Reviews

Included into an important volume on the history and social sciences of the Tatars, and written by a group of ethnologists from Tatarstan, this chapter on family customs and rituals is based on recent publications as well as on a fieldwork by the author and some of her colleagues.  A research fellow at the Institute of History of Kazan, R. Urazmanova takes into consideration groups of Kazan Tatars, Siberian Tatars, Astrakhan Tatars and Kriashen Tatars in order to establish a classification of union rituals before and after wedding.  The reader deplores that despite such an intention, the biggest part of the analysis relies on materials touching exclusively Kazan Tatars.  Another limit of this ethnographical study is the large historical period taken in consideration, from the end of the nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century.  However, having noticed that union rituals are better preserved in rural areas, the author evokes at length the change these rituals faced during this period of time.  Presenting the gradual simplification and escheat of these practices as a consequence of more general transformations, the author states that during the twentieth century Islamic wedding ceremonies have been progressively replaced by civil ones.  She notices the influence of Russian culture on Tatar populations in this field, and remarks the recent popularity of Islamic marriage among Tatar populations.  The same method of investigation has been used for analysing customs linked to childbirths and funerals.  A distinct paragraph is dedicated to the role of Islam in the everyday life of Tatar families.  In this part of the chapter, the text is well illustrated with several pictures taken between 1952 and 1996 during ethnographical expeditions.  The expected conclusions of the chapter are that Islam always played an important role in the life of Tatar communities, even during the Soviet period, and that Islamic practice has been re-emerging during last twenty years.  At the same time, the Islamic customs observed, far from orthodoxy, are mixed with representations and practices inherited from a remote pagan and a more recent secular past.

Igor Kuchumov, Centre of Ethnological Studies, Ufa
CER: I-7.2-619