As it turns out snow is the best canvas to display the splendour of Tatar boots (shchiteqler)! But to embrace the beauty and comfortability of shchiteqler during wet or snowy weather, one would need another piece of footwear – qalushlar. Those are the rubber low overshoes that would protect gentle leather and intricate ornaments from dirt and water.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Crocs are contemporary alternative to qalushlar that care for my beautiful schiteqler!
The hope is that sooner then the beginning of 22d century the overshoes become made of ecologically-friendly materials: not from synthetic rubber of traditional qalushlar and plastic of Crocs (both are derivatives of crude oil), but of natural and renewable materials like dandelion: the special one that is abundant in Eurasian steppes where decorated boots began their charm. Kudos to Continental for engineering the innovative tires from plant kok-saghyz – a modest and powerful dandelion that is native to Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan). It is translated from Kazakh language (and also Tatar) as “root gum” and it’s impressive qualities were discovered by USSR/Soviet scientists in 1932.
Another footwear that Tatar people would put on to protect soft Tatar boots are either bashmaqlar or shchuweqler like the ones pictured below (middle) in the sketches by Tatar prominent sculptor and painter Baqi Urmance. Those sketches (started in 1970) were meant to serve as a decorative background for the Soviet-ideolozied museum of Tatar prominent poet Gabdulla Tukay in Kazan. They ended up not being displayed in the museum but they made it on this website! Urmance’s work masterfully depicts the dynamics of Tukay’s Kiseqbash poem (written in 1908) as well as skilfully showcases the busy life and Islam-dictated fashion of Tatars of early 20th century in the Tatar biste (neighbourhoods) of Kazan.
If Baqi Urmace is the staple of Tatar visual arts, Gabdulla Tukay is the staple of Tatar literary arts, then not mentioning one more Tatar staple of musical art Salikh Saidashev would not be fair. Salikh Saidashev is one of the creators of Tatar music that was aligned with Soviet Union’s atheistic (absence of religion) ideology and aesthetics. Here is the glimpse of Saidashev’ & T.Gizzat’s musical “Merchant” (created in 1930ies) that vividly displays the new interpretation and stylezed reality of Tatar life – where religious Islamic practices were forced to be removed but the spirit of cheer and resilient community persist.
Like everybody else, I have many wishes to come true in the new year! But, first, I want to recognize and thank the last year for things that came my way, particularly, this mind-blowing encounter on the internet. A hand-painted cold-cast porcelain miniature of a Tatar boot (shchiteck) designed by Raine Willlitts back in 2002 that had been patiently waiting to be found by me! What a discovery! This is a miniature replica of right boot that was worn by Caroline Ogden-Jones Peter. Caroline and her husband Armistead Peter traveled the world and claimed New York, Paris, Washington DC (Tudor place) as their homes.
Just by looking at the Caroline’s portrait that hangs in the Tudor place (painted by her husband in 1925), one can say that she was a fashionista. She, most likely, had been visiting fashionable salons and fairs around the world to keep up with the trends. Paris World Fair in 1925 (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts and Industrial Arts) was, probably, the place where she spotted unique Tatar boots that were featured in the USSR’s pavilion that impressed visitors with it’s futuristic designs and elaborate presentation of folk art of many diverse ethnicities of young Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics.
This exhibition in Paris of 1925 (world fairs once used to be grandiose events to showcase the country’s capabilities and potential) was the great opportunity for the newly established USSR (1922-1991) to display its uniqueness not only from the political stand (as socialistic endeavour with equality as the highest value). It vowed the visitors with exceptional, not-seen-before-by-Westerners plentitude of versatile decorative folk arts of multiple indigenous people. It signalled that the strengths of USSR is in it’s diverse ethnic backgrounds and skilled hands that were inherited from myriads of past ruling empires including Ottoman and Russian.
“Les Bottes brodées-“itchegui” des Tartares de Kazan” (embroidered boots “ichigi’/”schiteck” made by Kazan (Volga) Tatars) were among the ones mentioned and boasted about in the official brochure. Tatar leather mosaic – the technique the “Tartares” boots were decorated in – is truly exceptional utilitarian art that captured the eyes of not only Caroline Peter but many others. Tatar boots were sought-after items that accessorised the looks of fashionistas of early 20th century.
Unfortunately, unfavourable progression in the USSR’s leadership attitudes towards ethnic minorities led to stagnation of indigenous people’s cultures, languages and folk arts including Tatar Leather Mosaic. My wish for the new year and years to come is that Tatar boots are back to production heights of the early 20th century (millions per year) and are desired by many.
The exceptional discovery was made by Soviet archeologists in 1947 in Pazyryk kurgans of Altai Mountains (south of modern city of Novosibirsk in Russian Federation), when the oldest ornamented leather boots were excavated from the burrows of Scythian nomadic tribes that had been waiting to be found for over 2300 years. All three recovered boots are decorated with intricate patterns and ornaments that bore sacred meaning for the owner.
When you google boot, tons of images of different boots come up: fancy, classy, ugly, modern, in all shapes and colors. But the boots that are created using leather mosaic technique do not come up… I am realizing that it is not only because of my poor implementation of SEO tactics but also because the boots that I am talking about on my website belong to different category. These boots are right between footwear and art. These boots are one-of-a kind and hand-made, always!
made by Sahtian
The special category that they belong to is Shchitek . The word shchitek (“such” is pronounced as “ch” in “Chicago” or “chaperon” or “c” in “appreciate”) comes from a Tatar word çitek (читек or ичиги ) which means “a boot made from soft leather and ornamented with cutout designs that are stitched together by hands”. The technique is so unique and sophisticated that no other ethnos but the Tatars could master it over the centuries. Chiteks are very popular in many regions of Russia and highly treasured by their owners because you can conquer the world in them. The word читек is googalabe. But chitek is not yet… I am on a mission to figuring out the ways to make association of boot with chitek more recognizable in people’s and web workers’ mind. If you have any ideas, I appreciate if you share them with me via firstname.lastname@example.org