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Photo Gallery | Where Europe Ends: Images from Bashkortostan and Tatarstan

A barefoot tourist stands between worshippers in "Lala Tulpan"

December 5, 2013

by Taylor Zajicek

A barefoot tourist stands between worshippers in “Lala Tulpan,” Ufa’s chief mosque.

Tucked just west of the Urals, Bashkortostan occupies the easternmost edge of European Russia. Despite being acquired by Ivan IV nearly 500 years ago, the minority republic retains and boasts its Turkic roots. The state-directed history of the region deemphasizes this imperial acquisition in favor of a narrative of diversity and multiethnic accord. While the historicity of this assertion can be questioned, life in contemporary Ufa seems to reinforce it. Intermarriages abound; young people can recite which grandparents were Tatar, Bashkir, and Russian; and Orthodox and Islamic holidays are recognized in unison. This syncretism was most evident at the Krasnosolsk Orthodox monastery, where men in skullcaps and women with crescent-smattered handkerchiefs dipped into the river’s consecrated water with no perceptible sense of incongruence.

I visited Ufa as a participant in the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship
program. These photos are excerpts of my time in the city and region, and reflect my interest in Ufa’s blended relationship to its Turkic heritage and more “mainstream” Russian culture. My graduate research in the Ellison Center focuses on the Soviet Union’s historic connection with Turkey, and I was further gratified to witness these commercial and cultural networks in a promising, albeit nascent, encounter.

Taylor Zajicek is a 2014 REECAS MAIS student.