Historic and Architectural Complex of the Kazan Kremlin

Cultural criteria: ii, iii, iv
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 2000

Kazan, one of the most ancient cities of Russia, is situated on the Volga River banks in its middle course, about 700 km east of Moscow.

The historic center of Kazan - the Kremlin – has passed through several stages of its historic development covering a chiliadic period in aggregate. At first a wooden fortress emerged (at the turn of the X and XI centuries), then a stone one (the XII century). From the second half of the XIII century till the middle of the XVI century the Kremlin served as a center of the Kazan principality as part of the Golden Horde, and then the Kazan Khanate.

In autumn 1552 after the long 40-day siege, Kazan is occupied by the troop of Ivan the Terrible. The Kazan Khanate joined Russia and a new stage of the ancient city begins. By order of the Russian tsar the Kazan Kremlin is reconstructed, the fortress walls demolished during assault are restored in stone, new structures are raised (for example, the main entrance tower - Spasskaya). The reconstruction is carried out in the Old Russian architectural style, for which Pskov architects Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Shiryai are invited to work. Alongside with that the formed before occupation fortification system of the Tatar fortress remains, location of governor’s palace and religious buildings remains too, as well as the main travel gate with the parting from them routes-streets. Fortresses are built into churches in place of mosques, a monastery complex is raised. The city transforms into a stronghold of orthodoxy in the Land of the Volga, becomes an important center of pilgrimage.

The Kremlin’s territory has configuration of an irregular polygon stretched from north to south under the influence of the lay of land. This polygon is clearly outlined by fortification works of the Kremlin – its fortress walls of 8–12 m in height and towers, of which there were originally 13. Modern walls and towers were built in the period of the XVI-XVIII centuries, but archaeologists found in their foundation much more ancient masonry dated to the period of the X-XVI centuries. The total length of the walls is 1,800 m.

Two towers of the Kazan Kremlin are the most known. Firstly, this is the main entrance Spasskaya Tower with a gatehouse church built in the classical white stone style. Secondly, this is the standing by itself Siuiumbeki observation tower, seven-tier, 58 m in height, built in red brick. It was supposedly raised at the turn of the XVII-XVIII centuries and named in honor of the last tsarina of the Kazan Khanate. But researchers have not come to a consensus so far on the origin, destination and architectural style of the Siuiumbeki tower, whose appearance sharply contrasts with other structures of the Kremlin. Indeed, in its aspect one finds features appropriate to not only Russian and Tatar culture, but also Italian one, that is why there exists even a version that in its building Italian architects took part (furthermore the tower’s age according to this version rises even more – it is dated to the end of the XV century).

Inside fortress walls there are both church and civil structures. The main church structure of the Kazan Kremlin is the Cathedral of the Annunciation; it is the most ancient of all extant stone structures of Kazan. The Cathedral was raised of white stone in the middle of the ХVI century, but afterwards it was more than once rebuilt, experienced several fires and subsequent restorations and reconstructions. Its complex also includes a Hierarchal house and a Consistory. The Orthodox Church heritage of the Kazan Kremlin also includes the complex of the Monastery of Our Savior and Transfiguration near the Spasskaya Tower.

The main civil structure of the Kazan Kremlin is the Governor's Palace dated already to the middle of the XIX century (architect K.A.Ton). Till 1917 it served as a residence of Kazan governor, and now it is a residence of the President of Tatarstan. This palace was built in place of Kazan khans’ previous residence that comprised Khan’s palace, surrounded by numerous pavilions, galleries and utility structures. The only extant of it are remains of khan’s mosque, two old white stone mausoleums and some other structures.

Thus, the Kazan Kremlin represents an outstanding example of different artistic styles’ synthesis, shows the interpenetration of different cultures (Bulgarian, Golden Horde, Tatar, Russia, perhaps - Italian), and reflects the originality of different – replacing one by another – historical epochs.

In the early 2000’s. The Kazan Kremlin became a place of considerable restoration works during preparation for the celebration of the city’s thousandth anniversary in August 2005. Within implementation of the approved by the Government of the Russian Federation in 2001 Federal target program “Preservation and Development of the Historic Center of Kazan” works on restoration of seven valuable objects were carried out in the Kremlin, including: the Cathedral of the Annunciation, the Monastery of Our Savior and Transfiguration, Governor's Palace, the Cannon Yard etc. An enormous cathedral Kul Sharif Mosque was constructed and became a symbolic successor of the main mosque of khan’s Kazan of the same name, demolished after seizure of the city by troops of Ivan the Terrible.

Since 1994 the State Historical-Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve “Kazan Kremlin” has been functioning.