Was he fired?
No, they didn't fire him. He was summoned for it and they started chewing him out. They couldn't fire him, because he was getting results ... Well, they could've arrested him. But they told him, "Dude, you can't do that. What are you doing?"
"You know. There's a plan, and I've fulfilled it. Land to the peasants and factories to the workers. Surplus ... People don't have time to work in their gardens. They work very well on the collective farm, but they don't have time to work on their personal plots. And you have to encourage them. Otherwise, there's no point in all of this."
So they said to him:
"No. That's contrary to the ideology of the party."
And he's a communist, in the party. He says:
"If it contradicts the ideology of the party, then you can take my party card."
And screw em'! He left. He left the party and was immediately removed from office. If you were nonpartisan, you couldn't be a secretary. So, he moved to Kazan and got a job as a handicraft teacher in a school.
And what's great is that, at the same time, he had some private entrepreneurial work, which was, like, illegal, but everyone was doing it. He repaired televisions, tape recorders, all the household appliances. He knew a lot about electronics. He had a little suitcase.
He visited us very often with that suitcase, just in case something needed to be soldered, a radio or TV. That was before microcircuits, the tube era. The tube–transistor era. We had a vacuum tube TV, and he always brought his suitcase to solder something, adjust it. And it always smelled like rosin.
Do you know what rosin is?
Do you have any photos of your grandfather?
Can you share them?
When I was 19 or 20, 18 maybe, I remember, he came to visit us and we talked. Now I regret that we didn't spend that much time together. Once he just turned and said suddenly: "Can you imagine ... "
He was very interested in matter, even before people really started talking about string theory and all that. He said:
"Matter is just fluctuations of different frequencies of electromagnetic waves." I had no idea what he was talking about.
And then he says to me: "Can you imagine a space without any matter?" I said "Like, a vacuum? Like outer space?" He said, "No, man! Are radio waves passing through? Radio waves are matter. Does light pass? Light is matter." (He believed even then that light is matter). And he's like, "No. No frigging way! Huh?" I was like, "buzz off."
Get outta here?
Get out! Go tell it to someone else. And now I regret that I didn't spend that much time with him. He was very interesting to be around. We went to the village together. When I was young, 12 years old, I had to go from the village to Kazan at night, and the train was 20 km from the village, at the station.
Did you go on foot?
We walked at night through the forest. We left at nine in the evening and, like, for four hours we went through the fields and forests. On foot.
At first, I was terrified, because my grandfather told me terrible stories. He was quite the storyteller! Even though he spoke with a crazy accent and had only a ninth-grade education.
Did he speak with a Tatar accent? I mean, Tatar was his native language, but didn't speak Russian very well?
Yeah. Like, instead of saying "look," he'd say "look out" And it was always hilarious. Like, "You look out good today." [Laughing].
Why was that different with your dad? Your grandfather spoke Tatar, and, obviously, he thought in Tatar. But your dad spoke Russian.
My dad was the only one on that side of the family to receive a higher education.
He was educated in Russian, married an ethnic Russian girl. If you look at the institute's yearbooks, the school in the 1960–1970s, 90% of my mother's class were ethnic Russians. The institute itself was 90% ethnic Russians. There were very few Tatars. I don't know why. Tatars were probably in rural areas farming.
What are your three favorite buildings in Kazan? For any reason, not necessarily because of how they look, but they are important to you for a reason.
The Publishing house at 19 Baumana Street, Nogai. Burnaevskaya Mosque, probably. And … I don't remember what it's called, a building on Karla Marksa, a two-story residential building on the corner of Karla Marksa and Lobachevskogo.
I still really like the Student Food Factory, oddly enough. The Student Food Factory on the corner of Gorkogo and Tolstogo.
I like it too, it's green.
I would say the circus too. But it's kind of … Well, anyways, the Student Food Factory, the Publishing House, and Burnaevskaya Mosque.