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Kazan History, Russia

Kazan History – The ‘Kazan Controversy’

Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan, a republic in the Russian Federation, situated between the river Volga and the Ural Mountains. The Kazan Tartars are a representative ethnic group in Central-European Russia, with a very original culture and a tormented history. Kazan’s history, going back to the Dark Ages, is still a controversial issue among historians, who are not sure whether the city was founded by the Volga Bulgars or the Golden Horde Tartars. What archeologists have managed to establish so far is the fact that the earliest human settlement in Kazan area was founded around the 11th century. It is also unclear whether the city’s name is derived from the word “qazan” (meaning boiler or a deep cooking pan), or from “qazgan” (“ditch”).

Kazan History - Kazan in the Middle Ages

The acceptance of the Islam in 922 represented a crucial step in Kazan history. Is was the starting point of a rich culture and a source of inspiration for the medieval writers – “Kyssai-Yusuf”, the masterpiece of poet Kul Gali, was written in 1212. In 12th and 13th centuries, Kazan suffered numerous attacks and was finally conquered by the Golden Horde. A Bulgar duchy existed in the 13th century, but it was controlled by the Tartars of the Golden Horde, whose influence persisted until the first decades of the 15th century.

In 1445, Kazan became the capital of Kazan Khanate, and turned into a major economical and cultural centre. During its short period of independence, the Kazan Khanate resisted several attacks from the Russians and had political relationships with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Tatar nation was formed from the mix of Bulgars and Kipchako-Tatars.

Kazan History – Kazan under Russian Rule

The Russian ruler Ivan the Terrible captured Kazan in 1552 and decimated the city’s population. The next centuries were marked by religious persecution and the attempt to impose Christianity. The religious conflicts ended in 1788, by the order of Empress Catherine II, who restored the freedom of religion.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Khanate was transformed into a Russian ‘guberniya’, which lasted until 1920, when Kazan became the capital of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Kazan played a major role in World War II, when it began to produce a large amount of military devices, especially tanks and planes. After the collapse of URSS, Tatarstan signed a treaty with the Russian Federation (1994), becoming an autonomous republic, with Kazan as its capital. For more details about the history of this part of Russia, you can check out the Perm History and Samara History articles.

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