Voices From Russia, Too

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Photo Essay. The City of Kazan: A Meeting Place of Faiths

Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation, is a place where Christianity and Islam co-exist… and have co-existed in peace since the conquest of the city by Tsar Ivan Grozny in the 16th century. 49 percent of the population is Russian, 48 percent is Tatar, with the remainder being Chuvash, Ukrainian, Azeri, and Jewish. Most people follow either Sunni Islam or Orthodox Christianity; a small minority are Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, or Jewish.

The unique thing about the Kazan Kremlin is that Russian and Tatar monuments, and Orthodox Christian churches and Muslim mosques, stand here in close vicinity. This is a symbol of the fact that these two peoples (Russians and Tatars), who fought one another in the past, are united in the present. The Kazan Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Religous tolerance in Kazan is of long standing…

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Tower of the Saviour in the Kazan Kremlin…

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The Qol-Şärif Mosque is the largest and the most beautiful mosque in Kazan, being named after Khan Qolşärif, who died in battle, fighting the Russians. It opened in 2005, during the celebration of the Millennium of the City. The mosque complex also includes a hall, library, and Islamic Museum. 

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People of all different confessions are welcome to visit the mosque complex. The floor is covered with Persian carpets, presented by the Iranian government as a gift to the Tatar people. Besides that, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also presented gifts and money for the new mosque.

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Kazan students at a New Year’s Party at the Qol-Şärif Mosque complex, with the theme “The Ship of the Desert” (could that be why the kids all have toy stuffed camels?). As always, it’s the people…

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Annunciation Cathedral was the first Orthodox Christian church built in the Kazan Kremlin after the Russian conquest of the khanate. The first edifice, a modest wooden church, was later replaced by a stone building, which has been rebuilt many times over the years.

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The most important religious relic enshrined in the Cathedral of the Annunciation is an 18th century copy of the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God “of Kazan”.

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Catholic Church of the Holy Cross in Kazan…

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The dragon Zilant is the official symbol of Kazan, but the legends about him are contradictory. According to one version, the dragon was a good and kind creature that protected the city and the local people. However, another version says that he was very nasty, and that he was a pest. After the Tatars burnt his nest, he decided to take revenge. This  legend relates that he lives in the waters of the lake to this day, killing people from time to time.

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Legend has it that Tsar Ivan Grozny’s servants built the Suyumbike Tower centuries ago, as a gift for a beautiful Kazan queen named Suyumbike, who refused to marry the Tsar and threw herself down from the tower, instead.

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The Märcani Mosque dates from the times of Tsaritsa Yekaterina Veliki, and was built using the donations of the local Muslim population. It’s the oldest active mosque in Tatarstan, and it was the only mosque in Kazan that remained open throughout the entire Soviet period.

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The wonder-working icon of the Mother of God “of Kazan” was discovered in the city in 1579. The original was stolen in 1904, and it was never recovered, but an 18th century copy was returned to Kazan as a gift from John Paul II Wojtyła, the Pope of Rome. That icon is now enshrined in the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kazan Kremlin. 

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Kazan is a major city of over a million inhabitants… it even has an underground metro… this is the Prospekt Pobedy (Victory Prospect) station.

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Metro train coming into the aboveground Ametyovo Station

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Kazan State University (KGU)

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Here’s a proper way to end it all… “The Church of All Religions”…  the ensemble includes elements from the Orthodox , Muslim , Jewish , and Buddhist faiths (the traditional religions of Russia). This isn’t a “church”, it’s a private venture of the philanthropist Ildar Khanov.

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This is my response to the hatred and intolerance spewed out by the konvertsy, especially the oddball cult-like coterie surrounding Jonas Paffhausen. Trust me, Muslims and Orthodox Christians have lived in peace for centuries, not only in Russia, but in Iran, Iraq, the Lebanon, and Syria as well. When there have been problems in the recent past, most can be traced to Western interference. For instance, in Iraq, the persecution of the local Christians are a direct result of the effects of the brainless and unnecessary American invasion. The konvertsy spew out a venomous and rancid intolerance towards Muslims, secularists, leftists, and homosexuals that’s unknown in the grounded Church. We do NOT share the convictions of the American Radical Right… we do NOT agree with Randall Terry… we do NOT hold the prejudices of the unwashed Bubba Sectarians. We DO live in peace with all people of good will… as the example of Kazan shows us. We DO support social justice… as the statements of His Holiness prove (and we’ve never forgotten how the Communists stood tall for the Church against the hirelings of the American right-wingers in the Nasty ’90s). We DO show oikonomia towards all sorts of “different” people (that doesn’t mean that we approve of sin… it means that we’re cognizant of the fallen world). We’re Christ’s Church… and we take that seriously. As for the others… the less said, the better.

You can have tolerance shown by the peoples of Kazan… or you can have the robotic and cultish HOOMie lock-step brainwashing of Paffhausen and those like him. I’ve chosen… so should you. Chose well… your eternal destiny DOES depend on it.

BMD

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