Kazan and Québec. Two Bilingual Cities with Different Perspectives

Essay, 2016

6 Pages, Grade: 1,8

Vanessa Haldner (Author)


Individual Written Assignment - Québec and Kazan – Two Bilingual Cities with Different Perspectives

Québec and Kazan are cities that are not only located on different continents but also have different views on cultural diversity. Different historical, economic, political, and social aspects create the image of a city. A comparison of the historical background and language in the cities will reveal much about the atmosphere and the citizen’s attitudes.

Québec is a province and city in the Eastern part of Canada. In 1534, the first European explorer, Frenchman Jacques Cartier, discovered the territory which has been settled by indigenous peoples (Dickinson & Young, 2003). Samuel de Champlain officially founded the city in 1608 and called her Québec, the capital of the colony New France. During the course of time, British colonists first demanded the surrender of the province of Québec and even sent troops to conquer the French during King William’s war but were not successful. Though colonial revolutions and adjustments dominated the life of people in Canadian provinces, the French were determined to avert any British attempt of annexation. Aggressions reached their peak when the French built numerous fortifications to protect their area. Nevertheless, they lost the battle against the British during the Seven Year’s War. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris sealed the surrender of New France to Britain. According to Dickinson and Young (2003), the assimilation of the French as foreigners failed and the British governors feared that the French speaking population will support rebellions, they provided the people of Quebec their first Charter of Rights, the Quebec Act of 1774. The act recognized the French civil law, religious freedom, culture and most importantly, the French language. One might think that the introduction of the act defused the tense situation but the French and British people did not have the chance to learn how to live together. Only fifteen year later, the province of Québec was divided into Lower Canada and Upper Canada. In Upper Canada, the British lived under the British constitution while Lower Canada, including Québec city remained French. The separation teared the both nations even more apart and their hatred against each other grew. In 1840, the two colonial provinces were merged into the Province of Canada. However, British forces were interested in a self-governing status and after rebellions and several conferences, the British North American Act of 1867 split the two nations again. Since 1867, Québec has been capital of the Province of Québec whereas former upper Canada was called Province of Ontario. Torn between the two cultures, Québec faced political subversive ideas and riots. During the Quiet Revolution and the October Crisis between 1963 and 1977, the opposition forces initiated a series of terrorism and propaganda that mainly demanded sovereignty and the decline of English language and supremacy. Finally, the Charter of the French Language has been introduced in 1977. It declared French as the only official language of Québec. At this point, the French attained one of their main goals. Instead of trying to arrange themselves with the British governors, separatists and other movements were still fighting for political independence of Québec. Especially the political party Parti Québécois was interested in the complete independence from Canada and carried out a referendum on Québec’s future (‘’ Québec Referendum’’, 2015). Though the majority voted against the separation, the relation between the English and French population has been significantly harmed. In the following years, Québec’s nationalist party Parti Québécois tried several times to restart the debate about the separation. However, the last attempt under former Premier Pauline Marois also failed. Due to the election of the Quebec Liberal Party, the independence project has been removed from the political agenda (ibid.). The recurring conflict and the early history of the province constitute a great burden for the city of Québec. Its habitants are torn between two cultures and their attempts to maintain their cultural heritage and language.

This leads us to the aspect of language in Québec city. Today, French is the sole official language in the whole Québec province. Nevertheless, it not has been like this ever since. The British occupation has had significant influence on the life in Québec. The French population felt humbled by English businessmen who settled in New France. English took control over the economic sector and the public life as well. Thus, the Francophones had to adapt to English as the medium of business- and workplace-communication as means of social integration (‘’Language conflict in Québec’’, n.d.) Additionally, most immigrants who settled in Québec in the 1950’s and 1960’s have sent their children to English schools. Therefore, the French speaking community feared the decline of their language and demonstrated its concerns and anger in various actions. From 1968 to 1977, there were many protests in the whole province, from French and English people who were not satisfied with the language situation (ibid.). French parents demanded that the medium of instruction in schools should be French and encountered incomprehension from the English people and other immigrant groups. The conflict reached its peak in 1977, when the Charter of the French Language has been implemented. The so-called Bill 101 said that all signs, the workplace, public administrations, and schools must be in French. The gap between the Anglophone and Francophone community of Québec city became even bigger, especially because Anglophones and those with another mother tongue than French and English (Allophones) felt absolutely disregarded by legislation. However, the Supreme Court of Canada declared afterwards that some regulations are invalid (ibid.). This caused the persistence of the language conflict. Looking at the historical aspects, the former political rebellions divided Québec’s population. The Québécois were not able to grow together as one multicultural community. The language debate was a burden for social connections and community life.

The comparison with Kazan will provide us with illuminating insights on the contrast between the two cities. Kazan is the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. It is located in the south-western part of Russia and lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers (‘’Kazan’’,2016). It was founded in 1005 by the Volga Bulgars. In 1438, during the period of the Golden Horde it was occupied by Ulu-Muhammad-khan from Golden Horde and the city became the capital of the Kazan khanate (‘’ Kazan – “Russia’s Third Capital”’’,n.d.). Not only the Tatar cultural concepts have been created but the Bulgarian-Tatar Turkic state also established trade relations with Moscow, Turkey, and Crimea (ibid.). Nevertheless, Ivan the Terrible occupied the city in 1552. Kazan became part of the Russian empire and the era of the Tatar yoke ended (‘’ The History of Kazan’’, 2016). Due to the occupation of Kazan by Russians, the two completely different cultures and religions, Islam, and Orthodoxy, had to learn to live with each other. This constitutes the beginning of a trans-cultural formation (‘’ Kazan – “Russia’s Third Capital”’’, n.d.). Nevertheless, Kazan’s residents were not content with the occupancy and started to put up a fight for their freedom. Thus, in 1612 Kazan declared its independence from Russia but the rebellion was has been? brutally suppressed (‘’ The History of Kazan’’, 2016). Of course, the Tatars were worried about their future and their cultural heritage and the solidarity with the Russians was still not strong. It was only during the 1780s that the Tatars could raise new hopes: Catherine the Great was able to recreate a peaceful city by returning the right to worship Islamic religion. She decided that Tatars were allowed to follow their cultural traditions in public and to build mosques (ibid.). During the 18th and 19th century, Kazan became a very wealthy city due to the tremendous amount of new industry branches and trading. Hence, many new Orthodox churches and mosques were constructed, equally in number and measure. Russians and Tatars also maintained business relations with each other. Moreover, they actively participated in social activities with each other and managed not to live side by side but together in the same city (ibid.). After the downfall of the USSR, Kazan became the capital of the autonomous Republic of Tatarstan (‘’Kazan city history chronology’’, 2012). Despite the historical burden of the city, Kazan’s habitants live together in harmony today. They enjoy the cultural diversity of the city, visit each other’s restaurants and markets. The respect for each other’s culture is also presented by the Temple of All Religions which embodies 16 different religions and their ability to come together in full harmony (‘’Temple of All Religions’’,n.d.). Furthermore, Russians and Tatars celebrate national and religious holidays together. They are an integral part of history of the coexistence of multiple cultures in Kazan: more and more Tatars celebrate the Easter and Russians celebrate the Islamic holiday Kurban Bayram (‘’Culture’’, n.d.).

Besides all the socio-cultural factors, language reflects the social cohesion between Russians and Tatars. For example, both languages have an official status and students must learn Tatar also in school. All street signs, attraction descriptions and memorial plaques are written in Russian and Tatar (‘’What is Kazan’’, 2015). Many Russians in Kazan learned Tatar language only by talking with their Tatar neighbors or shopping at their markets. Learning the other language is primarily needed to communicate with each other, especially since elderly Tatars sometimes only know a little Russian. However, the two different ethnic groups do not see themselves divided by language but much more count their community as a cultural mosaic. Due to the high amount of marriages between members of the different cultures, bilingualism has spread even more (ibid.). The interest in the cultural cooperation and the open-mindedness of Kazan’s population has contributed to the harmony in the city. All in all, the unpleasant first encounter of the two cultures in Kazan is imperceptible today. The early rivalry and foreignness has positively turned into friendship and understanding.

Québec and Kazan both faced occupancy and as its result also immigration. The citizens had to deal with completely different cultures, different habits, values, and beliefs. Additionally, all the conflicts in the past were noticeable and the population had to think of ways to handle the historical burden. Taking a closer look at Kazan, one can say that its citizens were able to make the best out of the unknown situation. Particularly after Catherine the Great declared that Tatar culture should be maintained as an important part of Kazan, Russians were determined to arrange themselves with their new neighbors. Today, the city counts as the symbol of multicultural cohabitation. Though the cultural differences are enormous, there is a natural mutual acceptance. On the contrary, Québec’s citizens created a battle by themselves. Instead of establishing a bilingual province and city, they fought about language. The fear of losing their cultural heritage resulted in bad relations among the population. The rivalry may even stress the relation among francophone and Anglophone Québécois today. The comparison of the two cities demonstrates how important language and history are regarding the image of the city. One can observe how individually people deal with foreigners and their own national pride.


Dickinson, J.A. & Young, B. (2003). A short history of Quebec. Montreal: McGill-Queen's Press.

Gall, G. (2013). Québec Referendum (1995). Historica Canada. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/quebec-referendum-1995/

Grundhauser, E. (n.d.). Temple of All Religions. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/temple-of-all-religions

N.N. (n.d.). Kazan – “Russia’s Third Capital”. Advantour. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://www.advantour.com/russia/kazan.htm

Kazan Russia — a thousand-year Russian city (n.d.). Kazan city history chronology. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://aboutkazan.com/kazan-russia-history-chronology.shtml

Noël, M. (n.d.). Language conflict in Québec. McCord Museum. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/explore.php?Lang=1&elementid=103__true&tableid=11&contentlong

The City of Kazan (n.d.). Culture. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://www.kzn.ru/old/eng/kazan/page3726

N.N. (n.d.). The History of Kazan. In Your Pocket. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from https://www.inyourpocket.com/Kazan/The-History-of-Kazan_72524f

N.N. (2015). What is Kazan. Way to Russia. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from http://waytorussia.net/Kazan/Kazan.html

Wikipedia (2016). Kazan. Retrieved on November 29, 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazan


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Kazan and Québec. Two Bilingual Cities with Different Perspectives
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Kazan, Quebec, Russia, Canada, Bilingualsim, Linguistics, Religion, Islam, Christianity, Russian, French, English, Conflicts, Together, Education, Tatarstan, Tatar
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Vanessa Haldner (Author), 2016, Kazan and Québec. Two Bilingual Cities with Different Perspectives, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/379352


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