Kazan (2012)

In the summer of 2012 I visited Kazan, which is famous among mathematicians as the city where Lobachevsky worked. Here are some photos from that trip, starting with a geographic marker showing the distance to New York heading northwest: 8033 km, which is essentially 5000 miles.

The next few photos are from inside the Kazan Kremlin, starting with the new mosque (completed in 2005).

Here is a monument to the two guys who built the Kremlin the first time around.

There is a natural history museum here.

If you want to try out some weapons from the 12th century, this is the place to be.

There is a new agricultural ministry building.

Kazan is the captial of the Tatarstan republic of Russia, and the national library of the Tatars is here in an old mansion, whose architecture has been largely preserved on both the inside and outside.

In the library room below we see Shakespeare's picture in the middle. I am pretty certain that the person on the right is al-Khwarizmi (note the compass he holds, a typical symbol of a mathematician). Do a Google image search on him and decide for yourself.

That is a cool reading room, don't you think? Two photos up you can see the library has not yet thrown out its card catalog, which has a lot of entries for Lenin. In the photo below, drawers 423 and 424 have only one entry - "V. I. Lenin" - and drawers 425 through 428 are "about V. I. Lenin".

Looking outside the library from the second floor, we see nearby a monument to Lobachevsky (built in 1896), which is in a park on Lobachevsky street.

Since Lobachevsky's fame is based on his development of non-Euclidean geometry, I was a little surprised that this monument includes the classical Euclidean tools of a compass and straightedge/protractor, although as with al-Khwarizmi's picture we know that compass = mathematician.

It's apparent that the column of this monument has been damaged. In the next close-up you can see that something was removed, and this is confirmed with a Wikipedia photo taken at the end of 2011: a sculpted set of flowers is missing.

Elsewhere in Kazan, at the Arskoe cemetery, Lobachevsky is buried.


The 6-pointed star in the upper left of the grave's coat of arms does not mean Lobachevsky was Jewish: just look at the top of the grave! It is probably there as a reference to his work in geometry. The Star of David was not yet universally used as a symbol of Judaism when Lobchevsky died in 1856.

Only after returning to the US did I learn about other mathematicians buried at this cemetery. Egorov is there, not far from Lobachevsky. See the end of his biography here or pp. 136--139 of Naming Infinity, where it's reported that the only people to attend Egorov's funeral were his wife and Chebotarev. Moreover, Chebotarev is also buried close to Lobachevsky. I found that out from the end of this article (it's in Russian). I don't expect to return to Kazan, so having been close to Chebotarev's grave without realizing it was a great disappointment. Below is a photo of Chebotarev's grave, taken from a blog post here.

The grave describes Chebotarev as a professor at Kazan University and a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The smaller grave to the left is for his son, who worked in analysis (his MathSciNet page is here).

An indicator that this city of Lobachevsky still cares about geometry is this huge ad for geodesic tools.

Some parts of Kazan were undergoing reconstruction of buildings and roads.

There were some celebrity sightings in Kazan, starting with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of a statue of a young Lenin.

Here is Steve Jobs.

Pablo Escobar apparently faked his death and is running a business in Kazan (note the word "freedom" under the bar's name).

One of the earliest McDonald's restaurants is here.

In Kazan is a retro-museum of the Soviet lifestyle (which in practice means the 1970s and 1980s). All the remaining photos were taken there. Notice the historical development of tea kettles below the museum name in the first photo.






If you want to build your own television, read this book and its simple diagrams.


The next two tip sheets tell children to keep everything neat and tidy in their bedroom and at school.


Here is the Soviet version of the board game Monopoly, called "Manager." Note the money on the right has the face of George Washington.

The final photos show a "leather" jacket made out of communist party membership document covers. The handwritten sign says the guy who made this jacket went around his city buying 120 document covers to get enough material for the jacket. In the final photo the cover initials KΠCC (= Communist Party of Soviet Union) can still be seen on the jacket.


That's it!

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