Nailya Zinnatullina: ‘We in Tatarstan like to work for show, to show how we can’

The role of open public spaces in various cultures has been discussed in Kazan on the example of the experience of Russian regions

The National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan hosted the session “The role of open public spaces in various cultures. The experience of Russian regions”. Experts spoke about examples of creating public spaces taking into account the difference in cultures and national identity of the subjects of the country. For example, which parks appeared in the most ancient city of Russia and how, after the improvement of green areas and recreation areas, residents and cultural institutions realise themselves on these sites in Yakutia, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, and Tatarstan. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

“We will never break the Tatar national spirit”

The discussion was moderated by the head of project management in the Department of Normative and Methodological Work of the federal project “Formation of comfortable urban environment” of the Project Directorate of the Ministry of Construction of Russia, Dzhemal Surmanidze. He stressed that the National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan was chosen as the venue for the meeting for a reason — this is one of those examples that best suits the topic of the session. Just a few years ago, this location was completely unpopular, and since 2020, after reconstruction, the demand for has been only growing. At the moment, it is definitely one of the cultural, scientific, and youth centres of Kazan.

“We used to blindly copy what we saw somewhere else. Now this world is ceasing to be the same as before. We already need to think — what have we learned? Are we able to take ideas not using templates? We have to find a pulse that will help us use the funds that we have and do something unique of our own," Surmanidze stressed.

Director of the Institute of Urban Development of Tatarstan Nailya Zinnatullina spoke about how a new convenient and modern republic was born. According to her, it all started in 2015 with a programme for the development of public spaces: “Initially the Gorky Park, for example, was Soviet-built, like many locations, and for one reason or another, it did not have proper care. And the way you see it now is just the fruit of the work of 2015.”

Zinnatullina also shared the latest examples of the improvement of public spaces in Tatarstan and spoke about upcoming plans: “For the most part, we hold secular events that do not relate specifically to any nationality and religion. We hold the Milli Kiem on Kaban Lake, and Peoples' Friendship Day is held in the Gorky Park. This year, a new project will be implemented in Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda, a large-scale renovation awaits it.”

“We, in Tatarstan, like to work for show, to show how we can. No matter how many minimalistic buildings we make, we will never break the Tatar, Russian national spirit, and thank God. We tend to decorate something, not to leave it just like that. For example, they put a carpet on the usual stage, said that it was more beautiful and cozy. We have scenes in every space to express our “self”, and carpets still remain with us, there is no escaping from this," the speaker noted.

Offline “Tinder” and parks in the realm of permafrost

Yakutia cannot be described in general words, each district is different from each other, even nomadic peoples who constantly move have been preserved, said Alexandra Ulinova, the deputy head of the Special Purpose Fund for Future Generations of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), who spoke next.

She also spoke about the features of architectural development in a harsh climate and northern winter:

“All our spaces must adapt to different climates, we always set the principle of year-round availability. It is important to note that people want to go outside in winter, they do not want to stay at home because of the cold, and walks in general are real if you arrange them with running. Therefore, we need public spaces, so people can warm up — in warm pavilions. We have a lot of sunny days, but not so many, so we make the space with the condition that the sun's rays get there. Another feature of ours is that everyone is moving away from fences, but we can't do without them at all, because in many localities we have livestock that likes to eat landscaping, leave not the most pleasant traces, and destroy everything.”

Ulinova shared that now one of the biggest difficulties is landscaping due to the climate and remoteness of settlements. Therefore, they get out of the situation with the help of coniferous trees and shrubs that reproduce themselves, because people also need bright colours and colours of life among the white snow.

Bashkortostan is the strongest competitor of Tatarstan. And that's what Almaz Fatkullin, the director of the Institute for Urban Development of Bashkortostan, told about the experience of creating open public spaces in this republic:

“We have 21 cities, in each city we have a public space. We studied at the Institute of Urban Development of Tatarstan, and for a long time we have tried to identify the same identity. As a result, we moved away from the unity of Bashkiria and came to the individual identity of each city, paying attention to individual characteristics. From what we have in common is quray, we made lanterns in its form in one of the projects, yurts formed the basis for the improvement of the city of Yanaul.”

The speaker also gave an interesting example of identifying the needs of residents when creating a public space:

“We asked the residents what they wanted, how they wanted to spend their time, where they would walk and where they would not, and we did not expect that they would want the following: offline Tinder is now held on a regular basis on our Agidel River embankment in Ufa, where people dance, have fun, and get acquainted.”

Fatkullin also shared details of the Bashkir Longevity project, when pensioners are taken out on excursions. The village of Voskresenskoye is more popular on such trips. He also showed how sites for Sabantuy are being prepared in the republic, noted that they are very important for the Bashkir people. Therefore, it is necessary to immediately lay down structures for this holiday in the architecture.

Being forms consciousness — how Derbent became a tourist city

Finally, Isa Magomedov, the chief architect of the city of Derbent, gave a speech. He spoke about the improvement of the most ancient city in Russia:

“In the Soviet Union, the city began to develop in the tourist aspect. But because of the various events that have occurred, people have developed both stereotypes and fears, so that people have stopped visiting public spaces. Then we started collecting all the identity of our area, our features and distinctive features.

In particular, the magals of Derbent were not popular for walking. This is a small area of the ancient eastern city, centered around a mosque. In total, there are nine magals in Derbent, located in the mountainous part of the city.

“Magals were a big stereotype that it's like the 13th district, where people sit and don't let anyone in, they conflict. I even had such a story: when we first decided to build something there, it was a children's play complex, they told me that they appointed me responsible, because they saw in me a person who would resolve all quarrels. But in the end, people showed that they were ready for changes," Magomedov added.

Then he showed the project of an old cemetery, which was reconstructed in the city. The design erases the feeling that the cemetery is only about grief and loss, because it is a continuation of life, according to the canons of Islam.

During the period of improvement of Derbent, the number of tourists increased from 155 thousand in 2019 to 900 thousand in 2022.

To the question to the participants of the session about how much what they do is the soft power of the country, whether the speakers feel that they are influencing something, the speakers answered as follows:

“Landscaping is about removing the physical and moral distinctions, of course, we influence.”

“This is just the beginning, we will be known outside the country soon. Our experience will be adopted and put into practice.

“We see this in the behaviour of young people: how they behaved 4 years ago in terms of vandalism and how now — the amount of vandalism has decreased many times, at times.”

“Being forms consciousness. It is very important to preserve life and identity, so that those who live there and who come there are the main ones in the cities.”

Diana Salikhova

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