Kazan Kremlin

Modern Kremlin

The Kazan Kremlin is a medieval fortress; its inner space has a regular plan and contains buildings dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries, with remains of the 10th–16th century fortifications and structures.

The Kremlin is situated in the central part of Kazan, on the cape of an elevated terrace of the left bank of the river Kazanka (the maximum elevation change of the hill is 28m).

The Kremlin territory is an irregular polygon, elongated in the north-to-south direction because of the site’s topography.

At present the Kremlin includes several historical, architectural, and archaeological complexes, including:

  • fortifications;
  • Governor’s Palace and Syuyumbeki’s Tower;
  • Annunciation Cathedral;
  • Public Offices;
  • Saviour-Transfiguration Monastery;
  • Cadets’ School;
  • Cannon Foundry;
  • archaeological layers range from 3m to 8m.

Principal historic buildings and complexes in Kazan Kremlin

The fortifications

The fortifications were built in stages. In 1556–62 the masters of Pskov, headed by Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Shiryai, generally replicated the earlier Tatar fortifications. The walls and towers were completed by the early 17th century and then extended in the 18th century. The first walls were built in stone (mid 16th century), then in stone and brick (late 16th century), and finally in brick (18th and 19th centuries).

There were originally thirteen fortress towers, but some were pulled down in the 19th century. Since 1951 the fortifications have been subject to repair and reconstruction work. The main entrance to the Kremlin, the Spasskaya Tower, with the tower church of the Vernicle, is situated in the southern section of the embankment, built in 1556–62. In the 1670s the tower had a new upper part. The complex was restored in 1957 and 1970–75.

Within the different sections of the fortifications there have been archaeological excavations, and remains have been discovered of earlier structures from the 11th and 12th centuries and from later periods.

The Governor’s Palace complex

This complex is situated high in the northern part of the Kremlin, on the site of the Kazan Khan’s Palace complex, of which some remains survive.

The present palace was built in 1845-48 to the design of K A Ton, the architect of the Church of Christ the Saviour and the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. The palace consists of the main building and a low semicircle of outhouses to the north, with a passage to the inner court. This is a two-storey building in brick. The main facade faces the square and is symmetrical; motifs of late Russian Classicism dominate the interior decoration. Repair and renovation have been in progress since 1950; the entrance halls were renovated in 1979 and the main facade in 1983.

The 17th century Palace Church is situated west of the palace; it was refurbished and dedicated anew to the Descent of the Holy Spirit in 1852.

Syuyumbeki’s Tower is the architectural symbol of the city. Its name goes back to a Tatar tsarina, Syuyumbeki, wife of the last two Khans of Kazan. It was built at the end of the 17th and the early 18th century as a passageway. From 1941 to 1991 the tower was subject to various restoration and consolidation works. The complex includes remains from 15th and 16th century mausolea and some 13th and 14th century structures.

The Annunciation Cathedral complex

The complex is situated in the north-eastern part of the Kremlin, evolving from the 16th century as the centre of the Orthodox Church administration. The Annunciation Cathedral is the largest construction of the Kremlin, built in 1561–62 as a five-domed, six-pillar, three-apse church with two chapels connected by a porch. There were modifications in 1694, in 1736, in 1842–43, and 1863. In the 1930s the bell-tower, the west porch, and the domes were pulled down.

The central volume, built in white stone, has however preserved its original spatial composition. The sanctuary part has preserved its 16th and 17th century interiors. In 1973–86 the cupolas were reconstructed and the eastern part of the complex was restored. Restoration has been in progress since 1996, including work on paintings. The Bishop’s House on the south-eastern side of the cathedral was built in 1829. The Consistory, which closes the complex from the south, was rebuilt in the 18th century and refurbished in the 19th century. There are archaeological remains from buildings of the 12th to the 16th centuries.

The Public Offices complex

The complex is situated in the south-eastern part of the Kremlin and has evolved historically as an administrative centre. It includes the Public Offices building and the Guard House. The former was built in the 1770s to the design of V I Kaftyrev, the author of the first regular plan of Kazan. It included an earlier building of the Provincial Chancellery by the same architect. The facades were rebuilt in the 1840s. The three-storey Guard House was built in brick on the site of a military depot in the mid 19th century. The facades have sparse ornamentation, large windows, and a low-pitched roof. Comprehensive renovation work was carried out in 1998.

The Saviour-Transfiguration Monastery complex

Situated in the south-eastern part of the Kremlin next to the Spasskaya Tower, the construction of the complex started in 1557. The monastery was the centre of missionary work and the burial grounds for prelates, respected citizens, and nobility of Kazan. The Saviour-Transfiguration Cathedral in the centre of the area was built in 1595–1601 and demolished in the 1920s. The basement in white stone has survived until the present day. The church of St Nicholas the Thaumaturgist and its refectory are situated to the west of the cathedral. The church was originally built in 1558 and then rebuilt by A Schmidt in 1815. The ground floor survives from the 16th century and is in white stone. Renovation work has been going on since 1993. The Brethrens’ Building is situated north-east of the cathedral, adjoining the monastery fence. Built in brick, the cells date from 1670, the treasurer’s house from the 18th century, and a gallery from 1892.

The Saviour-Transfiguration Monastery catacomb is underground near the cathedral. It was built in 1592 to serve as a burial ground for the wonder-workers of Kazan.

Cadets’ School complex

Built in the 19th century on the site of a mosque and a monastery, the complex consists of two schools and the former barracks. The Kul-Sharif mosque is currently being reconstructed. The Cadets’ School, built in the 1840s in brick and plastered, was originally two storeys high but a third floor was added in the Soviet period. The Riding School was erected in the 1880s, measuring 56m x 71m and with a span of 17m with a suspended ceiling. There is a proposal to renovate the building, converting it into a picture gallery.

The Artillery Cannon Foundry

This complex originated in the late 17th century and was built on the site of a military depot and the building of the Khan’s guards. The buildings were one and two storeys high and formed a large foundry yard. The main building was rebuilt in the 18th and early 19th centuries, to correspond with the new orientation of the Great Street, following the 1768 plan. In the early 19th century the cannon works was one of the largest in Russia: it was constructed to the design of the engineer Betancourt. In 1815 there was a fire which damaged all the Kremlin and put an end to foundry activities. From 1825 to 1837 the former arsenal and foundry were refurbished as a school. The Main Building of the complex was renovated in 1995-99; the North Building has been under repair since 1996 and the South Building and West Building since 1995.

Legal status

The Kazan Kremlin complex is the property of the Republic of Tatarstan. It is protected by law as a historic and cultural monument, pursuant to the Council of Ministers’ Decree of 1960. The protected zone and the maintenance are regulated by the Project for Protected Zones of the Historic and Cultural Monuments of the City of Kazan, confirmed by the Ministerial Decree of 1988. This protection is complemented by other decrees dating from 1994 and 1995. The complex includes the residence of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan, other government buildings, a museum reserve, workshops, religious buildings, offices, a cafeteria, and a post office.



Action by ICOMOS

An ICOMOS mission visited the Kazan Kremlin in February 2000.


The historic citadel of the Kazan Kremlin represents an exceptional testimony of historical continuity and cultural diversity. Apart from its remarkable aesthetic qualities, the site has retained traces of its foundations in the 10th century, as well as from the Khanate period (15th to 16th centuries). The Kazan Kremlin is Russia’s only surviving Tatar fortress with traces of the original town-planning conception; the citadel results from a interaction of various cultures – Bulgar, Golden Horde, medieval Kazan-Tatar, Italian, Russian, and modern Tatar. It is the north-western limit of the spread of Islam, the southern extremity of the Pskov-Novgorod style, and a synthesis of Tatar and Russian architectural styles in its key monuments (Syuyumbeki’s Tower, the Annunciation Cathedral, and the Saviour Tower).

One should also emphasize the fact that the ensemble is inseparable from the surroundings and the entire city, where the historic quarters form the buffer zone. The new mosque that is being built within the complex can be understood as new construction in a historic context, where it contributes to the traditional continuity and a balance between the different cultural elements of the place. It should be noted that, considering the character of the site, such a new building should be considered to be strictly exceptional. Comparative analysis The situation in Kazan has differed markedly from that of other border provinces. This has contributed to a fullfledged synthesis of traditional Tatar architecture, rooted in the special Bulgar-Kazan architecture (the northern branch of medieval eastern architecture with some stylistic features of contemporary architecture) and felt through the medium of Russian culture.

The Kazan Kremlin is an example of a military-defence centre but also of a centre of authority and culture. Even though there are similarities with the Kremlin of Moscow, the Kazan fort has its particular identity, strongly characterized by the variety of cultural influences. This fortress was built to the highest standards of the time and it was among the best in Russia, considered to be impregnable. Kazan was a large administrative provincial centre, which had evolved principally from two traditions: Tatar-Russian and Oriental–European. It represents a series of outstanding architectural monuments, as well as a surviving cultural landscape and ancient occupation layer of the ground.

ICOMOS recommendations for future action Recognizing the outstanding universal significance of the site, ICOMOS draws attention to the careful consideration of future restoration and rehabilitation policies on the site. Brief description Built on an ancient site, the Kazan Kremlin originates from the Muslim period of the Kazan Khanate Golden Horde, and then conquered by Ivan the Terrible to become the Christian See of the Volga Land.

The only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia and an important pilgrimage place, the Kremlin consists of an outstanding group of historic buildings dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries, integrating remains of earlier structures of the 10th to the 16th centuries. Recommendation ICOMOS recommends that this site be inscribed on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria ii, iii, and iv:

Criterion ii The Kazan Kremlin complex represents exceptional testimony of historical continuity and cultural diversity over a long period of time, resulting in an important interchange of values generated by the different cultures.

Criterion iii The historic citadel represents an exceptional testimony of the Khanate period and is the only surviving Tatar fortress with traces of the original town-planning conception.

Criterion iv The site and its key monuments represent an outstanding example of a synthesis of Tatar and Russian influences in architecture, integrating different cultures (Bulgar, Golden Horde, Tatar, Italian, and Russian), as well as showing the impact of Islam and Christianity.

ICOMOS, September 2000