As with many of Kazan’s other mosques, Blue Mosque (Mosque No. 4), was built with the funds of benefactors. Tatar merchant dynasties did not withhold any support from worthy projects. Faith erased class differences, as mosques united both the rich and disadvantaged.
Blue Mosque was built in the poorest part of the Tatar District, at the intersection of Bolshaya Meshchanskaya and Poperechno-Zakharyevskaya Streets, just a few steps away from the fashionable Yunusov Square. Primarily former peasants who had left their native villages in search of work in the city lived here.
The story of Blue Mosque is atypical for the history of Kazan mosques, which were usually built exclusively through the donations of prominent philanthropists.
Undoubtedly, the contributions of the Yunusovs, Apanaevs, and other representatives of pious Kazan merchants ensured the development of many religious communities. Their contributions, however, often overshadowed equally as religious and pious people who lacked the same amount of social and financial capital as the merchants and thus went largely unnoticed.
Nevertheless, their seemingly imperceptible cohesion enabled the construction of Blue Mosque, which served as an example of how the work of many can bring about the best results.
In spite of their complete poverty, community members along Narimanov Street collected the funds to build a wooden mosque in 1778.
In 1815, the merchant Akhmet Aitov-Zamanov, the owner of a soap factory, transferred the mosque’s dilapidated building to a village and began constructing a new brick building.
Interestingly, Akhmet Aitov belonged to the religious community associated with Mosque No. 1 and thus began working on the construction of Blue Mosque from noble reasons. The Aitov-Zamanovs, a dynasty of merchants and philanthropists, were not only known for their work constructing mosques and other pious deeds. Along with other merchants, Bashir Aitov helped to build a cholera hospital during Kazan’s cholera epidemic and continued to support it until the disease was eradicated. Musa Aitov donated part of his income to help the poorest Tatar families in Kazan. Fatikha, the wife of Suleiman Aitov, established the only gymnasium for Tatar girls in Kazan.
Work on Blue Mosque finished in 1819. The façade of the mosque was then painted blue, which gave the mosque its present name.
Blue Mosque’s brick building was constructed in a classical style with a minaret in the center of the roof. In 1907, a two-story annex was added to the southern façade, which expanded to the western and eastern sides, given the building a T-shape.
Akhmet Aitov-Zamanov and other members of the religious community spared no expense in founding an educational institution at the mosque and invited some of the best imams of the time to work. Gabdenasyr Rakhmankulov, one of the first, established a mekteb (a pedagogical school that trained Muslim teachers) in the 1820s.
A little later, the affluent local merchants Yusuf and Kurban-Gali Arsaev allocated funds for the construction of a separate building for a madrassa that is still to this day known as Kazan’s old Khalidiya madrassa. It opened in 1825 and was one of the largest in Kazan. Its students included the playwright Galiaskar Kamal and the scholar and historian Gaziz Gubaidullin. This madrassa adhered to the old way of teaching and strongly resisted the influence of the Enlightenment-influenced Jadid reformers. Those associated with Khalidiya denounced the supporters of European education and organized campaigns against Tatar theater.
In 1932, the mosque closed, its three-tiered minaret was dismantled, and the building was converted into residential space. Blue Mosque returned to Muslims only in 1993, and in 2009 its three-tiered minaret was restored.