Fatikha Aitova – Participant in the First-Ever Russian Muslim Women’s Congress

17 December 2021


The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Whoever will be given four things, it will be the best good of this world and the world eternal: 1) a grateful heart; 2) a tongue busy in the remembrance of Allah; 3) a body patient in adversity; and 4) a wife who does not betray her husband with her body or possessions’.

Father and father away from us the year 1917 is, when an important event took place in the world of the Russian Muslim community – the first-ever All-Russian congress of Muslim women took place in Kazan on 24 April. The list of invitees included about 60 women, each of whom was not only a representative of the beautiful half of humanity, but also made a significant and invaluable contribution to the development and further prosperity of the Russian ummah, including its female part.

Today we will speak about one of the female participants in that congress, Fatikha Aitova.

Fatikha was born to the family of Troitsk millionaire merchant Ait Yaushev. After her father’s death Fatikha made an important decision – to spend the remaining money on educating Tatar children. In 1897 she established a school for elementary education of Tatar girls in the Sukonnaya Sloboda district of Kazan. Unfortunately, the school was closed three years later.

Fatikha married rather early and set the only condition for her groom – he had to help her construct a school building. As far the whole Aitov dynasty is concerned, it is widely known. This is a family of Tatar millionaires and patrons of the arts, founders of the two Kazan mosques. The origin of this family goes back to a rich Tatar entrepreneur, Murza Ait Zamanov (1731-1797), who earned his living by brewing soap and leather trading. Akhmet Zamanov built a stone mosque in the Old Tatar Sloboda in Bolshaya Meshchanskaya Street (now 98 Narimanov Street).

He also ran a fairly profitable business, selling raw materials and furs in Kazan, Siberia and Central Asia. On 16 August 1909 Aitova applied to Pinegin, the Director of public schools of Kazan Province, for permission to open ‘a female maktab to teach the Muslim religion Tatar girls, with teaching them Russian language and Russian literacy in accordance with the primary school curriculum’. She received permission, and the schools officially opened on 27 August 1909.

Most of the money to maintain the school was paid from out of Aitova’s pocket, with a small amount coming from the students’ parents. In 1910 the Kazan Municipal Council School Commission allocated 600 rubles for the school. A special two-storey stone building was constructed for the school. The school also introduced a uniform – a brown dress, black and white aprons and a white and pink fringed scarf.

In the first year, 85 girls from Kazan studied at the school. Later on, the number of them was growing and newcomers began to arrive. In 1911 there were about 120 female pupils. In 1913-14 the school had five classes. At the same time, it is worth noting that there were parallel sections in the fifth grades, with 220 schoolgirls studying there. Classes were divided as follows: in 1st, 2nd, 3rd classes – 40 people, in two 4th grades – 32 people each, while in 5th major – 30 people and parallel department – 16 people.

During that time period Aitov’s school had nine teachers: seven in the number of classes, a teacher of Russian and a teacher of handicraft. Russian language and handicraft were taught by Russian teachers Iyevleva and Moiseeva. One of Kazan officials wrote to the Interior Minister on November 26, 1913: ‘This school is unique both in its participation of Russian teachers as well as Muslim teachers, and in the vagueness of the teaching program’.

The school taught such subjects as doctrine, Tatar language and literature, arithmetic, geography, history, natural history, penmanship, art, handicraft and Russian language. In addition to it, the following disciplines were taught in Russian: Russian history and geography of the Russian Empire. Other subjects were taught only in the Tatar language.

Of course, the heroine of todays’ article had to go through many difficulties before the girls’ school opened its doors. The main difficulty was the lack of programs for this type of school, since it was not possible to mechanically transfer the curriculum of Tatar male madrasahs or that of Russian female grammar schools to a Tatar female secondary school. In the absence of real specialists in this field, the work of drawing up a program was time-consuming.

Another problem was the very reluctance of tsarist officials to allow such educational institutions to exist within the state. In 1913-14, the Director of public schools in Kazan Province rejected five of Aitova’s petitions to convert the school on various pretexts. In a memo to the trustee of the Kazan Education district, the director of public schools elaborated on the reasons for the rejections. He wrote that he did not know whether female madrasahs existed in Russia and what they could be like.

Within the process of trying to open an eight-year school, Fatikha also applied to the trustee of the Kazan district, but without any success. Having failed in Kazan, the woman decided to go to Petrograd. There she made a decision to seek help from Ivan Godnev, an octobrist member of the State Duma from Kazan.

‘Having read the contents of the document,’ recalls Aitov’s son, who travelled with his mother to Petrograd, ‘the high official did not say or promise us anything particularly comforting, but advised us to use the provision just approved on new folk schools, a provision which gives greater autonomy and greater independence from the current control of the authorities and to transform, rearrange the status of our school in accordance with that model’.

On 4 March 1916, after lengthy paperwork procedures, Fatikha Aitova received the permission from the trustee ‘to open a private secondary educational institution for Mohammedan girls in Kazan <…> on the following conditions: the school must use only those textbooks permitted by the Ministry of Public Education and the spiritual authority; teachers must be chosen from people of legal competence; the subjects taught in the school must include the study of Russian’.

The solemn opening ceremony of the Tatar female gymnasium was held a bit later, on 29 October, 1916, which was attended by representatives of the local administration, Governor Boyarsky, Mayor Voronin, trustee of the Kazan Education District Lomikovsky, Director of public schools Vasiliev, Chairman of the city school commission Grauert, officials of the school district and members of the school commission. 

According to historical accounts, the opening of the first Tatar female gymnasium in Kazan became a major event in the life of Tatar society, which gave hope of establishing Muslim Tatar elite among women. As the head of the school, Akimbetyeva, noted, such a gymnasium needed moral support from Tatar society, and especially from outside educational authorities.

She pointed out that the gymnasium was already facing great challenges: ‘First of all, it turned out to be difficult to find Tatar female teachers who would be able to teach in the Tatar language and had the right to teach’. This is what made Fatikha Aitova send six girls to study at Shumkova Gymnasium at her own expense. Fatikha Aitova’s school existed until 1918, when it was reorganized. Later a Tatar secondary school would be established on the basis of the gymnasium.

During the Civil War Fatikha Aitova was evacuated to Omsk. She came back to Kazan only in 1941, during the Great Patriotic War. Aitova was buried in the cemetery of Novo-Tatarskaya Sloboda.

As for our time, Kazan has Gymnasium №12 named after F.G. Aitova with Tatar as education language.



Ilmira Gafiyatullina

Photo: Creative Commons