Taos author commissioned by the Tatar Ministry of Culture

Trip to Russia for the FIFA World Cup


Amid the 2018 FIFA world cup, in an interview on the national evening news, Taos resident Sam Burke-Favreo speaks with Dimitri Torov, a Russian sports anchor about his book, "The Football Fanatic's Guide to Tatarstan." With the help of his partner and translator, Kazan native and Taos dweller Aygul Ahmetova, he reveals to Torov the newly completed Russian-translated edition purchased by the Tatarstan Ministry of Culture.

For the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Burke-Favreo published a multilingual culture and language guide under the pseudonym "Knearl Znapps," so that football fans could better connect with the Tatar people. The Tatar people are descendents of the Kipchak and Bulgar tribes who surround Kazan, a host for World Cup matches. Self-published with Amazon and released in April, Burke-Favero planned to peddle the travel-sized cultural instructor in the streets.

"I went to Kazan and took (the book to) the Ministry of Culture, and the folks at the Ministry of Culture really loved it. They ended up ordering 500 copies to distribute at the chasha (Russian for a community and event center, the host of the FIFA fan fest)," said Burke-Favreo. "Right now it's being distributed for World Cup fans in Kazan."

After locating a local publisher and an extensive editing and translating process, Burke-Favreo's language and football guide was ready to be sold by the ministry, and they extended the invitation for Burke-Favreo to write another book for the annual festival Sabantui, a Tatar tradition which translates to "plow festival."

"They commissioned me to write a book for Sabantui. It's their annual spring festival they celebrate after all the spring planting is done. After all the crops are in the ground, everyone takes a break and they have traditional games and horse races, but the main event is their wrestling. They call it 'Koresh' wrestling," said Burke-Favreo. "So the Koresh wrestlers, it used to be they would give the winner a ram as a gift, and now you can win keys to a brand new car, so they've asked me to write something in English for foreigners that are coming."

"The Batyr of Sabantui" is Burke-Favreo's newest contribution for the Tatarstan Ministry of Culture. It translates to "champion of the plow festival." It will be told in a narrative style similar to a children's book. The illustrator of Burke-Favreo's football fan guide to Tatarstan, Jason Wolfgang Hicks, will also contribute illustrations for the second book.

"It won't be a phrase book so much. I'm writing it in children's book form. It's a short story, but it shares basic elements of the Tatar culture. Some language is thrown in there as far as terms they'll (foreigners) need to know when they're going to Sabantui," said Burke-Favreo.

The agricultural festival is a community effort that encourages cooperation, unity and celebration. The festival occurs in middle to late June in a meadow, 'maidan' in Tatar, and explores wise traditions, such as the "Horse of Hope."

"One aspect I'm going to write about is this concept of the 'Horse of Hope.' They have horse races, but instead of celebrating the winner, they celebrate the horse that comes last, and the women tie ribbons in its mane and they braid its tail, and they cover it with beautiful regalia. And it's to remind everyone it's not only the one who wins that's important," said Burke-Favreo. "Of course everyone wants to be the champion, but of course everyone is important, even the last-place horse. I think that's a beautiful tradition."

Burke-Favreo's trip was May 24-June 25, during the time of Ramadan and the early matches for the cup at the Kazan Arena. He visited the Kazan Kremlin, the world heritage site temple, which was illustrated on the cover of his book, and ventured further to Osh, Kyrgyzstan. He found Kazan to be friendly and beautiful.

"I was impressed with how friendly the people in Kazan were and helpful, too, for a city of more than one million people," said Burke-Favreo. "Often, at times cities can be impersonal, but people were very willing to help out if you asked for directions. It's an easy place to be a foreigner."

The original intention of the book was to seize an opportunity to better educate people on the Tatar tribe, a rare literary topic, as well as Burke-Favreo's mission to create a bridge of communication and understanding in a time when there seems to be so much tension in the world.

With the acceptance and encouragement of the Tatarstan Ministry of Culture, Burke-Favreo now has the opportunity to better aid cultural understanding and communication annually with his work for the Sabantui. Burke-Favreo is hoping to receive a formal invitation and revisit Tatarstan for the 2019 Sabantui after the completion of his commissioned work.

Burke-Favreo can be contacted at, and his Tatar football guide and other work can be found on Amazon.