1 of 6

Population: 1,143,600

Major industries: Construction, mechanical engineering, chemical, petrochemical, light and food industries, business incubators.

Mayor: Ilsur Metshin

Founded: The city’s founding is disputed; it was either founded in the 11th century by the Volga Bulgars or in the 1400s by the Tatars.

Interesting fact: The city is situated on seven hills, like Rome.

Helpful contacts:

City Hall spokesman Sergei Lobov (+7 843-299-1553; lobovkazan@mail.ru);

Linar Yakupov, head of the Tatarstan government’s committee for small and medium-sized business development (+7 843-570-4001; arprt@arprt.ru);

Khaidar Khaliullin, president of the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses of Tatarstan (+7 843-517-8066; asprendrt.ru)

Sister cities: Kabul, Afghanistan; Tlemcen, Algeria; Shumen, Bulgaria; the Chinese cities of Hangzhou and Lijiang; the Egyptian cities of Monufia and Qalyubia; Braunschweig, Germany; Hyderabad, India; Urbino, Italy; Tabriz, Iran; Jurmala, Latvia; Ulan-Ude, Buryatia, Russia; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; the Turkish cities of Antalya, Balikesir, Eskisehir and Istanbul; College Station, Texas, U.S.

KAZAN — If you left the ancient metropolis of Kazan in Tatarstan a decade ago, you would hardly recognize it upon returning today.

The city’s signature white-and-blue kremlin with minarets and Orthodox onion domes still stands majestic, elevated on the bank of the Kazanka River, but an infrastructure overhaul has added whole new neighborhoods to the city in a little more than half a decade.

Low-scale crumbling homes of brick and stone are being restored, coated with fresh paint and, in some places, are giving way to steel and glass high-rises.

The vibrant, pulsating city, which celebrated its millennium in 2005, added a metro, several sports arenas, one of the largest technoparks in Europe — Idea — and thousands of square meters of residential and office space since the early 2000s.

“The city is changing so quickly,” said lifelong Kazan resident Khaidar Khaliullin, 57. “New projects are growing like mushrooms.”

New projects, especially those related to sports, have sprouted up around the city, situated at the intersection of the Volga and Kazanka rivers. Kazan is preparing to host the 2013 Summer Universiade (kazan2013.com), when 10,000 university athletes from around the world will participate from July 6 to July 17 in 26 events with a total of 341 medals. In 2018, Kazan will be one of the cities to host the football World Cup.

Readers of the Sovietsky Sport newspaper named Kazan as the sports capital of Russia in 2009. But the city itself prefers to be known as the country’s “third capital” — and in 2009 registered the right to brand itself as such with the Russian patent office.

Kazan Helicopters (14 Tetsevskaya Ulitsa; +7 843-571-8181; kazanhelicopters.com) is one of the largest helicopter producers in the world. It is home of the Mil Mi-8/17 family of helicopters.

Vacuummash (58 Tulskaya Ulitsa; +7 843-278-6080; vacma.ru), founded in 1943, is Russia’s largest manufacturer of vacuuming equipment.

Kazan Synthetic Rubber Plant (1 Lebedeva Ulitsa; +7 843-278-3757; eng.kzck.ru) is Russia’s leading petrochemical producer. Founded in 1936, the plant makes more than 160 items, including sodium-butadiene rubber, polysulfide oligomers and silicone rubber.

The tourism industry is rapidly developing in the city where Tolstoy and Lenin spent their student years. Some new projects include a water taxi station on the historic Sviyazhsk Island and Kamskiye Fields campground and spa.

Billions of rubles have been invested into the republic, known as a manufacturing hub. The region’s major industries include mining, oil, chemical and agricultural production as well as factories that pump out helicopters and boats.

Small businesses involved in trade, like shops and distributors, are flourishing, accounting for 25 percent of the region’s economy, significantly higher than the 20 percent national average. Their local share will swell to 34 percent over the next four years, according to Tatarstan President Rustan Minnikhanov. 

“It is necessary for us to form a business atmosphere where every economically active person can open and successfully operate their own business,” Minnikhanov said at a conference March 16.

Ilsur Metshin,

Kazan mayor

Q: What makes Kazan attractive to investors?

A: Kazan is the leader among the country’s 10 largest cities as far as business opportunities are concerned. Last year, investment in the city’s economy totaled 113 billion rubles. Its share of GDP was 36.9 percent, twice the national rate. Kazan tops the list thanks to its cost-efficient procedures for establishing company and property registration.

We are located in the central part of Russia and a strategically important route from Moscow to the Far East — and from Western Europe to China — goes through Kazan. Besides, the city is situated on one of Russia’s most important waterways — the Volga River and is near the confluence with its major tributary, the Kama River.

Come. You may never want to leave.

Q: Which segments of Kazan’s economy are particularly attractive to investors?

A: First of all: trade, catering, domestic services, construction and IT technology. We are among the top three cities in Russia in regards to the quality of retail space and business centers. The city is rapidly developing large shopping centers. Kazan’s potential is far from exhausted and speaks of the high purchasing power of its inhabitants.

Q: Why visit Kazan?

A: It is in Kazan that Europe meets Asia. Two great peoples — the Russians and the Tatars — have lived in peace and harmony for centuries, and Christian churches stand side by side with Muslim mosques.

Only in Kazan can you try such ethnic Tatar dishes as chak-chak, belyash, echpochmak, gubadia, talkysh-kaleve and other traditional pastries and observe ethnic festivals such as Sabantui, Eid al-Adha, Shrovetide and Karavon.

— Khristina Narizhnaya

Kazan ranks first out of Russian cities with the most favorable climate for entrepreneurs in a recent study by the New Economic School and consulting firm Ernst Young. 

But small businesses have much room to develop, said Khaliullin, who is president of the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses of Tatarstan.

“I can’t say small business development is on a high level here,” Khaliullin said. “It could grow provided that the president continues to act the way he does.”

The city and the republic have been actively trying to attract foreign investment. Sukuk, or Islamic no-interest bonds, will most likely debut in Kazan this year.

Despite Tatarstan’s traditional Muslim roots, Kazan is a multicultural city with a surprisingly harmonious mix of mosques, Orthodox churches, narrow European-style streets with Baroque architecture, large Soviet blocks and modern high-rises.

Unlike some parts of Russia, locals exhibit a high level of tolerance toward foreigners — both light- and dark-skinned.

The local kremlin includes both a mosque and a Christian Orthodox church, and crosses are sold alongside Islamic rings at jewelry stores. All signs are in Russian and Tatar, and both languages can be heard with equal frequency.

What to see if you have two hours

Drop by the majestic local kremlin (+7 843-292-7883; kazan-kremlin.ru/main), a UNESCO site since 2000, to admire structures from the 16th to 19th centuries. The site, where some elements date back to the 1200s, includes one of the oldest Russian Orthodox cathedrals alongside the newly constructed Kul Sharif mosque, the largest mosque in Europe, as well as Islamic, Tatar and art museums and government buildings.

Take a lazy walk down Ulitsa Baumana, Kazan’s equivalent of Moscow’s Arbat, which stretches 1.3 kilometers from the kremlin to Tukai Square in the city center. The city’s oldest street is a monument of architecture from different historic periods, as well as a main thoroughfare with shops, cafes, restaurants and clubs.

To learn about the unique Tatar culture, history and scientific achievements, visit the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan (2 Kremlyovskaya Ulitsa; +7 843-292-7162; tatar.museum.ru). The museum, founded in 1895, is the largest in Tatarstan and houses a collection of more than half a million items on the natural history of Tatarstan, Egyptian and antique artifacts, and collections of golden coins, ancient books and folk art of the Tatar people. Admission costs 100 rubles ($3.50), while tours in English are priced at 2,000 rubles ($70).

What to do if you have two days

Linar Yakupov,

Chairman of Tatarstan’s committee for the development of small and medium-sized businesses

Q: Why is it smart to open a business in Kazan?

A: Kazan has a developed business infrastructure — we have large banks, consulting companies and logistics centers, and we offer a sophisticated commercial estate market. We have a support system for business, from technoparks and business incubators to industrial spaces. The large number of local universities provides qualified manpower. Tatarstan’s leader and the government pay special attention to business development and to attracting investment.

Q: What is the best sector for small and medium-sized businesses?

The emphasis is now on the service sector. There is a large niche in the social services business — private kindergartens, schools, private medicine. Notable also are IT companies, and for them we have an IT park in Kazan.

Q: What advice do you have for potential investors?

A: Don’t be afraid of anything and start working. The government tries to help. Soon we will have a new department, an agency for investment development, whose main function will be to attract investment and follow investment projects in Tatarstan.

Q: What do you like best about Kazan?

A: The kremlin. It’s a historic place, and walking there, you feel in touch with what has happened there.

— Khristina Narizhnaya

Visit Lenin and Tolstoy’s alma mater, Kazan State University (18 Kremlyovskaya Ulitsa; +7 843-292-7600; ksu.ru). Founded in 1804, the university is one of Russia’s oldest and largest cultural centers and known for its science and math studies. Among its other well-known alumni is mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky, who enrolled just three years after the university opened and made a name for himself with his pioneering work in hyperbolic geometry.

A short ride northeast of the city is Raifa Monastery, Kazan’s largest operating monastery. The monastery is known for miracles. According to locals, the place is so holy that frogs living in the adjacent lake don’t croak when perched on the bank nearest the monastery.  

What to do with the kids

Draw screams of delight from your children with Riviera Aquapark (1 Ulitsa Fatikh Amirkhana; +7 843-526-5757; kazanriviera.ru/en), one of the largest waterparks in Europe. Portions of the complex are open year-round and feature waterslides, pools, saunas and a pool with artificial waves for surfers.

During the summer months, catch sun with the locals on an artificial beach on the north shore of the Kazanka River, which divides the city in half.


With strict face control and “golden citizen cards,” or membership cards for VIP patrons, State 51 (1 Khrushchyovsky Val; +7 843-292-4546; state51.ru) is the most exclusive club in Kazan. The club, located on the bottom floor of the Parus entertainment complex, features American cuisine and events every night that include strip shows, jazz and blues bands, professional DJs and magicians. Entrance — if you can get in — is free.

Dance to European DJs and mix with Russian models, local gangsters and Russia’s golden youth at Ermitage Club (1A Moskovskaya Ulitsa; +7 843-526-5626; ermitageclub.ru). It boasts that about 2,000 people visit its two dance floors, VIP lounge, bowling and bars every night. Admission is 300 to 350 rubles ($10-$12)

Where to eat

Airat Gizzatullin,

CEO of Idea Capital,

the company that manages Khimgrad industrial park and part of Idea, one of the largest technoparks in Europe

Q: Why pick Kazan to open an industrial park?

A: Kazan is one of the more dynamically developing cities in Russia. Kazan is not only a city of sports champions, but also a leader in creating infrastructure for innovation and the development of small business.

Q: What advice would you offer entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Kazan?

A: Bravely come with your projects to Tatarstan. Research shows that barriers for business development in Kazan are minimal and the opportunities are immense.

Q: Why should entrepreneurs come to Kazan?

A: Success is waiting for them.

Q: What do you like best about the city?

A: I love the banks of the Kaban lake and the kremlin at night — it looks enchanting above the river. Our city is beautiful.

— Khristina Narizhnaya

Tango (38 Ulitsa Bratyev Kasimovykh; +7 843-229-2267; tangorest.ru) is Kazan’s oldest restaurant and features a Mediterranean menu specializing in fresh seafood. Dishes like the oyster soup, clams in Champagne sauce and grilled crucian carp make the restaurant one of the best in the city. Dinner for two with drinks and dessert is about 4,000 rubles ($140). The restaurant also includes an Irish pub and a summer veranda.  

For a taste of Tatar cuisine, dine at Dom Tatarskoi Kulinarii (31/12 Ulitsa Baumana; +7 843-292-3520; domtk.ru), centrally located and highly recommended by locals. Mutton dishes are most popular and include mutton cold cuts served in broth and mutton steak with eggs. Dinner for two with drinks and dessert is about 4,000 rubles ($140).

Where to stay

The newly built Hotel Riviera (1A Ulitsa Fatykha Amirkhana; +7 843-511-2121; kazanriviera.ru/en) is Kazan’s tallest building and located at the popular waterpark. International and domestic celebrities are known to stay or just visit the bar and restaurant located inside. Rooms cost from 3,200 rubles ($113) for a single to 33,000 rubles ($1,165) for the presidential suite.

Hotel Mirage (1A Moskovskaya Ulitsa; +7 843-278-0505; mirage-hotel.ru/lang/en) is Kazan’s first five-star business hotel and located right across the road from the kremlin. Rooms range from 4,680 rubles ($165) for a double to 28,800 rubles ($1,017) for the presidential suite.

Culture tips

Everything in Kazan is written is in two languages, Tatar and Russian, although occasionally you see some English. Tatars are Muslim, while most Russians living in Kazan are Orthodox Christian. There are many intermarriages, and Tatars are considered more family-oriented than Russians.

Conversation starters

Because much of the city is being rebuilt, many of the roads are closed, creating traffic that almost rivals Moscow’s standstills. Residents like to complain about the traffic jams as much as they praise all the changes happening in the city.

Get a smile from the locals by mentioning the upcoming Universiade, a source of pride for many in Kazan.

How to get there

The Kazan International Airport (+7 843-267-8807; airport.kazan.ru) receives direct flights from all three main Moscow airports and an eclectic mix of foreign destinations, including three cities in Uzbekistan, Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Frankfurt. Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines are among the foreign airlines that fly directly to the city. A round-trip ticket for the 90-minute flight from Moscow starts at $150 to $200.

A taxi is the best way to get into the city since the airport is about 27 kilometers southeast of Kazan. The airport’s official taxi service is Taxi-S (+7 843-500-0005; taxikazancity.ru), and a car can be ordered at the terminal or by phone. The fare is 800 rubles ($28) for the 30-minute ride to downtown Kazan.

Aeroexpress, the airport express train service in Moscow, is expanding to Kazan and plans to build a train from the airport to the city.

A train from Moscow’s Kazansky Station takes about 12 hours and arrives at Kazan’s train station near the city center. Plans to build a high-speed rail line to connect Moscow with the city for the 2018 World Cup are in the works, with construction expected to start in 2013.

Leave a comment