Literary Life

Uralsk Period

Beginning in his madrassah years, Tuqay was interested in folklore and popular poetry, and he asked shakirds, coming for different jobs all over Idel-Ural during summer vacations, to collect local songs, examples of bäyet, i.e. epic poem and fairy-tales. In madrassah itself he became familiar with Arabic, Persian and Turkish poetry, as well as poetry in the Old Tatar language of the earlier centuries. In 1900 Motíğía graduate, a Tatar poet Mirxäydär Çulpaní visited the madrassah. Ğabdulla met him and Çulpaní became the first living poet to impress Tuqay. Çulpaní wrote in "elevated style", using aruz, an Oriental poetic system, and mostly in Old Tatar language, full of Arab, Persian and Turkish words, and rather distant from the Tatar language itself. In 1902-1903 he met a Turkish poet Abdülveli, concealed himself there from Abdul Hamid II pursuits. Thus, Tuqay adopted Oriental poetic tradition.

Young teacher, the son of headmaster, Kamil "Motíğí" Töxfätullin, organized wallpaper Mäğärif (The Education) and hand-written journals. The first odes of Tuqay were published there, and he was referred as "the first poet of the madrassah".

In 1904 Motíğí founded his own publishing company, and Tuqay became clerk there. He combined this job with teaching younger shakirds in the madrassah. He introduce new methods, typical for the Russian school.

Motíğí (left) with young Tuqay, not later than 1905

After the October Manifesto of 1905 it became possible to publish newspapers in the Tatar language, which was strictly forbidden earlier. However, Motíğí wasn't enough solvent to open his own newspaper, so he bought the Russian language newspaper Uralets with typography, to print also a Tatar newspaper there. Tuqay became a typesetter. The newspaper was named Fiker (The Though). Then Motíğí started to issue Älğasrälcadid (The New Century) magazine. Tuqay sent his first verses there to be published. At the same time he started writing for a newspaper and began participating in the publishing of several Tatar magazines. At day Tuqay worked in typography (he was already a proofreader), but by nights he wrote verses, so every issue of Fiker, Nur and Älğasrälcadid contains his writing. More over, he wrote articles, novels and feuilletons for those periodicals, he translated Krylov fables for the magazine. It is also known that Tuqay spread social-democratic leaflets and translated social-democratic brochure to the Tatar language.

Despite social-democrats' negative attitude towards the Manifesto, in his verses Tuqay admired with Manifesto, believing in the progressive changes of the Tatar lifestyle. During that period he shared his views with liberals, as the long-standing tradition of the Tatar enlightenment didn't distinguished national-liberation movement from the class struggle and negated the class struggle within Tatar nation. The most prominent writings of that period are Millätä (To the Nation) poem and Bezneñ millät, ülgänme, ällä yoqlağan ğınamı? (Has our nation dead, or just sleeps?) article. Since the satirical magazine Uqlar (The Arrows) appeared in Uralsk, Tuqay renowned himself as satirist. The main target of his jeers was Muslim clergy, who stayed opposed to progress and Europeanization. As for the language of the most of his verses, it still stayed the Old Tatar language and continued the Oriental traditions, such as in Puşkinä (To Pushkin). However, in some of them, directed to the Tatar peasantry a pure Tatar was used, what was newly for the Tatar poetry.

In January 1906 police conducted a search of the typography, as rebellious articles were published in the newspaper. The First State Duma was dismissed, the revolution came to naught. The ultra-right Russian nationalists from the Black Hundred proposed that Tatars emigrate to the Ottoman Empire. That period his most prominent verses devoted to the social themes and patriotism were composed: Gosudarstvennaya Dumağa (To the State Duma), Sorıqortlarğa (To the Parasites) and Kitmibez! (We don’t leave!). Tuqay was disappointed in liberalism and sympathized with socialists, especially Esers. In Kitmibez! he answered to the Black Hundred that the Tatars are a brother people of the Russians and immigration to Turkey is impossible.

On 6 January 1907 Tuqay left madrassah, as his fee permitted him to live independently, and settled in a hotel room. He became an actual editor of Uqlar, being the lead poet and publicist of all Motíğí's periodicals. That time liberal Fiker and Tuqay himself was in confrontation with Qadimist, i.e. ultraconservative Bayan al-Xaq, which even called for pogrom of liberal press activists. However, that year he was surprisingly discharged, as the result of the conflict with Kamil Motíğí and instigation of the typography workers for a strike to raise a salary. On 22 February 1907 Motíğí was deprived of publishing rights and his publishers was sold to merchant, who attracted Tuqay to the work again, but sonly dismissed the periodicals.

That time Tuqay departed from the social-democrats and politics generally, preferring to devote himself to poetry. Since mid-1906 to autumn 1907 more than 50 verses were written, as well as 40 articles and feuilletons. That time he turned to a pure Tatar, using a spoken language. Impressed by Pushkin's fairy-tale poem Ruslan and Lyudmila, Tuqay wrote his first poem, Şüräle.

It is known, that Motíğí tried to establish another newspaper, Yaña Tormış (The New Life) in Uralsk, with Tuqay as one of constitutors, but that time Ğabdulla was already so popular in the Tatar society, that chief editors from Kazan, the Tatar cultural capital, offered him job. Moreover, Tuqay should be examined by a draft board in his native uyezd, and he left Uralsk anyway. The admiration with the future trends of his life in Kazan is expressed in Par at (The Pair of Horses), which consequently became the most associated with Kazan Tatar verse.

Kazan period

Just after the arrival to Kazan, Tuqay stayed at Bolğar hotel and met Tatar literature intelligentsia, such as playwright and Yoldız newspaper secretary Ğäliäsğar Kamal and prominent Tatar poet and Tañ yoldızı newspaper chief editor Säğit Rämiev. Several days after he left Kazan to be examined by a draft board, assembly point being in Ätnä village. There he was discarded due his poor health and walleye and freed up of serving in the Russian Imperial Army. He returned to Kazan and renowned his literature and publishing activity.

He was adopted to the editorial staff of democratically oriented Äl-İslax gazette, led by Fatix Ämirxan and Wafa Bäxtiärev. However, the newspaper had a little budget. Tuqay had got fixed up as a forwarding agent in Kitap publishers, to provide guaranteed wage. Moreover, he refused offer from Äxbar, an organ of Ittifaq al-Muslimin, a political party, close to Kadets, as well as other offers from rich, but right newspapers. He also continued self-education: read Russian classics, critiques, and studied German language. He was interested in studying the life of common people by visiting bazaars and pubs.

Ğabdulla Tuqay in 1907

Tuqay's room in Bolğar hotel was frequently visited by admirers from "gilded youth". As he wrote, their boozing-up impeded him and his creation. Nevertheless, in the end of 1907-1908 he wrote nearby sixty verses and twenty articles in Äl-İslax and satirical journal Yäşen (The Illumination), and also published two books of verses. The most prominent satire of that period was Peçän Bazarı yaxud Yaña Kisekbaş (The Hay Bazaar or New Kişekbaş), deriding problems of the Tatar society of the period, clergy and merchant class.

As for Tuqay's personal life, there is known little about it. As usual he avoided women in his circle. It is known that he was enamored of Zäytünä Mäwlüdova, his 15-years old admirer. Several verses were devoted to Zäytünä and their feelings, such as A Strange Love. However, later Tuqay did not develop their relations, and the possible reason was inferiority complex, attributed to his health and financial position.

In May 1908 an article, comparing Tuqay's, Rämiev's and Majit Ghafuri's poetries was published in Russian-language Volzhsko-Kamsky Vestnik. In August 1908 Kamal founded satirical journal Yäşen under Tuqay's pressure. The most of published works were written by Tuqay, of course. In August 1908 Kamal and Tuqay visit the Makaryev Fair, placed in Nizhny Novgorod. There Tuqay temporarily joined the first Tatar theatre troupe, Säyyar, singing national songs and declaiming his verses from scene. On 14 October Ğabdulla Tuqay presented his new satirical poem The Hay Bazaar or New Kisekbaş, based on classical Old Tatar poem Kisekbaş. In own poem he derided nationalism among Tatars, as well as Wäisi sect's fanatics, associating sect's leader, Ğaynan Wäisev with Diü, an evil spirit from Kisekbaş.