Kazan (Russian: Казань; IPA: [kɐˈzanʲ]; Tatar Cyrillic: Казан, Latin: Qazan) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. With a population of 1,143,535, it is the eighth most populous city in Russia. Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia.
The Kazan Kremlin is a World Heritage Site. In 2005, the Medal «In Commemoration of the 1000th Anniversary of Kazan» was established by Russia to denote this landmark event. The multi-ethnic city is honored by UNESCO and famous for Muslims and Christians living side-by-side in peace.
In April 2009, the Russian Patent Office granted Kazan the right to brand itself as the «Third Capital» of Russia. In 2009 it was chosen as the «Sports capital of Russia» and it still is referred to as such. The city will host the 2013 Summer Universiade, 2015 World Aquatics Championships, and 2018 FIFA World Cup.
There is a long-running dispute as to whether Kazan was founded by the Muslim Volga Bulgars in the early Middle Ages or by the Tatars of the Golden Horde in the mid-15th century, as written records before the latter period are sparse. If there was a Bulgar city on the site, estimates of the date of its foundation range from the early 11th century to the late 13th century (see Iske Qazan). It was a border post between Volga Bulgaria and two Finnic tribes, the Mari and the Udmurt. Another vexatious question is where the citadel was built originally. Archaeological explorations have produced evidence of urban settlement in three parts of the modern city: in the Kremlin; in Bişbalta at the site of the modern Zilantaw monastery; and near the Qaban lake. The oldest of these seems to be the Kremlin.
If Kazan existed in the 11th and 12th centuries, it could have been a stop on a Volga trade route from Scandinavia to Baghdad. It was a trade center, and possibly a major city for Bulgar settlers in the Kazan region, although their capital was further south at the city of Bolğar.
After the Mongols devastated the Bolğar and Bilär areas in the 13th century, either the surviving Bulgars recuperated in numbers and were assimilated by a small number of Kipchaks from whom they adopted their language (a position known as Bulgarism), or Kipchaks and Bulgars intermixed to create the modern Kazan Tatar population. Kazan became a center of a duchy which was a dependency of the Golden Horde. Two centuries later, in the 1430s, Kipchak descendents of Genghis Khan, such as Ghiasetdin of Kazan), usurped power from its Bolghar dynasty.
In 1438, after the destruction of the Golden Horde, Kazan became the capital of the powerful Khanate of Kazan. 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.
As a result of the Siege of Kazan (1552) Russia under Ivan the Terrible conquered the city for good and the majority of the population was massacred. During the governorship of Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky, most of the khanates’s Tatar residents were killed or forcibly Christianized. Mosques and palaces were ruined. The surviving Tatar population was moved to a place 50 kilometers (31 mi) 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. During this period, 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.
In the early 17th century, at the beginning of the Time of Troubles in Russia, the Tsardom of Kazan declared independence with the help of the Russian population, but this independence was suppressed by Kuzma Minin in 1612.
In 1708, the Tsardom of Kazan was abolished, and Kazan became the seat of Kazan Governorate. After Peter the Great’s visit, the city became a center of shipbuilding for the Caspian fleet. The major Russian poet Gavrila Derzhavin was born in Kazan in 1743, the son of a poor country squire of Tatar ancestry though himself having a thoroughly Russian identity. Kazan was largely destroyed in 1774 as a result of the Pugachev revolt, a revolt by border troops and peasants led by the Don Cossack ataman (captain) Yemelyan Pugachev, but was rebuilt soon afterwards, during the reign of Catherine the Great. Catherine also decreed that mosques could again be built in Kazan, the first being Marjani Mosque. In the beginning of the 19th century Kazan State University and printing press were founded by Alexander I. It became an important center for Oriental Studies in Russia. The Qur’an was first printed in Kazan in 1801. Kazan became an industrial center and peasants migrated there to join its industrial workforce. 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 theater and the first Tatar newspaper appeared.
In 1917 Kazan became one of the revolution centers. In 1918, Kazan was the capital of the Idel-Ural State, which was suppressed by the Bolshevist government. In the Kazan Operation of August 1918, it was briefly occupied by Czechoslovak Legions. In 1920 (after the October Revolution), Kazan became the center of Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In the 1920s and 1930s, most of the city’s mosques and churches were destroyed, as occurred elsewhere in the USSR. During World War II, many industrial plants and factories to the west were relocated in Kazan, making the city a center of the military industry, producing tanks and planes. After the war Kazan consolidated as an industrial and scientific center. In 1979, the city’s population reached one million.
In the late 1980s and in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazan again became the center of Tatar culture, and separatist tendencies intensified. With the return of capitalism Kazan became one the most important centers of the Russian Federation. The city came up from 10th to 6th position in population ranking of Russian cities. In the late 2000s the city earned the right to host both the 2013 Summer Universiade and 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Millennium of Kazan
Since 2000, the city has been undergoing a total renovation. The historical center, including its Kremlin, has been rebuilt. Kazan celebrated its millennium in 2005, after a city-organized historical commission settled on 1005 as the official year of the city’s founding. During the millennium celebrations, one of the largest mosque in Russia, Qolsharif, was dedicated in the Kazan Kremlin, the holiest copy of Our Lady of Kazan was returned to the city, the «Millennium Bridge» was inaugurated that year, and the Kazan Metro began operation. The government of the Russian Federation released the Medal «In Commemoration of the 1000th Anniversary of Kazan».