Events

The International Outdoor Opera Festival is a traditional part of the City Day, celebrated every August 30. The National Symphony Orchestra of Tatarstan has hosted the festival since 2011.

No fee is charged for entry to the festival grounds. Thousands of people fill the plaza outside the Agricultural Palace, where the concerts are played. In the past years, Kazan has seen some of the world's top opera singers perform at Kazanskaya Osen (Kazan Autumn) Festival, such as Dmitry Khvorostovsky, Roberto Alagna and Lubov Kazarnovskaya. The world premiere of the opera White Wolf, composed by Zulfiya Raupova and written by Ruzal Mukhametshin, took place at the 2013 festival. The repertoire often sounds familiar even to those with limited knowledge of classical music. It usually includes the more popular opera arias or operetta tunes.

The State Museum of Fine Arts of Tatarstan Republic first set up a jazz stage in its back garden in 2007. The idea was to provide an enjoyable jazz accompaniment for the several art exhibitions that were on at the time. Now Jazz in Sandetsky Estate Festival is a regular concert series that happens every Thursday July through August.

Every Thursday night is dedicated to its own style, from mainstream jazz to world music to avant-garde. Every new programme is presented by the festival's programme director Olga Skepner, who is a singer herself. Many Russian and international musicians have played here over the years. During the months that these concerts are on, they are a cultural must-see for everyone – a kind of local movers' and shakers' outdoor party spot.

The well-known Soviet writer Vasily Aksenov was born in Kazan, and wrote about his hometown. The Mayor's Office of Kazan came up with the idea to celebrate his 75th jubilee in the city in 2007. The event, christened Aksenov Fest, would feature jazz performances as well as poetry and prose readings. The debut festival was attended by the writer Mikhail Veller, poet Mikhail Gendelev, poet Bella Akhmadullina, saxophone player Aleksey Kozlov and rock singer Andrei Makarevich. Everyone loved the festival, and it was firmed up as annual. The Aksenov Fest has featured young writers' Star Ticket Awards (named after Aksenov's early novel Star Ticket) since 2008. The award is the sum of 100,000 rubles and a copper statuette in the form of a punched old-timey train ticket, where "you can see the stars through the punch-holes in it."

The House Museum of Vasily Aksenov opened in 2009 on Ulitsa Karla Marksa, 55/31 (Karla Marksa Street, 55/31). Here the writer lived with his uncle who took him in from the boarding school where the boy ended up after his parents had been sent to Gulag.

Nowadays the Aksenov Fest includes master classes and roundtable debates, as well as prose and poetry readings and jazz concerts. A new venue has been recently added to the fest, the Aksenov Garden behind Mir Movie Theatre.

This festival was the idea of the World Congress of Tatars in 2009. Tatar Food Day is celebrated in the Tatar diasporas abroad, as well as in the capital of Tatarstan. If you happen to be in Kazan on February 28, you would be well advised to visit the Dom Tatarskoy Kulinarii (Tatar Gourmet House) that day. February 28 is the birthday of Yunus Akhmetzyanov, the paterfamilias of Tatar cuisine as we know it, who worked as a chef at the Dom Tatarskoy Kulinarii from its founding day in 1969 until 1984.

There is a museum on the ground floor, celebrating the great chef who was a dedicated promoter of Tatar cookery. Akhmetzyanov collected family recipes of food cooked in people's homes. His corpus of recipes was subsequently canonized as modern Tatar cuisine: from tokmach to echpochmak. You rarely find a Tatar home that does not have Akhmetzyanov's cookbooks.

Many of his dishes one can find in Kazan restaurants. For example, Tutyrma sausages from umbles in broth or Kalzha meatloaf.

The bulk of the programme of the International Opera Festival named after Feodor Chaliapin, held since 1982, is made up of the productions of the Musa Jalil Opera and Ballet House, featuring guest soloists and conductors, including many Russian and international greats: Hibla Gerzmava, Dmitry Khvorostovsky, Mikhail Kazakov, Albina Shagimuratova, Mikhail Pletnev, Valery Gergiyev. All of the local opera house's new productions are always on the programme. The event culminates in a grandiose gala concert.

The festival bearing the name of Rudolf "The Genghis Khan of Ballet" Nuriyev has been staged in Kazan since 1987. Nuriyev himself was in attendance in 1992. He conducted the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky for the ballet The Nutcracker. It was then that Nuriyev gave his consent for the festival to be named after him.

The Rudolf Nuriyev Ballet Festival provides an opportunity (if one is prepared to make an effort – it is not easy to get tickets) to see all the ballet productions of Tatar State Opera & Ballet Theatre named after Musa Jalil. The company's artists dance at the festival alongside the guest stars from some of the foremost ballet companies of Russia and Europe – the likes of Ulyana Lopatkina and Nikolay Tsiskaridze.

Smena is a modern culture centre which hosts exhibitions, lectures, concerts and workshops. There is an independent publishers' bookshop at Smena.

Smena began with a book fair in 2013. Now there are two festivals: one in summer, the other in winter. Dozens of publishers offer their books here at reduced prices. Concurrently, amusing classes are taught for children, and lectures and roundtables take place, often attended by prominent intellectuals, such as the editorial director of The Moscow Times Yuri Saprykin, or film critic from the TV show Vecherny Urgant Anton Dolin.

Krutushka is an ethnic and folk music festival, staged since 2009 in the village of Krutushka near Kazan. The festival usually lasts from one to three days. The festival is accompanied by a local crafts fair, some exhibitions, and lessons in carving, baking, pottery, playing the mouth harp or the kurai. The music played on stage can be anything from Buryat hard rock to Finno-Ugric folk, from African chants to Irish polka.

Numerous people are drawn to this festival not only due to its music and entertainment programme but also heartfelt atmosphere on the riverbank of Kazanka, surrounded by forest and Blue Lakes. A small field camp is arranged near the festival area where songs are heard till morning.

This festival, originally named Golden Minbar (minbar is the pulpit in a mosque, from where the imam reads the Friday prayer), premiered in 2005. KIFMC screens Russian and international films that, according to the festival's concept paper, "promote peace, compassion and justice, irrespective of their director's persuasion." KIFMC customarily shows many films from Central Asia, and some films about Muslims in Europe. The premiere festival received 40 entries from 12 countries.

Many peoples of the Volga and the Caucasus have their national versions of Sabantuy, the holiday that marks the end of spring crop planting. Sabantuy is the Tatars' favourite holiday. Its staging in every district and community of Tatarstan is regulated by the central government. A Sunday in June is usually picked for the staging of Sabantui. The All-Russian Sabantuy is held in different parts of Russia every year.

The Tatar word "saban" means "plough," and "tuy" in this case means "holiday." It is believed that in ancient times, people engaged in merrymaking to appease the spirits of fertility. A contemporary Sabantuy begins with collection of gifts for the "batyrs" – the warriors. After that, a series of tournaments take place in the big square – the maidan. The competitions include sack fighting on a log, walking on a wet tilted log, sack racing, running with a spoon in your mouth, which has a chicken egg in it, climbing up a slippery pole, and other amusing contests, as well as folk song and dance performances. The highlight is the Koresh tournament. Koresh is Tatar national belt wrestling: you have to lift your opponent up with the aid of a belt and throw him supine on the ground. Traditionally, the top prize was a bighorn sheep, but these days, prizes like automobiles or expensive home appliances are more common.

Kazan's main Sabantuy happens in the birch grove of the village of Mirny. In June, some 40,000 people from across the Volga basin flock to the village of Minger, Sabinsky District, for an itinerary of outdoor fun events, such as SUV racing or swim races with inflatable hurdles.

One of Kazan's favourite music festivals, held since 2002, Harokat was the idea of musician and TV anchor Mark Zvanets. The name is a phonetic variant of the Tatar word "Hereket," or "Movement."The slogan is "Harokat! The movement goes on!"

Initially, young artists and bands could make the festival when they won the qualifying competitions, but now the hosts just do their own casting. The festival is now dedicated to the memory of Mark Zvanets, who was killed in a car crash in 2006. The festival plays for a day at Mayakovsky – Zheltaya Kofta (Yellow Sweater) club. The heroes of Kazan's rock scene – Dom Kukol, Murakami and Pluty – are usually on the bill. Occasionally some bands that had disbanded years before will reunite to play Harokat.

The flower festival has been held in Tatarstan capital for two years now. The last one had elaborate compositions installed adjacent to the Tatar State Puppet Theatre "Ekiyat" by 23 landscaping organizations. The festival is held for the duration of three months.


The annual two-week festival entitled Vkusnaya Kazan is the regional favourite among the foodies and those who love to cook. They join together to celebrate the many flavours of Tatar cuisine, creating a feast unlike none other.

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