Tatar Atlantis. A Guide to the Old Tatar Quarter
school, maidan, square.
The Old Tatar Quarter is located near the “Ploshchad Tukaya” metro station in the very centre of Kazan. It is separated from the city by natural boundaries - Lake Kaban and the Bulak canal. If you want to learn more about the culture of the Tatar people, their way of life and their heroes, go for a walk in this part of the city. A long time ago this section of the city was fenced off by a wall, behind which lived a very unique Kazan - with bright houses and sky-piercing mosque minarets.
is also known as a market square, a meeting place, or a meeting of people.
The history of the Quarter began in 1552, when Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan and relocated the loyal Tatars from the upper part of the city to the left bank of Lake Kaban. This area gradually filled up with merchant houses, mosques, and medreses. The Tatars founded their own “maidannar” and established the production of jewelry, headpieces and household items. Life in this new area gradually began to improve, and over time this part of Kazan became one of the richest and most attractive in the city. Historians call the Old Tatar Quarter the “Tatar Atlantis” as it continued to survive during the Yemelyan Pugachev uprising in Kazan, and then quietly carried on their way of life. Here you will find preserved monuments of history and architecture, some of which were occupied by the Tatar artists of culture and art. The Old Tatar Quarter has always been a unique self-sufficient corner of Kazan. In 1998, it was declared a historical and cultural reserve area of "Iske-Tatar bistese" with a special status and regime.
The merchant part of the Old Tatar Quarter stretches along the lake. The white minaret of the first stone mosque, Al-Mardjani stands out against the background of the colourful low-rise buildings. It was built as per the personal decree of Catherine II at the expense of the parishioners, who rushed to take advantage of the ruler’s grace. With the construction of the mosque, came the formation of the Muslim parish after the conquest of Kazan in 1552. When it was time to erect the minaret, the city authorities were worried: “The Tatars are building too high” they wrote to the ruler. The “Әbi patsha” (“Queen-Grandmother” in Tatar) famously replied: “I have designated them [Tatar Muslims] a place on Earth, so that they are free to rise to the sky at their discretion, because the sky does not enter my domain.”
a servant of the mosque, which calls on believers to pray.
The mosques stand so close to each other in the Quarter that during Azan, the voices of the muezzins calling for prayer weave into one. Al-Mardjani begins first, followed by the Apanaev Mosque, echoed by the Burnaev and Blue Mosques one street over. The parishioners rush to their mosques, as they put on their kalyapush headpiece on the way.
a men’s headpiece, which is worn even when entering the mosque.
The dynasty of the Apanaev merchants once owned most of the houses within this settlement. On Fatih Karima Street, you can still see their manor - a beautiful pink building. This was one of the first buildings in the Quarter that was built in an L-shape. The merchants of the Quarter helped those who were weaker and poorer than the rest: the Apanaev manor housed the disabled, children previously living on the streets, and other people who had no other help or shelter. During the Soviet times, this manor was used as a hospital, and now it houses the city’s medical clinic and one of the largest emergency wards.
At the intersection of Tukay and Safyan Streets, you’ll notice the towering Yunusovs' manor, and at the intersection of Safyan and Kayum Nasyri Street - the first house of the Apanaev family.
In the depths of the settlement, you might also catch a glance of the Azimov and Burnaev Mosques. If you see them, consider yourself a local, as you would have passed and seen some of the most hidden corners of the Old Tatar Quarter that only the locals know about.
On the pedestrian Kayum Nasyri Street there is a second stone mosque - Apanaeva, or sometimes known as Bayskaya. Its outside appearance is more modest than that of Al-Mardjani, however it is richly decorated inside. This mosque was named after the dynasty of Apanaev merchants, who undertook its care from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Kazan’s shortest street - Kunche Street crosses the Apanaeva Mosque. The history of this short street shows through - in the walls of the brick building, you’ll notice grooves inside of which an iron, old scissors and a sewing machine have been carefully placed. This is because a long time ago, leatherworkers worked here, hence the name – “Kunchse” or “Kuncheler” in Tatar which means “tanner”.
Opposite the Apanaeva Mosque there is an interactive museum of the Old Tatar Quarter called “Tatar Bistese”. Inside, take a walk along the old streets on a “barabus” (a Tatar-type sleigh), check out the village from a bird's eye view and let the virtual Tatar grandmother spoil you with a cup of fragrant tea.
After a long walk, relax in “Tatarskaya Usadba” (“Tatar Manor”) - a complex that takes up almost an entire block and includes a restaurant, hotel, cafe, a petting zoo and a museum. The estate premises resemble an ancient fortress with its inner passages and balconies. In the courtyard, you’ll see a well and a cart, and the themed graffiti-decorated walls. The restaurant prepares all its meat dishes in an old Bolgar wood-burning oven. Make sure to book a table, preferably on the verandah terrace, to admire Lake Kaban as you dine amidst the Old Tatar Quarter atmosphere you will be sure to remember.
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