Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kazan Facts


Kazan is the capital and major historic, cultural, and economic center of the autonomous republic of Tatarstan, Russia. It is located on the left bank of the Volga River where the Kazanka River joins it, eighty-five kilometers north of the Kama tributary. In 2002 it had an estimated population of 1,105,300.

The traditional understanding is that the name comes from the Turkic and Volga Tatar word qazan, meaning "kettle." A rival theory has been proposed that it derives from the Chuvash xusan/xosan, meaning "bend" or "hook," referring to the bend of the Volga near which Kazan is located. The Bulgars founded Iski Kazan in the thirteenth century as one of the successors to their state, which had been destroyed by the Mongols. At that time, it was located forty-five kilometers up the Kazanka. Around the year 1400, it was moved to its present location. Ulu Muhammed, who had been ousted from the Qipchaq Khanate in 1437, defeated the last ruler of the principality of Kazan to establish a khanate by 1445. It was an important trading center, with an annual fair being held nearby.

During the first half of the sixteenth century, the khanate of Kazan was involved in a three-cornered struggle with Muscovy and the Crimean khanate for influence in the western steppe area. Ivan IV conquered the city in 1552, ending the Khanate of Kazan. Muscovy then used Kazan as an advanced staging area for further expansion down the Volga. In 1555 the archepiscopal see of Kazan was established.

From the late sixteenth century on, Kazan was the gateway to Siberia, as people and supplies were funneled through the town en route to the east, and furs and minerals were brought west. It was made capital of the Volga region in 1708, and Peter I had the ships for his Persian campaign built there. The Slavonic-Latin Academy, which became the Kazan Theological Academy, was founded in 1723 but abolished after 1917. From 1723 to 1726 the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul was built in Kazan. The first lay provincial secondary school was founded there in 1758.

Kazan was sacked by Emelian Pugachev in 1774, but Catherine II rebuilt the city on a gridiron design and named it a provincial capital in 1781. During the eighteenth century, light industry and food production developed, as well as a theater, which led to a number of similar theaters being founded in the nineteenth century. In 1804 the University of Kazan was founded, which helped to establish the city as an intellectual center. The first provincial newspaper was published there in 1811. Kazan was also considered a major manufacturing center, the products of which included prepared furs, leather manufacture, shoes, and soap. In the 1930s heavy industry developed, such as aircraft production and transportation and agricultural machinery. More recent industries include the production of chemicals, electrical engineering, and precision equipment, as well as oil refining. In 1945 the Kazan branch of the Academy of Sciences was established. Presently, Kazan has a philharmonic society, a museum of Tatar culture, and a theater devoted to the production of Tatar operas and ballets.

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