REPUBLIC OF TATARSTAN
Republic of Tatarstan (820 kilometers east of Moscow) is one of 21 internal republics in Russia. Located in the Volga-Urals region and traditionally known as Tatarstan, it covers 72, 000 square kilometers (27,100 square miles, roughly the size of Ireland) and is home to 3.8 million people and lies on the Volga River. Tatarstan is rich in oil. Oil is an important industry in Tatarstan. A petrochemical and refining center in was vital to the Soviet Union military-industrial complex. Official Tourist Portal of the Republic of Tatarstan / http://visit-tatarstan.com
About 48 percent of Tatarstan's population is Tatar; 43 is percent Russian. There is great deal of intermarriage between Tatars and Russian and there seems to be little ethnic tension. The Tatar’s birthrate is 40 percent higher than the Russian’s. Efforts are being made to bring back the Tatar language and culture.
The Republic of Tatarstan is a remnant of the great Khanate of Kazan. Among the sights and attractions there are its gray Kremlin towers, mosques, churches and rich museum heritage. Sviyazhsk Island Town was the prototype for Pushkin's Buyan Island. Thousand-year-old town Yelabuga, ancient Bolgar and the beautiful Volga nature are all recommended.
A place where Tatar and Russian traditions and Orthodoxy and Islam meet, Tatarstan is situated in the center of European Russia, at the confluence of two rivers — the Volga and the Kama. The Republic is among the Top 10 most popular tourist destinations in Russia. In the summer, visitors can enj: go hiking, visit festivals and celebrations, explore the culture, go fishing. The winter is a good to visit theaters and museums, enjoy the beauty of snow-covered Kazan and skate on Russia's largest ice rink at the Kremlyovskaya Embankment.
See Separate Articles TATARS factsanddetails.com; KAZAN factsanddetails.com
Transportation and Getting to Tatarstan
Getting There: By Air: The main airport is Begishevo Airport ( Naberezhnye Chelny). A flight from Moscow takes about two hours. Prices for round-trip tickets from Moscow start at RUB 3,800 (from Saint Petersburg — at RUB 4,500) per person. A flight takes about two and a half hours. Prices for round-trip tickets from Moscow start at RUB 3,700 (from Saint Petersburg — at RUB 3,850) per person.
By Train: Railways connect the main cities of Tatarstan with all regions of Russia and the CIS. To Kazan: Prices for round-trip sleeper car tickets from Moscow start at RUB 3,450 per person, with travel time of 11.5 hours (from Saint Petersburg — at RUB 10,200, with travel time of 22.5 hours). By Car: A car trip to Tatarstan is advisable primarily to residents of neighboring regions, the Udmurt Republic, Samara and Nizhny Novgorod regions, as well as the republics of Chuvashia and Mari El. Take a car ride around Tatarstan and enjoy picturesque views on a comfortable route.
Transport in Tatarstan: Kazan Bus Station has buses that reach most cities in Tatarstan and major cities in of adjacent regions. Fare for key destinations: 1) Naberezhnye Chelny, Elabuga — starting at RUB 400; 2) Bolgar — starting at RUB 325; 3) Sviyazhsk — starting at RUB 150. Timetable and prices for Kazan public transport are avaialable on the website kazantransport.ru.
Volga and Other Rivers of Tatarstan
The Volga is the largest river in Europe and one best known landmarks of Tatarstan. It enters the republic flowing from west to east. Near Kazan it changes direction and heads southwards. Within the republic, the river runs for 177 kilometers. Near Kazan, itis about one kilometer wide. At the Kuibyshev reservoir, where the Kama enters, The Volga reaches a width of 35 kilometers.
There are other large rivers in Tatarstan. Most of them are tributaries of the Volga. The Kama flows in the republic for almost 380 kilometers: the Belaya river flows for about 60; and the Vyatka, about 50 kilometers. On the banks of the Kama there are small towns with great history: Chistopol and Elabuga and the modern industrial centers of Naberezhnye Chelny and Nizhnekamsk
Many tourists travel on the Volga in a a cruise ship, admiring the beauty of the coasts and the rivers itself and stopping in interesting cities such as Kazan, Bolgar, Tetyushi and Sviyazhak, and visiting their historical and cultural centers and natural attractions. Fishermen can catch: pike, perch, ide, bream, roach, burbot, scum, redeye and pike-perch. Also worth a look are the Romanovsky railway bridge, built in the beginning of the 20th century; the Pechishinsky geological formation; and the unique Volzhsky (Syukeyevsky) karst caves in the Kamskoye Ustye area.
See Separate Article VOLGA RIVER factsanddetails.com
Places near Kazan and in Tatarstan include the Cultural and Entertainment Center Chistay, located in the central part of the city Chistopol; the Razvlekatelnыy Complex Manhattan, an Entertainment complex in the central part of Elabuga; the Dolphinarium in Naberezhnye Chelny, the only permanent dolphinarium in the Volga region and a branch of the Anapa dolphinarium; and the Residence of Tatar Santa Claus — Kysh Babai and His Daughter Kar Kyzy (The Snow Maiden), open in the Christmas season and winter in the village of Yana Kyrlay. The Monastery of Rafia (25 kilometers west of Kazan) was established in 1655. In the Soviet era it was used as a reformatory for boys and a pump-making factory. Since 1990 it has been under restoration.
Tatar Avyly (20 kilometers west of Kazan) means “Tatar Village”. It is an Ethnographic Open-Air Museum aimed at preserving the cultural and historical heritage of Tatar people and educating people about the Tatars. At the village one see traditional houses and buildings and learn about life and household activities of a medieval Tatar village, preserved ethnographic traditions, national cuisine, crafts and legends of indigenous people. For children there is a petting zoo an ostrich, peacocks and horse, pony and donkey rides. Various cultural events are held such as “Uynagyz, Garmunnar” accordian festival, “The victory will be ours” interactive family team game, “The Plough feast”, a children's party with horse racing, arts and crafts market and farm products fair, and “The Journey to the land of knowledge and crafts”.
KAMAZ Plant Complex (150 kilometers east of Kazan in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny) has been offering tours since 2016, allowing visitors to check out the massive KAMAZ plant complex and learn about its history and the story of the legendary KAMAZ-master crew, multiple winners the Dakar rally. During the tours visitors can see truck assembly, trucks engine assembly, the production of auto parts using iron casting at the foundry, and the robotized process of molding and assembling of truck frames and cabins at the press-frame works. Visitors can eat at the factory canteen alongside the workers who help the plant produce 30,000 civilian and military trucks a year.
Sviyazhskie Hills (35 kilometers from Kazan) is a year-round resort town In the summer you can play golf, practice marksmanship in the shooting club, and swim on a freshwater beach or in an outdoor pool. In the winter, 3.5 km-long trails with a vertical drop of 165 meters are open to skiers and snowboarders. The trails are well-lit and equipped with chairlifts.
Temple of All Religions
Temple of All Religions(in Staroye Arakchino settlement, on the Volga River, 10 kilometers from the center of Kazan) is one of the most unusual sights in the Kazan area. It is an architectural symbiosis of religions, civilizations and cultures also called the Universal Temple, or the International Cultural Center of Spiritual Unity,
The Universal Temple is an architectural ensemble combining buildings belonging to different cultures and religion. An Orthodox church, a Catholic church, a Muslim mosque, a Jewish synagogue, a Buddhist temple and a Chinese pagoda all peacefully coexist with a common fence. They are decorated with symbols of world religions and ancient civilizations.
The bright, candy-colored structures look more like something out of a fairy tale than a belief system. Inside there is a Jesus Christ Hall, Buddha Hall, Catholic Hall, Egyptian Hall, Theater hall, picture gallery and a coffee room. Designed to fit perfectly into the local landscape, the Universal Temple can easily be see ships sailing along the Volga River and the windows of passing trains.
Despite its names, the complex is not a religious house of worship. Church services and public worship are not held there. According to its creators, the temple is intended to be cultural center of Kazan offering lectures on ancient history, musical performances and puppet shows. The idea for the Universal Temple comes from Kazan sculptor and architect Ildar Khanov, who came up with the idea after his traveling to Tibet and India. In 1994, with the support of like-minded people, Ildar Khanov started the construction, which continued until his death. Now the family continues the work of the architect. Work is still being done. The plan is to unite in one complex 16 shrines of both living and lost religions. Among the structures yet built is an ancient Assyrian church.
Sviyazhsk: Ivan the Terrible’s Island Fortress
Sviyazhsk (20 kilometers west of Kazan in the Volga River) was founded by Ivan the Terrible as a fortress and today has many preserved landmarks of Old Russian architecture, Orthodox culture and history. From May to September, you can get to Sviyazhsk by water, from the Kazan River Port. The Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the town-island of Sviyazhsk was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.
Sviyazhsk is an island connected to the banks of the river by a recently built causeway. by a thin, two-kilometer-long strip of land with a road on it. Places with checking out are the Assumption Monastery, with its 16th-century cycle of murals, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Joy of All Sorrowing, the Civil War Museum, the Museum of Tree Archeology, the Raifa Bogoroditsky Monastery, and the horse stable yard with craftshops and a Russian cuisine restaurant in a 17th-century building,. Museum tickets are available at ostrovgrad.org.
The Horse Stables ethnographic complex offers classes and an opportunity to make a souvenir yourself. House of Kamenev hotel is in the merchant's ancient mansion. You can also stay at the Hotels Station, Mayak and Deja Vu (prices start at RUB 4,500 per double room) and alpine houses (prices start at RUB 6,000).
The island-city can be visited as a part of a boat tour. The easiest way to get here is to take one of the boats that depart from the Kazan river port daily. In 2007, an 8-kilometer-long causeway was built, connecting the island to the mainland, so one can get here by car too. Sviyazhsk is located three kilometers away from the Sviyaga river mouth on a hill called Vysokaya Gora (High Mountain), The streets still have pre-revolutionary names: Uspenskaya (the main street) crosses the island from northeast to southwest; to the south, in parallel with the main street, lies Troitskaya street, and to the north there is Nikolskaya street. Alexandrovskaya street crosses them in the center of the island.
Many Sviyazhsk architectural structures were created in the during the reign of Ivan The Terrible. The first monastery of the island-city — The Troitse-Sergiev Monastery — consisted of two churches: the Trinity and the Sergiev churches. Now, the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God Monastery stands in its place. The ensemble of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God Monastery includes Nikolskaya Church and The Holy Assumption Cathedral. The Holy Assumption Cathedral, founded during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, is a wonderful white-stone building. Unique fresco paintings have been preserved inside the cathedral.
The Sviyazhsk architecture ensemble also includes the church of Saints Konstantin and Elena Equal-to-the-Apostles, as well as the cathedral of the Most Holy Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow. The cathedral of the Most Holy Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow was built of red brick in the territory of the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in 1898–1906 and designed by the architect F. Malinovsky with the support of the Mother -Superior of the monastery, Apphia. The large five-domed, four-column, cross-in-square church in the neo-Byzantine style with eclectic elements- is similar in its architecture to the Kronstadt Cathedral of St. Petersburg.
You can also visit the Sviyazhsk historical museum, Konniy Dvor (“Stable yard”), and the Lenivy Torzhok Historic Reconstruction Complex. At the Konniy Dvor Ethnographic Complex, visitors can ride and feed horses or take a ride in a carriage around Sviyazhsk. The Stables on Sviyazhsk Island has craft workshops, a blacksmith shop, pottery, embossed leather, as well as a stable and area for riding. There is also a handicraft settlement, where visitors can take part in a souvenir production master class. The complex is also a venue for the Sviyazhsk Maslenitsa (Pancake Week) and Sviyazhsk Ukha (fish soup) festivals. Additionally, every year, the streets fill with knights and their beautiful ladies, who come from all over the country for a medieval tournament.
Assumption Cathedral Sviyazhsk: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the town-island of Sviyazhsk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery is famous for its frescoes. Used as a prison and psychiatric hospital in the Stalin era, it houses 16th century frescoes commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to celebrate his victory over the Tartars in Kazan. According to UNESCO: “ The Assumption Cathedral is located in the town–island of Sviyazhsk and is part of the homonymous monastery. Situated at the confluence of the Volga, the Sviyaga and the Shchuka Rivers, at the crossroads of the Silk and Volga routes, Sviyazhsk was founded by Ivan the Terrible in 1551 as the outpost from which to initiate the conquest of the Kazan Khanate. The Assumption Monastery was to function as both missionary and administrative center for the conquered region. The Cathedral, with its extensive cycles of mural paintings, realised in a relatively short period of time, reflects the ambitious cultural and political programme of the Russian State in the recently conquered Islamic Kazan Khanate, and illustrates new trends in Christian Orthodox art in Russia and Europe.
“The Assumption Monastery in its location, setting, layout and the architectural composition of its buildings contributes to illustrating its political, military and missionary role in the 16th century. The Cathedral is the most outstanding part of the Assumption Monastery Complex: its architecture reflects the prevailing Rus tradition of religious architecture from Moscow, Novgorod, Vladimir and Pskov, shaped upon Byzantine classical heritage as expressed by local craftsmanship and materials. The 18th century renovation of the building with baroque decoration illustrates new trends in art and architecture transposed from Western Europe by Peter the Great into the Russian empire as reference models.
“The architectural image of the cathedral with its 16th century cycle of wall paintings with scenes from the Old and New Testaments express Ivan IV’s political and religious program to convey his royal power and the power of Orthodoxy to the Tatars, via a comprehensible/acceptable religious vocabulary based on the Old Testament and on the Virgin Mary. St. Nicholas Refectory Church with its bell tower, the Archimandrite building, the monastery school building, the Brethen’s building, and the walls with the Ascension church above the gate supplement and enhance the values of the Assumption Cathedral, illustrating the religious and daily life of Orthodox monasteries in the past.
“The location and architectural bulk and configuration of the Assumption complex within the town–island of Svyiazhsk made it a prominent complex visible in the distance when approaching the town and express its role as a territorial and religious reference. The cultural layers and archaeological strata preserved in the grounds of the monastery complex and nearby contain 16th-19th century artefacts that are of great interest as a source of information on spiritual, social, artistic and scientific achievements. The Town-Island of Svyiazhsk in its current configuration represents a powerful setting that conveys the sense of an historic outpost settlement.
“The Assumption Monastery with its Cathedral is real evidence of cardinal historical and geo-political interchanges in Eurasia at a time when the Rus State undertook its expansion eastwards. The architecture and Mariological cycle of wall-paintings of the Cathedral exceptionally reflect the interaction of the Christian-Orthodox and Muslim cultures and interchanges with Western Christian religious iconographical themes, e.g. the Creation or the Proto-evangelical and Evangelical cycles. The unique style of wall-painting and icons of the Assumption Cathedral iconostasis resulted from the fusion of artistic forces of large artistic centers of the Russian state, such as Novgorod, Pskov and Moscow, as well as of masters of the Volga region towns and artists working in the Rostov and Suzdal regions. The Iconostasis pictorial complex is part of the whole artistic system of the Cathedral.
“The Assumption Monastery with the Cathedral illustrates in its location, layout and architectural composition the political and missionary programme developed by Tsar Ivan the Terrible to extend the Moscow state from European lands to the post-Golden Horde Islamic states. The architecture of the Assumption Cathedral embodies the synthesis of traditional ancient Pskov architecture, a monumental Moscow art of building, and construction traditions of the Volga region. The Assumption Cathedral frescoes are among the rarest examples of Eastern Orthodox mural paintings. The iconographic program of the cathedral includes themes of the Creation and iconographic interpretations of traditional cycles of Proto-evangelic and Evangelic history, reflecting absolutely new trends for Russian religious art and expressing new theological concepts and Tsar Ivan IV’s political programme.”
Bolgar: City of the Golden Horde and the Volga Bolgars
Grear Bolgar (on the left bank of the Volga 140 kilometers from Kazan, near the present-day town of Bolgar) was the political, economic and cultural center of Volga Bulgaria and one of the largest cities of the Golden Horde. The Great Bolgar area covers 550 hectares and has fortifications that extend over five kilometers. In 2014, The Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built in the 10th-15th centuries, medieval Bolgar was the capital of one of the earliest Eastern European states and holds the distinction of being the northernmost settlement of Muslim colonizers, who extended their mission up the Volga River in the 13th and 14th century. Established as a museum in 1969 called the Bulgarian State Historical and Architectural Museum and sometimes referred to as Bulgari or the Bulgarian settlement, the site contains a stately minaret and a series of small, ruined palaces influenced by the architecture of medieval Christian Caucasus and the pre-Gothic medieval West. At the present has about 100 structures, most of them ruins.
Bolgar is surrounded by an five-kilometer-long earthen rampart and ditch. The territory includes a five-meter-deep archaeological cultural layer, a series of ruined stone and brick buildings of public and religious preserved from 13th - 14th centuries. The Bulgaria Regional Center of the Republic of Tatarstan is adjacent to the east side the settlement. On the west side is the Volga River. Within the property is an 18th century Volga Bulgarian fortress and village with preserved houses and 98 residents who preserve the traditional way of life, which is now home to.
Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex: UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to UNESCO: “The historical and archaeological site of Bolgar lies on the shores of the Volga River south of its confluence with the River Kama. It contains evidence of the medieval city of Bolgar, an early settlement of the civilization of Volga Bolgars, which existed between the 7th and the 15th centuries. Bolgar was also the first capital of the Golden Horde in the 13th century and remained an important trade center in the time of the Kazan Khanate. The site preserves its spatial context with its historic moat and walls as well as its religious and civil structures, including a former mosque, a minaret and several mausoleums, bath houses, remains of a Khan's palace and shrine.
“Bolgar represents the historical cultural exchanges and transformations of Eurasia over several centuries, which played a pivotal role in the formation of civilizations, customs and cultural traditions. The Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex provides remarkable evidence of historic continuity and cultural diversity, the mutual influences of cultural traditions in particular at the time of the Volga Bolgars, the Golden Horde, the Kazan Khanate and the Russian state. Also, Bolgar was always located at the crossroads of trade, and economic, cultural and political communications and illustrates the interaction of nomadic and urban cultures. The historical and archaeological complex of Bolgar is a symbolic reminder of the acceptance of Islam by the Volga-Bolgars in 922 AD and, to Tatar Muslims, remains sacred and a pilgrimage destination”.
“The historical and archaeological complex of Bolgar illustrates the exchange and re-integration of several subsequent cultural traditions and rulers and reflects these in influences on architecture, city-planning and landscape design. The property illustrates the cultural exchanges of Turkic, Finno-Ugric, Slavic and other traditions. Evidence of exchanges in architectural styles includes wooden constructions which emerged in the forest-rich region, the steppe component of Turkic language tribes, oriental influences connected with the adoption of Islam and European-Russian styles which dominated after it became part of the Russian state.
“Bolgar remains a regional reference point for Tatar Muslims and likely other Muslim groups of the wider region in Eurasia. It carries associated religious and spiritual values which are illustrated predominantly during the annual pilgrimage season. Bolgar provides evidence of an early and northernmost Muslim enclave established in connection with the official acceptance of Islam by the Volga Bolgars as the state religion in 922 AD, which had a lasting impact on the cultural and architectural development of the wider geographical region.
Structures and Sites in Great Bolgar
Sites and building in Great Bolgar include the ruins of the 18th-century Cathedral Mosque, a well-preserved Eastern Mausoleum, the 16th-century Black Chamber (where the Khan's court sat), the Museum of the Bulgarian civilization, the White Mosque (a modern building that has been described as the “Tatarstan Taj Mahal”), the Big and Small minarets, the Northern Mausoleum, the Khan's tomb, the Khan Palace, the Eastern and White Chambers and “Gabdrakhman's Well”. Most of them are ruins.
The White Mosque, built in 2012, is considered to be the architectural landmark of the Great Bolgar. The best pieces of the world Islamic architecture served an example for its construction. The ensemble of the White Mosque includes a prayer square, framed by a refined arcade of 88 oriental columns; refined towers of minarets; the main dome with skilfully made stained-glass windows and snow-white buildings intended for the clergy. The interior decoration is no less inspiring: The hall of prayers is surrounded by high columns with crescents, and on the walls one can see an elegant Arabic script — sayings from the Koran.
The once Great Mosque of Bolgar is now only a ruins. On the ground you can make out the contours of the walls and interior space represented by a small stone squares that served as the bases of columns, located inside the hall of the mosque. Restored columns have been assembled from blocks and fragments. In its time this mosque, with its minaret, was part of an ensemble that included the Great Khan's palace. The Great Mosque is the oldest building of Great Bulgaria and its compositional center.
Construction of the mosque was started shortly after the Mongol conquest and completed in 1260. During the destruction of the city by Tamerlane in 1361, the Cathedral mosque was heavily damaged and underwent reconstruction. Reconstruction is still being carried out. Thus far, restoration work has been limited to a partial reconstruction of the mosque.
Near the mosque is a 32 meter-high minaret restored in its original form in 2005. The original 13th century minaret collapsed in 1841 when treasure hunters dug underground passage beneath the minaret. Inside the restored minaret is a spiral staircase. According to legend, if you climb the minaret to the top, one of your sins will be forgiven, for each minaret step you climbs. The minaret is popular with Muslim pilgrims.
Tourism at Bolgar
Every year at Bolgar there are celebrations connected with the adoption of Islam by the Volga Bulgaria. Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims from Russia and abroad gather here. They read passages of the Koran and pray at the mosque.Every summer Medieval Battle Festival is organized here as well as many other exciting and entertaining promenades, holidays and events. Official tourist Portal of the Republic of Tatarstan / visit-tatarstan.com
Bolgar, the historical homeland of the Volga Tatars, is about a three hour drive from Kazan. The Museum of the Bulgarian civilization, was built “in celebration of the adoption of Islam by the Volga Bulgars in 922". It contains the world's largest printed Koran, which has been recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. The classical-oriental-style museum building combines a river station and a multi-level museum complex. Here, at the interactive Museum of Bread, you can see all the stages of bread making: — from sowing, harvesting and grinding of grain to baking the bread. There is also a miller's house, a windmill, a water mill, a smithy, various agricultural instruments and appliances and a restaurant of national Tatar cuisine.
The five-star Kol Gali Resort & SPA has baths, a swimming pool, a gym, tennis courts, bicycle paths and views of the Volga River. Genghis Khan Restaurant in the Museum of Bread offers Tatar and European cuisine at affordable prices.
Kamskoye Ustye (Kama River Estuary)
Kamskoye Ustye(40 kilometers south of Kazan) is a unique natural landmark located at the merging point of the biggest rivers of Tatarstan — the Volga and the Kama Rivers. At the rivers confluence is the Kuybyshev Reservoir, one of the largest reservoirs in the world, and the largest on the Volga. Its widest part, where the Kama ends, measures 50 kilometers across.
Kamskoye Ustye is one a most popular fishing place in central Russia. Some areas are over 20 meters deep. The bottom of the reservoir is full of anomalies: ditches and pits, the remains of old channels and vast areas of shallow water. Due to these unique natural conditions, schools of fish and predatory fish can be found here.
The gently southeast sloping coastal line of the Kamskoye Ustye transforms into the 136-meter-high Lobach Mountain. From the hilltop is a unique view of the merging rivers and Kuybyshev Reservoir. On cliffs facing towards the Volga you can see permian rocks, dolomites, limestones and mudstones. Parts of the coastline are prone to landslides. In a gully of Lobach Mountain, where two full skeletons of mammoths, buried under a pre-historic landslide, were discovered in 1937. Thirteen archaeological sites, dating from the Paleolithic period to the A.D. first millennium, have also been discovered in the area of this mountain. The well-known gypsum tunnels and Yurievskaya Cave are also located in close proximity to Kamskoye Ustye.
Getting to the hilltop can be done by walking a few kilometers on foot from the village of Kamskoye Ustye or by car. It is also possible to climb the rivers and cliffs near the shore. It is a pleasant area just to wander around. Some people tents and camp on the edge of the cliffs and water.
Yuryevskaya Cave (100 kilometers from Kazan) is the largest cave in Tatarstan and the only one open to tourists. Located in the Kamsko-Ustyinsky District,,This is where the Volga and Kama rivers come together, it is 1,005 meters long, and covers 3,500 square meters. You can explore the cave with a guide or on your own, but remember to study the map and bring along good lights, all the necessary equipment and some warm clothes. The temperature inside the cave is constant throughout the year: 7°C above zero. Many people camp. If camping out is not your thing, the nearest destination is the Kamskiye Prostory fishing base in the village of Kamskoye Ustye. Accommodation costs start at RUB 500 per day.
Elabuga by (200 kilometers from Kazan) is 1,000year-old city with an open-air museum and medieval fortress. Among other attractions in Elabuga (also spelled Yelabuga) are the Museum House of Ivan Shishkin, the Memorial Estate of Marina Tsvetaeva, where she spent her last days, the Museum Estate of Nadezhda Durova, the Museum of Provincial Medicine named after Bekhterev and Chyortovo Gorodische and the Devil's Fort (ruins of an ancient Bulgarian fortress of the pre-Mongol period).
Yelabuga Fortress Site Historical and Archeological Complex contains a lone tower on the steep banks of the Kama, the only surviving pre-Mongol period ground structure of Volga Bulgaria and the oldest architectural monument in Tatarstan. The tower represents the ruins of an Old Bulgarian fortress mosque. The tower is a hollow stone cylinder with a metal roof in the form of a low dome. It is 7.1 meters high with the inner space measuring 5.7 meters in diameter.
Every year, thousands of tourists visit Elabuga Fortress Site and make a wish by touching the stone walls of the ancient tower. In 2007, a recreation area was arranged near the fortress site in honor of the millennial anniversary of Yelabuga town. An old apple orchard still occupies the site. A monument to the Bulgar Emir Ibrahim bin Muhammat was erected here, and the Millennium Staircase was built, connecting the protected territory of the Yelabuga Fortress Site with the town center. The fortress covers a total area of 4.1 hectares.
The Yelabuga Fortress Site dates back to the 10th-12th centuries. Local people have long been looking after its legendary tower. In 1844 it collapsed, except for a small northern section with an arched doorway and a window above it. In 1867, on the initiative of Elabuga merchant I.V. Shishkin, the father of the famous painter, the collapsed tower was rebuilt on the old place and given an iron roof.
Yelabuga can be reached by car or by the Kazan-Naberezhnye Chelny bus, which leaves from Kazan every hour. As for accommodation, the Divniy Sad hostel, 500 meters from Chyortovo Gorodische, offers cheap accommodation (RUB 1,000 per double room). Blackberry mini-hotel is situated in a 19th century building on the main tourist street of the city, Kazanskaya (RUB 2,000 per single room, and RUB 3,000 per double room). The Ramada Hotel (RUB 2,400 per double room) is within walking distance from the main sights and in close proximity to the picturesque Alexander Gardens (est. in the 19th century).
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in September 2020