Kazan's Kremlin. Source: PhotoXPress
After Moscow and St. Petersburg, it is difficult to say which city is third-most important in Russia. Novosibirsk is third most-populous. Nizhny Novgorod has sometimes been named as such.
But Kazan has a good case for two reasons - it is a major center of Russia's second-largest religion, Islam and, unlike many other cities in Russia, it is a growing place.
The center of Kazan is its Kremlin. Inside, is not only a church, but the Qolşärif Mosque, which was rebuilt and finished in 2005. It is the largest in Russia, and the largest in Europe outside of Istanbul.
The city is also holding the Universiade games in 2013 that is something like the OIympics for students. In preparation, new facilities and dorms are being built on the outskirts of the city. A Metro began operating in 2005 and a very advanced IT-park started operating in 2011.
Amid the growth, religious extremism is a concern. There is something of a union between Russian Islam and Russian orthodoxy that goes back centuries. However, new fears of Islamic extremism grew after a July bombing in broad daylight that injured the mufti of Kazan, Ildus Faizov, and his former deputy, Valiulla Yakupov, was shot in a separate attack on the same day.
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