Republic of Tatarstan (Russian: Респу́блика Татарста́н rees-POOB-lee-kuh tuh-tuhr-STAHN) is a region (republic) in the Middle Volga, bordering Ulyanovsk Oblast to the southwest, Chuvashia to the west, Mari El to the northwest, Kirov Oblast to the north, Udmurtia to the northeast, Bashkortostan to the east, Orenburg Oblast to the southeast, and Samara Oblast to the south.
Tatarstan is a nation within a nation. Tatars are Russia's largest minority at about five million people. Although they are named after a Mongol tribe, the Tatars trace their origins to the ancient Volga Bulgars, who inhabited the Volga Region since seventh century, and who were conquered by the Golden Horde, which set up the powerful Kazan Khanate. They are predominantly Sunni Muslim, but have significant numbers of Orthodox Christians as well.
Kazan is the undisputed capital of the region and should be the principal destination for any traveler in the region. The Russian capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible was a truly momentous event in human history, marking the beginning of the end of Turkic and the rise of Russian dominance over the northern Eurasian continent. Today, it is perhaps the most interesting and vibrant city in the entire Volga Region, as the center of Tatar culture and also just as a big city with a lot to see and do.
Tatar, a Turkic language, shares official status with Russian and is widely spoken, although nearly all Tatars are fully bilingual in Russian.
Kazan's airport services flights from international cities such as Tashkent, Kiev, Simferopol, Baku, Istanbul, Antalya, Dubai, and Frankfurt, as well as numerous Russian airports, including two daily flights to/from Moscow. The "Begishevo Airport," which offers flights to/from Istanbul, Tashkent, Antalya, Simferopol, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and many other Russian cities.
The main rail line in the region is the Moscow-Kazan-Yekaterinburg Railway, which passes through Zelenodolsk, Kazan, and Agryz.
Kazan has the largest port on the Volga River and can be reached by boat from virtually any city in European Russia that has a river port.
Tatar cuisine is very different from Russian—more similar to other Central Asian cuisines (e.g., Uzbek). And it is really good. It is a diverse cuisine with a lot to try and food-lovers should make a point of hitting the many good restaurants in Kazan.
The national drink "qatiq," as with many Central Asian nations, is made from fermented milk. Despite of being predominantly Muslim, Tatars don't avoid alcohol.