Today I visited Bolghar, the ancient capital of the medieval kingdom of Greater Bulgaria. It is well worth a visit if you are ever in Kazan. The most fun way to get there is by steamer, a 2 hour trip on the Volga. It is possible to do it as a day trip though this does mean leaving Bolghar at 4pm, which is painful if you are a photographer as, in the summer at least, this is just when the light is getting good.
The medieval kingdom of Greater Bulgaria flourished between the 7th and 13th centuries. It was eventually overrun by the Mongols. At Bolghar there are a number of extant mausoleums and minarets. The main historical-architectural museum, situated on the shore of the Volga, contains a significant amount of material from the kingdom of Greater Bulgaria, as well as from the subsequent Khanate, which arose after the Mongol invasion. The museum is very well-presented, though many of the richer items seem to have been transferred to museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Anyway, well worth a visit.
While I was there, and busy photographing one of the minarets, I was accosted by a young man. He had a smartphone camera and a tripod. I’d seen him taking photographs. He asked me where I was from. England. Then he asked if he could ask me a few questions. I.e on camera. Ok. Why not I thought; my principle is to try most things and I thought it would be good practice for my Russian language skills. He set up the interview and asked me why I’d come to Bolghar, did I like it and then, what was I doing in Russia. After this he asked me about coronavirus. Wasn’t I afraid? About half way through this I started feeling unsure; something didn’t feel right. Of course; I hadn’t asked him where he was from and he hadn’t told me. (That he hadn’t told me is contrary to customary journalistic norms; the norm is to say something like “Hello, we are from the BBC can we ask you a few questions?” I suppose “Hello, we are from the CIA can we ask you a few questions?”, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it).
It turned out he was from Radio Liberty who are broadcasting (on the web) in the Tatar language. Continue reading “Interviewed by Radio Free Europe”