The Khan’s fortifications, mostly wooden, had stood on the Kremlin Hill before the mid-16th century. The Kremlin of today was built after Ivan the Terrible captured Kazan in 1552. The Kazan Kremlin is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Spasskaya (or Saviour's) Tower, similarly to the other towers of the Kazan Kremlin, was constructed by the same Pskov builders in the 16th century. Legend has it that the young Tsar Ivan IV approached the walls of Kazan for the first time in 1552 under the flag with an image of the Icon of Our Saviour Not-Made-by-Hand. That occasion was commemorated by the Church of the Icon of Our Saviour Not-Made-by-Hand, which was attached to the tower. The great architect Postnik Yakovlev interrupted his work on the Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow to build this church. His colleague Ivan Shiryai joined him, bringing 200 labourers. The clock was mounted on the tower in the 18th century. Originally the dial of the clock revolved, not the hands. There was a moat in front of the tower until the mid-19th century. The church was demolished in the 1930s and the tower's gate was widened.
As you enter the Kremlin a view opens up upon what has remained of the Cathedral of the Saviour's Transfiguration, the second oldest cloister in Kazan. You have to really use your imagination to reconstruct the architectural splendour of the past. The cloister enclosed within the fortress walls occupied around a hectare of land. Where the five-dome Transfiguration Cathedral once stood, only the vaulted basement meets the eye. Gurius, the first archbishop of Kazan, took his monastic vows here. Next you see the restored Church of Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Worker of the Battle and the Archimandrite's House. Friary House is yet another part of the monastery that has been restored. The city plans for the Museum of Archaeology of the Republic of Tatarstan to move in here.
This was the government building where officials received local residents with their pleas and petitions. It was built in 1781, and expanded in 1815 after a devastating fire – one of many. The building was carefully restored in 1999-2005.
Today it houses the offices of the "Kazan Kremlin" National Museum and Preserve of History, Architecture and Art, and the Arbitration Court of Tatarstan.
Adjoining this building is the former Consistory – the eparchial administration body under the archbishop, which, among other things, granted divorces and meted out punishments. For example, it temporarily excommunicated the writer Maxim Gorky. After the 1917 Revolution, the Healthcare Ministry of the Tatar Soviet Socialist Republic moved into the former Consistory building, to be later succeeded by the Shigabutdin Marjani History Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan.
Built in the 1880, the Manege was a riding academy for military cadets and was also used for marching practice. Now it hosts various exhibitions and classical music concerts.
These were originally barracks for Jewish underage recruits (Cantonists), built in the 1840s to the design of Pyotr Pyatnitsky. It became a Junker Academy in 1866. See those wrought-iron flower ornaments on the entrance fronts? The know-how of this work has been lost irretrievably. Following a remodelling in the early 2000s, the former Junker Academy became the Hermitage-Kazan Exhibition Centre, the local chapter of the famed Saint Petersburg museum. It consists of the Natural History Museum of Tatarstan.
The 58-meter (190-foot) seven-storied patrol tower of the Kazan Kremlin is leaning like the tower in Pisa: it deviates from the vertical by 1.98 metre (6 feet). There have been great discussions of how it was built. The current version is that it happened in the XVII century, although history experts still continue arguing. It is a well-known fact that in its place used to be the Khan's tower (and this is confirmed by the excavations), a mosque and a tomb. In the XIX century, local historians began to call it in honor of Queen Suyumbike, a daughter of Nogai Murza Yunus, the ruler of the Khanate of Kazan in 1549-1551, the wife of three Khans – Dzhan-Ali, Safa Girey and Shah Ali. Legends related to her are still alive. One of them says Suyumbike was the one who built the tower – in memory of Safa-Girey. Another legend says the tower was built by Ivan the Terrible, in line with a request from Suyumbike, who later on jumped off the tower. What is certainly true – is that the tower is a symbol of Kazan, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Tower in London.
The oldest stone building in the Tatar capital was erected in 1562 under the supervision of Ivan Shiryai and Postnik Yakovlev, the architect of Moscow's Saint Basil's Cathedral.
The bud-shaped central dome was added in 1736. The church took its current shape in 1841. The belfry was demolished in 1928. The authorities planned to pull the church down altogether a year later, but changed their mind, converting it first to vegetable storehouse, then to the government archive of Tatarstan. It took ten years, in the late 1970s to early 1980s, to restore the Annunciation Cathedral. The archive moved out in 1997. Patriarch Alexius II personally ministered at the first liturgy here in 2005, the 450th year of the Kazan Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Attached to the church is its History Museum, filled with old books, icons and photographs of the Orthodox landmarks of pre-1917 Kazan, a replica of Catherin II's coach, and the walking cane of Gurius, the first Archbishop of Kazan and Sviyazhsk.
The museum explores the formation history of Turkic-Tatar statehood, from nomadic life on the plains to the Russian Empire. Most of the exhibits are devoted to the formation of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920 and the Republic of Tatarstan in the 1990s.
This palace was built on the ruins of Khan's Palace in 1845-1848 to the design of Konstantin Ton, the architect of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and the Bolshoi Kremlin Palace in Moscow. The interiors were the work of Mikhail Korinfsky, who also decorated the interiors of the Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Georgia at Raif and the University of Kazan. In Soviet times, this was the seat of the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Soviet of the TASSR (Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic). It is currently the residence of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan.
This was the name of the mosque that once stood inside the walls of Khan's Kremlin. According to historical records, it was a majestic building, and it boasted a large library. Some historians maintain that the mosque was named Kul Sharif in honour of a mid-16th-century Kazan Imam who was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The mosque was destroyed by the fire that engulfed the city when it was besieged and captured by the troops of Ivan the Terrible in 1552.
The construction commenced on a new mosque in 1997 and was completed in 2005. The podium on which the mosque rests (as many as 10,000 people can fit in there at the same time) is a great place for a panoramic photo shoot.
The monumental building – a reflection of the local architect's modern interpretation of Tatar architectural tradition – is large enough to accommodate 1,500 people. It is just as impressive inside with its stained glass panels, mosaic ornaments, gold-plated artwork, mouldings, the giant Bohemian glass chandelier and Persian carpets. In addition to the prayer room, there is an Islamic Culture Museum inside, which looks back on the conversion of the Volga Tatars to Islam, and the fortunes of Islam in the region over a time-span of more than a thousand years. There are numerous editions of the Quran on display, including an interactive "self-flipping" Quran.
It replaced the Nur-Ali Tower of old, which sheltered the water spring that quenched the thirst of the defenders of Kazan during the siege of 1552. Having learned about it, Ivan the Terrible had an underground tunnel dug to Nur-Ali to blow the spring up. Hence the new name – Taynitskaya for "tayna" which means "secret" in Russian. It was here that the Tsar entered the conquered city.
This is a complex of four standalone buildings surrounding the smelting yard. Weapons were made, repaired and stored here from the 17th century on. The 1815 fire left the buildings heavily damaged, and the manufacturing of weapons had to stop. The yard was re-skilled and the buildings were handed over to the School of Military Cantonists next door, which later became the Kazan Junker Academy. This is now the Cannon Yard Museum. One of the buildings houses a very budget-conscious diner, which is good for a quick meal on the go. Festivals and concerts are sometimes staged in the yard proper.
Another creation of Ivan Postnik, the creator of the Saint Basil's Cathedral, this tower looks more imposing than the other Kremlin towers. It resembles a giant wearing white high boots – the pylons. It was restored in the 1970s. The drive-through was opened in the early 2000s – now this is another entrance to the Kremlin.
The monument to Musa Dzhalil on the square near the Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower was unveiled on November 3, 1966. Authors of the 8-meter (26-feet) statue are sculptor Vladimir Tsigal and architect Lev Golubovsky.
The Tatar poet Musa Dzhalil was born in 1906. As World War II began, he went to the front, where in 1942 he got badly wounded in the chest, was captured, and joined the Idel-Ural Legion (a Wehrmacht division, which united the Tatars, Bashkirs, Chuvash, Mordovians, Mari, and Udmurt) and organized there an underground group together with a secret service agent Gainan Kurmashev and other military. As he spoke in German camps, he linked separate groups of anti-fascists, recruited new members, organized prisoner escapes. In August 1943, Dzhalil and ten members of his group were arrested, and on August 25, 1944, they were executed at the Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. At the same time, in the USSR, the poet was considered a traitor and the enemy’s accomplice. His posthumous fate changed as former prisoners and members of the resistance gave his verses from Moabites to the Soviet Writers Union. Dzhalil's poems were published for the first time in the Novy Mir magazine in 1953 – from that time begins the process of his public rehabilitation: in 1956, he was posthumously awarded the title of the Soviet Union's Hero, and in 1957 he won the Lenin Prize.
50 years after the execution, was unveiled a bass-relief with names of the group's other members – Gainan Kurmashev, Abdulla Alish, Fuat Seifulmulyukov, Fuat Bulatov, Garif Shabayev, Ahmet Simayev, Abdulla Battalov, Zinnat Khasanov, Akhat Atnashev, and Salim Bukharov.