Venture outside of Kazan for a taste of some of the region’s rich history, or a glimpse at a future for Russia many would like to see realised more widely. The city on the Volga is surrounded by historical sites: from the capital of the ancient Volga Bulgar state to the house where poet Marina Tsvetaeva took her life in 1941. Take a boat trip on the Volga to get to some of these destinations, or leave the city by road for a trip to Innopolis, a new city devoted to innovation and the IT industry.
The gently-flowing Kama River, remains of the ancient Bolgar settlement of Yelabuzhskoe Gorodische, the house where poet Marina Tsvetaeva took her own life, a graveyard for Japanese soldiers, 19th century architecture — all of this can be found 200 kilometres from Kazan in the town of Yelabuga. Allow an entire day for the trip, and make sure to bring enough food for the journey.
A modern public space with a wide variety of summer and winter activities, the Gorkinsko-Ometevsky forest is also a beautiful natural space within the city’s bounds (although far from the centre) and has good leisure facilities. This is one of the major successes of Kazan’s urban revolution.
Address: 60 Prospekt Pobedy
Pretty much every major episode of Russian history has touched the village of Sviyazhsk, which lies to the west of Kazan on the Volga River. Ivan the Terrible used it as a stronghold when he unsuccessfully marched on Kazan in the 16th century. Lenin used it for a similar purpose in the civil war and under Stalin it was a prison camp. When swathes of the Volga were dammed in the 1950s, only parts of the village survived. It makes for a great day trip from Kazan, especially if you take the two-hour boat trip. Head to the river port for information on times, or book an excursion with any major tour operator in the city.
Bolgar State Historical and Architectural Museum Reserve
The ancient town of Bolgar is the world’s most northerly example of the Muslim architecture from the Middle Ages and a monument to the former state of Volga Bulgaria where, in 922, the Volga Bulgars, forebears of the Kazan Tatars, converted to Islam. Sites of interest include the Northern and Eastern mausoleums, the Khans’ Mausoleum, the Black and White chambers, and the newly built White Mosque and Museum of Bread.
Innopolis is Russia’s youngest town, built in three years and officially opened in 2015. The town revolves around Innopolis University, which was founded to develop the IT sector both regionally and nationwide. This innovation-mad town, where students communicate with their housing officers via a messenger service, is home to about 2,000 people. Many more commute in from Kazan or attend regular conferences and events. Just 60 kilometres outside of Kazan, Innopolis feels like a microcosm of the future.