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Articles

Kazan

 

 

Kazan is indeed a peaceful and tolerant city 

 

 The capital of Tatarstan, one of the largest and most prosperous republics within the Russian Federation, boasts a population of some 1.2 million people and is the 8th largest city in Russia.

 

Volga Bulgars founded Kazan as an outpost on the northern borders of Volga Bulgaria and one of the last stops on a trade route connecting China and modern day central Russia. 

 

Tatars, the descendants of Volga Bulgars as well as Turco-Mongolian troops and settlers who conquered the area in the times of the Golden Horde, number around seven million and are the second largest ethnic group in Russia. 

 

People of 126 nationalities live in Kazan, with the most numerous being Tatar (about 52%) and Russian (about 43%). 

 

Whether derived from the name of the river it stands on or from the Bulgarian word for cauldron, Kazan, with its 1,000 year history at the crossroads of Eastern and Western civilizations, is a city where multiple religions, cultures and people learned to coexist peacefully.

 

The Kazan experience may yet prove the most instructive for the otherwise ethnically-tense Russia. 

  

The major religions in Kazan are Sunni Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy, while a tour off the city's beaten path will reveal a number of Catholic churches and a synagogue.

Such religious  diversity has its root in Kazan's alternating historical periods of relative autonomy and being subject to both Eastern and Western religious influences. 

 

Islam was introduced to the area by missionaries from Baghdad in 922, and from the 10th century on all major confessions were represented in the area.


With the fall of the Golden Horde in 1438, the city was named the capital of the Kazan Khanate.

 

However, 114 years later the Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible and his troops sacked Kazan, massacring the majority of the population: the Tatar residents were either killed or forcibly converted to Christianity.


By 1593 all mosques and Muslim palaces in the area were destroyed, and the Tatar population was forbidden to settle within 50 km of the city's walls, thus segregating Russian and Tatar peoples.

 

Many Orthodox Christian churches were built at the time, while the construction of mosques was prohibited until the 18th century when the first mosque was rebuilt under the auspices of Catherine the Great in 1766.


In the late 19th century Tatarstan became a center of Muslim life and Jadidism, a modernizing Islamic movement that preached tolerance toward other religions, and the Tatars became renowned for their friendly relations with other peoples of the Russian Empire. 

 

After the Russian revolution of 1905 Tatars were allowed to revive Kazan as a Tatar cultural center.

In 1920 the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was established as part of the Soviet Union.

 

At present, over 50 mosques operate in Kazan, including Kol Sharif, one of the largest mosques in Europe, rebuilt in 1996 on the territory of the Kazan Kremlin. (The original was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible).   


These days Kazan is witnessing very serious reconstruction of both Orthodox churches and mosques.  


There are plans to turn Kazan into a global pilgrimage center.

 

Indeed, the Kazan Kremlin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a visual embodiment of the city's religious and cultural diversity.

Above the Kremlin's rooftops tower the crosses of the Annunciation Cathedral and the golden crescent of the Kol Sharif Mosque, as well as the UNESCO emblem.

 

Today Kazan is also known as one of the safest cities in Russia.

Overall Kazan has seen its crime rate drop by 50 percent in terms of tolerance and the peaceful co-existence of all religions and nations.

This progress becomes even more impressive bearing in mind that in the Soviet Union the city had the highest rate of teenage crime