The Chak-Chak Museum And Tatar Merchants Living

Last Friday, the team of the Association of Private Museums of Russia visited Kazan in the Chak-Chak Museum. The museum preserves the history of the Tatar urban merchants life of the 19th-20th centuries. The spirit of the times is conveyed through the eastern sweetness of chak-chak, which the Tatar people traditionally prepared from flour, eggs, butter and honey.

The museum is located in a historic, recently renovated building of the 19th century. This is the former home of the Tatar merchant of the second guild Vafa Bigaev. The place where the museum is located is the territory of the Old Tatar settlement, which consists of old merchant houses, where the Tatars lived after the conquest of the city by Ivan the Terrible.

The museum was founded by the Polosins family, Dmitry and Raushania, six years ago. The main goal that the founding family set for itself is to popularize the intangible heritage of the Tatars, preserve and pass on the traditions of the Tatar people.

The museum has two floors: on the first floor, there is a souvenir shop and a teahouse; on the second floor, there is the museum itself. In the authentic environment of the Tatar house, hostess Alina begins the tour and, first of all, introduces the guests to the old recipe for making the national culinary product – chak-chak. In those days, they used “sugar loaf” instead of the usual granulated sugar. It was hard; sugar was pinched off carefully using sugar tongs.

Only wealthy people could afford chak-chak, and traditionally, it was prepared for a wedding. The splendor of a Tatar wedding was determined by the number of guests invited, as well as by the amount of national sweetness prepared. It used to be so that in order to feed all the guests at the wedding, it took up to four hundred eggs to prepare this sweet treat.

Old Tatar interior of the museum has been recreated using old photographs, conveying the atmosphere of past years: chests, traditional dishes, samovars, national costumes, candlesticks, furniture, musical instruments such as old accordions, a balalaika, which Tatars also loved to play, and other household items of the wealthy inhabitants of the merchant’s house. There is a traditional shama’il (Muslim painting) above the doorway. A tambour bedspread embroidered with colored threads is hanging on the wall, under the glass; in Tatar families, it was customary to cover half-eaten food on the table with such a bedspread. This is the work of Raushania, wife of Dmitry Polosin.

Both children and adults visit the museum; the number of visitors is about 30,000 people a year.