‘Kazan Observatories’: A new UNESCO World Heritage Site in Russia (PHOTOS)

UNESCO World Heritage Centre
The university’s two observatories from Russia’s republic of Tatarstan were included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage at the Committee’s latest session in Saudi Arabia in September 2023.

The two astronomical observatories of the Kazan Federal University collectively became the 32nd site of the UNESCO World Heritage in Russia (and the 21st of cultural sites). 

As the Russian ministry of culture concludes, the site “epitomizes the unbroken thread of history, science and culture from its pioneering work in the development of astronomy, astrophysics and space geodesy in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the present day.”

Kazan University is one of the oldest in Russia. And it has two astronomical observatories: one is located in the center of Kazan, while the other is in the suburbs. Both of them have preserved unique ancient observational instruments.

The first, The Kazan City Astronomical Observatory, was founded in 1811 by Austrian scientist Josef Litrov, the first head and professor of the local astronomy department. In 1838, the permanent observatory building was completed right on the University campus. It’s a semicircular mansion with three domed towers, where the observing equipment was installed.

Over time, however, it turned out that it was not too convenient to observe the stars in the center of the city, because of the strong illumination. In the late 1890s, prominent Russian astronomer Vasily Engelhardt donated unique equipment from his Dresden observatory to Kazan University.

The emperor, meanwhile, allocated funds that allowed for the construction of another observatory – this time outside the city. The suburban astronomical observatory, which bears the name of Engelhardt, was opened in 1901. In 2013, a planetarium was opened at the observatory.

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