Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Tatar City of Kazan

Kazan is a thousand year old Tatar city whose original inhabitants were the decendents of soldiers that rode with Gengis Khan, most coming from around Turkey.

Kazan is is the first major train stop 800 km east of Moscow & its the captal of the Republic of Tatarstan, although this is still part of the Russian Federation. Its on the Volga River & at 3,500km it's the longest river in Europe. The Volga & Kazanka rivers meet at Kazan & coupled with the trans-Siberian rail network this has made the city a major freight distibution hub.

Its a thriving city with a great deal of new building as well as its own Kremlin (citadel) which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ivan the Terrible laid waste to Kazan in 1552 & forced the Khan to convert to Christianity. Today the Kazan Kremlin has both the Kul Sharif mosque and the Annunciation cathedral & there seems little or no Moslem/Christian tension.

The city has the most startling eclectic mix of architectual styles imaginable, there is no uniformity about new buildings, they might be typical steel & glass tower blocks but they're just as likely to be French renassience, English Georgian or classical Palladian. The magnificent blue domed Kul Sharif mosque, gleaming with white marble from the Urals, looks like its stood there for centuries but in fact is just 6 years old.

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