The bulbous brass samovar on a table in the Tatar-Turkish village of Osmaniye is definitely not a historic relic. Nearly 120 years after its arrival in Turkey from Russia, villagers say it is one of the few links left to their Tatar homeland in the Volga River.
Accounts vary about how 14 Volga Tatar families, carrying three bags of gold from the sale of their land, traveled in 1893 from Kazan, today the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, to Osmaniye, located about 160 kilometers inland from Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Most villagers have lost track of the details, but the story goes that their ancestors migrated to practice Islam without restrictions. “We left our home and most of our relatives for Islam,” said Ravza Melle, whose family brought the samovar and, reportedly, was among Osmaniye’s founders. “We couldn’t live our religion freely.”
The area’s flat plains reminded them of the steppe along the Volga River, and Osmaniye’s distance from Istanbul, some 209 kilometers to the northwest, created a safe distance from vices found in cities, she said.
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Justin Vela is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.