Conception of Our Project
Starting Point: the 1920s
Our project picks up at the first wave of anti-religious measures which took place in the 1920s and 1930s in Kazan'. Apart from persecutions of clerics and intensified anti-religious propaganda, religious buildings, i.e. churches, mosques, monasteries, and madrasahs, were central to the propagated "battle against religion": The Bolsheviks closed, looted, and destroyed the buildings, or used them for profane purposes.
This wave of anti-religious persecutions fundamentally changed the traditional religious life Kazan's population, Muslims and Christians alike, had led before the revolution of 1917. Earlier, religious buildings had been an integral and important part of religiosity: Kazan's numerous churches and mosques used to be visited regularly by many believers, and the institutions of religious learning figured prominently in the young generations' education. The sudden und near to complete disappearance of these buildings was, together with the other anti-religious persecutions, bound to substantially transform the population's religious life in many realms: holidays and feasts just as much as one's daily life, the many rituals and customs, or education and schooling.
Another strand of our project traces the history of these religious buildings, our "places of memory". We explore what happened to the buildings after the first period of closures (the 1920s and 1930s), for which purposes they came to be used, and how they developed in the following decades. Methodically, we mean to find answers to these questions in Kazan's archives, mainly by scrutinizing regional and national newspapers. The religious buildings form one focus of our project because we assume them to have a special meaning to the people and thus play an important role in their memory as well. In other words, remembrance is likely to concentrate and condensate at these buildings, because they used to be key elements of the population's religious life and later were sites of state anti-religious measures.
Second Focus: The 1960s
The project's second focus is concerned with the intensification of the battle against religion that Khrushchev initiated in the late 1950s. With the help of personal interviews with people who lived during that period, we try to examine how Kazan's population perceived these new persecutions and how the people remember the events today. Which is the buildings' place in the population's memory? How did people experience these renewed anti-religious measures? How do these measures figure in the contemporary remembrance of that time? What was religious life like in the 1960s? Are tolerance and openness with regard to the other religion discernible in the individuals' memory? We intend to explore the anti-religious persecutions of the 1960s focusing on the individual experience and on their place in the present-day memory. In the category "present-day memory" on this webpage, the results of the interviews are presented; you may find more information about the religious buildings on the sites titled "churches" and "mosques".
The results of both strands have been published as a historical guide of Kazan' in April 2008. This historical guide introduces visitors and inhabitants of the city to this special aspect of its history. It invites the readers on a tour along the chosen mosques and churches; at each "station", the reader may learn about the building's history and particular significance. At the same time, the guide describes the the history of anti-religious politics in Kazan, with special regard to what has been disclosed in the interviews: the people's personal experiences and their individual memory of these very events. The historical guide thus is much more a vivid booklet than an ordinary history textbook. It contains many images, both historical and contemporary, as well as quotes from the interviews and illustrates the regional memory of the 1950s and 1960s in an exceptional manner. Initially, 1000 copies were printed (350 in Russian and English language, respectively, 200 in German, 100 in Tatar language). Detailed information about the historical guide can be obtained at firstname.lastname@example.org.