Kazan

HIGHLIGHTS

Kazan, one of the oldest Russian cities, celebrated its millennium in 2005. The ancient walls of Kazan recall many dramatic events, including the historic siege by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century.

Modern Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan and is home to 1.2 million residents. This timeless city is also a city of youth, home to 30 of Russia’s largest universities and more than 180,000 students. This “culture of youth” provides Kazan with a modern and progressive vibrancy, an energy that only young people can instil.

It is also a highly diverse city with more than 100 nationalities. This diversity, coupled with a young population, has created a unique sense of tolerance, understanding and youthful optimism.

Visitors will also discover the ancient and fascinating Tatar culture in Kazan. A great center of Muslim culture and a vivid example of how different ethnicities and religions can live peacefully together for many centuries.

The 16th century Kazan Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS

The Kazan Kremlin is located right at the very heart of the city, on the higher bank of the Kazanka River. It is the only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia, and it also shows some traces of the original city-planning layout of Kazan. This complex’s architecture naturally combines a variety of cultures: the Volga-Bulgarian culture, the Golden Horde culture, the Medieval Kazan-Tatar culture, as well as the Italian and Russian cultures.

The complex is truly a tourist gem. Seven museums are located within its walls, as well as the “falling” Söyembikä Tower, the Spasskaya Tower, fragments of Kazan khans’ tombs and the Governor’s Palace. The neighbouring Muslim mosque Qolşärif and the Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral are a prime example of peaceful coexistence of the two religions in this region. The Kremlin’s sightseeing platforms offer magnificent views to the Kazanka River, the Millenium Bridge, the Palace of Farmers, the Kremlin embankment and the Kazan Arena stadium.

The Kazan Kremlin was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

Originally, the mosque was built in the Kazan Kremlin in the 16th century. It was named after Kul Sharif, a religious scholar who served there. Kul Sharif died with his numerous students while defending Kazan from Russian forces in 1552. It is believed that the building featured minarets, both in the form of cupolas and tents. Its design was traditional for Volga Bulgaria, although elements of early Renaissance and Ottoman architecture could have been used as well. In 1552, during the Siege of Kazan it was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible.

Tatar scholars speculate as to whether some elements of Kul Sharif Mosque can be seen in Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow (8 minarets, a central cupola, not typical for Russian architecture). Since 1996, the mosque has been rebuilt in Kazan Kremlin, although its look is decisively modern. Its inauguration on July 24, 2005, marked the beginning of celebrations dedicated to the Millennium of Kazan. It can accommodate 6,000 worshipers.

Several countries contributed to the fund that was set up to rebuild Kul Sharif Mosque, namely Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Nowadays the mosque predominantly serves as a museum of Islam. At the same time during the major Muslim celebrations thousands of people gather there to pray.

The Kul Sharif complex was envisioned to be an important cornerstone of Kazan’s architectural landscape. Besides the main mosque building it includes a library, publishing house and Imam’s office.

The island city of Sviyazhsk is a place unique for its history and geographical position. It was constructed for the siege of Kazan in 1551 at the orders of Ivan the Terrible. The surprising thing is that the city was first completely built in the vicinity of Uglich, then it was dismantled into pieces with every log being marked, then taken by rafts down the Volga River and reassembled at the chosen place without a single nail. There is one building preserved from those times: the Troitskaya Church, the only monument of Russian wooden architecture of the 16th century in the Middle Volga. The city became an island after Kuybyshev Reservoir was opened in 1956. Most of the local residents’ homes were flooded, and the ancient structures only survived due to being located on a hill. Today the island hosts country-wide music festivals, archery tournaments, culture and tourism fairs, religious ceremonies. The beauty of the island city attracts artists and poets, many of them even choose to stay and live there. The expanse of Volga, the steep shores, the ancient churches captivate them, as well as hundreds of tourists, by their peacefulness and its very special aura. Upon seeing the island city of Sviyazhsk great Russian poet A.S. Pushkin said that it was the Buyan island and the Lukomorye from his fairy tales.

Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the island town of Sviyazhsk is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Raifa Monastery is the largest Christian Orthodox complex in Tatarstan that attracts pilgrims from all over the country. Located at the distance of 27 kilometres from Kazan, it was founded by famous hermit monk Philaret. It is particularly pleasant to walk around the grounds of the monastery well tended by the novitiates. You will find very special placative atmosphere here: near the walls of the monastery are a picturesque lake and ancient forests. There is a saying that the local frogs never croak so as not to disturb the monks’ prayers. The monastery’s grounds contain the Cathedral of the Georgian Icon of the Mother of God in which the eponymous miraculous icon is kept. Every year thousands of believers arrive here to worship the icon. There is a special hotel here opened specifically for them and called “Dom Palomnika” (“Pilgrim’s Home”).

 

The main pedestrian street of Kazan starts at the foot of the Kazan Kremlin and ends at the “Ploshchad Tukaya” (“Tukay Square”) metro station. The architectural appearance of the street is formed by the buildings of 17th-20th centuries. Some of these include the House of Press in the form of an open book or the bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral. The unique historical flavour is given by unusual sculptures you’ll find along the way – a replica of the carriage of Catherine II, fountains with pigeons, the Arabic street clock, a monument to Feodor Chaliapin and many others. The most striking landmarks of the street are the Bogoyavlensky and Nikolsky Cathedrals and the St John the Baptist monastery.

The Palace of Farmers is an impressive building in an eclectic style, is one of the symbols of Kazan and is present on most tourist postcards of the city. The Palace is the official residence of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Tatarstan. The central element of the façade is the bronze tree that represents fertility and prosperity. In the evenings the green illumination looks like the tree’s leaves. The Dvortsovaya Square is located nearby, and every autumn it hosts the International Opera Festival featuring the Republic of Tatarstan State Symphony Orchestra as well as several other city-wide events.