Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Kadiaskerskie Books

Winter has finally come to Crimea with icy roads, frost covered trees, and a thin layer of snow turning the landscape into a winter wonderland. I am glad to hole up in the warmth of the library, and I spend much of my time researching and writing grants.
One of the grants I am currently working on is a “Partnership Grant” through the Peace Corps, which is basically a way to raise funds in the United States for a project at a Volunteer’s site. Though Nadjie and I haven’t yet finalized plans for this grant, one of the projects we are considering is trying to raise funds to purchase copies of the Kadiaskerskie Books from the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. The Kadiaskerskie Books are the court records of the “chief judges” (the Kadi Asker) of the Crimean Khanate, which was the ruling body of Crimea from 1440-1783. They contain the most comprehensive historical record of Crimean Tatar life on the peninsula, including records of civil and criminal court proceedings, spiritual testimonies, the execution of wills, and the costs of public works and buildings.
The Kadiaskerskie Books have an interesting history. In 1738, a fire destroyed most of the Khan palace in Bakhchisaray, the capital of the Crimean Khanate. The Kadiaskerskie Books were long thought to be totally lost, but in fact, 119 books survived and were brought by an employee of the Khanate to the Tauride provincial government and stored in its archives. They languished in obscurity until 1905 when a famous Russian orientalist scholar, Vasily Smirnov (1846-1922), surveyed the Kadiaskerskie Books and recognized their historical importance. He recommended that they be transferred to the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg for safe keeping, which is where they are today, despite several attempts to return them to their land of origin.
However, early photocopies of 61 of the Kadiaskerskie Books remain in Crimea, and even these have had a colorful history. Initially, they were housed in the Crimean History Museum. But one day, sometime after the Deportation of the Crimea Tatars, an employee of the nearby Crimean State Archives, Antonina Stepanova, stopped by the museum and realized that rare Crimean Tatar books, including copies of the Kadiaskerskie Books, were being used to stoke the boiler fire. She quickly ransomed the books with a bottle of vodka as payment, and took them to the State Archives for safe keeping. In late 1991, the question arose about sending the books back to the museum. However, they were rescued once again when a Crimean Tatar employee of the museum said, “Why send them back to a place where they suffered such a fate? Rather, they should go to the Gasprinskiy Library.” And so, the copies of the 61 Kadiaskerskie Books found a home in the Gasprinskiy Library where they are used to this day by researchers, scholars, and students of Crimean Tatar history and culture.
The copies of the Kadiaskerskie Books at the Gasprinskiy Library, covering the years 1648-1751.

The books are written in the Crimean Tatar language, using the Arabic alphabet.

However, these 61 books represent only a partial collection of the surviving Kadiaskerskie Books. One of the main missions of the Gasprinskiy Library is to be the central repository of books and documents by and about Crimean Tatars: a place where researchers, scholars, and the general public can come and learn about who the Crimean Tatar people are; a place where Crimean Tatar people can reclaim their history, language, and culture. To this end, a complete collection of copies of the Kadiaskerskie Books is crucial to fully understanding not only Crimean Tatar history and culture, but the history of the Crimean peninsula as a whole.
But of course, such a collection does not come without a price, and it is to fund this acquisition that we are considering the writing of a Partnership Grant. Currently, we are awaiting a reply from the St. Petersburg Library as to whether or not obtaining such copies is even possible, and if so, what the cost would be. I will post further information on this project as it develops.

Medine Alimova from the Archives Department at the Gasprinskiy Library holds one of the Kadiaskerskie Books.

Much of the information in this blog post is taken from an article written by Gasprinskiy librarian, Nadjie Tairova.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

English Class at the Library

One of the activities I have been doing at the Gasprinskiy Library since a few months after I came here, is to teach an English class to some of the Gasprinskiy staff members. Starting in September, we expanded the class a bit to include a volunteer and two staff members from the Krymchak Museum and preservation organization. Meeting twice weekly early in the morning before the library opens, my small English class is slowly learning conversational English, using a series of books from Oxford University Press called English for Life. I have never taught English before, but I find the experience very rewarding as my students—old and young—are so eager to learn. And as a person who is trying to learn Russian at the age of 62, I have much empathy for how difficult it is to learn a new language as you get older. Motivation becomes the key factor, I think, and that is something of which my students have an abundant supply.

On Thursday evenings, some of the group gathers at the Krymchak Museum, only a few blocks away, for an English “club,” in which we find ways to practice using English—games, telling stories, describing events, etc. Lately we have been playing a game that involves describing famous people, like the Russian poet Pushkin. I realized this could be a great opportunity for two groups of people—Crimean Tatars and Krymchak Jews—to learn more about each other’s culture and heroes. So I asked everyone to bring to our next meeting a description of a famous Crimean Tatar or Krymchak to share with the rest of the group. I look forward to what I, too, will learn at that meeting.

Visitors to the Library

The 20th anniversary celebration at the library continues with visitors from other organizations and libraries. Last week, librarians from the Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University in Simferopol (know locally as CEPU) paid a visit to library. Many of the women had previously worked at the library, and several of the library’s current staff had worked at CEPU, so it was a joyous occasion. Here we share coffee and sweets in the Reading Hall.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The last of our regional seminars

This past week we conducted the last of our regional seminars on Crimean Tatar language and literature, funded by a grant through the Peace Corps. We traveled to the far north of Crimea, first to the town of Krasnoperekopsk and then to Armansk. I was unable to go to the Krasnoperekopsk seminar, as it was scheduled on the one day a week that I work at the Orlova Children’s Library in Simferopol. Normally, I would change my schedule at the Children’s Library, but that week, one of my children’s English clubs at the library was putting on a Halloween skit. Needless to say, as “the director” of the play, I had to be there.
But the next day I was able to go with the other librarians to Armansk where we conducted a very well received seminar, and then afterwards, went on a short tour of the town, including a brief visit to their history museum. Once again, as with all the libraries we visited, I found the staff so gracious and hospitable, going out of their way to make us feel comfortable and welcomed. I will miss these weekly and sometimes bi-weekly visits to different libraries across Crimea. Though the time it took to travel that extensively meant I had to temporarily put aside other projects, I felt it gave me a sense of the diverse land and cultures of Crimea, and an appreciation of how devoted Crimean citizens are to their libraries. And it was also gratifying to have a better understanding of how wide spread the Crimean Tatar people are in Crimea, as in every community we visited there were sizeable populations of Tatars.
I feel our presence at the libraries had an impact—that it gave over 250 small libraries across Crimea information and materials to promote Crimean Tatar language and culture. And perhaps even more important, it gave the participants an opportunity to come together to discuss culture similarities and differences, hopefully leading to the longer range goal of increasing ethnic tolerance in Crimea.

Librarians from the villages surrounding Krasnoperekopsk listen to the presentations of the Gasprinskiy staff.
Participant at the Krasnoperekopsk seminar gives the result of her small group's translation of Russian proverb into Crimean Tatar.
At the seminar in Armansk, Alina from the Gasprinskiy Library talks about Crimean Tatar books while Susanna from the library looks on.
Participants at the Armansk seminar.
Nadjie guides participants in translation of the Russian proverb into Crimean Tatar and talking about the cultural differences and similarities.
Much laughter at the translation results.
Staff of the Armansk Library and the historical museum in Armansk pose for a picture with Gasprinskiy staff.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Library celebrates 20 Years with an International Conference

September 24, 2010, marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Gasprinsky Library, the first Crimean Tatar library. In celebration of this anniversary and also the 120th anniversary of the birthdate of the famous Turkologist, Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan, the Gasprinsky Library and the international organization TURKSOY, presented a two-day conference in Simferopol and Bakhchisarai on November 4th and 5th.
Guests came from the national libraries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, the Kyrsyz Republic, and the Russian republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Also present was the daughter of Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan, Isenbike Togan, who is a professor at the Middle East Technical University in Istanbul. It turns out she is a fluent English speaker, having obtained her Ph.D. at Harvard, and lived for a number of years in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, so we had much to talk about.
Besides the guests from the Turkic speaking countries, experts from Tauride National University and Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University in Simferopol also presented papers, along with staff from the Gasprinsky Library.
Topics at the conference included: The Role of Libraries in the Revival and Development of Crimean Tatar Education and Culture; the Development of Cooperation in the Culture Heritage of Turkic-speaking Countries; and Turkic National and Social-political Identity in the First Quarter of the 20th Century. Several papers were presented on Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan including: The Influence of Admet-Zaki Validi Togan on Tatar Culture; Admet-Zaki Validi Togan’s Life and Work and The 120 Years Since the Birth of Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan. His daughter, Isenbike Togan, spoke about Ahmet-Azki Validi Togan “My Father and Teacher.”
On the first day of the conference, a celebratory reception was held at the Gasprinsky Library, an event the library had been preparing for for over a month. “Sprucing up” projects had been occurring for days—the windows and trim on the front veranda were painted; the Reading Hall was revived with a fresh coat of paint and framed photographs of the history of the library; each department created new displays for the hallway information panels; and a beautiful collection of photographs of the paintings of renown Crimean Tatar artist Erfan Hafiev was hung in the hallway.
Guests came from libraries across Simferopol and Crimea to present tributes to the Gasprinsky Library on its 20th anniversary. Though I did not understand all the speeches, the obvious appreciation of the library and the work it has done came through loud and clear, despite the language barrier. And perhaps my favorite moment was when two singers led everyone in heartfelt traditional Crimean Tatar songs. And of course, the celebratory glass of wine I shared with my counterpart, Nadjie. I felt so honored to be part of this event.

Representatives from the Ministry of Culture, Orlova Children's Library, and Franco Library welcome guests to the celebration.
The Reading Hall at Gasprinsky Library is packed with guests.
Ayder Emirov, until recently director of the Gasprinsky Library for most of its twenty years, talks about the founding of the library.
Representatives from the Central Library in Alushta and other Crimean libraries present tributes.
The foreign guests are introduced.
Isenbike Togan talks about her father as Nail Akramovich Kambeev, Director of the National Library of Tatarstan, and Daribaeva Gulshat Gabdullaevna, Deputy Director of the National Academic Library in the Republic of Kazakhstan look on.
Nail Akramovich Kambeev presents a gift to the library.To the left are Tunzhel Azhar, Director of the National Library of Turkey, and Antonina Gezikova, Deputy Director of the National Libary of Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan.
The audience is led in singing by Crimean Tatar national singer, Rustem Memetov.
Afterwards, guests share conversation and champagne. Here is Ahat Salikhov, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Baskortostan, and Fevzi Yakubov, Rector of the Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University in Simferopol.
My counterpart, Nadjie Yagya, and I celebrate.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More library seminars around Crimea

The past two weeks we have been traveling quite a bit, taking our seminar on Crimean Tatar language and literature to libraries in Sudak, Oktabrske, Nezhnegorski, and Belagorsk. Each seminar brought 25 to 35 librarians from the small libraries in the surrounding villages, anxious to hear of the resources available from the Gasprinsky Library to help them establish and expand the Crimean Tatar sections in their libraries. At several of the libraries we were presented with performances by local Crimean Tatar children--singing, dancing, reciting of Crimean Tatar poetry. Here are some pictures:
Here I am with the director of the Crimean Tatar library in Belagorsk.
Nadjie and I talk about having a Peace Corps volunteer at a library.
Participants at the Belagorsk seminar.
Three librarians from different departments at Gasprinsky attend each training.
We gather with the participants in Oktabrske.
Crimean Tatar dance performance at the library in Oktabrske.
Refika from Gasprinsky Library shows some of the literature available.
Participants gather around the table in Oktabrske.
Medine from the Gasprinsky Library at the seminar in Sudak.
Participants at the seminar in Nezhnegorski.
In Nezhnegorski, Nadjie helps particpants translate a Russian proverb into Crimean Tatar.
Fatma from Gasprinsky Library shows some of the books available.
Mavie from the Gasprinsky Library with some of the staff at the Sudak Library.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Crimean Tatar linguistics book at the library

Darya Kavitskaya, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Yale University, recently sent a copy of her new book to the library for their English language collection of books about Crimean Tatar history, language, and culture.
Published by Lincom Europa, Crimean Tatar is the first full description of the Crimean Tatar language to appear in English or in any other language. From the back cover:
“It covers all major aspects of the phonology, morphology, and syntax of the Central dialect of Crimean Tatar, and it also mentions the unique features of the Northern and Southern dialects where possible. Three texts in Central, Northern, and Southern Crimean Tatar with interlinear glosses and English translation are included.”
For more information and to order the book, contact Lincom Europa at www.lincom.at.

Library seminar in Pervomayskoe

Last week we traveled to Pervomayskoe in northern Crimea to visit their beautiful library and present our seminar on Crimean Tatar language and literature. The seminar was attended by twenty librarians from the surrounding villages.

We gather in front of the library. From left to right: me, Tamara, Mavie from Gasprinskiy, Svetlana, Valentina, Gulara from Gaspinskiy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Photos from our seminar in Kirovskoe

We are welcomed to the Kirovskoe Library.
The reading hall in the library is filled with librarians from the surrounding communities.
Medine from the Archival Department talks about the important collections in the Gasprinskiy Library of the personal papers of famous Crimean Tatar writers, artists, and activists.
Mavie from the Bibliography Department shows some of the many bibliographies available at the Gasprinskiy Library.
Nadjie, the leading methodlogist at the library, breaks the participants into small groups to translate a Crimean Tatar proverb into Russian and to talk about the similarities of the cultures.

To much laughter, each group reads their proverb in Crimean Tatar and Russian and talks about its meaning.