Kazan: The Tatar ‘cooking pot’

Nayanima Basu | Updated on January 19, 2018

Up there: The capital of Tatarstan, a republic within the Russian Federation, Kazan has a skyline that reveals its age and modernity alike   -  Reuters

Older than its neighbour Moscow, the city of Kazan takes pride in history and harmony

A population of 3.8 million; a significant tourism hub; home to many religions and ethnicities... Kazan has quite a few feathers to flaunt. The capital of Tatarstan, a republic within the Russian Federation, has a skyline that reveals its age and modernity alike. Belfries and minarets stand in harmony with industrial buildings and government offices.

Unless you are a student of European history, you are not likely to grasp the depth of history that’s intrinsic to this region. Located to the east of Moscow, it takes a little more than an hour to reach Kazan by flight.

Situated on the banks of rivers Kazanka and Volga, in between Volga and Ural mountains, this port city has always boasted being a significant trading zone in Russia. Goods such as silk, powder, precious and semi-precious stones arrived on its shores from the East and North. Today, Kazan is also a favourite for sports aficionados. The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch rolled through the city.

In 2000, Kazan Kremlin was included in the Unesco World Heritage List. And this tag doesn’t come with just age and pedigree. It also celebrates the tolerance and inclusiveness of Tatarstan.

It is the only Kremlin that has a mosque and a church in its premises. “The only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia” — as per the Unesco website — the Kazan Kremlin consists of an “outstanding group of historic buildings dating from 16th to 19th centuries, integrating remains of earlier structures of the 10th to 16th centuries”.

The population is an eclectic mix of Tatars and Russians, Chuvashes and Udmurts, Mordovians and Maris, Ukrainians and Bashkirs — representing more than 173 ethnic origins. That explains why it’s called Kazan — ‘cooking pot’ in Tatar. In 922, Kazan adopted Islam and, from the beginning of the 10th century till the 15th, Islam was the State religion.

After the collapse of the Volga-Bulgaria State, when it was conquered in 1236 by the Golden Horde, Kazan was made the capital. Before that it was mostly paganism in vogue here. In 1552, when Kazan was conquered by Tzar, there were attempts to introduce Christianity. Attempts were also made by the Tzar to conquer the Kazan Khanate.

It was in 1920 that the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was declared. In August 30, 1990, the Declaration on State Sovereignty of the republic was adopted. Thereafter, in 1994, the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan on Delimitation of the Jurisdictional Subjects and Mutual Delegation of Powers between the State Bodies of the Russian Federation and the State Bodies of the Republic of Tatarstan was signed. It was followed by the Treaty on Delimitation of the Jurisdictional Subjects and Powers between the State Bodies of the Russian Federation and the State Bodies of the Republic of Tatarstan in 2007.

A visit to Kazan is incomplete without a trip to the Qolşärif Mosque, housed inside the Kazan Kremlin just adjacent to the Annunciation Cathedral. The Kremlin also housed a monastery which was destroyed during the Communist-era under Stalin.

Today Kazan is popular for sports activities besides its industrial growth. Being strategically located, Kazan is also one of the crucial manufacturing hubs of Russian civilian as well as military choppers. The Kazan Helicopter Plant was established in 1940 and is one of the biggest helicopter manufacturers in the world, having produced more than 11,000 Mil helicopters.

Travel log

Getting there

By air: Kazan can be reached by a one-hour flight from Moscow.

By rail: A night train from Moscow takes about 15 hours to arrive in Kazan, and it’s a splendid journey as the train passes through several

exotic locales.


Don’t miss the most delicious and complex Tatar desserts — talkysh kaleve. This Turkish recipe was brought to Kazan in the 19th century.

Published on January 19, 2018

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