Lala Tulpan in Ufa, or “when the weather doesn’t play nice”

Ufa is one of the (many) Russian cities I really want to go back to. As I wrote in a previous post (The “evil” sun of Bashkortostan), when I visited the capital city of the Republic of Bashkortostan the incredibly warm welcome I received from the local people was matched only by the freezing cold temperature outside: -30 degrees and a proper snowstorm.

I had a pretty busy schedule already set-up for my few days there and the only time I could visit the park on the Belaya River was on the first night, approximately between 10 PM and midnight, during the aforementioned snowstorm. Notwithstanding the fact that I had just arrived after a 37-hour non-stop train ride from Moscow, I really wanted to visit the park as it contains a series of monuments, an open-air museum of WWII machinery (including an original T-34 tank) and, most interesting to me, one of Russia’s largest mosques, which can hold up to 500 worshippers: 300 in the hall of prayers and 200 on the balconies. The mosque building also contains a meeting hall, a dining room, a hostel and appropriate spaces for a madrasa.

Sometimes I think it is worth taking a picture, even during a blizzard, in very poor light, without having a chance to set up a tripod or change lens. You know it will not come out very good, but if it comes out at all, that is the picture you wanted to take for some time, it is a memory of a place you’ve been to and the actual conditions on that day. And, most importantly, it becomes a reminder that you can look at, of a place where you took a picture, but where you still haven’t captured the image you actually want to capture, a place that you’ve been to, but that still remains in your “bucket list”!

One of the very interesting facts about this particular mosque is that its construction actually begun in the 1980s in what was then the USSR. After many decades of Soviet hostility toward religion (during Soviet times innumerable churches, mosques and synagogues alike were completely destroyed. Only the most significant historical buildings were preserved, but taken from the religious institution and turned into museums. If you are interested in the subject you can red more in the post “Sant Isaac’s debate“), in the 1980s Gorbachev’s Perestroika allowed new religious buildings to be built and religious services to resume (to some extent).

This fact was particularly significant in Ufa, as the majority of both the Tatar and Bashkir population are followers of Sunni Islam. Tatars and Bashkirs together account for more than 50% of the population both in Ufa and in the Republic of Bashkortostan, which, as of the 2010 Census, is the most populous republic in Russia with its 4,072,292 inhabitants.

The city of Ufa therefore provided a suitable space in one of its most beautiful parks and the architect Wakil Davlyatshin created a modernist design in the shape of a tulip. This is where the name of the mosque comes from, as Lala Tulpan means “Tulip in Bloom”.
The construction of the mosque actually started in 1989, but due to lack of funds (those were pretty harsh years for Russia’s economy), it was put on hold for a full 7 years. When it started again in 1997, though, it took only one year to complete the project. It is worth noting that the mosque is currently still a property of the city of Ufa and the Republic of Bashkortostan.

The Lala Tulpan mosque has two 53-meter tall minarets, one on each side of the main entrance, shaped like unblown tulip buds of a on a stem. The main building is in the shape of a blooming tulip. 




Would you like to discover the Russia that foreigners rarely, if ever, get to see, with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking guide (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about Russian history and traditions? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!





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