Vignette 24.1. Profile of Kazan

Kazan (established 1177 A.D.; population 1,105,000) is the most important Tatar city in Russia. The city was founded by the Volga Bulgars, who had become part of the Golden Horde under Genghis Khan, and later became its own khanate in 1438. Kazan Khanate was conquered by Ivan the Terrible's troops in 1552. Today Kazan is a large industrial center on the banks of the Volga River near the mouth of the Kama, the largest left tributary of the Volga. There are 150 industrial enterprises in the city, including the Gorbunov factory, which builds Tu-214 jet planes; a helicopter factory; medical and instrumental equipment manufacturers; an organic synthesis plant; a few petrochemical factories; and cosmetics and food producers. Kazan State, Kazan State Technical, and Kazan Architecture Universities are among the best in Russia. The city recently opened its own subway system, which is the 7th largest in Russia and 15th largest in the FSU. Its center is undergoing massive renovation, with Tatar nationalism playing a role in developing the new city identity. There are nine theaters, including the renowned Kachalov's Russian Drama Theater and Galiaskar Kamal's Tatar Academic Theater. There are about 20 museums, including a national museum of Tatarstan, a museum of fine arts, science museums of Kazan State University, various ethnographic museums, and museums devoted to famous persons (e.g., Lenin, Gorky, and the famous opera singer Feodor Chaliapin).

The historical core of Kazan, with a beautiful kremlin, has unfortunately been greatly remodeled in the last 10 years. Entire neighborhoods of mid-19th-century merchant homes have been demolished. Nevertheless, there are many sights to see, including the kremlin (a World Heritage Site), many mosques and churches, the Suyumbike leaning tower from the 17th century, old streets for pedestrians only, and so on. Kazan has strong ice hockey (Ak Bars) and soccer (Rubin) teams. It is a diverse, multicultural city, with Turkic and Slavic cultures coexisting and enriching each other. The recent rise in Tatar and Russian nationalism sometimes makes this harmony less than ideal, however: Both ethnicities have supremacist groups in Kazan, which have been involved in repeated street clashes with each other.