Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kazan, Russia - Day 83-84: Republic of Tartarstan

Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tartarstan, an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation that has it's own President, constitution and national flag. It's unclear to me how much of real 'autonomy' they have, but it seems in some judicial and executive respects they govern themselves while being delimited at a federal level.

I came to Kazan expecting it to be a 'one lane town' and was surprised to see a city with a modern waterfront dotted wit high-rise buildings, and a Kremlin which is a UNESCO World heritage site. Other parts of the old town are crumbling from neglect and entire swatches of the main street is filled with building debris.

Kazan has more in common with Central Asia than Russia due in large part to immigrant influx from former Russian regions such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Sunni Islam is the state religion and many of the mosques destroyed during Communist rule have been restored.

A not so happy Isaac with the Uzbek staff of the restaurant 'Staroe Mesto', where we had Tatar salads and dumplings, then a conversation about how much these guys would love to go to New York and open a restaurant.

And a video of the beautiful Kul-Sharif mosque in Kazan named after the Imam who died defending the city from Ivan the Terrible.

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