Engelhard Astronomical Observatory expects to acquire UNESCO status and 'astrograd' with a hotel

KFU scientists about astronomy, UNESCO and new educational centre

Engelhard Astronomical Observatory expects to acquire UNESCO status and 'astrograd' with a hotel
Photo: Maksim Platonov

The Engelhard Astronomical Observatory of the Kazan Federal University (KFU) may acquire the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site by 2022 — then it will become the fourth such object in Tatarstan and the 30th in Russia. But the changes in the life of the observatory will take place earlier — in September, on the 120th anniversary of the KFU suburban observatory, an exhibition hall and a hotel with 70 seats will be opened, representatives of the KFU told reporters on 9 April.

Every tenth object from the Russian part of the UNESCO list is in Tatarstan

Today, the UNESCO World Heritage List includes more than 1,100 objects, of which 29 names are marked “Russian Federation” in the description. Russia ranks ninth in the world in terms of the total number of World Heritage Sites. The first is Italy, and the second — China.

“Out of 29 Russian objects, three are ours," Rafael Valeev, the deputy director of the Institute of International Relations at the KFU for Scientific Activities, reminded reporters. “The fact that 10% of the names are located in Tatarstan is very significant for us.”

The Kazan Kremlin was the first in Tatarstan to be included in the UNESCO list. It happened in 2000, at the 24th session of UNESCO in Cairns (Australia). The Bolgar historical and archaeological complex was included in the UNESCO list in 2014 in Doha (Qatar). The third UNESCO site on the territory of the Republic of Tatarstan was the Assumption Monastery and the Cathedral of the island-city of Sviyazhsk, this was announced in 2017 — at the 41st session of UNESCO in Krakow (Poland). Now the complex of astronomical observatories of the KFU is being prepared to enter the UNESCO list.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Rafael Valeev: “Kazan observatories are also unique because they have a rich history, culture, and unique architecture. The buildings have been preserved almost in their original form”

“We have gained a very good experience in preparing such nominations," said Valeev.” We have studied all the approaches during this time. We know how to talk to UNESCO, we know its language, its understanding. And most importantly, we know the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted in 1972.

What makes the case of Kazan Observatory unique

There are already astronomical heritage sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, they got there as part of complex nominations consisting of several objects. Most often, these are historical spaces of cities or unique historical areas. For example, the Pulkovo Observatory, which is part of the object 'Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments', or the Royal Observatory Greenwich, which is part of the complex of buildings 'Maritime Greenwich'.

“It is necessary to prove to UNESCO how unique we are, how our place in the list is not represented," Valeev is sure. “The analysis showed that no optical observatory was independently nominated. Kazan observatories are also unique because they have a rich history, culture, and unique architecture. The buildings have been preserved almost in their original form.”

There are already astronomical heritage sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, they got there as part of complex nominations consisting of several objects. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Now a group of specialists is working on preparing a package of documents necessary for the nomination. At the end of September, they will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for verification of completeness, and by February 2022, UNESCO will receive the final package of documents.

New Award

The Kazan Federal University is going to establish the Engelhardt and Dubyago Prize for astronomers.

“The future prize has two sides," said Dmitry Tayursky, the vice-rector of the University for Educational Activities, director of the Institute of Physics of the KFU. “The first side is scientific, and the second is cultural and moral. Certainly, it will be a prize in the field of astronomy, astrophysics and space observations. However, the prize will be awarded not just for outstanding achievements in the field of research, but also for certain moral achievements.”

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Dmitry Tayursky: “We want Kazan, Tatarstan and the Kazan Federal University to be heard all over the news, to be talked about and written about”

The idea of creating the award was approved by the participants of the international round table discussion, which was held on April 8-9 on the initiative of the KFU in the online mode. The conference is dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the flight of the first cosmonaut of the Earth, Yury Gagarin, into space and to the Year of Science and Technology.

Famous Russian scientist Dmitry Dubyago was the rector of the Kazan University from 1899 to 1905. It was under him that the new 'Forest Observatory' was built. The scientific facility was opened in 1901. Starting from 1903, it has been named after the astronomer and public figure Vasily Engelhardt, who donated the equipment of his Dresden observatory to the Kazan University. In 2014, Engelhardt's remains were moved from Dresden to Kazan and reburied in the cemetery of the Astronomical Observatory. Dmitry Dubyago is also buried there.

Educational centre and hotel

“A new educational complex is being built on the territory of the suburban observatory," said Tayursky. “Communications are slowly being built. We very much hope that the so-called 'astronomical Sirius' will soon appear there. The platform for schoolchildren and students, which will become the centre of attraction for lovers of exact sciences.”

Already in September, to mark the 120th anniversary of the KFU suburban Observatory, an exhibition hall and a 70-seat hotel will be opened. The works are to be completed by the end of summer. The centre will host conferences and field lessons for students of secondary and higher educational institutions.

Kazan observatories are also unique because they have a rich history, culture, and unique architecture. The buildings have been preserved almost in their original form. Photo: Maksim Platonov

“For UNESCO, it is necessary to emphasise not only the degree of preservation, but also the sustainable development of the object," said Valeev. “Life today is on a new level. There is an opportunity to promote historical territories, buildings and, most importantly, scientific achievements.

It is expected that thanks to the new centre in Tatarstan, the flow of students and tourists will increase. The complex will be equipped with high-tech equipment, an astronomy practice base will be established here, and a sports and recreation centre will be opened.

“We want Kazan, Tatarstan and the Kazan Federal University to be heard all over the news, to be talked about and written about," concluded Tayursky. “So we will be able to strengthen the academic component and our scientific reputation.”

By Yelena Simakova
Tatarstan