Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex lies on the shores of the Volga River in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. It contains evidence of the medieval city of Bolgar that existed from the 7th to 15th centuries. Initially, it was an early settlement of the civilization of Volga Bolgars. In the 13th century, Bolgar became the first capital of the Golden Horde, where it flourished and grew in size and importance. Later, it became one of the major trade hubs of the Kazan Khanate. The city was located at the crossroads of trade, cultural and political communications and served as an interaction point for urban and nomadic cultures.
Bolgar is also an important place for Muslim pilgrims. As the symbolic place of acceptance of Islam in 922 by the Volga Bolgars, it became the main pilgrimage site for Tatar Muslims and other Eurasian Muslim groups.
Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex was inscribed to the World Heritage List in 2014. The site preserves its spatial context with its historic moat and wall as well as religious and civil structures, including a former mosque, a minaret and several mausoleums, bath houses, remains of a Khan’s palace and shrine.
Although many historical facts are known about Bolgar and are proven by various archaeological findings, the site offers manifold potentials for future research. Only 5 % of its total area of 424 hectares has been excavated, whereas 95 % remains unexplored.
The European Heritage Volunteers Partner Project - carried out in the frame of the UNESCO World Heritage Volunteers scheme - in Bolgar aimed to contribute to the state of conservation of the site and to promote heritage volunteering in the region.
The practical part consisted of two elements – archaeological excavations and awareness raising about the site. The volunteers helped the archaeologists from Khalikov Institute of Archaeology in excavations itself as well as in cleaning and field conservation of excavated artefacts. In addition, the volunteers assisted the site management in various daily tasks, including guided tours and the management of the museum collections.
The educational programme of the project aimed to inform the volunteers about World Heritage and archaeological heritage as well as about local history and regional traditions and included lectures, workshops and guided tours in Bolgar and Kazan.
The project has been organised by the Cultural World Heritage Resource Centre of the Kazan Federal University and Khalikov Institute of Archaeology, in partnership with European Heritage Volunteers.