Reviews

This panoramic article on the history of Tatar-language oral traditions proposes a chronological approach, classically divided according to the main admitted periods of the political history.  For each, the author has tried, by far not always convincingly, to establish liaisons between the political climate of the time—or the level of development of the society— and the relative importance of the genres cultivated at that time.  The period of the Bulghar kingdom is characterised by the statistical dominance of legends on the foundation of the city of Bulghar and on the adoption of Islam.  If a great deal of the rich epic literature of the time has been lost, the specific genre of the bayt, based on the recollection of some historical event, was to enjoy a rich development in the following centuries.  The period of the Ulus of Jöchi (alias Golden Horde) is marked by the existence of epic, heroic and lyrical dastans.  The Khanate of Kazan is typified by a number of legends about the foundation of the city of Kazan, and about its capture by Ivan iv, as well as by the continuation of epics in which the struggle of Kazan for its independence holds a significant position.  If very few texts remain from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the eighteenth and nineteenth century are rich of dastans based on the narrative of peasant’s revolts (Pugachev, Bakhtyar Kankaev), and of bayts based on important historical events (like a curious Rus-Fransuz sughïshï baytï on Napoleon’s Russian campaign, but also several texts on uprisings of local rural communities).  The nineteenth-century specific oral tradition of the Mishars and of the Siberian Tatars (notably of the Baraba Tatars) is rich of historical texts, notably on fugitives.  The twentieth century is evoked through the development of bayt in connection with the eventful history of the late Tsarist and early Soviet periods (most notably collectivisation and industrialisation, dealt with by official as well as underground bayts, the latter hostile to the Soviet administration).  The last paragraphs are devoted to the revivals of the Perestroika period, and to the current development of specific genres, like mönäjät of mystical content, and mäzäklär expressing popular humour.

The Redaction
CER: I-6.3.B-581