The spatial dimensions of collective identity among the Volga-Urals Muslims are reconstructed out of a wide range of secondary literature. Before the mid-nineteenth-century political reforms of the Russian Empire, reference is identified to three levels: the local community (mahalla); the region itself as a Muslim-peopled entity within the Russian Empire; and the symbolic identification to the old Bulghar kingdom and its holy places ― a superposition of the realm of Islamic faith to the imperial space of the Russian state, translating Volga Tatar aspirations of confessional and cultural leadership within this space. The period posterior to the reforms is characterised as an era of a shift of the major symbolic reference from Bulghar to Kazan, and on the understanding of community of an ethnic and linguistic, Turkic and Tatar basement, especially in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution. In 1917 only, however did emerge a coherent aspiration to territorial autonomy defined on the basis of ethnic affiliation.

The Redaction
CER: II-3.1.C-138