Thursday, October 27, 2005

Kazan: The Mosque Inside the Kremlin Walls

"David [Hilligas] and I arrived in Kazan on a brilliant, sunny Saturday afternoon, perfect for wandering around the city. We decided to start with the city's Kremlin, a massive 16th-century fortress perched on the banks of the Kazanka River.

As I stood on a grassy slope outside the Kremlin, I was shocked to find I'd completely forgotten about the giant turquoise-domed mosque towering over the walls....

The Kul Sharif mosque, completed earlier this year, towers over Kazan's Kremlin. When we went inside the Kremlin, we found a small monument commemorating a decree by the President of Tatarstan to "recreate the Kul Sharif Mosque." The decree was dated November 13, 1995 ... The mosque had been designed and built within the last ten years.

This was no small accomplishment, as the Kul Sharif mosque is not only exquisitely ornate, it is also apparently one of the largest mosques in Europe. The minarets soar 187 feet into the air, and the gleaming cupola rises 128 feet. The cavernous prayer hall reportedly can accommodate 1,500 people, in addition to another 9,000 out on the square.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, religious faiths of all kinds have seen a gradual resurgence in Russia. It's not so surprising that a new mosque was built here, as Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan, an autonomous republic with more than 2 million mostly Muslim Tatars. But I did find it surprising that the new mosque was built right inside the Kremlin, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As it turns out, the mosque was built on roughly the same spot as an earlier Kul Sharif mosque, which was destroyed by Ivan the [Formidable's] armies in 1552."...

Lisa Dickey "Russian Chronicles" Washington Post via October 23, 2005.


There are also some interesting, and controversial, comments posted to Ms. Dickey's story on Kazan.

Photo credit: David Hillegas


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