The Old Tatar Settlement is the heart and soul of the historic part of Kazan. Its streets have been preserved since the Middle Ages and the whole place became known as the main preserve of Tatar urban culture. Dozens of architectural monuments have found home on the shores of Kaban Lake and Bulak Channel, right in the center of the Tatarstan capital.
The Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda is spread over the area of 87.95 hectares. In this area you can find 75 historic and cultural landmarks of the 18th – early 20th centuries, which shape the look of the Sloboda. Tour guides will probably draw your attention to the mansions of Tatar bourgeoisie and intelligentsia built dozens of years ago. These are the houses of Yunusov-Apanayev, Shamil, Marjani, Kayum Nasyri, Shamil Yusupov, etc. – the list goes on and on, but we think that in the Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda it is important not so much to examine architectonic masterpieces as to try and feel the spirit of those times. Believe it or not, in the 19th century there was an Oriental club in the Sloboda, where famous authors read their poetry and where some of the first Tatar plays were staged. Several mosques well-known and revered in the whole world were also built here – the Apanayevskaya Mosque, the Blue Mosque, the Galeyevskaya, the Burnayevskaya mosques and, finally, the Sennaya (Nurullah) Mosque.
Other true landmarks of the Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda are the literary museum of Tatar poet Ğabdulla Tuqay (Tukai), the memorial house of educator Kayum Nasyri, the Galiaskar Kamal Tatar Academy Theater and the Tatarskaya Usadba Hotel & Restaurant Complex, which also includes the Museum of Tatar Lifestyle, an artisan craftwork gallery and a souvenir shop. And there is a bit of a novelty – the Çäkçäk (ethnic Tatar sweet treat) Museum. Here you can have a cup of tea with some Oriental sweets and find out the secrets of traditional Tatar cuisine recipes.
On the whole, tours around the Sloboda allow you to study the traditions of the Tatar people, try some traditional Tatar cuisine, purchase halal food or, for instance, ichigi (ethnic Tatar shoes made using leather mosaic technique) with a kalapush (women’s headwear). And don’t forget the tubeteika (men’s headwear)! If shopping isn’t your thing, though, you can try handicrafts and visit some artisan shops.
The Sloboda started to come into shape as early as in 1552, when Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan. The Tsar ordered some of the Tatars to move from the upper part of the city to the shores of Kaban Lake. The residents built up the area with merchant houses, mosques and madrasas (schools). They founded their own maydannar (Tatar for ‘squares’) and began producing jewellery, headwear and household accessories. Life at the new place was starting to work out for the best and eventually this part of the city became one of the richest and most attractive ones. The Marjani Mosque (1767 – 1770) is a monument of the 18th century – it was built from stone at the expense of the congregation on personal orders of Catherine II. This mosque has never been closed down regardless of whatever was happening on the political stage at the moment. It is a known fact that in the course of its construction city authorities became worried by the height of the mosque’s minaret. They reported that to the Empress but she replied: “I gave them a place on the ground, but they are free to ascend to the sky at their own discretion, because the sky is out of my possession”.
In 1998 the Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda was declared Iske-Tatar Bistese Historic and Cultural Preserve Area with exclusive status and treatment.
Bus numbers: 1, 5, 6, 10, 10а, 23, 30, 31, 35, 35а, 37, 47, 53, 54, 56, 63, 65, 72, 74, 74а, 85, 91, 99 to the Teatr Kamala (Kamal Theater) stop
Trolleybus numbers: 3, 5, 7, 10 to the Teatr Kamala (Kamal Theater) stop;
Metro: the Ploshchad Tukaya (Tukai Square) station