Tatarstan is situated at the confluence of two large rivers – the Volga and the Kama, being a kind of bridge connecting Russia’s European and Asian parts. The republic’s center – Kazan is the bright mixture of two cultures: Eastern and Western ones, and it is the capital of Russian muslims.
Covering an area of 67,800 km2, the republic is bigger than such European countries as Belgium and the Netherlands and is approximately equal to Ireland.
Standing on the crossroads of trade routes, Tatarstan has always played a role of a political, trade and economic center.
The capital of the republic is the city of Kazan with a population of over 1.1 million. In 2005, it celebrated its 1000th anniversary.
The pearl of the thousand-year-old city is the Kazan Kremlin that is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is framed by high white stone walls with characteristic loopholes and thirteen marquee towers. The Kazan Kremlin includes many old buildings, the oldest of which is the Annunciation Cathedral (1554-62), the only 16th-century Russian church to have six piers and five apses. Like many of Kazan’s buildings of the period, it is constructed of local pale sandstone rather than of brick. The most conspicuous landmark of the Kazan Kremlin is the leaning Söyembikä Tower, which probably goes back to the reign of Peter the Great. Another recognizable architectural feature is the Spasskaya Tower, which anchors the southern end of the Kremlin and serves as the main entrance to the Kremlin.
Another famous Kazan attraction is Kul Sharif Mosque. It is the main mosque of the Republic of Tatarstan and Kazan. Construction of the mosque began in 1996. It was a re-creation of the legendary mosque of the capital of the Kazan Khanate that was destroyed during the storming of Kazan by the troops of Ivan the Terrible in October 1552. The mosque was named after its last imam Kul-Sharif, one of the leaders of the defense of Kazan. It was opened on June 24, 2005, during the celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of Kazan. The inner space is designed for one and a half thousand people, the square in front of it can accommodate another ten thousand. The height of each of the four major minarets – 58 meters. The building and surroundings have spectacular night architectural lighting.
Sviyazhsk Island – another “must see” in Kazan – is located in the picturesque estuary of Sviyaga on a high hill area of 62 hectares, 30 kilometers from Kazan. The history of construction of the town of Sviyazhsk is really amazing. In winter 1550, almost 800 kilometres from the Round Mountain, in the remote forests near Uglich, a town was made of wood, with walls, towers, churches and residential houses, which was later, in spring 1551, dismantled and transported to the estuary of the Sviyaga. Within just four weeks, a large fortress of the Moscow kingdom was erected under the guidance of scribe Ivan Vyrodkov, which exceeded in its size the fortresses of Moscow, Pskov or Novgorod of that period. After the fall of Kazan in 1552, Sviyazhsk was, for a short time, an administrative centre of the entire conquered region. Later, it controlled the annexed lands on the right bank of the Volga. It was from here that warriors went to take part in the numerous wars of the 16th – 18th centuries.