Tatarstan (Russian: Респу́блика Татарста́н rees-POOB-lee-kuh tuh-tuhr-STAHN) is a region (republic) in the Middle Volga, bordering Ulyanovsk Oblast to the southwest, Chuvashia to the west, Mari El to the northwest, Kirov Oblast to the north, Udmurtia to the northeast, Bashkortostan to the east, Orenburg Oblast to the southeast, and Samara Oblast to the south.
- 1 Kazan — the Tatar capital is a big and attractive city (the third most wealthy in Russia), very much worth a visit for its impressive kremlin, largest mosque in Russia, and just to soak up the Tatar culture
- 2 Almetyevsk — a mid-sized oil city
- 3 Naberezhnye Chelny — a major Soviet industrial city
- 4 Nizhnekamsk — a big oil city
- 5 Yelabuga — an old, small city notable for the ruins of an 11th century Volga Bulgarian castle, the birthplace of the great Russian landscape painter Ivan Shishkin, and the site of the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva's suicide
- 6 Zelenodolsk — a mid-sized city which has an important regional transit hub and shipbuilding yard; the famous Raifa Monastery is nearby
- 1 Bolghar — The world heritage listed ruins of the historic capital of Volga Bulgaria is considered in some ways to be the spiritual center of Tatarstan. The city walls and towers remain and the site was a pilgrimage destination for Muslims of the Soviet Union, who came here on a "Little Hajj," when barred from traveling to Mecca.
- 3 Volzhsko-Kamsky Nature Reserve (Volga-Kama Nature Reserve)
- Raifa section
- 4 Sviyazhsk Island
- 5 Kamaevo — a small village not too far from Kazan, which is next to the archaeological site and museum-reserve of Old Kazan
Tatarstan is a nation within a nation. Tatars are Russia's largest minority at about five million people. Although they are named after a Mongol tribe, the Tatars trace their origins to the ancient Volga Bulgars, who inhabited the Volga Region since at least the days of Ancient Greece, and who were conquered by the Golden Horde, which set up the powerful Kazan Khanate. They are predominantly Sunni Muslim, but have significant numbers of Orthodox Christians as well.
Kazan is the undisputed capital of the region and should be the principal destination for any traveler in the region. The Russian capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible was a truly momentous event in human history, marking the beginning of the end of Turkic and the rise of Russian dominance over the northern Eurasian continent. Today, it is perhaps the most interesting and vibrant city in the entire Volga Region, as the center of Tatar culture and also just as a big city with a lot to see and do.
Kazan's airport services flights from international cities such as Tashkent, Kyiv, Simferopol, Baku, Istanbul, Antalya, Dubai, and Frankfurt, as well as numerous Russian airports, including two daily flights from Moscow. The Begishevo Airport receives flights from Istanbul, Tashkent, Antalya, Simferopol, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and many other Russian cities.
The main rail line in the region is the Moscow-Kazan-Yekaterinburg Railway, which passes through Zelenodolsk, Kazan, and Agryz.
Kazan has the largest port on the Volga River and can be reached by boat from virtually any city in European Russia that has a river port.
Tatar cuisine is very different from Russian cuisine—more similar to other Central Asian cuisines (e.g., Uzbek). And it is really good. It is a diverse cuisine with a lot to try and food-lovers should make a point of hitting the many good restaurants in Kazan.
The national drink "qatiq," as with many Central Asian nations, is made from fermented milk. Despite of being predominantly Muslim, Tatars don't avoid alcohol.
Since Tatarstan is one of the most socially and economically successful and developed regions of Russia, and its most developed national republic, the region and especially its capital city Kazan attracts not only foreign workers and immigrants, but also residents of other regions of Russia. Even many residents of Moscow have their second or third house or apartment here. There are a lot of jobs and high salaries. Tatarstan attracts migrant workers from underdeveloped regions of Russia, as well as foreigners. Of the foreign immigrants and labor migrants, the most people here are from Uzbekistan (Tatars and Uzbeks consider each other kindred peoples and understand each other without an interpreter), as well as from Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Turkmens, Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs also consider Tatars to be brothers, while Tajiks consider them to be co-religionists.
The Republic of Tatarstan is now one of the safest (in every sense) regions of the Russian Federation, although from the 1970s to the late 1990s it was one of the gangster regions where Russian and Tatar gangs ruled, especially in the cities of Kazan, Naberezhnye Chelny and Nizhnekamsk. The city of Kazan is now recognized as one of the safest cities in Russia. Kazan is presented as the third capital (after Moscow and Saint Petersburg) of Russia, and is very tourist, where there are a lot of police patrols, so you can follow the usual precautions here, since pickpockets are also rare here.