Kazan (Russian: Каза́нь; Tatar Cyrillic: Казан, Latin: Qazan) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. With a population of 1,143,600 (2010 Census preliminary results), it is the eighth most populous city in Russia. Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia. In April 2009, the Russian Patent Office granted Kazan the right to brand itself as the “Third Capital” of Russia. In 2009 it was chosen as the “sports capital of Russia”. The Kazan Kremlin is a World Heritage Site.
The origin of the name Kazan is uncertain. The most accepted legends derive it from the Bulgarian (and also modern Tatar) word qazan, which means ‘boiler’ or ‘cauldron’.
There is a long-running dispute as to whether Kazan was founded by the Volga Bulgars in the early Middle Ages or by the Tatars of the Golden Horde in the mid-15th century, as written records before the latter period are sparse. If there were a Bulgar city on the site, estimates of the date of its foundation range from the early 11th century to the late 13th century (see Iske Qazan). It was a border post between Volga Bulgaria and two Finnic tribes, the (Mari and the Udmurt). Another vexatious question is where the citadel was built originally. Archaeological explorations have produced evidence of urban settlement in three parts of the modern city: in the Kremlin; in Bişbalta at the site of the modern Zilantaw monastery; and near the Qaban lake. The oldest of these seems to be the Kremlin.
If Kazan existed in the 11th and 12th centuries, it could have been a stop on a Volga trade route from Scandinavia to Iran. It was a trade center, and possibly a major city for Bulgar settlers in the Kazan region, although their capital was further south at the city of Bolğar.
After the Mongols devastated the Bolğar and Bilär areas in the 13th century, migrants
resettled Kazan. Kazan became a center of a duchy which was a dependency of the Golden Horde. Two centuries later, in the 1430s, Hordian Tatars (such as Ghiasetdin of Kazan) usurped power from its Bolghar dynasty.
Some Tatars also went to Lithuania, brought by Vytautas the Great.
In 1438, after the destruction of the Golden Horde, Kazan became the capital of the powerful Khanate of Kazan. The city bazaar, Taş Ayaq (Stone Leg)’ became the most important trade center in the region, especially for furniture. The citadel and Bolaq channel were reconstructed, giving the city a strong defensive capacity. The Russians managed to occupy the city briefly several times.
Russian Tsardom times
As a result of the Siege of Kazan (1552) Russia under Ivan the Terrible conquered the city for good and the majority of the population was massacred. During the governorship of Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky, most of the khanates’s Tatar residents were killed or forcibly Christianized. Mosques and palaces were ruined. The surviving Tatar population was moved to a place 50 kilometres (31 mi) away from the city and this place was forcibly settled by Russian farmers and soldiers. Tatars in the Russian service were settled in the Tatar Bistäse settlement near the city’s wall. Later Tatar merchants and handicraft masters also settled there. During this period, Kazan was largely destroyed as a result of several great fires. After one of them in 1579, the icon Our Lady of Kazan was discovered in the city.