Renascence of Bilyar: khan’s palace and cathedral mosques to be laid first
The road map of consecutive research and development of the medieval city and capital of Volga Bolgaria is created at the Kazan Federal University
To save Bilyar for descendants, to revive its khan's complexes and mosques, prepare for a museum exhibition and nominate for the UNESCO list as an important link of the Russian corridor of the Silk Road. It is the task that Kazan scientists who started to create the scientific development concept of the medieval city set. They need to prepare the road map on the landmark by 2018. In an interview to Realnoe Vremya, Director of the Institute of International Relations, History and Eastern Studies of the Kazan Federal University Ramil Khairutdinov told what steps the renascence of the second important capital of Volga Bolgaria would start with.
Bilyar is one of the capitals of Volga Bolgaria and an important link of the Russian corridor of the Great Silk Road. Tatarstan hopes to launch a federal programme on the research of similar facilities to include them to UNESCO. In the researchers' opinion, Bilyar is no worse than Bolgar in terms of its scientific importance but even is ahead of it. Although less than 1% of the city has been studied.
0,2% of Bilyar has been studied
Mr Khairutdinov, now you are working on the scientific development concept of Bilyar. Not so much time left until 2018. What is your work about?
I want to note from the beginning that it is the position of the scientific community, not Renascence fund. The fund fulfils its own programme linked with Bolgar and Sviyazhsk. For us, the scientific expert community, it is very important to define the potential of future projects. We suppose that one of them is linked with a huge complex in Tatarstan that is very important from a scientific and informative point of view. And it is Bilyar if we consider it as a future UNESCO cultural heritage site. This is why our task, no matter with financing or not, sounds the following way – to create a scientific development concept of the Bilyar Museum Reserve. For this reason, we, first of all, the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, Kazan Federal University fight for this work.
''Our task, no matter with financing or not, sounds the following way – to form a scientific development concept of the Bilyar Museum Reserve.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov
There will be a big gradual job. I will repeat once again: we need to link it directly with Renascence fund, of course, — it all has one concept. But, first of all, there will be a planned work of the scientific community of all Tatarstan, in general. I mean everyone asks from the beginning: how much money will be given? Money is not the point, it has not been given by anyone yet, and we don't insist on it. Another task is important for us. For instance, what about world heritage sites? A project has appeared that has neither money nor scientific concept, you know. But we undertook it – it is the KFU astronomic observatory, it is interesting! The Silk Road is also such an interesting project, and Bilyar is its part.
You said that Bilyar was a more complicated landmark in comparison with Bolgar…
Yes, its territory is bigger and it is older: it dates back to not only the Golden Horde era but the pre-Mongol period. It is one of the capitals of Volga Bolgaria. What is more, it is important, its area is huge. But the landmark has been studied little, according to archaeologists' estimates – 0,2% at best. Just imagine that it is just 0,2% of 100% of the area that this grandiose project occupies! For this reason, even if it has being studied for a long time – for at least 100 years – there is a great number of tasks ahead. And it is very complicated to study it because people live in Bilyar as well as in Bolgar. The very settlement is located in this huge hillfort.
From a scientific perspective, the site is very complicated. The fortification system there is more complicated than in Bolgar, and monuments are older. In other words, it is a very important site from a perspective of the world civilisation. This is why we won't assume the responsibility to dig everything out from the next year, no. For this purpose, we create a scientific concept first that will become a kind of road map for consecutive examination of this site like we did for Bolgar and Sviyazhsk.
From a scientific perspective, the site is very complicated. The fortification system there is more complicated than in Bolgar, and monuments are older. In other words, it is a very important site from a perspective of the world civilisation
To lay khan's palace and cathedral mosques first
Anyway, it is interesting what facilities you will start examining Bilyar with. Do already have any vision of this job?
Yes, of course. For instance, the remains of stone constructions. We need to offer options on their conservation. We need to save Bilyar for our descendants! It is not a symbolic facility, we need to study it in detail and prepare for a museum exhibition. Of course, it has huge layers of archaeological studies. There are many big facilities that we already certainly need to lay in the next years, in my opinion, it is khan's complexes and others.
How do you see these facilities?
First of all, we will start with defining borders of the central part where all the complex is gathered: cathedral mosques, palaces. It is a priority task today. There are several palaces that also require a solution, mausoleum groups are spread on the territory, necropolis – big and important landmarks. In addition, we need to completely study fortifications, moats, understand where the gates, caravanserai and so on were. It is a usual set of a medieval city that requires a further serious detailed job. A lot of efforts are needed because it is impossible to do it during 1-2 years. There must be a meaningful programme where the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, KFU, Tatarstan Ministry of Culture, museum community will participate. We have plans for the future and, most importantly, the government and fund say it is interesting for them. We count on their support in the future a lot.
What other facilities will be restored?
The problem is that it is impossible to restore, it is possible to reconstruct and conserve. There are several such facilities on the territory. We need to return to their restoration because they were restored by technologies of the 1980-1990s. Now we also need to renew the materials. It will be a very interesting programme.
There is a tourist traffic now as well, not very big, though the distance takes the same 2 hours. There is a museum complex in the Holy Spring – a popular place. In this case, we are speaking about not only the museum where all the artefacts are collected but also the very hillfort
To 15 landmarks in the next years already
When are you going to nominate Bilyar for the UNESCO list?
They are two projects. Speaking about the Russian corridor of the Silk Road, not only Bilyar but also Yelabuga and same Bolgar need to be explained. For this reason, from a perspective of the nomination dossier, it is one programme. As for deep research, it is like preparation for this dossier. We plan to do the job at the same time.
Renascence fund can't take all facilities of the republic – it is not its goal, it was created deliberately for Bolgar and Sviyazhsk. But Bilyar is such a unique complex that is also interesting for the fund. Mintimer Shaimiev has already said about it many times. Perhaps, there will be another scheme, there won't be such big financial injections. But as a site that needs to be studied, the fund is ready to render help. There is an understanding that we need to move towards Bilyar this year already or next year. We talked about the beginning of the work from the next year. But we, scientists, have already started to collect materials, in fact – money is not needed for it.
How many facilities are planned in Bilyar?
Thanks to our concept, after discussing with specialists, we will choose a group of landmarks that will be of the greatest interest. They are hundreds there, but we will need to choose the most important ones. I suppose there will be about 10-15 priority facilities.
When will tourists be able to visit resurrected Bilyar?
There is a tourist traffic now as well, not very big, though the distance takes the same 2 hours. There is a museum complex in the Holy Spring – it is a popular place. In this case, we are speaking about not only the museum where all the artefacts are collected but also the very hillfort like in Bolgar that causes interest. Because people go to Bolgar to not only visit museums of the Bolgarian civilisation but also wander on the territory, look, imagine the scale of the city. It is what we will need to work on.