Essential Architecture-  miscellaneous west asia

Qolsharif Mosque




Kazan Kremlin, Tartarstan, Russia.


16th century, destroyed 1552, rebuilt 1996.






  The mosque at night
  Closeup of the mosque
  View from the Yärminkä/Yarmorochnaya Square
  Kazan Kremlin
The Qolşärif mosque ([kɔlʃæˈri:f], also spelled Qol Sharif, Kol Sharif, Qol Sherif via Tatar: Колшәриф мәчете and Kul Sharif via Russian: мечеть Кул-Шариф) located in Kazan is the largest mosque in Russia and, reputedly, in Europe.

Originally, the mosque was built in Kazan Kremlin in the 16th century. It was named by Qolşärif who served there. Qolsharif died with his numerous students while defending Kazan from Russian occupants in 1552. It is believed that the building featured minarets, both in the form of cupolas and tents. Its design was traditional for Volga Bulgaria, although elements of early Renaissance and Ottoman architecture could have been used as well. In 1552, during the storm of Kazan it was destroyed by the Russians.

Tatar scholars speculate as to whether some elements of Qolşärif mosque can be seen in Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow (8 minarets, a central cupola, not typical for Russian architecture). Since 1996 the mosque has been rebuilt in Kazan Kremlin, although its look is decisively modern. Its inauguration on July 24, 2005 marked the beginning of celebrations dedicated to the Millennium of Kazan.

Several countries contributed to the fund that was set up to build Qolsharif mosque. Namely, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. Qolsharif is considered to be one of the most important symbols of Tatar aspiration to independence and liberty.

Nowadays the mosque predominantly serves as Museum of Islam. At the same time during the major Muslim celebrations thousands of people gather there to pray.

The Qolsharif complex was envisioned to be an important cornerstone of Kazan architectural landscape. Besides the main mosque building it includes the library, publishing house and Imam's office.


The origin of the name is unclear. The literal translation of the Tatar word qazan is a boiler or cauldron. Alternately, it may have been derived from qazğan, Tatar for dug [ditch].

"Qazan" is originally a name for a special cooking pan, a variant of a wok, but more solid and heavier. It was believed that the city of Kazan is named after this object because of its geographical similarity with a "qazan"-pan; namely the city is situated in a U-shaped lowland.

Another, more romantic legend tells a story of a Tatar princess Söyembikä, who dropped a golden dish (golden qazan) in to the river on which the city is located while washing it.

Additionally, Chuvash legends refer to the Bulgarian Prince Khusan (Хусан) (Chuvash rendering of the Muslim name Hassan) and Chuvashes call this city Хусан after the name of this prince.


Kazan in 1630

There is a long-running dispute as to whether Kazan was founded by the Volga Bulgars in the early Middle Ages or by the Tatars of the Golden Horde in the mid-fifteenth century, as written records before the latter period are sparse. If there was a Bulgar City on the site, estimates of its foundation range from the early 11th century to the late 13th century (see Iske Qazan). It was a block-post on the border between Volga Bulgaria and Finnic tribes (Mari, Udmurt). Another vexed question is where the citadel was built originally. Archaeological explorations have produced evidence of an urban settlement in three parts of the modern city: in the Kremlin, in Bişbalta in the place of modern Zilantaw monastery and near the Qaban lake. The oldest was the Kremlin which could be dated back to the 11th century.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, Kazan could have shielded a Volga trade route from Scandinavia to Iran. It was a trade center, and possibly a major city for Bulgar settlers in the Kazan region, although their capital was at the city of Bolğar further South.

In the 13th century, re-settlers came to Kazan from Bolğar and Bilär, which had been ruined by the Mongols. Kazan became a center of a duchy, which was a dependency of the Golden Horde. In 1430s Hordian Tatars (such as Ghiasetdin) usurped power in the duchy, which was ruled by Bolghar dynasty before.

After the destruction of the Golden Horde, Kazan became the capital of the powerful Khanate of Kazan (1438). The city bazaar Taş Ayaq (Stone Leg) became the most important trade center in the region, especially for furniture. The citadel and Bolaq channel were reconstructed, giving the city a strong defensive capacity. The Russians managed to occupy the city briefly several times, but before the 1552 they withdrew.

Map of the siege of Kazan (1552)

In 1552, the city was conquered by Russia under Ivan the Terrible and the majority of the population was massacred. During the governorship of Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky, most of the khanates's Tatar residents were killed, repressed, or forcibly Christianized. Mosques and palaces were ruined. The surviving Tatar population was moved to a place 50 km away from the city and this place was forcibly settled by Russian farmers and soldiers. Tatars in the Russian service were settled in the Tatar Bistäse settlement near the city's wall. Later Tatar merchants and handicraft masters also settled there.

Annunciation Cathedral (1561–1562)

Kazan was largely destroyed as a result of several great fires. After one of them in 1579, the icon Our Lady of Kazan was discovered in the city. During the Time of Troubles in Russia the independence of the Kazan Khanate was restored with the help of the Russian population, but this independence was suppressed by Kuzma Minin in 1612. The history of that period requires further research.

In 1708, the Khanate of Kazan was abolished, and Kazan became the center of a guberniya. After Peter the Great's visit, the city became a shipbuilding base for the Caspian fleet.

The major Russian poet Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin was born at Kazan in 1743, the son of a poor country squire of Tatar origin though himself having a thorough Russian identity and making a substantial contribution to Russian culture.

Kazan was largely destroyed in 1774 as a result of a revolt by border troops and peasants led by the Don Cossack ataman (captain) Yemelyan Pugachev, but was rebuilt soon afterwards, during the reign of Catherine the Great. Catherine also decreed that mosques could again be built in Kazan. But discrimination against the Tatars continued.

In the beginning of 19th century Kazan State University and Printing Press were founded by Alexander I. The Qur'an was firstly printed in Kazan in 1801, and it became an important centre for Oriental Studies in Russia. By the end of the 19th century, Kazan had become an industrial center of the Middle Volga. People from neighboring villages came to the city looking for work. In 1875, a horse tramway appeared; 1899 saw the installation of a tramway.

After the Russian Revolution of 1905, Tatars were allowed to revive Kazan as a Tatar cultural center. The first Tatar theater and the first Tatar newspaper appeared.

Kazan State Museum

In 1918, Kazan was a capital of the Idel-Ural State, which was suppressed by the Bolshevist government. Kazan was also the center of an anti-Bolshevik Bolaq artea Republic. In August 1918 it was shortly occupied by White Czechs. In 1919 (after the October Revolution), Kazan became the center of Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In the 1920s and 1930s, most of the city's mosques and churches were destroyed (as occurred elsewhere in the USSR).

During World War II, many industrial plants and factories were evacuated to Kazan, and the city subsequently became a center of the military industry, producing tanks and planes.

Zilant's conventionalized image was the official tamğa (sign) of Kazan's Millennium

In the late 1980s and in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the USSR, Kazan again became the center of Tatar culture, and separatist tendencies intensified. Since 2000, the city has been undergoing a total renovation. A single-line metro opened on 27 August 2005. The Kazan Metro has five stations. But there are plans to extend the line in both directions. Kazan celebrated its millennium in 2005, when the largest mosque in Russia, Qolsharif, was inaugurated in the kremlin, and the holiest copy of Our Lady of Kazan was returned to the city. The date of "millennium", however, was fixed rather arbitrarily.

Historical naming

Söyembikä Tower was built in the Kazan Kremlin at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. Alternative theory postulates that it was built in the Kazan Khanate times.

Tatar (now, 1928–1939): Qazan;
(1939–2000): Казан;
(1918–1928): قازان ;
(1918–1922), Arab: قزان ;
Russian: Каза́нь [Kazan];
Arab (hist.): Bulgar al-Jadid (in Tatar transliteration:Bolğar âl-Cädid) - New Bolğar;
German: Kasan, Latin: Casan, French: Kazan, Polish: Kazań

Central Kazan


Qolşärif mosque - The largest mosque in Russia

Märcani Mosque

Soltan Mosque, Tuqay Street

The city has a beautiful citadel (Russian: kreml, or, sometimes, Tatar: kirman), which was declared the World Heritage Site in 2000. Major monuments in the kremlin are the 5-domed 6-columned Annunciation Cathedral (1561-62) and the mysterious leaning Soyembika Tower, named after the last queen of Kazan and regarded as the city's most conspicuous landmark.

Also of interest are the towers and walls, erected in the 16th and 17th centuries but later reconstructed; the Qol-Şarif mosque, which is already rebuilt inside the citadel; remains of the Saviour Monastery (its splendid 16th-century cathedral having been demolished by the Bolsheviks) with the Spasskaya Tower; and the Governor's House (1843-53), designed by Konstantin Thon, now the Palace of the President of Tatarstan.

Next door, the ornate baroque Sts-Peter-and-Paul's Cathedral on Qawi Nacmi Street and Marcani mosque on Qayum Nasiri Street date back to the 18th century.

Bolaq embankment

Bistä or Posad
Central Kazan is divided into two districts by the Bolaq canal and Lake Qaban. The first district (Qazan Bistäse or Kazanskiy Posad), historically Russian, is situated on the hill, the second (İske Tatar Bistäse or Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda), historically Tatar, is situated between the Bolaq and the Volga. Mosques, such as Nurullah, Soltan, Bornay, Apanay, Äcem, Märcani, İske Taş, Zäñgär are in the Tatar district. Churches, such as Blagoveschenskaya, Varvarinskaya, Nikol'skaya, Tikhvinskaya, are mostly in the Russian part of the city. The main city-centre streets are Bauman, Kreml, Dzerjinski, Tuqay, Puşkin, Butlerov, Gorkiy, Karl Marx and Märcani.

An old legend says that in 1552, before the Russian invasion, wealthy Tatars (baylar) hid gold and silver in Lake Qaban.

Wooden Kazan

Typical wooden apartment at Ayvazovskiy street

Once a typical street in Central KazanIn the beginning of 1990s most of Central Kazan was covered by wooden buildings, usually consisting of two floors. There was a historical environment of Kazan citizens, but not the best place to live in. During the Republican programme "The liquidation of old apartments" most of them (unlike other Russian cities), especially in Central Kazan, where the land isn't cheap, were destroyed and their population was moved to new areas at the suburb of the city (Azino, Azino-2, Quartal 39). Nearly 100,000 citizens resettled by this programme.


Kazan State University

The Kazan State University was founded in 1804 and has had several prominent students, including Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Lenin.

Kazan State Technical University was established in 1932. Today the University is one of the leading institutions in the development of aircraft and rocket engineering, engine- and instrument-production, computer science and radio engineering.

There are nearly 20 institutes and universities in Kazan, but they are not as prominent and most of them are commercial institutes.

Administrative system
The main body of legislative authority of the city is the Kazan City Council. Executive power is exercised by Kazan City Administration.

Kazan is divided into seven city districts.


Shalyapin Palace Hotel, Kazan

The capital of the Republic of Tatarstan is Kazan - a large railway, highway and airway knot, the largest port on the Volga River. Kazan is the main economic centre of Tatarstan. 35% of population, employed in economic branches, concentrate in Kazan. 151 large and medium-size companies are situated in the city, including 98 JSC.

Main branches of municipal industry are as follows: automotive, chemical and petrochemical, light and food industries.

In 2002 the gross territorial product of Kazan reached 96,8 billion rubles. It was mainly formed by the industrial production (27 %), trade and public catering (21,9 %), transport (6,6 %), building sector (4,9 %), net taxes (20 %). Industrial enterprises produced 45 billion rubles worth of products (111,4 % in established prices to the 2001 level). The wages in industry were 4500 rubles (21,5 % higher than in the previous year). The average salary as a whole exceeded 4200 rubles (142,9 % in year-on-year terms). The physical index of industrial production as a whole was 105,3 %. As a preliminary, the industrial income was 6 billion rubles (102,8 % in year-on-year terms).

48,6% of goods produced in Kazan are sold inside the Republic of Tatarstan, 31% - in the territory of Russia, 20,4% - is exported to the CIS countries and countries of "far abroad".

Export sales of JSC "Kazanorgsintez" form more than 30% of the total volume of enterprise's output. JSC "Kazan Helicopter Plant" exports 92,3% of its output.

JSC "Kazan Optical-mechanical Plant" exports 36,6% of its output.

JSC "Kazanorgsintez" is one of the largest chemical enterprises in Russia. It produces more than a half of the whole polyethylene production of the country. It was included to the RF State List of associations and monopoly enterprises producing polyethylene, polyethylene pipes and details of pipelines. Enterprise is marked by a high management level and firm growth of output volume. Produce quality meets the European standards and is exported to many world countries.

Kamal dramatic theatre"

Kazan Automotive Industrial Enterprise" (KMPO) has more than 60 years experience in aircraft engine production. It has been producing 65% of all engines for civil planes (Il-62, IL-86, Tu-104 and Tu-154), as well as the engines for bombers and helicopters. Today JSC "KMPO" is one of the defence industry enterprises capable to preserve stable financial-economic position. The production of aircraft engine AI-22, gas-pumping unit GPA-16 "Volga", automatic gas distribution station AGRS "Istok", automatic gearbox for buses has been mastered.

JSC "Kazan Helicopter Plant" is the largest producer of helicopters of M. L. Mil design. The helicopters Mi-8 and Mi-17 have brought high popularity for the enterprise. Their reliability, versatility were highly appreciated. At present moment a light multipurpose helicopter Ansat production is being mastered.

A new aircraft Tu-214, produced at the Kazan Aircraft Enterprise n. a. S.P. Gorbunov in March, 2000, got the second class AP-25 certificate, which confirms the full aircraft's adequacy to American and European standards. No other aircraft in Russia has such a certificate. Recently, the Enterprise was said to be mastering a new average main jet aircraft Tupolev Tu-324. Although championed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Tu-324 now appears dead, as Tupolev places any private R&D resources available for civil projects into a study into the proposed Tu-414, a 75-seat jet that borrows many of the Tu-324's design traits.

Wooden apartment in Central Kazan

During the many decades a branch of design and production of medical equipment including scientific, design and production groups has been developed.

A unique enterprise JSC "Kazan Medical-instrumental Plant" has been functioning in Kazan for nearly 70 years. It is a large and the one and the only enterprise in Russia producing more than 300 PCs of medical instruments and equipment practically for all branches of medicine.

Annually the enterprise KPHFO "Tathimfarmpreparat" produces and sells 400 million medicines of more than 130 appellations, including cardiovascular, pain-relieving, anti-fever, counter tuberculosis, ocular and antibiotics. The high quality and low price distinguish products of this company.

PO "Teplocontrol" was awarded "The Arch of European Golden Star" for perfect reputation and quality of its output. Nowadays, with the account of problems of thermal energy calculation, it has mastered production of radiator thermal regulators "Comfort", and started to producing, assembling, delivering and servicing the automatic calculation and regulation units of thermal energy for houses and plants buildings.

JSC "Kazancompressormash" is one of the largest producers of special compressor and freezing equipment. Its output is supplied to large plants and groups of enterprises of metallurgical, gas, oil, chemical and other branches of industry.

Russian and Tatar languages are widely spoken in the city. Russian is understood by practically all the population, apart from some older Tatars. Tatar is widely spoken mainly by Tatars. The offensive term Mankurt (Mañqort) is used for Tatars who are ashamed of their own culture and language.

Not much English is spoken in the city, but young people tend to understand it.

City ethnic communities

Tatar part of Kazan in the early 20th century

Tatars and Russians
The city's population is mainly composed of Tatars (about 52 percent) and Russians (about 43 percent). Nearly a third of all marriages in the city are between Tatars and Russians.

Other communities

Native Tatarstanlı
Native Tatarstanlı nationalities mix with Tatars and Russians.

Native Middle-Volgans
The city's third ethnos is Chuvash (1.2%), who speak their own language, but also Turkic languages group. They are Russian Orthodox with some pre-Christian elements in their religion. Other native for Middle Volga nation are Maris (0.3%), Udmurts (0.1%), Mordvas (0.2%) and Bashkirs (0.2%). Some of them speak Tatar, some Russian and others their own languages. Bashkirs are Muslims, others, like Chuvash, are Russian Orthodox with some pre-Christian elements in their religion.

Some Mari come to Kazan for seasonal work, mostly woodwork and carpentry. They build summer houses and saunas for local people. Chuvash and Mari come to the city every day from their republics and sell potatoes and mushrooms at bazaars.

Ethnic Germans

Kazan roots and Volga.

Ethnic Germans came to Kazan from the 18th century. They served in the Russian Army, or worked in Kazan State University. Some of them are very famous in Kazan, particularly professor Karl Fuchs. During World War II some of them were repressed by Stalin's government.

Today Kazan Germans mostly speak Russian.

Other groups

Assurs (Assyrians)
Group of Assurs also live in Kazan. By tradition, they work at shoe repairing. Their community lives a closely guarded life: and they do not mix with other communities.

Immigrants in the Soviet period

Bauman Street

During World War II a lot of the Western Soviet Union populations were evacuated to Kazan, including schools, educational institutes, and plants. Some of that population did not return to their native lands. They are: Jews, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Poles, and others (nearly 2.5% of population). They speak Russian, sometimes with Ukrainian accent, and many Jews speak Tatar.

Immigrants in the 1990s
One of the biggest Kazan communities is the Azeri community. Most of them are unregistered and work illegally. Azeri tradesmen control all the bazaars. They often sell imitation clothes of famous trademarks or fruits. The number of Azeris is very big. Interestingly, Azeri speak both Russian and Tatar well.

Other Caucasians come from Dagestan, Georgia, Armenia and others. They often own cafés or work in construction.

Another big community is the Central Asian community, which includes Uzbeks, Tajiks, Roma (Lyuli branch) and Kyrgyz. Some of the Uzbeks and Tajiks own cafés or fast-food restaurants; sell dried apricots, popular among Kazan citizens.

Other Central Asians, such as the majority of Uzbeks and Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs work in construction or demolition of old buildings. There are some Afghanians and Turkmen in the city.

East Asians, such as Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese work in the textile industry.

Many of these people living in Kazan are illegal immigrants. They often don't understand Russian or Tatar, and never mix with them.

Other nationalities are represented by some foreign specialists, foreign companies' representatives, and students at the Kazan universities. Nearly 2000 Turkish specialists work at renovations.

Many students from Africa and Latin America take education in Kazan.

Kazan tram near Shamil's House. It has acquired the name of Imam Shamil due to fact that his portrait was placed on building wall, although this famous warrior has never been to Kazan.