Kazan Kremlin

Kazan in the Golden Horde Period


Second Half of the 13th —
First Half of the 15th Century

In 1236, the Volga Boulgaria was conquered by the Mongol-Tatars and, having lost its political independence, has completely become part of Ulus Juchi. The coming of the Mongols has left its imprint on the development of the Boulgar towns, including Kazan. Our city, most probably, was off the routes of the Mongol troops. No facts have been found so far testifying to its sacking, though the typical Mongol-Tatar arrowheads are sometimes found in the deposits of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Besides, Ahmed Gaffari, Persian historian of the second half of the 16th century, mentioned Kazan in one of his works among the towns belonging to the Mongols, such as Ukek, Majar, Buigar. Kazan of the Golden Horde period is also mentioned in the Steppe Book, a historical work written between 1563 and 1564. In Life of Fyodor Rostislavich Cheremnoy, prince of Smolensk and Yaroslavl, who took part in crushing the rebellion of the Volga Boulgars against the Mongols in 1277-1278, it is said that he was richly awarded by Mengu-Timur khan for his successful campaigns against Boulgars and Alans. The khan gave him his daughter as wife and 36 towns as a dowry. Kazan allegedly was among such towns. However, scientists argue about the reliability of the information given in these sources. The major part of them reckon that the Boulgar fortress-town was not conquered by the Mongols, was not destroyed, but was subordinated to them, though the degree of dependence was weaker compared to central lands of the former Boulgaria.

After the Volga Boulgaria and Russian principalities were included into common administrative system of the Golden Horde, the role of Kazan as a frontier fortress was lost. It kept developing as a centre of crafts and trade, but at the same time, as the saying goes, slowly but steadily it was turning into politico-administrative centre of the region. This was supported by large-scale migration of the Bouigarsfrom central trans-Kama lands northwards, where they occupied basins of rivers Mesha, Kazanka, and Vyatka. The population of settlements near Kazan has grown. Among the migrants also were the Boulgar princes who were dissatisfied with the policy of the Juchids. It was by that time, when, according to available data, the Kaban settlement was founded on a high projection of the hilly eastern bank of the Middle Kaban Lake. There, there is a cemetery with a stone gravestone installed on the grave of a Boulgar princess. The inscription on the stone runs: Altyn Bertek [Golden Grain], daughter of Yaidash, son of Ba+. May God grant his grace to her. She came back from the unstable world to the world of eternity the year six hundred ninety six in the month of Zulhija on the eighth day in the morning [27 September 1297]. Death is a door, and all will enter it. Oh, I wish I knew of my abode after death.

The second half of the 14th century was marked by deep political crisis in Ulus Juchi, which started the process of the setting apart of the Boulgar lands.

Already in 1361 the Golden Horde prince Boulat-Timur attempted to establish his own, independent of Sarai, ulus in Bolgar. Some time later the power in it was seized by prince Khasan. The Horde temnik (commander of 10,000 warriors) Mamai decided to take back the Boulgar Ulus by enthroning his protegee with the help of Russian princes. For this he sent his ambassador to Suzdal prince Dmitry Konstantinovich in 1370, who having gathered many warriors, hurried up to Buigar. Emir Khasan met them with many gifts, and they, having taken the gifts, have enthroned Saltan, the son of Bak. The new prince, however, preferred not to conflict with Khasan and allocated to him the vast lands with the centre in Kazan. Khasan has become the first ruler of the new Kazan principality. It is believed that the name of the town, which originated as late as in the period of the Golden Horde only, i.e. in the second half of the 14th century, is connected with the name of the Boulgar emir Khasan. With all the attractiveness and soundness, this hypothesis, in our opinion, is far from reality. By the 14th century the town already had three-hundred-year-old history and, of course, had its own name, which was used for many years of its existence. Its origin is most probably connected to hyrdonym Kazan(su).

The grave of Khasan is located in the Kaban settlement mentioned above. On the prince's gravestone there is an inscription: He is alive that does not die [everyone who lives will die]. This is the place of burying a great and noble ruler, aide to rulers, honoured and victorious emir + pride of the family + and faith, the shadow of God of the worlds. Khasan-bek, son of Mir-Makhmoud.

Starting from the time of emir Khasan, Kazan becomes an active participant of historic events in Eastern Europe, Its name appeared in Russian chronicles, it became a target for assaults of ushkuiniks (river pirates), etc.

Approximately at the same time, in the second half of the 14th century, the name of the town appears on West-European maps. On the famous map of brothers Francisco and Dominico Pizigani constructed in 1367 in Italy, a large town with a fluttering flag on a tower is shown on the place of Kazan, though its name is not given. Many other medieval maps of the 14th and 15th centuries (the earliest of them being the so-called Catalan map drawn by Abraham Cresques in 1375) have the skyline of a similarly large town on the place of Kazan, to the north of the junction of the Volga and Kama, with the Latin name Castrum (variants: Castrama, Castarma), which means a fortress, fortified locality. If we take into account that medieval maps indicated, first of all, capital cities and large trading centres, then Kazan indicated on these maps, as we can assume, had already been quite well-known in the world of that time.

Thus, at the time of the Golden Horde, Kazan was vigorously making itself known on the historical arena. Once a border town, it turned into one of the important economic and political centres in the Middle Volga region. This is reflected in the pace of the town's development. By the late 13th century it was still within the limits of a small pre-Mongol settlement, which consisted, as the majority of medieval towns, of two topographic parts: a fortified fortress and a trading quarter adjoining its walls. Gradually the town was expanding southwards along the top of the Kremlin hill. Unfortified trading quarter by the early 15th century reached the crossroads of the present-day Kremlevskaya and Chernyshevsky Streets. To the east of the Kremlin, in the area of the Bogoroditsky Monastery, appeared a fortified settlement, known from the copyists' books (cadastres) and other sources of the 16th century as the Old Settlement.

The centre of the town was still the city on the Kremlin hill with the ruler's residence. As before, it was within the same limits, and did not expand over the entire period of principality's existence. It was there where the treasures containing the Juchid coins of the late 14th century (found in 1909] and early 15th century (found in 1893) were located. The town walls kept functioning without significant changes. Probably, they were not seriously destroyed or reconstructed. The traces of local destruction and repair were only found on its small sections.

The growth of the town was connected with the growth of its inhabitants. This fact has, after all, determined the formation of the building system. By the end of the Golden Horde period, a town pattern has shaped inside the fortified settlement, which existed without radical change practically until the end of the 17th century. Dwelling houses were built along narrow wood paved streets, which were archaeologically revealed.

The town had a socially and ethnically motley population. The nature of the abundant material from the Golden Horde layer is different from finds of the earlier and later deposits. Ceramic dishware has the closest analogue in the materials of the Lower- and Middle Volga towns of the Golden Horde. Such dishware take roots in the developed and highly technological pottery of the previous times. The fact that representatives of Russian principalities also lived in Kazan can be proved by specific white clay dishware produced in potteries of towns of the North-East Rus. The ceramic material testifies also to the presence in the territory of the town of the local Finnish (Cheremiss) population.

Describing the lifestyle of the town's inhabitants, we would like to note that even at that time it was connected with trade, traditional for Kazan. Because of the change in the political situation of the region and the activity of merchants themselves, Kazan was gradually acquiring the status of an international trading centre to substitute Bulgar. To this testify the finds from excavations in the Kremlin: imported glazed ceramics with polychrome painting from the Lower Volga region and Central Asia, fragments of ceiadon bowls from China, and some Golden Horde coins.

Renewal of stone construction after the pre-Mongol period began probably in the early 15th century. The fragments of glazed facing tiles of light blue and ultramarine colours are quite often found in the territory of Kazan Kremlin in the Golden Horde layers. They were used to decorate facades of mosques, rich palaces and other public places.

The whole body of the available sources on the history of Kazan of the late 14th and early 15th centuries testifies to considerable achievements of the town's population in economic, political, and cultural life. By the time when the Horde of Ulug Moukhammad emerged on the Middle Volga, Kazan already subjugated other principalities of the Boulgar uius. The town of Bulgar completely lost its former power and role of the centre of Boulgar lands. Shigaboutdin Marjani, an outstanding Tatar historian and public figure of the 19th century wrote: Because of numerous distempers and misfortunes that fell upon Boulgaria, its former well-being began declining and gradually was transferred onto Kazan, which inherited the former glories of the Boulgars. In the early 15th century Kazan was called the New Bulgar (Bolgar al-Jadid). The prevailing circumstances made its turning into the capital of the Kazan Khanate inevitable.