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TATAR PRINTING IN TOKYO / MIMEOGRAPH ON RICE PAPER: تاتار تاريحئ [Tatar Tarihi / Tatar History]



A magnificent, seemingly unrecorded edition on the history of Tatars, mimeographed from a manuscript in an early Tatar press in Tokyo on rice paper. The author, who first published the text in Kazan and in Moscow in Kazakh language, was shot in 1937 on the charges of participating in the Pan-Turkic movement and spying on the side of Turks and Japanese.


8°: 381 pp. mimeographed text in black and dark purple on folded rice paper, modern elegant three-quarter green calf binding with black cloth boards, brown patterned endpapers (blue rubber stamps with the name and the address of the former owner, small red round collector’s stamps, light staining, otherwise in a good condition).


This exceedingly rare mimeographed book on the history of Tatars was issued by the Tatar-run Islamic school in Tokyo in the first year after its foundation, before the community acquired type letters. It also includes short inscriptions in Cyrillic.

The author of the text is a Kazan-born historian and professor Ali Aziz Ubeydullin (1887-1937), who first published the book in Kazan in 1922-23 and in Kazakh language in Moscow in 1927. Under Stalin’s government many of his works were banned. In 1937, he was tried as a spy for the pan-Turkic movement, with connections to Turkey and Japan, and shot.


Tatars of Tokyo


The Tatar community in Japan was founded after the Russian Revolution by the immigrants, fleeing the Bolsheviks through Siberia and Vladivostok, under the leadership of imam Kurbangaliev. In 1938, the Tatars founded the first mosque in Tokyo.

Japanese welcomed Tatars in their country, especially on the eve and during the war, when the Tatars sided with the Axis Powers in hope to defeat the Bolsheviks and return to their homeland.

The building for school or Mekteb-i Islamiye was rented on October 2nd, 1927, and the pupils were taught beside the usual subjects also religion and nationalism, as well as Turkish, Japanese and English language. The elementary school curriculum was taught in Japanese. (Ali Merthan Dündar, The Turco-Tatar Diaspora in Japan and Tokyo’da Matbaa-I Islamiye, in Books in Tatar-Turkish printed by Tokyo’da Matbaa-I Islamije (1930-38), 2010, p. 16).

The school books represented a problem, since the Tatar community did not own Arabic / Ottoman types, necessary for the printing. The first publications were written per hand and mimeographed. It was not until 1928, when they could purchase types from Istanbul, when Ataturk as a part reforms changed the official Turkish script to Latin types and the presses were selling parts of the old stock. The Ottoman types were imported in 1930, when the press could start printing in faster and less elaborate technique.

All the publications before that date, such as this one, were only made in small quantities and are exceedingly rare.

The Tatar community also used the building as a mosque and a meeting hall. In 1931 the school was moved to the new location and renamed after the head of the Tatars in Tokyo Muhammed Gabdulkhay Kurbangaliev (1889-1972).

We could not find any other examples of this book nor any references in bibliography.

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