World Cup Fever

The FIFA World Cup™ has reached a nerve-wracking stage as eight teams find themselves fighting for a spot in the semi-finals over the next few days. Today, Belgium will face Brazil at 21:00 local time. These teams met most recently in the 2002 World Cup last-16 stage, where Brazil defeated Belgium 2-0. Overall, they have played each other four times and Brazil have won three of these matches.

The match will take place at Kazan Arena, which was completed in 2013. It has a capacity of 45,000 and boasts one of the biggest high definition screens of its kind in the world. Kazan itself has been celebrated for its commitment to sport, earning the unofficial title of the ‘Sports Capital of Russia’ in recent years due to the number of significant events hosted in the city. Despite being a facility catered to football, Kazan Arena held the 2015 World Aquatics Championships and had two competition-sized swimming pools created within the stadium specifically for the event.

There is a long-running dispute as to whether Kazan was founded by the Volga Bulgars in the early Middle Ages or by the Tatars of the Golden Horde in the 15th century, as written records before the latter period are sparse. If there was a Bulgar City on the site, estimates of its foundation range from the early 11th century to the late 13th century.

The city went from strength to strength first as a border post, then as a trade centre. It was a good place for refugees from Mongolia to hide and was known for its trade in furniture. Later, it was forcibly taken by Russia and it was at this stage that a lot of the Tatar residents were killed, repressed or converted to Christianity. Places of traditional worship were ruined and the original Tatar population was forced to settle outside the city.

Though the city suffered under Russian rule at this time, it was rebuilt and continually in use throughout the years. During the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796) there was a rebirth of religious tolerance and mosques were allowed to be built in the city once more. However, there was still plenty of discrimination against the Tatar people which persisted through the years as the city continued to grow. After the Russian Revolution in 1905, Kazan was finally revived as a Tatar cultural centre. Tatar theatres and newspapers began to appear and the culture was slowly revitalised. This great city’s cultural legacy was once again threatened during the First and Second World Wars but was soon restored again in the 1990s.

Today Kazan is diverse and young, with over 180,000 students and more than 100 nationalities. This creates a vibrant city with a progressive attitude and a great sense of optimism and tolerance. The city has been undergoing a complete renovation since the beginning of the new millennium and a metro system opened in 2007. Kazan also has some amazingly beautiful sites such as the Kazan Kremlin which was declared a World Heritage Site in the year 2000. Built on an ancient site, the Kazan Kremlin dates from the Muslim period of the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate. It was conquered by Ivan the Terrible in 1552 and became the Christian See of the Volga Land. The only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia and an important place of pilgrimage, the Kazan Kremlin consists of an outstanding group of historic buildings dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. There is also the Annunciation Cathedral with its five beautiful domes and the leaning Soyembika Tower. Many of the buildings are splendidly ornate and leave an indelible mark on your memory.

Kazan certainly earns its place on our Trans-Siberian adventure, with the Kremlin Fortress being a key highlight for our guests. Learn more about the fascinating places you can visit aboard our train on the world's greatest railway journey by clicking the link below.

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