Tatar Merchants – an Example of Charity

05 April 2023

For centuries, Muslim merchants have shown concern for the poor and those in need during the month of Ramadan, one of the most significant months in the Muslim calendar. During this month, Muslims around the world observe the sacred rite fasting by refusing to eat or drink during a day. Ramadan is also considered to be a month of benevolence, generosity and mercy. Therefore, many people use this month to make charitable donations and support the needy.


Tatar Merchants – an Example of Charity


Tatar merchants living in Russia and Central Asia were known for their generosity and charity during the month of Ramadan. They used their sources and influence to help the poor. Their donations helped those who could not afford to buy food and other necessities during the fast. They donated money for the construction of mosques and charities, helped pensioners and disabled people, and also provided educational and medical services.

Historically, Tatar merchants played an important role in the economies of Russia and Central Asia, controlling trade in many markets. They were also involved in financial transactions, providing loans and credits to the population and government. Due to their wealth and influence, Tatar merchants were able to exert significant influence on social and economic life in their regions.
One of striking examples of Tatar merchant benefactors is Suleiman Aitov. He was a well-known philanthropist who for many years of his life provided financial assistance to social and cultural projects.

Aitov financed the construction of many cultural and social infrastructure facilities in Kazan, including schools, libraries and mosques. He also helped needy people and orphans by providing them with money for accommodation, education and medical care.

Suleiman Aitov (1.02.1862-1922) was a Kazan merchant of the 2nd guild, who together with his family was engaged in trade of raw materials and furs in Kazan, Siberia and Central Asia. Aitov’s annual gross revenue exceeded 1 million rubles. Due to his high social status, he was elected to the town council and was an honorary member of the Kazan provincial orphanage from the 1890s to 1917. He was awarded a dark bronze medal and a gold medal with the inscription: “For Diligence” on the Stanislavsky ribbon for his social activities. He also received a commendation from the Empress for his donation to the poor.

Suleiman Aitov marries Fatikha Yausheva, a daughter of a Troitsky millionaire merchant who established the first national female gymnasium in Kazan in 1908. Aitov specially built a fine brick building for this educational institution, which is located at 2/18 Rakhmatullin Street and is now used as school-lyceum №6.

Aitov also advocated for the reform of Tatar madrasahs and participated in the establishment of the first Muslim political party in Russia, the Muslim Union. He financed all advanced initiatives in the life of the nation, was considered a great benefactor and built the building of the second cathedral mosque in Admiralteyskaya Sloboda in Kazan in 1898.

In 1913 Suleiman Aitov was elected chairman of the Zakat Society, which was dedicated to helping Tatar students. He also financed the construction of the society’s building.

Another famous benefactor is Mukhametsadyk Burnaev (20.01.1826-4.05.1898). He was a great Tatar merchant and philanthropist, who made a significant contribution to the economic and cultural development of Kazan in the late XIX century. Burnaev was born to a family of wealthy merchants and already in his youth he began to engage in commercial activities, possessing his own shop.

Burnaev was not only a successful businessman, but also a public figure who did a lot for charity and the development of his homeland. He financed the construction of schools and medical facilities, promoted the development of handicrafts, and also made a significant contribution to the construction of mosques in Kazan.

He was born to a Kazan family of the 3rd guild merchant and began his business by wholesale trade in raw materials, furs and the products of his soap factory in Kazan and at the fairs of Nizhny Novgorod, Menzelinsk and Irbit in 1857. In the late XIX century, Burnaev became one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Kazan. Besides, he was famous as a public figure and was elected chairman of the Kazan Criminal Chamber, an honorary justice of the piece and a public member of the City Duma. In recognition of his services to the state, Burnaev was honored with several awards, including a bronze medal commemorating the war of 1853-1856, a gold medal with the inscription “For Diligence” on the Stanislavsky ribbon and the Anninsky ribbon.

Mukhametsadyk Buranev also enjoyed great loyalty among Muslims in Kazan, because he was a deeply religious man and did not spare money for charitable purposes. He is famous for his contribution to the construction of the well-known Burnaev Mosque in Kazan in 1872-1895, which is located at 7, Akhtyamov Street. Burnaev had two wives and raised six children. He was also named an honorary hereditary citizen of Kazan.

Merchant Burnaev was well-known for his generosity and humanity. He left a vivid mark in the history of Kazan and is still remembered as one of the most prominent and famous Tatar merchants.

Speaking of Tatar Muslim benefactors, one cannot help but think of the Yunusov dynasty. Muhammad Rakhim Yunusov (1743-1820) was the first representative of the Yunusov merchant dynasty, which he established in Kazan. He was a well-known owner of a tannery factory and trader of fine leather goods. Muhammad Rakhim Yunusov was elected as the head of the Tatar city hall in 1973. He was considered to be the informal leader of the entire Tatar part of Kazan, and the Tatars often addressed him in all matters – secular, religious and family ones.

Muhammad Yunusov donated a large sum of money to build a mosque, which was then named after him – the mosque at 17 Kayum Nasyri Street. Today it is called the Marjani Mosque.

Muhammad Rakhim Yunusov’s son, Gubaidulla (1776-1842), continued his father’s business and increased the family fortune. He had already owned two tanneries and one soap factory, when he became the head of the Tatar city hall in 1842. Under his will, the Senno-Bazaar Mosque at 74 Kirov Street (now Nurulla Mosque) was built in Kazan.

It is noteworthy that the Yunusov merchant dynasty left a huge mark in the history of Kazan. They not only developed their business, but also invested in the construction of mosques and charity. In addition, the Yunusovs were respected public figures and leaders of the Tatar people in the city.

Another dynasty, the Apanaevs, is also an example of philanthropy. Apanai Khafiz is the ancestor of a merchant dynasty that later became famous in the city of Kazan. His descendants went on to develop business in various sectors of economy, such as tannery and soap production.

Musa Apanaev was the first to become a member of the first merchant guild and also owned a tannery. Besides, he was also a judge of the Provincial Court and an honorary citizen of the city of Kazan. His son was the owner of a soap factory, head of the Tatar city hall and a hereditary honorary citizen of the city of Kazan.

Yusup Apanaev was the owner of tanneries and soap factories, a Tatar printing house and a member of the Kazan State Duma.

Muhammad-Baadretdin Apanaev, one of the representatives of the dynasty, acted as one of the founders of the famous trading company, “the Apanaevs and the Kazakovs Trading and Industrial Association, in 1905. He also was a member of the State Duma and was active in various committees.

Overall, the Apanaev family significantly contributed to the development of economy and social life of Kazan, and their names are associated with some of the city’s most famous monuments, such as mosques and other facilities.

An important charitable activity among Muslims living in Russia and Central Asia was carried out by the Utyamyshev dynasty of merchants. It was founded by Mukhamadgarif Ibragimovich (1830-1893), who started his business by selling tea and sugar in Arsk. He moved to Kazan in 1880 and soon became a merchant of the first guild. In 1888 he established the Kazan manufactory of Utyamyshev and Co firm, which was engaged in manufacturing and trade in manufactured goods. Thanks to his entrepreneurial activity and commercial success, the firm opened a large calico factory in Tartarskaya Sloboda, and soon a soap factory as well.

The second representative of the dynasty was Galim Utyamyshev (1873-1938), who together with his brothers Abdulganiy and Abdullakh established the Utyamyshev Brothers Partnership. They expanded their business by producing textiles, particularly batiste and gas, which were in great demand at the time. Thanks to this business, Galim Utyamyshev and his brothers became some of the richest merchants in Kazan.

Today, merchants have been replaced by entrepreneurs who continue to support charitable projects not only during the month of Ramadan. Some set up charitable foundations and collect donations for the construction of mosques, educational institutions and other social facilities. The others provide free food and assistance to the needy.

Thus, the tradition of charity flourishes to this day and continues to be one of the most significant elements in the life of Muslims in Russia.



GSV "Russia - Islamic world"