On the banks of the Volga River, some 140 km from the Tatarstan capital Kazan, there are ruins of the legendary ancient city of Great Bolgar. It was one of the greatest cities of the medieval Golden Horde Empire. Now it is an important pilgrimage destination for Russian Muslims. Apart from the ancient ruins, all that remains of Great Bulgar is the village of Bolgary and the walls of a large mosque with a minaret dating back to the 13th century. Across the street from the entrance to the mosque there is a well-preserved Northern Mausoleum (which was used by the Bolgari nobility). To the east of the mosque is the Eastern mausoleum, which was converted to an Orthodox church in the 18th century.
The 10th-15th century Bolgar settlement is a federal monument located 200 km of Kazan, the Republic of Tatarstan, the Russian Federation. The territory comprises the archaeological cultural 5 meter-deep laye with seven cultural strata formed in the period from the 5th century till present, representing the most valuable archaeological heritage, several stone and brick public and religious buildings dating back to the 13th-14th centuries.
The Bolgar Complex is an outstanding example of medieval Muslim architecture and archaeology, and it is the most extant monument in Eastern Europe. It is the northernmost monument of Muslim architecture and the unique one of the 13th-14th century Bolgar-Tatar high level identical architecture in Eurasia.
This ground is sacred for Muslims as Volga Bolgarians officially adopted Islam here in 922. The place is of a special religious importance and represents the highest level intangible Muslim heritage. It has been a place of worship and pilgrimage since the 16th century.
In the east the settlement borders with the city of Bolgar, the district centre, in the west it adjoins the township of Privolzhskiy and includes a 30 meter-high edge of the Volga terrace. Since the 18th century a part of the Bolgar settlement has been occupied by the village of Bolgary with extant houses and a traditional way of living; its current population is 98 people.
In 1969, the Bolgar State Historical and Architectural Reserve, funded from the republican budget, was established on the territory of the settlement.
The Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex is a unique evidence of the strong early medieval states of Volga Bulgaria and the Golden Horde existence. The civilization vanished jointly with this states in the 16th century but determined the features of religion, culture, customs and traditions for the inhabitants of this region and gave birth to the modern Tatar ethnos, which is Russia’s second largest one, and to other nations of the Volga-Urals region. At present, the Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex is the only real trace proving the existence of Volga Bolgaria and the Golden Horde in its flowering.
The spatial layout of the complex is a great example of advanced urbanism in Eurasia, which is one of the major signs of civilization. Other civilizational features include coin-minting, coin circulation and the development of the monetary-weight system. In the 10th century and in 1240-1330, silver and copper coins were minted in Bolgar. The development of international, interregional and inland trade, cultural cooperation and cultural symbiosis of settled and nomadic nations are well seen through archaeological discoveries dating back to the 10th-15th centuries.
In 1998, the Russian Federation submitted the nomination of the Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex, along with Sviyazhsk and the Kazan Kremlin, for inscription on the World Heritage List; the nomination was recommended by ICOMOS under criterion III.
Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex includes: Cathedral Mosque, The Larger Minaret, The Eastern Mausoleum, The Northern Mausoleum, The Assumption Church, Khans Palace, Khans Shrine, The Smaller Minaret, The Black Chamber, The White Chamber, The Eastern Chamber, Captains Well, The White Mosque.
June 14, 2015, during the annual traditional holiday “Izge Bolgar zhyeny”, dedicated to the anniversary of the adoption of Islam by the Volga Bulgars in 922, the Central Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia together with the Muslim Religious Board of the Republic of Tatarstan voiced an idea of creating the first Islamic Academy.
This appeal was supported by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. In his speech the President expressed his approval of the proposed initiative. He said that the new institution will help revive the ancient spiritual and scientific center of Muslims. The Bulgarian Islamic Academy will become a religious and spiritual educational center. The world famous scientists will be attracted in the university, the academy plans to produce religious personnel for Russia and CIS countries. The largest Muslim library and information center will be also located here.