently being put in place. I think that the relationship will bear fruits. Once we see this process begin, it will be hard to stop it. Our relationship will continue to improve. We will cooperate at various levels. Photo courtesy of RT State Council.
The Kazan Herald
October 14, 2011 No. 6 (15) Opinion
Life Tatare – Claim to Victory
by Ian BATESON If there is one Tatar word I will remember long after leaving Ka‑ zan, it will be jingu. Jingu means victory, and every day over the past ten months I have entered Victory metro station, with its bi‑ lingual Tatar and Russian signs, to begin my commute into the center. I used to enter through the south entrance, and as I descend‑ ed on the escalator, I would look up at the blown‑up picture of a Soviet soldier waving the Soviet flag atop the Reichstag. Now I en‑ ter through the east entrance and see a massive, golden text listing Tatarstan’s contributions to the Soviet war effort, from the num‑
ber of soldiers to the exact quan‑ tity of milk and bread sent to the front. I usually find myself waiting on the part of the platform with the station name in Tatar, thinking both about the victory that made what would become Tatarstan part of Russia, and about the victory over Nazi Germany. It is a strange station in many ways. Massive tombs dedicated to the Great Patriotic War were not uncommon in the Soviet Union, nor were copies of Mos‑ cow’s grander monuments in the Soviet Union’s more provincial cities. With its red marble‑colored pillars and gold‑colored fixtures, Kazan’s Jingu station is very much
a copy. What is odd, however, is that it wasn’t built in 1948, 1958, or even 1988, but in 2008. The metro itself was built as a monu‑ ment to Kazan and Tatarstan’s post‑Soviet modernity, and yet this station is very much a monu‑ ment to the Soviet army’s accom‑ plishments. It is where Tatarstan’s modern‑day claim to relevance through technology and the So‑ viet Union’s claim to relevance through participation in its self‑proclaimed single greatest accomplishment intersect. On the platform, glass sheets between columns bear the names of various Soviet cities that saw heavy fighting during the war (the so‑called “hero cities”). Kazan, eight hundred kilometers east of Moscow and safely behind So‑ viet lines, was not one of them (hence the gold writing). Kazan was part of the tyl, or home‑front, and sent supplies and soldiers to the front in a supporting role that has become part of the city’s and region’s Soviet, and now, post‑Soviet, mythology. “Ta‑ tarstan — Home Front Base for Victory,” an exhibition at the Na‑ tional Museum, emphasizes that role, while the exhibit poster showing a young boy working in a factory alludes to the hardship that often came with it. Nevertheless, despite the tremendous impact the war had
on life in Kazan, there was no ac‑ tual fighting here. The collapsed and collapsing buildings and va‑ cant lots now in the center of Ka‑ zan were destroyed by commu‑ nist neglect and capitalist excess, not German bombing raids. As a result, there are no natural me‑ morials for the Great Patriotic War like the massive graves for the victims of the blockade in St. Petersburg or the site of signifi‑ cant battles like Mamayev Kur‑ gan in Volgograd. Kazan’s mon‑ uments to the war were con‑ structed, and here, like in the rest of the Soviet Union, mainly a product of Brezhnev’s Great Pa‑ triotic War memory boom that sought to drown out the confu‑ sion and embarrassment of the Khrushchev years with pomp and circumstance. Kazan’s Victory station, though named after the street above built in the 1970s, is very much part of the second wave of Great Patriotic War nostalgia that occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is the same wave that took Kazan’s Victory Park, which in the 1970s was little more than a filled in swamp with some vegetation, transforming it into the bombastic display of military vehicles, decommissioned weap‑ ons, and war‑depicting reliefs that it is today. It is also the wave that took the grand Victory Day
military parade on the Red Square, an event that had only taken place on key anniversaries in the So‑ viet Union, and transformed it into a yearly spectacle in Post‑So‑ viet Russia. In a capitalist Russia, the So‑ viet Union’s victory of Nazi Ger‑ many continues to be its most significant achievement, giving its parks, metro stations, and of course Victory Day, a modern day relevance easily enviable by the Soviet Union’s more forgotten holidays. The evolution of the re‑ membrance of that victory, how‑ ever, provides an interesting and sometimes odd historical layer‑ ing: soldiers dressed like forties tank men and infantry marching on Kazan’s new Thousand Year Square, helicopters flying the Ta‑ tar and Russian flags over armies that never fought under them, young men in sailors’ uniforms dancing a traditional Russian matrosskiy in front of a giant Ta‑ tar language victory banner with a mosque peaking up behind. And, for those who look careful‑ ly, the use of the original picture of the Soviet soldiers waving the red flag over the German Reich‑ stag in Kazan’s jingu station, the very same picture that was re‑ touched during the Soviet Union to remove the soldier’s suspi‑ cious second watch. Photo by author.
Back in the USSR: Museum of Socialist Life Opens in Kazan by Alina KHALIMOVA Whether you grew up and lived in the Soviet Union, have only fuzzy memories of a childhood in a country that no longer exists, or are interested in learning more about what life was like behind the Iron Curtain, the Museum of Socialist Life certainly has some‑ thing that will interest you. Nestled on the second floor of 39/6 Ostrovskaya street, the museum opened its doors with great fanfare on 25 August, in a ribbon‑cutting ceremony attend‑ ed by Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin. Its premier exhibition, entitled “Old School,” displays a variety of artifacts from the Soviet era. According to its founder and manager Rustem Valiakhmetov, the museum fills an important niche that has been neglected, not only in Kazan but also in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “The idea of open‑ ing this museum wasn’t only mine,” he said in an interview. “I had a lot of friends who helped, among them singer Andrei Makarevich and jour‑ nalist Kseniya Strizh.” The collection, which features possessions Mr. Valiakhmetov had stored in his garage combined with others donated from friends, highlights some of the differenc‑
es between past and present. “The USSR had a unique, Soviet ap‑ proach to schooling called ‘tru‑ dovaya shkola’ that was very dif‑ ferent from our modern schools. The collection shows this differ‑ ence,” said Mr. Valiakhmetov. A pen for straight‑A students, a pencil sharpener named ‘fish,’ and an exercise book labeled ‘Tetradka — Promokashka’ are some of the prized items in this collection. The museum also has a small rock‑n‑roll section, which in‑ cludes jeans and autographed jeans donated by participants in the Creation of Peace musical festival held every year in Kazan at the end of August. The museum is very much a family endeavor. Two children helped guide me through the mu‑ seum’s collection, eagerly ex‑ plaining what all the various piec‑ es were. “We have a lot of pupils, child tourists, if you will, who visit us,” explained Mr. Valiakhmetov. “We are trying to help teach them about what school was like in the Soviet Union.” The museum is open daily, from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets range from 50 to 150 rubles.
The Kazan Herald
October 14, 2011 No. 6 (15)
Heroes of Kazan The statue of Mullanur Vakhitov, looking out over Tukay Square.
by Maxim EDWARDS The statue of Mullanur Vakh‑ itov on Tukay Square in central Kazan is perched in a particular‑ ly evocative — and gloriously de‑ pressing — place from which to take in the view of central Kazan on a rainy day. One of the first things my land‑ lord told me while showing me around the city center was that few know exactly who Vakhitov actually was. The short, sharp online definition of him as a ‘Ta‑ tar Muslim Communist’ seemed to me to raise more questions than it solved. The further dis‑ covery that the central district of historic Kazan, the Khanate of Kazan, the historic Tatar capital, was named in his honour was an even greater surprise. A statue of a hero there to make a state‑ ment, namely that Tatars too played their role in the revolution, became just that, a statement in the name of a vanished ideology. With the generic Soviet statue’s gaze of steely determination for a bright future, Vakhitov today looks less heroic than naive on his lonely plinth above the city, looking out over what he and his comrades lost in 1989. Today, the memorial to this Tatar Muslim Communist has become a silent and disinterested companion for the few beer‑drinkers who join him on his hill. Naturally, a nation’s heroes change over time, yet compared to other nations, Russia has al‑
ways had more of a tendency to immortalise its famous sons and daughters in concrete, leaving Kazan with a wealth of sculptures, plaques, and faces for passers‑ by. Perhaps what makes this more unique in Russia, if not spe‑ cifically in Tatarstan, was the communal strength of the So‑ viet narrative. From Heroes of the Soviet Union to the person‑ ality cults of Lenin and Stalin, finding and creating a hero was a useful ideological tool through which a more personal devotion to the state could thrive, a devo‑ tion which common people could find more accessible in their day to day life than a vague loyalty to the isms on which Soviet rule was legitimised. Vakhitov was exact‑ ly this, a way for Tatars to unify their loyalty to their nation with a loyalty to their ideology. When the ideology withered, devotion to the nation did not need Vakh‑ itov to survive. A strangely human statue of Lenin on Ulitsa Kremlyovskaya (Kremlyovskaya Street) gazes through the columns of the uni‑ versity from which he was ex‑ pelled. On Ulitsa Pushkina, a grand old town house bears only one Tatar language plaque in re‑ membrance of Maxim Gorky: the Russian language version of this memorial to this particularly Rus‑ sian author has long since fallen off. A relatively recent statue to the Muslim courtiers of the Kazan Khanate stands proudly in a leafy
garden in the Kremlin, the shad‑ ows of the domes of the Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral falling over it. For the Khans themselves, however, a lonely gravestone has to suffice. (Would resurrecting them in stone or cast iron be too provocative a statement?) Ulitsa Baumana, named after the early Russian revolutionary, is today known more for its bi‑ zarre collection of statues and fountains to such personalities as the Kazan Cat rather than to Bauman. One could be forgiven for thinking that these new stat‑ ues are trying as hard as possible to have as little symbolic mean‑ ing as they can. Ulitsa Baumana is now the territory of Shlyapin, the Kazan Cat, and tourist kitsch. The only memorial to Bauman himself is a small plaque near the Bulak canal. A city chooses its own heroes, and Kazan is no exception. The stunning statue to Tatar poet Musa Jalil, author of “The Moabit Note‑ books,” written during his incar‑ ceration in a German POW camp, is an intriguing example. Jalil stands with his arms behind his back, his face resolute, wrestling out of the chains confining him. Yet the more I visit the statue, the more I feel that he is in fact wres‑ tling to break free of the marble which confines him. I haven’t been able to find a copy of “The Moabit Notebooks” in any of the tourist shops in central Kazan. Jalil is fa‑ mous — and rightly so — but save for his statue, his presence in Ka‑ zan is strangely reserved. In some cases in Russia’s republics, the concept of the national author became something akin to Vakh‑ itov — an author whose fame was arguably more due to their rep‑ resentation of an ethnicity rather than the work they produced. In the 1930s, Soviet cultural devel‑ opment was told to be “national‑ ist in form and socialist in con‑ tent.” Minorities who lacked even
a written language until the So‑ viet period were given a national literature to enjoy within the con‑ text of what was ideologically ap‑ propriate. Perhaps this was the case with Jalil. He is certainly a poet whose works are worth read‑ ing, but his life story, particularly his suffering in Nazi captivity, made a poet who was readily a national hero. Jalil was Tatar by nationality, socialist by content. Is his ambitious statue outside the Kremlin — the largest by far of many of those of writers in the centre of the city — really repre‑ sentative of his importance in Ta‑ tar culture, compared to his pre‑ decessor Gabdulla Tukay? Tuqay, whose territory in the city is the central square between Bauman’s high street and Vakh‑ itov’s lonely hill, is another local hero. Statues to Tuqay abound. There is one outside the opera house and one on Ulitsa Tatarstan, to name but a few examples. His poem, “Tugan Tel” (meaning “mother tongue” in Tatar) serves as a decidedly more Tatar alter‑ native to the official Tatar anthem, which lacks nothing but lyrics. Through Jalil and Tuqay, ideo‑ logically acceptable national fig‑ ures during Soviet times, Tatars were able to express an identity beyond Lenin. In Kazan’s galler‑ ies, paintings of Tukay’s life — his birth, his death, his first poem — are everywhere. The most cele‑ brated poet in the Tatar language, Gabdulla Tuqay is unique in the fact that his influence in the city extends beyond a festively deco‑ rated metro station. Tuqay’s ideology was his peo‑ ple and his language, and that is ultimately the test of how he sur‑ vives today as a son of Tatar Ka‑ zan. By immortalising heroes like the unfortunate Vakhitov in stone during the Soviet era, both the human qualities and limited pop‑ ularity of the hero in question has become ever more highlighted. Butlerov, Lobachevsky, Lenin, Ye‑ zhov — Kazan’s statues and mon‑ uments are a living reminder of the important role the city played
in defining Russia and, in many cases, of its decidedly un‑Russian ethnic diversity. These Tatar he‑ roes are what Daniel Kalder calls invisible geniuses, since the mem‑ ory of their greatness now stands in for their actual work. Some of these heroes may be swallowed up into the recesses of history. Perhaps in the public consensus, Vakhitov already has been, if in‑ deed there is any public opinion about him at all. Some of Kazan’s sons and daughters seem to have no statues at all, Salvador Dali’s wife and subject of many of his paintings Gala Dali (Elena Diako‑ nova) being one of them. Every city has its heroes, and who is a hero is of course a mat‑ ter of opinion and of conscience, yet the mixture of Russian, So‑ viet, and Tatar heroes of Kazan are perhaps the most intriguing. Below the hill where Vakhitov stands, across the street named after Bauman, and under the square named after Tuqay is an underpass leading to Tuqay Square metro station. More often than not, there is an old woman there playing traditional Tatar songs on an accordion, one of which is based on a text from Tuqay’s poem, “Tugan Tel.” Tu‑ kay’s legitimacy as a true nation‑ al hero did not rest on his devo‑ tion to a political system, like Vakhitov or arguably Jalil, but to the survival of an entire nation, an entire language — something instantly accessible to the mil‑ lions of Tatars across the world, regardless of their political lean‑ ings. His true legacy was the modern Tatar literary language in Russia, spoken by some five million people across the coun‑ try. As we can see with Vakhitov, Kazan’s most famous sons and daughters all live on in concrete in some form or another. How‑ ever, those who can manage to live on in the public conscious‑ ness because of their own lega‑ cy, rather than that of their street names and monuments, are the most impressive of all. Photos by author.
The stunning statue to Musa Jalil, whose life story made him a national hero.
The Kazan Herald
October 14, 2011 No. 6 (15) Tourism
Kazan on a Budget: the A to Z
of Hostels and Economy Hotels
A stay at Zebra includes complimentary breakfast.
by Vlad KAZIMIROV Business travelers to Kazan have no problem finding a room or suite to stay in, as the city offers a range of four‑star ho‑ tels. But what if you are a group of tourists traveling the Trans‑Siberian Railroad and want to explore the wonders of the Tatar capital for a couple of days? Or students from a neighboring Volga city who have come to Kazan to party away the weekend? Up until very recently, Kazan has had little to offer in the way of cheap, European‑style accom‑ modation for backpackers and all those on a budget. In 2008, Bulgaru and Safina began pro‑ viding these services, but it wasn’t until this year that the hostel industry started to take off, with at least six new es‑ tablishments opening. Hostels are still something of a new phenomenon for Kazan, as they are for other Russian cities. Some of those that have opened are converted flats in residential blocks, albeit with all the ameni‑ ties that one should expect from a hostel. Most only accept cash. Still, the owners and managers, who are often one and the same, are doing their best to make sure that guests enjoy their stay. Some hostels are popular with foreign‑ ers. Others cater more to Russian tourists, as a growing number of young open‑minded Russians are discovering the benefits of shar‑ ing cozy, Ikea‑furnished dormi‑ tories with fellow travelers. All of them are affordable places to spend a night. Aillin — 22, 23 Baumana Street, +7 (843) 297‑99‑71, www. aillin‑hostel.com — opened this year and enjoys a central location just near the Kremlin. Housed in a flat on the fourth floor of a res‑ idential building, the hostel offers accommodation options varying from a six‑bed dorm to a private twin room. Free services include a common bathroom, wireless internet, tea and coffee, an iron, and a hairdryer. The hostel has a common room with a TV set and a communal kitchen. Opened by A i ra t S u n g a t u l l i n , a t w e n‑ ty‑year‑old entrepreneur with a background in sports, Aillin is the first sports‑themed hostel in Rus‑ sia. Each of its rooms is linked with a certain sports club. Rates
А dorm room in Dream Hostel.
start at 400 rubles. Online book‑ ing is available at www.hostel‑ world.com. Opened and run by Ekaterina Bulgaru, Bulgaru — 4/34 Uni‑ versitetskaya Street, apt. 8; +7 (904) 762‑51‑22; www.bulga‑ ru‑hostel.com — has been greet‑ ing budget‑conscious guests to Kazan since 2008, making it the city’s oldest hostel. Currently, about 60 per cent of its guests are foreign tourists. The hostel is just a three‑minute walk from Ploschad Tukaya metro station in a flat on the fourth floor of a Sta‑ lin‑era block built for well‑off So‑ viets. Bulgaru offers an authentic experience close to a homestay, yet also provides all the services expected from a hostel, including a common bathroom, a commu‑ nal kitchen, wireless internet and a common computer, a washing machine, and security lockers. A bed in an eight‑person dorm starts at 450 rubles a night, and a pri‑ vate twin room costs 650 rubles. The hostel offers bicycle rental at 200 rubles per day and visa reg‑ istration for 350 rubles. “The host is very friendly,” writes Ilyas Abdul Rahim from Malaysia about Bulgaru on www. hostelworld.com, where it is pos‑ sible to book a room. “She actu‑ ally lives there with her family thus making our stay there more like being with a local Russian family rather than staying at an ordinary hostel. Not to mention the loca‑ tion, very convenient and close to all the attractions you need to see in town! I’d recommend this place!” Dream Hotel — 28a Zhu‑ kovskogo Street, +7 (960) 039‑01‑44, www.dream‑hostel. ru — opened in July in the base‑ ment of a residential building in a quiet corner of the city center. Just a five‑minute walk from both Ploschad Svobody (Victory Square) and the Kazanka river, it has an eight‑bed room, a five‑bed room, and a private room. Rates start at 450 rubles. Free ameni‑ ties include a shared bathroom, Internet connection, and tea and coffee. Dream Hostel has a com‑ mon room with a TV set. Transfer from the airport and the railway station is available for 500 and 150 rubles, respectively. The hos‑ tel’s guests are mostly Russians, although foreign tourists are not unheard of and are welcome as
well. Online booking is available at www.hostelworld.com. Just across the street from Dream Hostel is I&I — 23 Zhu‑ kovskogo Street, +7 (917) 236‑99‑61, www.inihostel.ru — which, like its neighbor, is also housed in the basement of an apartment building. I&I has an artsy feel. The communal area and bedroom walls are decorated with world maps and Warholesque installations, and there is an ar‑ tistic space where music is played, films are shown, and contempo‑ rary art is created. This is all of course after the owners, Sergei and Tagir, have made sure that all the guests are warm and com‑ fortable. The hostel has one
Street view of Bulgaru, Kazan’s oldest hostel.
eight‑bed room, one four‑bed room, and one double. Rates start at 500 rubles. Free amenities in‑ clude a common bathroom, a self‑service kitchen, a lounge area, free Internet connection, tee and coffee, and luggage stor‑ age. The hostel also has a sauna that the hosts will turn on for 300 rubles. The owners estimate that about 70 per cent of their guests have been foreigners since open‑ ing the hostel in April. Online booking is available at www.hos‑ telworld.com. “We stayed in I&I just after it opened and were among their first foreign guests,” writes Ron‑ ald D on www.tripadvisor.com. “Tagir and Sergei are fantastic hosts and are extremely helpful (even accompany you to the su‑ permarket). The vibe is really good, with guitar music played
A common area in Zebra, Kazan’s largest Hostel.
live by Tagir and amazing art on the walls (love the Bob Marley/ Pushkin combo). This place feels like a home away from home.” Mikado Hostel — 6a Gork‑ ogo Street, apt. 11; +7 (843) 253‑22‑93; www.mikadootel. com — opened in February 2011, and is located on the fourth floor of an apartment building in the city center. The hostel has three dorms sleeping nine, five, and four, plus a twin private room. Free services include common bath‑ rooms, free wireless internet and a common computer, tea and cof‑ fee, an iron, and a hairdryer. Rates start at 500 rubles. Foreign tour‑ ists account for only 10‑20 per cent of the hostel’s guests, but the warm staff ensures that they are very much ready to great for‑ eigners and consult with them, in English, about their plans in Ka‑ zan. Bicycles are also available for 100 rubles an hour or 500 ru‑ bles for the entire day. Mikado Hostel only opened half a year ago, but it has been successful enough that it is in the process of moving to a new building and changing its name. The Old Merchant Hotel and Hos‑ tel is opening in October in an early‑1900s house next to the current Mikado Hostel and will provide accommodation for 42 guests in 12 bedrooms. The new hostel will also have a common room, kitchen, and four bath‑ rooms. “Great location, very nice and friendly staff. And, which is more important, these guys have got bike rental!” writes a commenter on www.hostelworld.com, where it is possible to book a bed or room in the Mikado Hostel. “Ex‑ ploring Kazan on bikes was a fan‑ tastic experience I would defi‑ nitely recommend anyone.” In addition to Bulgaru, Safi‑ na — 17 Parizhskoy Kommuny Street, +7 (843) 216 37‑70, www. pro‑kazan.samomu.ru — has also been providing hostel accommo‑ dation since 2008. On the second and third floors of a historic build‑ ing in the former Tatar quarter some five minutes by foot from Baumana Street, Safina is prob‑ ably the cheapest option available in Kazan. If you are traveling in a group of four, you can rent the four‑bed room for just 1000 ru‑ bles a night, or 250 per person. Booked individually, the beds start
at 350 rubles in the 12‑bed dorm. The hostel also offers private rooms. Free facilities and servic‑ es include shared bathrooms, a self‑service kitchen, tea and cof‑ fee, wireless internet, and a wash‑ er machine. The majority of the hostel’s guests are Russian. On‑ line booking is available at www. hostelsclub.com and www.hos‑ telcentral.com. Named after the holiday cel‑ ebrated in Russia as students’ day, Tatiana’s Day — 5 Suley‑ m a n o v o y S t re e t , + 7 ( 8 4 3 ) 227‑07‑47, www.hostel‑kzn.ru — is a small but cozy hostel that wel‑ comes both students and adults. The hostel is on the first floor of a modern residential building five minutes from the Kozya Sloboda metro station. It has a dorm that sleeps eight and a room for three. Rates from May to December are 450 and 550 rubles, respective‑ ly. This price includes free wire‑ less Internet, a self‑service kitch‑ en, a common bathroom with bathing implements, and an iron. The common room is nicely fur‑ nished, boasting its own library, a TV set, and a computer. So far, Tatyana’s Day’s clientele have mainly been Russian tourists. Online booking is available at www.hostelworld.com. Zebra — 18a Amirkhana Street, +7 (843) 521‑71‑71, www. hostelzebra.ru — is the largest hostel in Kazan and offers some services, like free breakfast, that are usually found only in econo‑ my hotels. Located in Novo‑Sa‑ vinovsky district 20 minutes by car from the city’s historic cen‑ tre, the hostel is in a modern three‑floor building with key card access for the guests and a pro‑ fessional, English‑speaking staff. Accommodation options include everything from a ten‑bed dorm to twin and double private rooms to a suite, all with their own bath‑ room. Rates start at 500 rubles and finish at 2000 rubles for the two‑room suite. Payment can be made by cash or credit card. Amenities include wireless Inter‑ net connection, luggage storage and safe deposit boxes, visa reg‑ istration for foreign tourists, a li‑ brary, and a collection of DVDs. Hairdryers and ironing boards are provided on request. Online book‑ ing is available at www.hostel‑ world.com, or directly on the hostel’s website.
The Kazan Herald
October 14, 2011 No. 6 (15)
Weekend Getaways: Day Trip To Bolgar by Wyatt Ford Some 200 kilometers south of Kazan, nestled on the bank of the Volga River at the southern reaches of the Kuybyshev Res‑ ervoir, lay the remains of Bolgar. The city was at the epicenter of the economic and cultural life of the Bulgar state, the name giv‑ en to the political entity that emerged to control the Middle Volga region at the end of the ninth century, and grew to have nearly 50,000 inhabitants in the mid-fourteenth century. Bolgar has been an equally important site for modern Ta‑ tarstan, whose national identity draws heavily on the legacy of the Bulgar state. Archeological ex‑ cavation of the site was initiated in 1864 by V.G. Tizengluzen and continued steadily over the next century. In 1969, the Tatar ASSR founded the Bolgar State History and Architecture Cultural Preserve on the archeological dig site. In 1991, the modern city Kuybyshev, which sits just north of the ruins of ancient Bolgar, was renamed Bolgar as well. Since then, Bolgar has been positioned as an important cul‑ tural and historical landmark of Tatarstan. In 1998, it — along with Sviyazhsk — was placed on Rus‑ sia’s UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. In 2010, then-Pres‑ ident Mintimer Shaimiev created the Tatarstan Historical and Cul‑ tural Monument Revival Fund. The fund’s primary purpose is to help finance the restoration and revi‑ talization of Bolgar and Sviyazhsk, which President Shaimiev sees as a necessary prerequisite to making both sites full-fledged members on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In addition to restoration, the Revival Fund is also spearhead‑ ing a complex of new buildings in and around the Bolgar cultural preserve to honor its history. These entirely new buildings in‑ clude a building in honor of the Volga Bulgars’ conversion to Is‑ lam in 922; the Bulgar Mosques and Medrese Complex; a breadmaking museum; a museum ded‑ icated to the Bolgar state and its role as a river port; and a new river port. When this ambitious project is complete, the Bolgar State His‑ tory and Architecture Cultural Preserve will be a state-of-theart, dual monument to both the
past of the Bulgar state and the present and future of Tatarstan. For all of these reasons, the Bolgar State History and Archi‑ tecture Cultural Preserve is worth at least a day trip for any tourist passing through Kazan. Nobody said that getting there would be easy. From Kazan, the quickest way to get to Bolgar is by boat, but boats have not been servicing the site since the Bul‑ garia sank in the Volga River in a tragic accident in June. Until boat service is restored, the only way to get there is a circuitous over‑ land route. It took two and a half hours to get there by car on a Sunday this past September. Unfortunately, your options are limited if you don’t have a car. There is no public bus service to Bolgar, according to Kazan’s Tourism Information Centre. Be‑ sides hiring a taxi, your only op‑ tion is to book a tour from Kazan. The Tourism Information Centre’s excursion centre is located on the premises of Hotel Tatarstan. Their tour to Bolgar includes transport by bus there and back, a tour guide, all ticketing, and lunch. Their tours run on the first and third Saturday of every month — the next one is on 6 No‑ vember — and cost 1,850 rubles a person, but it is recommended to book in advance, as the trip is cancelled if not enough people sign up. This tour is offered in Russian only. If you want to have control over when you visit, you can book the same tour private‑ ly — 14,200 rubles in English, 12,800 rubles in Russian. If you do choose to find your own way to Bolgar, entrance to the Cultural Preserve costs 60 rubles, 30 rubles for students and senior citizens. “Vstrecha s Proshlym” (“Encounter With the Past”), a Russian-language guidebook to Bolgar, costs 70 rubles, and is more than suffi‑ cient for a day visit. The crown of the Bolgar State History and Architecture Cultur‑ al Preserve is the Sobornaya Mechet (Main Mosque). The mosque was built in the thirteenth century. The main hall of the build‑ ing was 32 meters by 34 meters and had 20 columns. Some of these original columns have been placed back in their original po‑ sition, with other replicas accom‑ panying them. The main hall of the mosque, which has only two-
Left, the Khanskaya Usypalnitsa (Khanskaya Tomb). Right, the Maly Minaret (Small Minaret).
The main grounds of the Bolgar State History and Architecture Cultural Preserve. From left to right: Severny Mavzoley (Northern Mausoleum) , Tserkov Uspeniya (Church of the Assumption), Sobornaya Mechet (Main Mosque), and Vostochny Mavzoley (Eastern Mausoleum).
meter-high walls right now, is currently in the midst of restora‑ tion, but restoration of the mina‑ ret is already complete. Scattered around the Sobor‑ naya Mechet are the Vostochny Mavzoley (Eastern Mausoleum) and Severny Mavzoley (Northern Mausoleum). The Severny Ma‑ vzoley was restored from 1968 to 1969, receiving a new brick dome reinforced with concrete. It cur‑ rently houses а collection of tomb‑ stones with carved epigraphs gathered from several archeo‑ logical dig sites in Bolgar. The Tserkov Uspeniya (Church of the Assumption) is a eigh‑ teenth-century Russian church that was built right next to the So‑ bornaya Mechet. It now houses the Archeological Museum. The collection is mainly comprised of ceramic knives, bowls, glass, and fragments of other artifacts dat‑ ing back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It also has miniature reconstructions of what Bolgar looked like, diagrams of Genghis Khan’s approach to and invasion of the region, and mis‑ cellaneous Russian Empire me‑ mentos, such as a letter written by Peter the Great. Bolgar’s other main ruins are scattered in the surrounding field, whose vastness and pristine feel exudes a sense of timeless tran‑ quility over the whole area. A good fifteen minutes by foot from the Sobornaya Mechet is the Maly Minaret (Small Minaret), which dates back to the fourteenth cen‑ tury. It is still possible to climb its winding staircase to the gallery. Nearby are the remains of the Khanskaya Usypalnitsa (Khans‑ kaya Tomb). Archeological work suggests that the area around the Maly Minaret was populated with several burial vaults in the four‑ teenth and fifteenth centuries. Not far from these ruins is a mod‑ ern memorial to Khan Aidar’s conversion to Islam in 922. Of the remaining ruins in the field around the Sobornaya Mechet, the Chernaya Palata (Black Chamber) is the most in‑ triguing. A brick, square building with a domed roof and arched entranceways and windows, the Chernaya Palata earned its name
Chernaya Palata (Black Chamber).
from a legent. When Khan Tamer‑ lain attacked Bolgar, the Bolgar Khan is said to have hidden in this chamber with his family. Khan Ta‑ merlain had the chamber burnt, and only one of the Bolgar Khan’s daughters survived by climbing to the top of the burning building. Khan Tamerlain offered to spare her life in exchange for her hand in marriage. The Bolgar Khan’s daughter agreed, on the condi‑ tion that her captured brothers were freed and given good hors‑ es. Khan Tamerlain complied, and as the Bolgar Khan’s sons rode away, their sister jumped to her death into the smouldering re‑ mains of the building. On the banks of the Kama River, upstream from the main site of Bulgar is the Kapitansky Kolo‑ dets (Captain’s Well), named in honor of the eighteenth-century explorer N.P. Rychkov.
Construction of the Bulgar Mosques and Medrese Complex.
Today, part of Bolgar’s charm is its unspoiled aura. In contrast to many tourists sits around the world, Bolgar has an authentic, rural quaintness to it, where an‑ imals roam freely and locals ap‑ proach unsuspecting tourists to peddle sword remains alleged‑ ly from the time of the Russian revolution. The challenge that the Revival Fun faces is preserv‑ ing this ambience as they build up a modern infrastructure around it. Useful Information For Your Trip The official website on the Bolgar State History and Ar‑ chitecture Cultural Preserve, www.bolgar.info, has all the main information about Bolgar. The site is in Russian, but an embedded Google Translate option can give you an idea of what it all means.
The Kazan Herald
October 14, 2011 No. 6 (15) Culture
Devil Sold His Soul Plays Zheltaya Kofta
by Vlad KAZIMIROV The British post‑hardcore band Devil Sold His Soul played at Zheltaya Kofta on 26 Sep‑ tember, as part of a month‑long Russian tour. The band’s six‑piece received a rather warm welcome from those in attendance, considering that this is only their second time in Russia. Devil Sold His Soul enjoys a cult following across many countries, thanks to their atmospheric, emotionally wrought songs, which are a sort of twenty‑first century take on teenage angst. The Kazan Herald caught up with the group before they took the stage to mull over their second venture into the Motherland. The Kazan Herald: How has the tour been so far? Devil Sold His Soul: Really good. Moscow was better than last time. Last time we were in Russia, we played five shows in seven days and could only stick to the west coast. This time we were invited back and we heard it was for a month. We looked at the map and were like, woah, we’re going to a lot more places. This time we’re going quite far in, we’re going further than if we went from one coast of America to the other, and were only halfway across Russia. Last year, people traveled to those five shows, and we thought maybe this time the shows may not be well attended, but they’ve been really good. Maybe the word has spread around from last year. KH: How did the idea to tour Russia come about in the first place? DSHS: We’d been asked a couple of years ago by a guy called Ilya who runs the Booking Machine agency. We were busy with a new album, but later we
The Kazan Herald R. Yunusov Editor‑in‑Chief
decided to do it. Last year went so well, they said, “This year, we want you to come back, and we want to do a month instead of a week,” and we were like, “sure.” It wasn’t really a question of whether we wanted to do it or not, because last year we were treat‑ ed so well. The tour manager we’ve got with us, Alex, is one of the most hard‑working people we know. We had a lot of faith that we would be looked after well and treated well. Booking Machine is a Russian book agency setting good example for other coun‑ tries, as they are doing things properly. KH: How do you find Rus‑ sian audiences? Are they dif‑ ferent from what you get in Europe? DSHS: Really good. Very ap‑ preciative that you’ve traveled the distance to come and play in front of them. And I think they show that by going crazy and coming up afterward and asking you to autograph and stuff like that. They seem to be very pleased. And they also seem to understand the emotion that’s in our music. The Russian people that are into that kind of music seem to really un‑ derstand that it’s full of emotion and about more than just making a lot of noise, there’s a lot in there, musically and lyrically. KH: How important do you think it is for the audience to be able to understand your lyrics? DSHS: I think if they get the emotion…there’s a difference between just going to a gig and going to a show. The way the band put themselves across on stage — whether they’re all moving around, or things like that — there are things you can do to connect with a crowd. You can get them fired up in different ways.
October 14, 2011
We give a lot of energy and emotion when we play live, so even if you’ve never heard the songs before, you don’t understand the words, visually you will get a feel‑ ing that these guys are trying to say something. I don’t think un‑ derstanding the words 100 per cent is massively important. What’s important is connecting with the emotion that’s in the music. And the idea of what we’re doing with this band is just trying to express ourselves, and people either get it or they don’t. And when they don’t, they miss out, because when they do they, they seem to really say, “wow, you guys are really do‑ ing something very interesting, why aren’t you bigger?” KH: How different do you think your songs sound live compared to their studio ver‑ sions? DSHS: We try our very best to make sure people hear the same thing. If a band can’t recreate their album in performance, I get re‑ ally disappointed, I feel like it’s a bit of a let down. We do work, and we do try and figure things out as best as we can, so that everything on the track is performed live. A good example of that: we have a song called Drowning/ Sinking, and we didn’t play it last time we were here because, but a lot of people wanted us to, and it was literally because we couldn’t. We can play it, but we hadn’t worked out how to get it as good as the CD. Say there’s three gui‑ tar parts: if you’ve got two guitar‑ ists, you can’t play three guitar parts, so you have to figure out which bits to play, and then record the rest as samples. Say you’ve done four guitar parts, it’s even worse. When we first started the band we tried to just stick to gui‑ tar, bass, drums, vocal, keep it very simple. But then with the
most recent record, we kind of scrapped that idea, so then do‑ ing some of the songs live, espe‑ cially with all the strings and extra ideas we had, there’s a lot in there. But I think we’ve had a lot of comments saying that it’s better live than on CD because it’s more powerful, and you get the visuals as well. A live drum set through a good PA mixed well is always go‑ ing to sound better than on a rub‑ bish stereo at home or a laptop speaker. Also, our music trans‑ lates quite well over huge PAs. KH: Do you think your mu‑ sic has an English quality to it because you are from Eng‑ land? DSHS: It’s definitely influ‑ enced by American bands, but then it’s influenced by English bands as well. …I haven’t really thought about that. …Obviously the vocals are going to sound English because Ed’s English, and he doesn’t put on a fake American accent, which some bands do. There’s bands in Eng‑ land and also everywhere around the world that just copy American bands or Canadian bands. We’ve always tried very hard not to be influenced directly by anyone else. So you could say our music sounds English be‑ cause there isn’t another band out there that sounds exactly the same, but we’ve been influenced by lots of different styles, just a mix, a real melting pot of all kinds of music that we grew up listen‑ ing to or we’ve listened to recent‑ ly. I don’t know if it’s quintessen‑ tially English. We are, as people, but the music, I don’t know, with the Internet these days, it’s kind of international, really. Different cultures pick it up in a different way. When we play in France, the people start crying in the audience, like half of the au‑ dience was in tears because they connect to the emotion. But then, maybe in England, they jump around a bit more because they express themselves in a different way. And in Russia, the kids are singing along. So everyone inter‑ prets what we do differently. So I don’t know if the music is quint‑ essentially English, but we are, as people.
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KH: What struck you the most when you arrived in Russia? DSHS: The thing that struck me the most was how different it was from how it’d been por‑ trayed in American movies. It was almost like everything you’d seen and been told was just completely untrue. The people were actually very friendly, and very down to earth, and just very similar to how we are, and how the Americans are as well. Just a really friendly, beautiful coun‑ try that had been portrayed as somewhere really dangerous, where you get kidnapped by ma‑ fia and this kind of stuff. We have no problems whatsoever. It was amazing, it really was, it was so good. We didn’t want to leave last year, and that’s why we came back. KH: Have you heard of Ka‑ zan before? DSHS: No, we haven’t. But I don’t know why we haven’t, be‑ cause it’s a big city. The thing is, back home in Great Britain or England, we don’t hear that much about Russia, and I don’t know if that’s because of the American influence or the British government doesn’t want the British people to know much about Russia, I don’t know. We only hear about, maybe, Abramov‑ ich, who owns Chelsea, or some of the footballers, or maybe an athlete or some kind of pop sing‑ er, or something like that. But as for the actual cities, I think your average person from England would only really say Moscow or St. Petersburg, unless they’ve traveled here. We don’t speak Russian, and we don’t know much about Rus‑ sia, we do feel a bit silly for that. We’d never heard of this city be‑ fore, and it seems like a nice place, and the venue is nice, and it’s probably going to be another re‑ ally good show. So we’ll definite‑ ly know it from now on. I guess as much for us coming to play in this city, we’ll take something away as well from this city: we’ll know about it, and then be able to spread the word about it being here. But yeah, we haven’t heard of it before. Photo courtesy of ololo.fm.
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