Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Celebration of Ismail Gasprinskiy

Every year the birth date of the great Crimean Tartar writer and educator, Ismail Gasprinskiy, is celebrated in Crimea. Born March 21, 1851 (though some sources report his birth date as March 8), Ismail Gasprinskiy had a profound influence on Crimean Tatar life at the beginning of the twentieth century, and today is considered “the father of the modern Crimean Tatar nation.”

This year, the Gasprinskiy Library, the Ministry of Culture and Arts in Crimea, and the Gasprinskiy Memorial Museum in Bakhchiseray, came together to produce a series of celebrations dedicated to the memory of Ismail Gasprinskiy. In the tradition of memorial events in Ukraine, at the beginning of the celebrations flowers were laid at the monument to Gasprinskiy located on the Salgir River in Simferopol. The nearby city of Bakhchiseray (location of Gasprinkiy’s home and seat of the Crimean Khanate in the 16th-18th centuries) hosted two days of literary readings called “The World of Ismail Gasprinskiy.”

In Simferopol our library created a special display of books by and about Ismail Gasprinskiy and hosted a book presentation of Refat Shakir Aliyev’s Eight Steps in the Footsteps of a Teacher—a collection of articles about Gasprinskiy’s philosophy. As a special addition to the event, a live conversation via Skype was held with the author from his home in Perth, Australia.

On the library website, there is a beautiful tribute to Ismail Gasprinskiy by renowned Crimean Tatar poet, Shakir Selim. Despite the limitations of depending on a translation through google and my poor Russian, I wanted to share it with you:

"O you who pierced the darkness of night, a Great man.
You in the world of the Turks, stood as the sun and returned the light of hope.
When it seemed that the course of life very much slowed down,
You gave a dream, you gave Faith and the wisdom covenant."

--Shakir Selim

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gasprinskiy Library Launches Fundraising Campaign

The Gasprinskiy Library has announced a fundraising marathon called the “Kindness Campaign.” It is hoped that the fundraising campaign, running from March 1, 2012 to January 1, 2013, will help the Library move forward in their mission to preserve and revive the Crimean Tatar language and culture.

Liliya Kaderova, Deputy Director of the Library, announces the fundraising campaign at March 14th press conference in the Reading Hall.
As an institution of the Ukrainian government, the Library is severely underfunded and struggles to maintain even basic services. In order for them to pursue their mission, it is necessary to raise funding from outside sources.

Three major problems will be addressed by this campaign:
1. The deteriorating condition of the library building. The library building is an architectural monument from the 16th - 19th centuries. The oldest part of the building, on the south side, was built in the 16th century and the main building in the 19th century. Until 1910 the building housed a medrese (Islamic school). The building is typical old Crimean architecture – a brick, single-story building with a pitched tiled roof. Under the house are extensive vaulted cellars. Due to lack of funding from the state budget to perform repair and restoration work, the building is slowly disintegrating. The roof leaks in several places, the walls are cracking, and the storage vaults are in poor condition. Furthermore, there is no space to accommodate the full document collection of the library. (See photos below)

2. No funds for acquisition. At this time, the library is dependent on donations to expand their collections. There are no funds in their budget to acquire the documents needed to complete their collections—such as Ismail Gasprinskiy’s newspaper Terdjiman, of which the library only has approximately 30%--and new publications relevant to Crimean Tatar language, history, and culture.

Masthead of Ismail Gasprinskiy's newspaper Terdjiman.
3. Lack of access to their language and culture by the inhabitants of the over 300 remote Crimean Tatar communities spread across the peninsula. To solve this pressing need, the Gasprinskiy Library would like to purchase a “bibliobus” (bookmobile) which they would operate in partnership with the Ministry of Culture.

A bookmobile in America.

For the next ten months, the Library is planning monthly events to promote their fundraising campaign, including performances at the Crimean Tatar Drama Theater, musical concerts, poetry readings, and art exhibits, with the proceeds going to the Library. You can read the full press release (in Russian) under Pages on this blog.

Underground vault of the library where many books are stored.

Leaking ceiling in the stacks area of the library.

Crack in the wall of the Reading Hall.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

International Mother Language Day at the Gasprinskiy Library

On February 21st, the Gasprinskiy Library held an event marking International Mother Language Day. The International Mother Language Day was established by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1999 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and has been observed internationally every year since February 2000. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.

“Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage.” (UN announcement of International Mother Language Day 2012)
The Crimean Tatars know this only too well. The state of their language is considered the most pressing problem facing Crimean Tatars today. It is estimated that only 5% of Crimean Tatar children speak their mother tongue and Crimean Tatar is now listed in the UNESCO Red Book of Disappearing Languages as “severely threatened.”

One of the main missions of the Gasprinskiy Library is the preservation and revitalization of the Crimean Tatar language. In recognition of the importance of the International Mother Language Day, the library organized a large event held in the Reading Hall of the library. Co-sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Education, the Crimean Tatar Writers’ Union, and the Association of Crimean Tatar Educators, the event drew over fifty people from many different areas of Crimean Tatar life. There was a roundtable discussion of the book exhibition “Language—the Greatest Wealth of the People,” and representatives from the media, League of Crimean Tatar Women, Crimean Tatar youth organizations, and directors of the Crimean Tatar national schools talked about the specific work they are doing to preserve and revive the language and their plans for the future. Throughout the event, the audience was entertained by music from old and young Crimean Tatar performers.

Director of the Gasprinskiy Library, Gulnara Yagyaeva, along with Crimean Tatar writer Riza Fazel and Crimea Rada Deputy Cafure Kadzhametova, open the event.

Leilya Kaderova, Deputy Director of the Gasprinskiy Library, gives an overview of the book exhibition "Language--the Greatest Wealth of a People".

Shevket Eunucov, Director of the Department of Crimean Tatar Literature at Tavrida National University in Simferopol
Rada Deputy Cafure Kadzhametova introduces the Russian-Tatar Thematic Dictionary.
Safinar Jemileva, President of the Crimean Tatar Women's Association.
Server Bekirov, journalist.
Rustem Memetov, Crimean Tatar artist and singer.