The icon appeared mysteriously in 1597, in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, a republic of the Russian Federation, where it became famous for miracles obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1904 the icon was stolen from Kazan cathedral, shipped abroad by a certain Chaikin and is preserved today in the Papal apartments among several revered icons. Kazan authorities would like to retrieve the city's Madonna and Pope John Paul II has no objection.
On October 26, 2000, the mayor of Kazan, Kamil Ishkakov, and members of the town council visited the Vatican and met the Pope. Ljudmila Andreeva, a member of the delegation, said John Paul assured them that he would be only too happy for Kazan to have its precious icon again. But it was clear that the exchange could only take place between Church leaders since it is a religious treasure and religion is a question of piety not politics. He made it clear that the sacred Orthodox Madonna should return via the hands of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksei II.
However, the problem is complicated by another issue. Since the renewed interest shown for the Kazan Madonna, growing doubts over the authenticity of the icon in question have been voiced by Russian art-history specialists. On January 30, Natalia Chugreeva, of the Andrei Rublev Museum, declared that from the information she had obtained from the Vatican regarding its dimensions, photographs, and x-ray examinations, the icon is a copy produced in the first half or middle of the eighteenth century.
By way of reply, Andreeva, who is a member of the city council, stated on behalf of the Kazan authorities: "We know about this interpretation, but the detailed verifications we have collected in the past two years confirm the authenticity of the icon." A Kazan delegation is to meet Chugreeva to listen to her conclusions. However Andreeva is convinced of the importance of the religious artistic treasure for her city. "The most important thing for us is that the icon returns to Kazan," she said. "It can do much to revive the religious sentiment of our people."