Tourist Destination: Kazan

Leaders of the Islamic world congregated today in Kazan, the capital of Russia's republic of Tatarstan, to attend the official inauguration of the Qol Sharif Mosque, Russia's largest. The ceremony is part of festivities to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the city's founding.

Symbolically, it was in Arabic -- the universal language of Islam -- that Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish general-secretary of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), delivered the inaugural speech at the foot of the Qol Sharif mosque:

"In the name of Allah the merciful," Ihsanoglu said. "We address our prayers to Allah, his prophets and all those who believe in him. May his peace and his blessing be on you."

Religious and political leaders from the entire Islamic world were in attendance. Delegates from Central Asia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and even Belarus, joined thousands of believers to perform their Friday prayers after the muezzin's azan, or first call. (Listen to the opening call to prayer. Real Audio, Windows Media)

Located within the Kazan Kremlin walls, Qol Sharif is the most prominent of the city's mosques. It is also Russia's largest. Its construction started nine years ago on the site where the old Qol Sharif mosque stood when the Russians conquered the city in 1552.

The mosque is named after Imam Seid Qol Sharif, who defended Kazan against the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible.

But, as Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 24 June, the new building is meant to represent the multiethnic character of the small central Russian republic.

"The Qol Sharif Mosque stands next to the [Orthodox] Blagoveshchensk Cathedral," Shaimiev said, "and this has a profound meaning which is tied to the aspirations of the multiethnic peoplesof the republic to live in peace and friendship. They stand next to each other as a symbol of mutual understanding between the country's two leading faiths."

Following the Russian conquest of Kazan, the city endured attempts to eliminate Islam. The more liberal policy of Empress Catherine the Great, however, led to a strong Islamic revival starting from the 18th century.
"Today, the entire Islamic world rejoices to see that the Tatar nation, which is the ultimate point of civilization reached by the religion of Islam, has managed to maintain its attachment to Islam and its civilization." - Ihsanoglu

The next blow came in the 20th century, when the Soviet leadership persecuted Muslims and Christians alike. When the Soviet regime collapsed in the early 1990s, there was only one mosque left in Kazan. Today, there are 21.

OIC Secretary-General Ihsanoglu paid tribute on 24 June to the Tatars' ability to maintain their faith throughout history:

Russia -- **Kazan's new mosque (vertical)
"Today, the entire Islamic world rejoices to see that the Tatar nation, which is the ultimate point of civilization reached by the religion of Islam, has managed to maintain its attachment to Islam and its civilization," he said."The religion of Islam is one of the founding elements of its history and culture, and it resisted all attempts made over the past decades to alter its unique character."

Shamiev concurred, describing the white-and blue-tiled Qol Sharif mosque as a "spiritual bridge."

"The Qol Sharif Mosque is not only the main mosque of the republic, it is also a new symbol of Kazan and Tatarstan. It is also a spiritual center for all Tatars. It is a spiritual bridge that connects our past with the future," he said.

Tatar authorities also hope the mosque will prove to be one of Kazan's main attractions, luring tourists from the Islamic world.

The city is expected to welcome tens of thousands of guests when it celebrates the 1,000th anniversary of its founding in August.
922: The generally accepted date when the Volga-region Bulgars adopted Islam.

1005: The generally accepted date of the founding of the city of Kazan, originally a military outpost.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, Kazan was a major trading center along the Volga River and the main city for Bulgar settlers in the region.

1223: Kazan Bulgars beat back the first wave of Mongol invaders.

1236: A Mongol army conquers the Bulgars and captures Kazan.

1361: Emir Bulat-Timur occupies the Bulgar region in a bid to strengthen the hold of the Mongol Golden Horde.

1376:The Bulgar region besieged by forces loyal to Moscow.

1391: First mention of the name of Kazan in Russian chronicles.

1399: Kazan considered one of the three power centers of the Bulgar sultans. Around this time, the city began minting coins and showing other evidence of increasing military and political influence.

1431: Bulgars suffer major military defeats at the hands of forces loyal to Moscow, indicating the beginning of the decline of Bulgar power in the region.

1445: Bulgar Prince Makhmudek defeats Moscow forces and is proclaimed the sovereign of Kazan.

15th and 16th centuries: During this period, the Kazan kremlin (fortress) complex was built up, as was the Kazan citadel within it.

1550: City population reaches about 50,00.

1552: Following a seven-week siege, Kazan falls to an army loyal to Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible. Control of the region was finally secured in 1557.

Second half of the 16th century: Kazan is gradually Russianized and it is forbidden for Tatars to live within the city.

1556: Construction of the white-stone kremlin begins, replacing earlier wooden fortifications.

17th century: Kazan prospers economically, with the first appearance of manufacturing and the emergence of other nearby towns.

1708: Kazan becomes a gubernia center when Peter the Great institutes a political reform. City population is about 40,000.

1758: Opening of first provincial school for children of nobility. Muslim education system exists despite opposition from Moscow authorities.

1760: An urban-development plan laid out for city streets. About 10 percent of the city population is Tatar.

1771: Two Muslim religious schools opened. A third appeared in 1780.

1774: Kazan suffers heavy damage during a peasant revolt headed by Don Cossack Yemelyan Pugachev. Following the suppression of the revolt by Catherine the Great, she decrees that mosques may be built in the city. Official discrimination against Tatars, however, continues.

1791: First permanent theater opened in Kazan.

1804: First university founded.

1830: City population is 43,000.

1859: Population of Kazan reaches 60,600.

1886: Kazan linked to international telephone lines.

Russia -- Kazan's new mosque 2 (Best)
Kazan's new mosque
1896: Construction completed on Kazan's first bridge across the Volga and the beginning of regular rail transport between Kazan and Moscow.

1897: Kazan is one of the five largest cities in Russia, with a population of 130,000, 22 percent of whom are Tatars. This year also sees the first appearance of gas and electrical streetlights.

1899: First electric tram appears.

1900: Kazan is a major religious center with 88 churches and temples and 13 mosques.

1918: Kazan briefly named capital of the Idel-Ural state during the Russian Civil War. It was also briefly the center of the anti-Bolshevik Bolaq-artee Republic. City population is 206,000.

1919: Kazan made administrative center of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In the following two decades, most of the city's churches and mosques are destroyed.

1926: City population is 179,000.

1939: City population is 398,000.

1941-45: During World War II, many factories from the western part of Russia are evacuated to Kazan and the city becomes a major manufacturing center producing tanks and military aircraft.

1959: City population is 667,000.

1989: City population is 1,094,400.

1991: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazan again becomes a major center of Tatar culture.

2000: Kazan embarks on a major urban renovation, including construction of a subway system.

2002: City population is 1,153,000. Of that, about 42 percent are Tatars and 50 percent are Russians. Just over 1 percent are Chuvash. Nearly one-third of all marriages are between Russians and Tatars.

Information on Kazan's millennium celebration can be found at

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »