Tatarstan, where communal harmony thrives

Tatarstan, a state under the Russian Federation, might not be world renowned but it has scripted an unusual tale of communal harmony by serving as a "melting pot" for Islamic and Christian cultures.

Tartarstan's capital Kazan is home to more than 1.1 million people, making it one of the most populous cities in the Russian Federation.

In the Kazan Kremlin, a world heritage site, a Russian orthodox cathedral and a mosque stand side by side, symbolising the unity of the Russians and Tatar Muslims.

"Tatarstan", which derives its name from the ethnic group, the Tatars, is a federal subject of Russia and lies between the Volga and the Kama rivers, extending east to the Ural mountains. It has a President of its own.

Sunni Islam is the most common faith in Tatarstan, as 55 per cent of the estimated 3.8 million population is Muslim while remaining population is mostly Russian Orthodox Christian.

The Christians and Muslim brotherhood here is special as years of turbulence had marred the unity of the central Asian regions when they were divided in tribes.

The extent of the amalgamation of the cultures can be gauged from the fact that inter-religious marriages between the Tatar Muslims and Christian Russians is a common phenomenon and many families have both Christian and Muslim roots.

"My grandfather was a Muslim and other relatives followed Christianity. So I learnt both cultures," Julia Karavaev, expert in the committee for tourism and foreign relations, said of her family roots.

"It's a secure environment with both communities protective of each other and no aggression towards each other that makes it a unique society to live in," she told PTI.