Earlier today, 12 September, Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived in Bolgar, located in southwestern Tatarstan, in Russia. During his visit, Hazar Imam spent time at a number of historic sites, and participated in a postage stamp cancellation ceremony to commemorate the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

During his time in Bolgar, Hazar Imam participated in a postage stamp cancellation ceremony at the Bolgar Islamic Academy. Founded in 2016, the institute of higher education trains graduate students in a variety of fields relating to the study of theology and religion. Hazar Imam was accompanied at the ceremony by Mintimer Shaimiev, State Councellor of Tatarstan; and Daniyar Abdrakhmanov, Rector of the Bolgar Islamic Academy.

Following the ceremony, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited the White Mosque, one of the city’s focal points. The White Mosque contains minarets, a prayer room, and an arcade with 88 columns, while its main dome features exquisite stained glass windows.  

Later in the day, Hazar Imam visited the Bulgarian Civilisation Museum — which exhibits a number of artefacts detailing the development of religion in the area of Tatarstan — and the adjacent Qur’an Museum, the site of one of the largest copies of the Qur’an in the world. Weighing half a ton and measuring over 2 metres tall, its cover is made of fabric with patterned decoration in silver and gold.

The history of Bolgar dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries; the city was once the political, economic, and cultural centre of the Volga Bolgar civilisation. Local residents adopted Islam in the year 922, thus establishing close ties with the Muslim world. The city enjoyed its heyday during the period of the Golden Horde in the 13th century, when it was an important trading centre. The entire historical and archeological complex at Bolgar has been designated as a UNESCO heritage site.