Just outside the main entrance to the Kazan Kremlin there is a monument dedicated to the famous Tatar poet Musa Jälil. The monument was unveiled in 1985 and depicts the poet defiantly standing on rocks while his hands are tied and his legs wrapped in barbed wire. Jälil was captured by the Nazis during the Second World War where he spent time in concentration camps. He was released to fight against the Soviets in a Nazi legion made up of Volga Tatars. However Jälil’s units killed their Nazi commanders and defected to Belarusian partisans. In August 1943 Jälil was captured once more, severely beaten and sent to the Moabit Prison in Berlin. Here he wrote his most famous poems in two notebooks which became known as the Moabit Notebooks. Jälil was sentenced to death and guillotined at the prison in August 1944, but before this he was able to hand over his notebooks to his cellmate and eventually they were returned to the Soviet Union where they were published. At first Jälil was considered a traitor, he was later exonerated and posthumously awarded the honor of “Hero of the Soviet Union” in 1956. He was also awarded the Lenin Prize for Literature in 1957, which make him the only person ever to hold both awards.
The following poem is from the Moabit Notebooks that he wrote before his death.
The verdict announced today:
By death he was sentenced.
Only the tears that were running high in the chest,
All dried up … and he does not cry.
Quiet in the chamber. On the night sky
The full moon looks, grieving.
A poor man thinks it will
His child now will be an Orphan
Musa Jalil was a Tatar poet. He was born to a family of poor peasants on February 15, 1906 in Mustafino village of the Sharlyksky region in Orenburg province. He completed his studies at the Khusainiya madrasah (religious school) in the city of Orenburg. Then In 1931 he moved to Kazan where he completely devoted himself to his creative work and social activity. In 1939 he was elected to the position of Chairman of the Union of Writers of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (TASSR) and a deputy of the City Council. As a writer he tried his hand at almost all literary genres: songs, verses, poems, plays, journalism, during this time he also collected materials for his novel about the Komsomol (Young Communist League).
Today many pedestrians pass by his flat with little more then a glance. It is only memories that are in the hearts of those he left behind along with many who still appreciate his poetry and proses, But, there is a door a little further down the street that will open a glimpse into his world as it was almost a hundred years ago. Once one walks through this door they will be transported back in time to see what his flat looked like. When you stand in the middle of the room you can almost hear the walls give up his words that he spoke while living there. If one was ever to come Kazan this is one of the many places to put on your list to visit.