The Kazan Kremlin is the historic citadel of Tatarstan. It was built at the behest of Ivan the Terrible on the ruins of the former castle of Kazan khans. The Kazan Kremlin includes many old buildings, the oldest of which is the Annunciation Cathedral (1554-62), the only 16th-century Russian church to have six piers and five apses. Like many of Kazan"s buildings of the period, it is constructed of local pale sandstone rather than of brick. The renowned Pskov architects Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Shirjay were invited by the Tzar to rebuild Kazan Kremlin in stone. The cathedral bell tower was erected in five tiers at the urging of Ivan the Terrible and was scored to resemble the Ivan the Great Belltower in Moscow, but was pulled down by the Soviets in 1930.
The most conspicuous landmark of the Kazan Kremlin is the leaning Söyembikä Tower, which probably goes back to the reign of Peter the Great. A well-known legend connects the tower with the last queen of Kazan. Another recognizable architectural feature is the Spasskaya Tower, which anchors the southern end of the Kremlin and serves as the main entrance to the Kremlin.
The Spasskaya Tower is named after the Spassky Monastery, which used to be located nearby. Among the monastery"s buildings were the Church of St. Nicholas (1560s) and the Cathedral of the Saviour"s Transfiguration (1590s). They were destroyed by the Communists during Joseph Stalin"s rule.
Also of interest are snow-white towers and walls, erected in the 16th and 17th centuries but later renovated; the Qol-Şärif mosque, recently rebuilt inside the citadel; and the Governor"s House (1843-53), designed by Konstantin Thon, now the Palace of the President of Tatarstan. The Palace is believed to be located on the site of former Khan"s palace. Tucked between Presidential Palace and Söyembikä Tower is the palace church built on the foundation of medieval mosque.
Northern wall of the Kremlin contains another gated tower - Secret Tower, so named because it used to house a secret water supply well. This tower allows pedestrian access to Kremlin, but vehicle access is restricted to emergencies only.
The opening of the biggest mosque in Europe, the Qolşärif Mosque, was held in 2005. The facility was reconstructed on the site where presumably Kazan Khanate"s principal mosque had been standing before 1552.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.