Kazan is one of the largest cities in Russia. Stretching along the left bank of the famous Volga River, Kazan is a city of contrasts: whether it be towering minarets situated side by side with Christian monasteries, or ruins of ancient settlements in close proximity to the Innopolis technology city
And now Kazan has been chosen to be among the dozen Russian cities to host FIFA 2018™ World Cup matches. Large-scale athletic events, however, are not at all new to the city: Kazan has hosted many top-level annual international competitions in Olympic and non-Olympic sports, including the 27th World Summer Student Games in 2013 and the 2015 FINA World Aquatic Championships.
Let us take a closer look at Kazan!
A beautiful old legend says
That once upon a time
A khan of great wisdom
Dropped a cauldron while crossing the river.
He ordered his retinue to stop there
And said a prayer to the Almighty,
Adding afterwards: "If my cauldron fell here,
I am destined to found a city on this spot!"
Adel Akhmadulin, The Legend of Kazan
There are more than eight theories as to how the city's name came to be. Some of them trace the name's origin back to the word kazan, an Old Bulgarian and modern Tatar for "cauldron."
But the most popular among them is a local legend that says that the locals sought a wizard's advice when they were seeking a site to build a new city. The old man told them to look for a spot where water would boil in an unheated cauldron dug into the ground. Miraculously, a spot was soon found on the banks of Kaban Lake. And a new town emerged right there.
Another legend ascribes the name to riverside hills that together form the likeness of a cauldron, and still another legend traces the city's origins back to the name of Prince Hassan, the founder of a citadel on the spot of the present-day Kazan Kremlin.
The year 1005 is widely considered the date of Kazan's founding. Local people take special pride in their city's age, which now exceeds a thousand years
Kazan developed into a major commercial and political center of the Golden Horde in the 13th and 14th centuries, and became the capital of a khanate of the same name in the 15th century (editor: a khanate is a political entity ruled by a Khan or Khagan).
The city soon became a nexus of trade routes connecting East and West.
A huge Russian army led by Czar Ivan the Terrible seized the city in 1552, destroying most of the city's structures and forcibly removing the local population to the shores of lake Kaban. The victory was commemorated by the erection of the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed in Moscow, one of the most well-known Russian architectural monuments to this day.
The city became the cultural and educational heart of the rich lands surrounding the Volga River in the 18th century, and later became major research center in the 19th.
The city celebrated its millennium on a grand scale in 2005. Several landmark construction projects were slated to be completed by this date – namely the commissioning of the metro system and the Millennium Bridge.
Kazan hosted the 2013 Universiade, which was the largest-ever World Summer Student Games based on the number of contestants and awards presented. The event drew some 11,759 athletes from 162 countries, the athletes of which participated in 27 different sports and contended for 351 sets of medals.
The Kazan Kremlin, the calling card of the city, is a vast complex of historical, architectural and archaeological monuments all reflecting the city's long history. The Kremlin is comprised of the remnants of three medieval settlements – of the 12th-13th, 14th-15th and 15th-16th centuries – and a white stone citadel erected in the 16th century on the ruins of the Khan's fortress, which was razed to the ground during the Ivan the Terrible's siege of the city.
The Kazan Kremlin is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The seven-tier Suyumbike watchtower is one of the most memorable objects in the Kazan Kremlin. It is a leaning tower, like the renowned Tower of Pisa, with a notable northeast deviation: according to the latest measurements its spire now leans 2 full meters away from its once true vertical position,
The precise date of its founding is unknown, and its true history is obscure. But there exists a wealth of legends, all tying the tower's history to various periods of Kazan's illustrious history.
According to one legend, the tower sits on the exact site where a mausoleum was erected by Queen Suyumbike in commemoration of her husband Safa-Girei.
Rumor of the queen's ravishing beauty reached Ivan the Terrible, who hurriedly sent a couriered message to the queen offering his heart and soul in marriage, only to have her quickly reject it
Enraged, the Czar ordered a huge army to punish the proud widow. The horrors of the ensuing siege forced the reluctant queen to agree to marriage on the condition that he had to build the tallest tower in the city within a week. The Czar's masons met the fabulous challenge, and when the construction was over, Ivan ordered an extravagant wedding banquet. Staying true to her late husband's memory, Suyumbike then leapt to her death from the highest tier of the new tower.
This tragic tale remains the most recited with local people and tourist guides, more than any other of the tower's many legends.
Kul Sharif Mosque
The Kul Sharif, another gem of the Kazan Kremlin and one of the largest European mosques, is a recreation of a famous mosque that was demolished during the capturing of Kazan in the 16th century. At that time, the Kul Sharif was the heart of science and religious education in the middle reaches of the Volga region.
The mosque is named after its last Imam, one of the leaders of the city's defense
The décor of the Kul Sharif dome imitates the gold crown of the Tatar khans, crafted shortly after the seizure of Kazan in the mid-16th century.
The mosque was restored in 2005 for the city's 1000th anniversary. The works were mostly funded from donations of some 40,000 local townspeople.
St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral
St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral was built in 1726 on the site of a wooden parish carrying the same name. Tradition has it that an affluent merchant, Ivan Mikliayev, funded the cathedral's construction in commemoration of Peter the Great. Supposedly the Emperor was a guest of the wealthy merchant in 1722, even celebrating his 50th birthday as a guest in Mr. Mikliayev's home.
The townspeople named the cathedral The Hanging Gardens of Kazan due to its opulent stucco décor
All Russian emperors, beginning with Catherine the Great, and many other celebrities have visited the cathedral.
The cathedral has since experienced several devastating fires and has required as a result much repair. Despite all its trials and tribulations, the cathedral retains its original nine-tier carved iconostasis, 25 meters high, and a number of other precious icons.
Landtiller's Palace, situated close to the Kazan Kremlin, is one of the latest city landmarks. It houses Tatarstan's Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry.
Kazan Family Center
The Kazan Family Center (central registry office) is of no less of a draw to the city's sightseers. Its shape imitates a brass cauldron and symbolizes prosperity and fertility, and whose semblance to one of the popular legends explaining the city's name is no accident.
A metal relief surrounding the building is a portrayal of fabulous creatures – winged leopards and dragons. The Kazan tops out at the 32 meters in height and offers a viewing platform from which a breathtaking vista of the city opens. The center also exhibits antiquarian wedding costumes.
The center was launched in July 2013. It registered 27 weddings on its opening day in recognition of the 27th Universiade.
Temple of All Religions
An unusual sanctuary towers above all others in the village of Old Arakchino on the city outskirts – the Temple of All Religions, also known as the International Cultural Center of Spiritual Unity.
The brainchild of local artist, architect and community activist Ildar Khanov, the temple combines the décor and symbolism of a church, mosque, synagogue and pagoda.
The temple symbolizes the unity of faiths, cultures and civilizations, and currently hosts music concerts and poetry recitals on Sundays, but is closed on all other days. Public worship is not conducted here.
On September 29, 2012, it was announced that Kazan would host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Kazan Arena, a four-tier stadium seating 45,000 spectators, was built for the 2013 Summer Universiade
It became the first Russian football stadium to be built prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The stadium looks like a water lily from the air.
The stadium hosted the Summer Universiade’s opening and closing ceremonies and all the main competitions. In 2015, it hosted the World Aquatics Championships. The football field was removed and replaced with two huge swimming pools. After the competitions, Kazan Arena became a football stadium once again and hosted a match between Rubin Kazan and Lokomotiv Moscow.
In 2017, the stadium hosted several 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup group qualifier matches. It also hosted the first tournament semifinals between Portugal and Chile.
Apart from football matches and other sports events, the Kazan Arena hosts various concerts and other mass cultural events.
Air: The Kazan Airport, 26 kilometers outside the city, is one of Russia's largest international airports. It receives daily flights from several European countries and serves major foreign airlines, including FinnAir, Vueling, Aegean Airlines, EllinAir, Air Arabia and Flydubai, and the large Russian carriers as well, including Aeroflot, S7 Airlines and UTair. A 90-minute flight from Moscow and back costs between11,000-15,000 rubles (180-250 euros).
Rail: The city's two railroad terminals – the Central and the North – serve all basic routes in Russia. It takes 12.5 hours to get to Kazan from Moscow and slightly less than 24 hours from St. Petersburg. A one-way ticket costs between 3,000-6,000 rubles (50-100 euros).
Bus: It takes 7 hours to get to Kazan from Samara, 15 hours from Moscow, and longer than 24 hours from St. Petersburg. Other cities have bus service to Kazan as well.
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