‘Sabantuy is a Tatar rave all generations understand’

What online Sabantuys warn about

‘Sabantuy is a Tatar rave all generations understand’
Photo: Ilya Repin

Sabantuy has been online in Tatarstan for the first time in history this year — it is all the fault of the COVID-19 pandemic, of course. Moreover, Sabantuy already changed beyond recognition even without the online format, as notes one of the organisers of the plough festival this year Radif Kashapov in his column for Realnoe Vremya, in general its communication function is a thing of the past. Sabantuy became a celebratory concert, in other words,” “a Tatar rave all generations understand”.

The pandemic in Tatarstan got to the holiest thing — the national holiday in honour of field works. Yes, the occasion has long been just a tribute to the tradition, which is proved by the fact that big Sabantuys are held in cities where nobody sows and reaps.

Moreover, its communicative function remains, especially in diasporas and in the countryside. People still often go to the event with Tatar wrestling, sack races (and pop stars singing in the background) not only to watch a performance but spend this day together with friends and relatives. Sabantuy is a day of family, relatives, compatriots, representatives of one people.

This is why when advanced activists like me say they don’t see sense in the mass show in the field, for instance, Tatars from the USA react to this thought with hostility. They say: “Okay, friend, where should guys meet girls? How to create families in a discrete society?” Sabantuy is a Tatar rave that all generations understand. It is not accidental that the most “correct” festivities from a perspective of traditions are now supported by religion. No alcohol and doubtful contests, only joy and sport.

People still often go to the event with Tatar wrestling, sack races (and pop stars singing in the background) not only to watch a performance but spend this day together with friends and relatives. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

On the one hand, there is Moscow Sabantuy there is a celebration of ideas in Mingere where everything is tailored for the national brand — from Buggy races to Mount King game in water. So Sabantuy goes far from the initial holiday. It might seem it isn’t a problem, this happens to a lot of events around the world. Who knows what St Patrick’s Day is about? But does this knowledge help bars to earn a monthly revenue in 24 hours?

We have learnt to do many things online during the months residents of Tatarstan have been forbidden to host mass events. We have learnt to sing songs, hold discussions, show plays and constantly reminding the audience that nothing, of course, live communication.

Co-participation, as it seems to me, has always been the key function of Sabantuy. It is a local Disneyland where you can show off simultaneously in funny and tough contests (is it heroism to smash an opponent from the log with a sack?). Moreover, as time goes by, this gimmick began to turn into a non-compulsory element. In wrestling, athletes who do daily training win. Queues to ordinary contests are so long that it will take much time you will be next in line. Shashlyk became the main food of Sabantuy. Loud, deafening pop became the main music.

What’s the value of the online event? It shows the gist. If you have bad songs, you won’t replace them with emotions. Nobody jumps near the stage singing along, all the performance is plain to see. A spectator doesn’t leave the performance, he just closes the page.

Programmes lasting for hours show what Sabantuy is now. Photo: Ilya Repin

This year Sabantuy has been on radio, on television, while the Moscow variant has been shown on even six screens. If you want culinary — masterclasses will be shown. You wait for something new from the youth — hey, youth. You won’t be able to watch wrestling — it is banned for some copyright violation.

Programmes lasting for hours show what Sabantuy is now. While it is a festive concert where participants are singers, wrestlers, a lot of administrators. It is a holiday with tears in the eyes. An ordinary spectator could hang out in a dance earlier, managed to grasp several samples of Chinese commodities in a competition and, of course, chew a couple of shashlyk with a pint of beer. And thanks to this, it is absolutely fair to claim that the day was a success. But here this spectator sits in front of the screen. Though at dacha, he prepares food on the grill, bottles cool down, the neighbour maybe plays garmon. However, the screen doesn’t have it. The screen has just accomplishments and talking culture he can’t influence.

And you won’t get acquainted with a girl on such an event. What are the conclusions? After the pandemic ends, a detox Sabantuy must be held. Only original contests. No equipment. No electricity at all. Pure communication. As an online experiment, a game where everybody can become a winner and get a sheep. Though virtual.

By Radif Kashapov
Tatarstan