Kazan


Kazan is the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, and one of Russia's largest cities. It is a major industrial, commercial and cultural center, and remains the most important center of Tatar culture. Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in central European Russia.

There is a long-running dispute as to whether Kazan was founded by the Bulgarians in the early 11th century or by the Tatars of the Golden Horde in the mid-fifteenth century, as written records before the latter period are sparse. If there was a Bulgarian City on the site, estimates of its foundation range from the early 11th century to the late 13th century. It was a block-post on the border between Volga Bulgaria and Finnish tribes (Mari, Udmurt). Another vexed question is where the citadel was built originally. Archaeological explorations have produced evidence of an urban settlement in three parts of the modern city: in the Kremlin, in Bişbalta in the place of modern Zilantaw monastery and near the Qaban lake. The oldest was the Kremlin which could be dated back to the 11th century.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, Kazan could have shielded a Volga trade route from Scandinavia to Iran. It was a trade center, and possibly a major city for Bulgarian settlers in the Kazan region, although their capital was at the city of Bolğar further South. In the 13th century, re-settlers came to Kazan from Bolğar and Bilär, which had been ruined by the Mongols. Kazan became a center of a duchy, which was a dependency of the Golden Horde. In 1430s Hordian Tatars (such as Ghiasetdin) usurped power in the duchy, which was ruled by Bulgarian dynasty before.

After the destruction of the Golden Horde, Kazan became the capital of the powerful Khanate of Kazan (1438). The city bazaar Taş Ayaq (Stone Leg) became the most important trade center in the region, especially for furniture. The citadel and Bolaq channel were reconstructed, giving the city a strong defensive capacity. The Russians managed to occupy the city briefly several times, but before the 1552 they withdrew.

In 1552, the city was conquered by Russia under Ivan the Terrible and the majority of the population was massacred. During the governorship of Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky, most of the khanates's Tatar residents were killed, repressed, or forcibly Christianized. Mosques and palaces were ruined. The surviving Tatar population was moved to a place 50 km away from the city and this place was forcibly settled by Russian farmers and soldiers. Tatars in the Russian service were settled in the Tatar Bistäse settlement near the city's wall. Later Tatar merchants and handicraft masters also settled there.

Kazan was largely destroyed as a result of several great fires. After one of them in 1579, the icon Our Lady of Kazan was discovered in the city. During the Time of Troubles in Russia the independence of the Kazan Khanate was restored with the help of the Russian population, but this independence was suppressed by Kuzma Minin in 1612. The history of that period requires further research.

In 1708, the Khanate of Kazan was abolished, and Kazan became the center of a guberniya. After Peter the Great's visit, the city became a shipbuilding base for the Caspian fleet. In the beginning of 19th century Kazan State University and Printing Press were founded by Alexander I. The Qur'an was firstly printed in Kazan in 1801, and it became an important centre for Oriental Studies in Russia. By the end of the 19th century, Kazan had become an industrial center of the Middle Volga. People from neighboring villages came to the city looking for work. In 1875, a horse tramway appeared; 1899 saw the installation of a tramway.

After the Russian Revolution of 1905, Tatars were allowed to revive Kazan as a Tatar cultural center. The first Tatar media and the first Tatar newspaper appeared.

During World War II, many industrial plants and factories were evacuated to Kazan, and the city subsequently became a center of the military industry, producing tanks and planes.

In the late 1980s and in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the USSR, Kazan again became the center of Tatar culture, and separatist tendencies intensified. Since 2000, the city has been undergoing a total renovation. A single-line metro opened on 27 August 2005. The Kazan Metro has five stations. But there are plans to extend the line in both directions. Kazan celebrated its millennium in 2005, when the largest mosque in Russia, Qolsharif, was inaugurated in the Kremlin, and the holiest copy of Our Lady of Kazan was returned to the city. The date of "millennium", however, was fixed rather arbitrarily.

In the beginning of 1990s most of Central Kazan was covered by wooden buildings, usually consisting of two floors. There was a historical environment of Kazan citizens, but not the best place to live in. During the Republican program "The liquidation of old apartments" most of them (unlike other Russian cities), especially in Central Kazan, where the land isn't cheap, were destroyed and their population was moved to new areas at the suburb of the city (Azino, Azino-2, Quartal 39). Nearly 100,000 citizens resettled by this program. The Kazan State University was founded in 1804 and has had several prominent students, including Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Lenin.

Kazan State Technical University was established in 1932. Today the University is one of the leading institutions in the development of aircraft and rocket engineering, engine- and instrument-production, computer science and radio engineering. There are nearly 20 institutes and universities in Kazan, but they are not as prominent and most of them are commercial institutes.

Russian and Tatar languages are widely spoken in the city. Russian is understood by practically all the population, apart from some older Tatars. Tatar is widely spoken mainly by Tatars. The offensive term Mankurt (Mañqort) is used for Tatars who are ashamed of their own culture and language.

Not much English is spoken in the city, but young people tend to understand it.

The city's population is mainly composed of Tatars (about 52 percent) and Russians (about 43 percent). Nearly a third of all marriages in the city are between Tatars and Russians.

Some Mari come to Kazan for seasonal work, mostly woodwork and carpentry. They build summer houses and saunas for local people. Chuvash and Mari come to the city every day from their republics and sell potatoes and mushrooms at bazaars.

During World War II a lot of the Western Soviet Union populations were evacuated to Kazan, including schools, educational institutes, and plants. Some of that population did not return to their native lands. They are: Jews, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Poles, and others (nearly 2.5% of population). They speak Russian, sometimes with Ukrainian accent, and many Jews speak Tatar.

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