Situated in Kazan the capital and largest city of he Republic of Tatarstan, the Farmer’s Palace is a pretty unique building. It serves as the headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Tatarstan (link in Russian), the Chief Veterinary Department, the State Enterprise “RACIN” and a number of other organizations. Amongst these the Agriculture Ministry is by far the most important, as the sector saw a very significant grow in the last number of years and today represents 5.1% of the total revenue of the republic.
The eclectic, monumental and “luxurious” exterior of the building, which has two symmetrical wings with portals and a central corpus with a 48 meter high classical dome, is a mix of a variety of architectural forms. There are architectural elements of the Second Empire and Classicism, the and the whole seems to take definite inspiration from the Petit Palais or one of the buildings of the Hofburg in Vienna, and even in some elements from the Vittoriano in Rome. The central element is a 20 meter high bronze tree with green backlighting to symbolize foliage.
Travel tip n.1
When visiting this place, do not stop at the exterior, but do also go inside. In spite of it being a government place, you can go into the atrium and visit the cafeteria. Just… be prepared for a shock! The interior is as drab as the exterior is flamboyant. Both the entrance hall and the cafeteria seem to be right out of a 1960s Soviet movie. They are colorless and dull, built with the cheapest of materials, with grey linoleum on the floor! If you are so inclined, you can even take it as a metaphor of many Russian contemporary institutions…
The building was constructed from 2008 to 1020 at a cost of 2.2 billion Rubles (between 35 and 40 million US Dollars) and it has quickly become one of the city’s most famous modern landmarks. The whole area where the building is located, called Palace Square, saw a big renewal between the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s. For the 2013 summer Universiade the whole embankment was rebuilt, with the addition of a shopping and recreational gallery, and the Universiade Park was built on the square. The event was also used to relaunch tourism in Kazan (along with Kazan being one of the host cities for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup). In 2015, Kazan was visited by 2.1 million tourists, which is a 20% increase in comparison with 2014. The same company that built the Farmer’s Palace also constructed an elite low-rise residential complex next to it, with a similar architecture. The official name of these very expensive residential buildings is Embankment Palace, but everyone in Kazan knows then by the nickname “village of oil workers.”
With such an eclectic architecture of course not everybody loves the Farmer’s Palace. Right after its completion in 2010 a formal complaint came from the Office of the Volga Federal District, that criticized the building in particular in regard to its proximity to the World Heritage Site of the Kazan Kremlin. “[The building] violates the legislation in the field of cultural heritage protection and [it is] dissonant with the cultural-historical environment” they said. An even more pungent criticism arrived in February of 2011, when journalist Artemy Troitsky (who usually writes about rock music…) wrote: “This is the most monstrous building in the world, I think. The nightmare of architect Antoni Gaudí in Stalin‘s prison”.
Travel tip n.2
It would be absolutely foolish to go visit the Farmer’s Palace and not see the Kazan Kremlin! The fortress itself is imposing and beautiful and it affords a great view on the Volga and the Kazanka rivers at their confluence. Inside the Kremlin I also strongly suggest you go visit the Blue Mosque, about which you can read in a previous post of mine.
Travel tip n.3
If you have the time, make sure to visit all three sites at night (the Kremlin, the Blue Mosque and the Farmer’s Palace). It is worth the effort to go during the daytime, as well, as you can enter into the buildings and see the interior, as well, but at night they are really nicely lit and, especially during winter, almost devoid of people. Just bring a warm hat, warm shoes and gloves, a tripod and you are all set to capture much more spectacular images!
Would you like to discover Russia with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking guide (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about the history and traditions of the largest country on Earth? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be delighted to organize an unforgettable trip for you.