Kremlyovskaya Street

The main street in the historical centre of Kazan stretches for about a mile. It's best to take a leisurely stroll along the street, immersing yourself into different epochs and themes: from Ivan the Terrible to the beginning of the 20th century, from the history of the city administration and architecture to the roots of higher education and science.

The Kazan Kremlin is the symbol of the city, the heart of the republic, the residence of the president of Tatarstan and an architectural conservation area on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was built in the 16th century on the fresh ruins of Tatar khan's fortress. To enter the museum, use the entrance at Spasskaya Tower.

You can start your tour from the Qol Sharif mosque, one of Europe's largest with an occupancy of 8,000 people. The largest of the fortress' five mosques was burned to the ground in 1552 by the army of Ivan the Terrible together with the shakhids who defended it and the imam in whose honour it was named. The mosque was built from scratch before the city's 1000th anniversary and the money for construction was raised through donations.

Tatarstan is considered a successor of Volga Bulgaria, the northernmost Muslim outpost in history: this territory accepted Islam as a state religion back in 922.

The Christian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral is also nearby. This is the oldest stone temple in the Volga River region, built in the 16th century. Tatarstan is a unique republic where Christianity and Islam have co-existed for hundreds of years, seamlessly intertwining the cultures of the peoples that live here.

The other attractions of the Kremlin include the leaning Söyembikä Tower, Preobrazhenskaya and Taynitskaya Towers, the Governor's courtyard, Artillery courtyard, a branch of Sant Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, the Museum of Islamic Culture, archeological remains of the khan palace, mosques and tombs of the Kazan khans. The Kremlin also has lots of vistas with astonishing views of the Volga and Kazanka rivers and different parts of the city.
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The museum is located 50 metres (164 feet) away from the entrance to the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin, across from the Ploschad Pervogo Maya (Pervogo Maya Square) with its monument to the heroic poet Musa Dzhalil. The museum is located in the former Guest House that was nicknamed a "behemoth" back in the 19th century for its massive size. This is Russia's largest regional museum fund with more than 910,000 items. The largest is the archeological fund with 270,000 items, which consists of ancient and medieval history collections, including a unique Bulgarian collection and benchmark collections of the Bronze Age, Ananyino culture and the Middle Ages. The exhibits are not limited to local history: the Museum is also known for its Egyptian, Classical and Far Eastern collections. One of the noteworthy exhibits is the inner painted sarcophagus of the Egyptian woman Nesy-ta-Udjat-akhet that was made in Thebes in the times of the 21st dynasty (9th century BC). The Tatar ethnographic collection and collection of golden coins that includes staters from the time of Alexander the Great, Byzantine solidi, Eastern, Western European and Russian coins are considered to be truly unique. The fund of written materials has more than 130,000 documents including 16th-century title patents from the Kazan khan.
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In the times of the Kazan khan it was called Nogayskaya Doroga (Nogayskaya Road), in the times of the Russian tsars it was named Bolshaya Prolomnaya Ulitsa (in memory of the explosions that fractured (prolomili) the walls of the khan's fortress). In 1986 it became Kazan's first pedestrian street, and has been a constant site of street parties and celebrations. In recent years, it has become the city's commercial and entertainment centre with dozens of restaurants, cafés, souvenir shops and selfie spots. Prices vary but are generally very affordable and a cafe lunch will set you back 250 rubles.

Almost any café will serve traditional Tatar dishes: chicken broth noodle soup, pelmeni or manty dumplings and baked goods such as triangular echpochmak pies, round peremyach or vak-balish pies or sweet gubadiya. Of course you will be served tea and sweets including the legendary honey desserts chak-chak and talkysh kalyave.

The principal landmarks of Ulitsa Baumana are the bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral (the city's tallest building until just 100 years ago), the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, the Bolshoi Drama Theatre of V. I. Kachalov, the Constructivist building of the Print House, monuments to opera singer Chaliapin, the coach of Catherine II and the Kazan Cat. There are fountains with bronze figures and the “Zero meridian of Kazan” memorial sign.

The monument to Feodor Chaliapin was erected in 1999 near the bell tower where the future singer was baptised. The famous bass singer was first heard in Kazan, where he was born. He spent the first 17 years of his life and began his career singing the part of Zaretsky in the Eugene Onegin opera staged by the Kazan Society of the Lovers of Performing Arts.
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There are many universities and colleges in Tatarstan and a total of 150,000 students, half of whom live and study in Kazan itself, making it one of Russia's "youngest" cities in terms of population age. Kazan Federal University has 15,000 students.

The university was established in 1804 and became the world centre of non-Euclidian geometry (its creator Nikolai Lobachevsky was the university's provost for 20 years), organic chemistry and structural linguistics.

In Soviet times the university was named after Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin, because the future leader of the Russian revolution had studied in Kazan for a total of three months: on December 5, 1887 first-year student Vladimir Ulyanov was expelled for taking part in a protest against the university charter.

In addition to the main university building, you can visit several university museums. Among them are the historical, archeological, chemical, ethnographic, geological, botanical, zoological and astronomical museums as well as several others. A round square across from the main building with a monument to the young Vladimir Ulyanov has been nicknamed "frying pan" by the students.
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The National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan is located in Ushkov House – a palace that was built at the beginning of the 20th century by the son of a rich merchant Konstantin Ushkov, Alexey, for his love interest Zinaida Vysotskaya, who was a university student and a daughter of one of the professors. Both the building and its magnificent interiors have been preserved.
Two blocks down from Ulitsa Baumana (Baumana Street) is the Old Tatar Neighbourhood – a historical settlement that appeared beyond the town walls when the local residents were driven from Kazan after its sacking by Ivan the Terrible. This was a place where Tatar history and culture were reborn, this is where the unique local architecture was formed at the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th centuries. In 1992, the Old Tatar Neighbourhood was given the status of an architectural conservation area. Here you can see mosques and madrasas that operate just like they did 300 years ago, visit the memorial houses of Tatar writers and have lunch at halal cafés where food is prepared according to Islamic rules.

One of the main landmarks is the Al-Marjani Mosque – the first stone mosque, built in Kazan with permission given by Catherine the Great herself in 1766. The famous decree on religious tolerance was not signed by the Empress for another seven years. To build the mosque, 62 Kazan residents raised an astronomical sum of 5,000 rubles (in gold), and construction only took three years. For many years the mosque was the main spiritual centre of Tatar Kazan.