The Kazan Kremlin is a unique monument to the history and culture of Tatarstan. The Kremlin serves as the heart of the city, where ancient and modern cultural traditions, as well as legends and facts, blend together.
Although stone structures allegedly began appearing in the Kazan Kremlin as early as the 12th century, it remained largely a site of wooden fortifications until 1552. The Kremlin was home to the Khans’ Palace as well as two mosques, the stone Nur-Ali Mosque and the wooden Khans’ Mosque, the latter of which was subsequently called Kul Sharif in honor of the imam who defended Kazan from the troops of Ivan the Terrible.
The structures built in the Kazan Kremlin during the time of the Khanate did not survive. After Ivan the Terrible captured Kazan, he invited Pskov architects to come to the city to rebuild the Kremlin. They built walls and towers whose strength greatly impressed contemporaries. Of the 13 towers listed in the census book of 1675, only 8 survive today. Among them are Spasskaya Tower, the symbol of the Kremlin; Taynitskaya Tower, named for its secret spring that was used as a source of water during the siege of the Kremlin; Transfiguration Tower; and others. The famous leaning Suyumbike Tower was likely build as a watch tower during the 17th century, although according to legend, Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of the tower for the proud Princess Suyumbike.
The Cathedral of the Annunciation, built in 1555 in the likeness of Moscow's Cathedral of the Dormition, where Ivan the Terrible was crowned tsar, is the oldest stone building in Kazan. Allegedly the Cathedral was erected on the place where Kul Sharif Mosque once stood.
Later, Tatarstan’s main mosque was rebuilt in a different part of the Kremlin. This magnificent structure opened in 2005 and helped to restore a sense of historical continuity.
In 2003, a monument dedicated to the architects of the Kazan Kremlin was opened in the square next to the Cathedral of the Annunciation. The monument depicts a Tatar and Russian architect looking at the fruits of their joint efforts.
The Kazan Kremlin is also home to the Transfiguration Monastery, although most of it was destroyed after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Governor’s Palace was built on the site of the old Khans’ Palace. The Governor’s Palace also served as an imperial residence, particularly for Emperor Paul I.
Other administrative buildings in the Kremlin include the Public Office building and the Guardhouse. Now the Governor’s Palace serves as the residence of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan. The Kazan Kremlin is not just a tourist site, but also functions as the working administrative center of the Republic.