Kasimov Tatars are unique not only because of their history, but also because of their geographical location – the successors of the Golden Horde, descendants of sayyids, located in the very heart of the Ryazan region, managed to preserve their faith – Islam – and erect a lot of mosques, teaching the fundamentals of the religion to all comers.
The evidence of this is the recently published photo book “The Shadows of the Kasim Khanate”, the presentation of which was held not long ago in Kazan. The solemn ceremony was attended by Vasil Shaikhraziev, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan and Chairman of the National Council of the World Congress of Tatars, Rushan Abbyasov, Deputy Chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims and the Council of Muftis of the Russian Federation and Director General of the “Read” publishing house, Renat Abyanov, a historian, Head of the Department of Culture of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Russian Federation, and Marat Sapharov, a historian and journalist. The latter two took the most active part in the events as they had been making ethnographic and historical expeditions to Kasimov and its neighboring villages and settlements for several years. In all, it took the authors four years, during which Renat Abyanov and Marat Sapharov interviewed about 1000 people. According to them, there are currently 5000 Tatars living in the Ryazan region. The 4000 of them are Mishar Tatars.
The authors of the book divided the material on the basis of the rivers flowing in this area – the Leia, the Moksha and the Oka. It is noteworthy that it was decided not to follow the chronology, and this did not affect the overall impression of the book. Interestingly, one can find reconstructed mosques, historical minarets and overcrowded Muslim cemeteries among the photos published in the book.
Suyumbike’s final resting place, the privileged status of the clergy and the “Sayyid regiment”
If we refer to the history, we will find out that Kasimov was founded in 1152 by Yury Dolgoruky and was originally called Gorodets Meschyorsky. In 1376, the fortress was ruined during the Mongol-Tatar raid. However a new town was soon built on the site, which was called Novy Nizovoy town. The town got its present name only in 1471 after the name of its ruler – Khan Kasim. Here the interesting part begins: due to the formation of the Tatar Khanate in the Meschyora region, the capital of which became the town of Kasimov, Tatars from the Crimea, Kazan and other places began arriving here. The Kasimov kingdom existed for over 200 years.
Despite the fact that Kasimov Tatars lived surrounded by Christians, a special role in the Kasim Khanate was played by the nobility and clergy. One can distinguish such estates as khan, qarachi (viziers), bek and mirza (dukes). The privileged estate also included atalyk (respected and revered people), imildash (dukes’ children), kaziy (judges) and Cossacks (a military estate).
The clergy was one of the most influential estates and consisted of mullahs and danishmends (teachers). The entire clergy was headed by sayyids. It is noteworthy that a sayyid headed a special military formation – the “Sayyid regiment”.
Speaking about the ethnic composition of the population of the Kasim Khanate, there were Finno-Ugric and Turkic tribes that had inhabited the territory of the Meschyora region long before the formation of the Kasim Khanate. Later they were joined by natives from Kazan, Astrakhan, the Crimea, Siberia, the Kazakh and Nogai hordes that settled on the territory of the kingdom during the XV – XVII centuries.
Another resettlement began in 1552, when Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan. At that time, the last ruler of the Kazan Khanate, Suyumbike, was exiled to Kasimov, where she found her final resting place. In 1681, after the death of Fatima Soltan, the last ruler of Kasimov, the Kasim Khanate ceased to exist and was annexed to the palace parishes. But despite the change of the status, the town managed to preserve the minarets of the mosques erected during the reign of Tsarevich Kasim, mosques and mausoleums, where the remains of Tatar khans are still buried to this day.
At that time (the XVII century), Kasimov was divided into 3 parts: the area of Kasimov khans and beks (Tatar Sloboda and Stary Posad), Yamskaya Sloboda (it was subordinated directly by Moscow), while the rest of the town (including Marphina Sloboda) was governed by the Kasimov voivode.
Mosques, tekkes and madrasahs – where Kasimov Tatars studied
Special attention should be paid to the Khan Mosque, which dates back to the XVIII-XIX centuries, and its minaret – to the XVI century. This amazing monument of Tatar religious architecture is a two-storey building with a classicist style dome with a two-tier minaret in the form of a low cylinder under a lancet dome, placed on a massive base. Since the 1930s there has been located a museum, where one can learn the history of Kasimov Tatars and get acquainted with the fundamentals of Islam.
According to the legends preserved by the locals, the mosque was built by the first ruler of the Kasim Khanate Tsarevich Kasim in the XV century. Other sources say that, for instance, according to the work of the court chronicler of Khan Uraz-Muhammad, Kadyr-Ali bi, the Muslim temple was built by Shah-Ali Khan, that is around the middle of the XVI century. Only the stone minaret has been preserved from the ancient building. The brick mosque building was demolished in 1702 by order of Peter the Great, who, according to legend, mistook the mosque for a church while sailing along the Oka and crossed over to it.
In 1768, by the permission and personal decree of Empress Catherine II, a new mosque building was erected on the old foundation close to the old minaret by Bektemir sayyid and his son Burkhan sayyid Shakulovs, Ibrahim Murza Chanyshev and other local Muslims. The information about this remarkable event has been preserved in the text of the decree of Empress Catherine II.
Interestingly, above the entrance to the mosque a stone stands out on which the following words are written in Old Tatar: “This mosque was built in 1182 (1768) in the month of Rabi el-Awwal (June – July): Bektemir sayyid, Burkhan sayyid, Ibrahim murza Chanyshev, Abdulla murza, Musa sayyid, Mustafa sayyid, Suleiman murza, Temir-Bulat sayyid, Yusuf murza Chanyshev, Murtaza sayyid, Muhammed sayyid, Ibrahim Murza Maksyutov, Yakub Murza, Musa Murza Devletgildeevs, Yusuf Murza, Ibrahim Murza Maksyutovs, Mustafa Murza, Temir-Bulat sayyid Shakulov”.
Another interesting object of the medieval architecture, which attracts attention both of the locals and historians, is a tekke of Shah Ali Khan. His tomb was built in 1556. This is two-chambered structure of white stone with vaulted ceilings built of brick and arched openings.
There are two rooms in the mausoleum: the big one is the burial place, where Shah Ali, his wife and some of his relatives rest; the small one is for commemoration and recitation of the Quran.
Above the door leading to the big room, one can see an inscription in two lines. It says that the mausoleum was built by Shah Ali Khan, Sheikh Auliyar’s son, during the Khan’s lifetime. The second inscription says that there is no God in the world, except Allah.
Kasimov could not do without numerous madrasahs, where the Quran would be sounded and the centuries-old knowledge would be continuously transmitted. Thus, in 1808, the Kastrov Madrasah was established on the initiative of Abdulvahit Davlikamov, Imam of the Khan Mosque, with the financial support of wealthy parishioners of the Khan Mosque. A special role in the development of the Kastrov Madrasah was played by the son of its founder, Fazlulla Davlikamov, who was elected the second Imam of the Khan Mosque in 1827. Under the first Davlikamovs, the madrasah was located in their own house.
The unusual name of the madrasah comes from the fact that in 1868 Sayfulla Kastrov, a representative of a wealthy Tatar family, became the trustee of the madrasah. Later, the Kastrov family continued to maintain the madrasah and built the building depicted in the photo. They paid teachers’ salaries; the madrasa’s longstanding teacher, Hasan Shamsutdinov, and his family lived on full board. Other philanthropists also gave financial assistance to the Kastrov Madrasah.
Almost on the outskirts of the city, there are tekkes of Afghan-Muhammad Sultan, the tomb of the Khwarazmian tsarevich, the son of Arab Muhammad-khan Afghan-Muhammad Sultan. It was built by the Ryazan masters in the best traditions of Tatar architecture in 1649 by the order of his wife Altyn Khanym, the daughter of the Khwarazmian khan Haji Muhammad-khan. Three years later Altyn Khanym herself was buried here.
The tekke of Afghan-Muhammad Sultan is the only surviving burial place in the old cemetery, where Fatima Sultan and Arslan, the last rulers of the Kasimov Khanate, found their rest. Three of the four tombstones with Arabic script have survived in the two-chamber mausoleum.