Kazan (Russian: Каза́нь; Tatar: Qazan, Казан) is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan 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 (İdel) and Kazanka (Qazansu) rivers in central European Russia.

What does Kazan mean?

“Qazan” is originally a name for a special cooking pan, a variant of a wok, but more solid and heavier.
It was believed that the city of Kazan is named after this object because of its geographical similarity with a “qazan”-pan; namely the city is situated in a U-shaped lowland.

There is a long-running dispute as to whether Kazan was founded by the Volga Bulgars in the early Middle Ages 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 Bulgar City on the site, estimates of its foundation range from the early 11th century to the late 13th century.

Some more Kazan history

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 usurped power in the duchy, which was ruled by Bolghar 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 Kazan 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 Kazan and this place was forcibly settled by Russian farmers and soldiers.

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.

Peter the Great

After Peter the Great’s visit, Kazan 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. 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.

Kazan – Center of Tatar culture

In 1918, Kazan was a capital of the Idel-Ural State, which was suppressed by the Bolshevist government. Kazan was also the center of an anti-Bolshevik Bolaq artea Republic.

In 1919 (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 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.

The Kazan Metro

Since 2000, Kazan has been undergoing a total renovation. A single-line metro opened in August 2005. The Kazan Metro has five stations and 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 building, usually consisting of two floors. There was a historical environment of Kazan citizens, but not the best place to live in.

During the Republican programme “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. Nearly 100,000 citizens resettled by this program.

Population and languages

Russian and Tatar languages are widely spoken in Kazan. The city’s population is mainly composed of Tatars (41–43%) and Russians (50–51%, includes number of Tatar-Russians speaking Russian only). Nearly a third of all marriages in city are between Tatars and Russians.

Most official posts are occupied by Tatars, but others by Russians and some minorities which lived in the city before 1990s. The Central Asian community, which includes Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz giving the city a Central Asian flavour.

Tartarstan today

In 1992 Tartarstan held a referendum on the ‘Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Tartar Soviet Socialist Republic’ with 62% voting in favour of the constitution.

The Tartarstan Constitution defines Tartarstan as a Sovereign State, however Article 1 still defines Tartarstan as a part of the Russian Federation.

What is Kazan famous for?

You can visit the mean attractions in a 1- or 2-day tour, organized by us.

From visiting the Medieval Kremlin and the huge mosque to riding on the Kazan metro system and sampling a chak-chak.

  • Kazan Kremlin
  • Chak-chak Museum
  • Soviet Lifestyle Museum
  • Kul Sharif Mosque (see image above this blog post)
  • Old Tatar Settlement
  • Annunciation Cathedral
  • National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan
  • House of Zinaida Ushkova/Tatarstan National Library
  • Epiphany Cathedral Bell Tower
  • Syuyumbike Tower
  • Tatarstan Museum of Natural History
  • Hermitage Kazan
  • SS Peter & Paul Cathedral
  • Musa Dzhalil Monument
  • Nurullah Mosque
  • Soltanov Mosque

Interested? Then choose a Trans-Siberian Train journey that suits you.