Kazan is the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan, one of 21 semi-autonomous ethnic republics in the Russian Federation. It is located at the convergence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers about 800 kilometers east of Moscow. The city’s population is divided almost equally between the Tatars, who are historically Muslim, and the Russians, who are historically Orthodox Christian. The dismantling of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s kindled a slow but steady religious movement in the Republic of Tatarstan and across Russia. In Kazan, churches and mosques were rebuilt, the Tatar language became an officially recognized language of Tatarstan alongside Russian, and ancient traditions kept alive in small villages fully integrated back into city life. The 2000s brought an even more stable and safe environment for the city’s residents and with that came a stronger resurgence of religious and cultural expression and identity, particularly among the youth. What makes Kazan so extraordinary is that this process of religious revival has unfolded not only with a marked lack of tension, but often with a spirit of mutual respect.
Freelance photojournalist based in New York City and Kazan, Russia