Kazan Kremlin. Just as a century ago, the Kazan Kremlin is the seat of power in Tatarstan, housing the residence of the republic president, public chamber and other administrative offices. That’s not why tourists flock here, though: the Qolşärif Mosque, the Cathedral of the Annunciation, the Söyembikä Tower and a selection of museums make this the number one landmark in Kazan.
Sviyazhsk. Sviyazhsk was founded in 1551, when a fortress was moved here from Myshkin – at the time, it was even larger than the Moscow Kremlin and was a key fort during the Kazan offensive. After the city was conquered, the fortress expanded into a town with churches, monasteries and other religious buildings. This trend continued for several centuries until the Soviet government decided to build a Gulag in Sviyazhsk.
Bolgar. The ancient city of Bulgar (Bolgar) was not a tourist hot spot until 2010, when the regional government decided to renovate the city and build infrastructure, such as a boat station, several hotels and museums. However, architecture, such as a 13th century mosque, two 14th century mausoleums and an 18th century church, remains the main draw for tourists.
Yelabuga. Archaeologists claim that Yelabuga was founded around a thousand years ago. The oldest building here is the medieval Devil's Tower (Şaytan qalası), which historians believe was erected by the Prince of Volga Bulgar in the 10th century. For centuries the town served as the location to cross the Kama River. In 1780 Catherine The Great declared Yelabuga a town of the Vyatka Governorate. At the time, the town had a population of 1,000 residents, but today the figure is closer to 70,000.
Kazan Family Center, Kazan. Located on a peninsula, the Kazan Family Centre is not actually named after the city. A Kazan is also a large cooking pot, somewhat resembling a large, ceramic cauldron – and the architects really reflected that. This easily identifiable building is home to the Civil Registry Office.
Temple of All Religions, Staroye Arakchino, Kazan. The Temple of All Religions is found in the village of Staroye Arakchino in the suburbs of Kazan. It’s deliberately designed to look like a church, a mosque, a datsan and an enchanted castle. It was founded by Ildar Khanov, who dedicated his life to construction of this temple. The building offers visitors history of religion, as well as a museum, a concert hall and a gallery. However, you need to make an appointment with the owners of the building, Khanov’s heirs.
Bauman Street, Kazan. Bauman Street, often called Kazan’s Arbat (after the Moscow pedestrian street) extends for over two kilometres through the city, from the Kremlin to Ğabdulla Tuqay Square. One of the oldest streets in the city, it was previously called Nogayskaya Road. After conquering the city, Ivan the Terrible renamed it as Prolomnaya and then later Bolshaya Prolomnaya Street. The street has dozens of restaurants and cafes with authentic Tatar cuisine, as well a variety of gift shops offering whatever tourists may want, from matryoshka dolls to tubeteika hats.
Spasskiy Cathedral, Yelabuga. Spasskiy Cathedral is Yelabuga’s postcard image. The five-dome church was erected in the early 19th century and in a few decades it was significantly expanded. The main attraction here is the 57m bell tower, which is open to visitors. The view is breathtaking – but make sure to bring binoculars with you if you want to really make use of the opportunity.
The Volga. European Russia’s primary aquatic feature, the mother of all Russian rivers, the Volga has a special place in the hearts and minds of residents of Tatarstan. Scientists debate to this day whether the Kama is a tributary of the Volga, or if it’s the other way around. The confluence of the two rivers comes at Kamskoye Ustye. However, the best view of the river is found in the republic’s capital. Kazan has several public beaches on the banks of Volga River, along with tourist camps and restaurants.
Sviyazhskaya Makaryevskaya Poustinia, Verkhneuslonsky District of Tatarstan. To a Russian speaker, the name Sviyazhskaya Poustinia could sound quite confusing. After all, it sounds like a desert named after a river. However, the monastery (a poustinia means a solitary monastic settlement or a hermitage) is two kilometres away from the island town of Sviyazhsk, across the Sviyaga River, at the Vvedenskaya Sloboda settlement. It is here that you can find the most breathtaking views of Sviyazhsk and its surrounding areas. This poustinia was founded in the first half of the 17th century by the Orthodox monk Isaiah on the place where, according to legend, Macarius of Unzha (Macarius of the Yellow Water Lake) stood and prayed for deliverance from imprisonment in Kazan. The monastery was closed down in 1922. The antique interior was lost over the following 70 years, but the exterior remained largely intact. While tourists are not permitted to go into the monastic cells, they are still be able to walk around the monastery’s grounds.
Kama. The Kama River is 1805 kilometres long and has almost 75 tributaries. Once you could have travelled to Nizhnekamsk and Naberezhnye Chelny from Kazan via Volga and Kama Rivers. Today the Nizhnekamsk river-boat station is run down and dilapidated and only short-range vessels depart from Naberezhnye Chelny, running tours of the surrounding areas.
Museum of Soviet Life, Kazan. This is probably one of the most unusual museums not just in Tatarstan, but in all of Russia. You can try on a Pioneer (Scouts) cap here or browse books about Lenin’s youth. You can interact with every exhibit on display – you can touch, turn on and try on a whole range of items from the Soviet era. The museum also houses a gift shop with various soviet knickknacks and even a collection of guitars which belonged to famous musicians.
Agricultural Palace, Kazan. Built in 2010, the Agricultural Palace appears to be similar to the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest – or perhaps one of the buildings of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Although, of course, it is somewhat more modest in terms of size and grandeur. The building houses the republic’s Agricultural Ministry, Veterinary Headquarters and a number of other agencies. Unfortunately, there are no guided tours offered here. The halls and rooms are covered with red marble and plastic siding, aiming for function over aesthetics. At the same time, the building itself is considered to be one of the local landmarks, and tour buses regularly drive past it.
Tatarstan regularly features on rankings and lists of top travel destinations. Kazan, the republic’s capital, was recently named as one of the most popular cities to visit during the New Year break. It’s also one of the Russian cities most visited by overseas tourists, so it’s no wonder that Lenta.Ru decided to dedicate the inaugural edition of a series of articles on Russia’s most notable destinations to Kazan and the Republic of Tatarstan.