The Centre of Ancient Kazan: Kremlin and its surroundings

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In 1726 a cathedral bearing the name of the Apostles Peter and Paul was built on the spot where one made of wood had been constructed in the middle of the 16th century. People nicknamed the cathedral the Hanging Gardens of Kazan because of the large amount of stone-like plasterwork adorning its walls. This outstanding example of Baroque architecture was made thanks to merchant Ivan Mikhlyayev, whose house (now Kazan's oldest civil building) is located nearby.

Parishioners financed the repair of the cathedral several times following a number of fires. The cathedral was in a seriously dilapidated condition when it was renovated between 1888 and 1890. Plasterwork was repaired and the foundation was raised. Its present-day appearance is what has been preserved since then.

After the 1917 Revolution the cathedral became the center of the Orthodox community and relics and church items from different closed churches were collected here. In 1938 it was decided to turn the cathedral into an anti-religion museum and lecture hall. However, instead of this, the party archives were housed here. It later was used as a planetarium and also as restoration workshops. It was only in 1989 that liturgical services began again.
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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.
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 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.
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One of the first boarding houses in Kazan, the Passage (or Mall) was built for local millionaire Alexander Alexandrov to the design of young architects Vladimir Suslov and Nikolay Pozdeyev in the early 1880s. This was the third "passage" type shopping centre in Russia, after the ones in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

The designing architects, who were not able to supervise the onsite construction themselves, hired their colleague, the architect Heinrich Rusch from Saint Petersburg, to do the job. The Passage opened in November 1883. There were shops, institutions, offices and even a hotel among its tenants.
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This was a seminary after it was built in 1734–1741. The building owes its current look to the architect Alexander Loman, who worked on it in 1858.

The current occupant, the Institute of Geology and Petroleum Technologies, was established in 2011 through the reorganization of the Geology Department of the Kazan Federal University.
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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.

To get to Kazan Federal University, go down Universitetskaya Ulitsa (Universitetskaya Street).

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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This three-storey Neoclassical building with hints of Art Deco was built in 1910-1911 by architect Vasily Trifonov for local merchant Mikhail Sapozhnikov, who used it as his trading establishment. The building is U-shaped – one part of the building was facing the Voskresenskaya Ulitsa (the former name of Kremlevskaya Ulitsa), and other – Petropavlovsky Pereulok (which is now known as Ulitsa Rakhmatullina). The seventh child in the Sapozhnikov family, Nadezhda was a student of the famed artist Nicolai Fechin (Kazan Art School is now named after him). Her workshop at Voskresenskaya Ulitsa (Voskresenskaya Street) was a place where young artists would meet to work and socialize.

The building housed the editorial office of the Znamya Revolyutsii newspaper during the 1918-1922 Civil War, and then became a post office.
Built in the early 1800s in the late Academicism style, the merchant mansion of Olga Boldyreva owes its renown to Dr. Vladimir Bekhterev, the paterfamilias of Russian reflexology and psychopathology, who lived in it in the 1880s, when he headed the psychiatry department of the Kazan Federal University.

One can find a caduceus (a winged staff with two snakes coiled around it) hidden in the adornments of the building – it is a sign of the Freemasons. The Kazan masonic lodge was first established here in late 18th century. The local members included some architects – no wonder that the street has plenty of masonic artifacts.
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In 1973, the 17-storey Institute of Physics building was constructed in the place of a former police department. Its facade is decorated with a sculpture of the famous E=mc² formula by sculptor Ildar Khanov (his most famous work is the Temple of All Religions, which became a popular tourist attraction in Kazan). A monument to Yevgeny Zavoisky was erected in front of the institute in 2004. He was a physicist who discovered the phenomenon of Electron Paramagnetic Resonance. The institutes' second building, which is also 17 storeys high, was constructed in 1977 and in a year a five-storey building of the Lovachevsky Scientific Library was added to the tandem.
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The construction of this passage was funded by a merchant named Chernoyarov and designed by Heinrich Rusch in the beginning of the 20th century. In Soviet times, Fatkhi Burnash lived here. He was a playwright, director of the Kamalovskiy theatre. And writer Fatykh Karim lodged in a separate building in the yard. Until recently the building housed a museum of Soviet slot machines.
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A lot of chemists brought the Kazan Federal University its glory – Nikolay Zizin, Aleksander Butlerov, Vladimir Markovnikov, Alexander and Boris Arbuzov, who worked in the chemical laboratory located in the courtyard of the main university building (constructed in the 1830s by architect Mikhail Korinfsky). In 1933, the institute got its own Department of Chemistry and a separate building for the department was designed by architect Akhmed Bikchentayev and constructed in 1953.
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Nearly 200 years ago, the house that stood here was the home of local merchant Vasily Yevreinov. In 1833 the local government bought it for its offices. In 1842 the building was badly damaged by a fire. The government put the architect Christian Crump on the case fixing it, and Crump gave the building the look we see today. It is now houses the Kazan City Duma and the Executive Committee.
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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.
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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.