Saransk Travel Guide

Saransk Travel Guide

photo of the central square in Saransk

Introduction


The capital of the Republic of Mordovia, Saransk is located in the Middle Volga region, 642 kilometres south-east of Moscow. It may seem fairly unremarkable but, in fact, you’ll find plenty of interesting sights here, including numerous museums, parks and Orthodox churches. By the way, when Gerard Depardieu, the famous French actor, visited the city, he was invited to become the Minister of Culture.


Historical Overview


Saransk, one of the oldest Russian cities in the Middle Volga, is considered to be a significant trading centre in the south-east of Russia.
The city appeared as a military fortress in 1641, although legend connects its foundation with the times of Ivan the Terrible. The city was given its name because of the Saranka River. It was a typical square-shaped fortress fortified by an earthen rampart and wooden walls. Outside, there were deep moats.
Inside the fortress there was an orderly hut, warehouses, cellars with weapons, stables and other structures. Fertile soils, flooded meadows and forests rich in beasts and birds attracted many people.
That’s why, in 1651, Saransk received the status of a county town. Until the 18th century, Saransk was divided into suburbs which were also fortified. Saransk grew quickly and became a military, trade and craft centre. By the 17th century, the boundaries of Saransk had already spread to the lands south of the Saranka River and on both sides of the Insara River.
Saransk witnessed plenty of notable events. In 1670, it became one of the major centres of the peasant uprising led by Stepan Razin. The local peasants provided the insurgents with food and money, and the Saransk blacksmiths made weapons for them and repaired guns that were brought to the city from various places. Part of the urban population joined Razin's detachments and took part in the armed uprising.
By the middle of the 18th century, the city had turned into a commercial and industrial centre. Small handicraft tanneries, oil mills and various enterprises actively developed here. People sold grain, hemp, skin, meat and honey. At the beginning of the 18th century, Saransk had more than 700 yards with a
population of 5500 people.
Multiple fires brought great disaster on the city. Several times, it was nearly destroyed. In 1785, Empress Catherine II approved a new plan for the construction of Saransk. The old settlement system was finally done away with, and the main streets became straighter and wider. Many stone churches appeared,
too.
The devastating fire of 1817 destroyed a significant part of the city. In 1824, Alexander I approved a new plan for the construction of Saransk, but it differed little from the previous one. The next fire of 1869 also damaged the city. Another plan was adopted, significantly increasing the area of ​​the city. The plan layout remained the same, only the streets were significantly expanded. Houses were built with gaps between them to protect them from fire.

For 70 years of the 19th century, Saransk was considered to be the second largest and one of the best cities in Penza province. The population of the city reached 15 000 people. There were 37 factories, although none of them were particularly large. Most inhabitants were carpenters and blacksmiths. In 1893, the Moscow-Kazan railway passed through Saransk and revived its urban industry and trade. Merchants sold bread, meat, eggs, cabbage and apples to other provinces. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city became a major trading centre of the Middle Volga region.
During the Second World War, several hospitals were deployed in Saransk. The intensive industrial development continued in the post-war period. The food industry and production of building materials developed at that time. Today, industry continues to play a key role in the urban economy. Among the most developed are machine building, metalworking, instrument making, electric power, and the chemical industry.


Where to Stay


Most of the city’s hotels are located in Leninsky district. You can choose from Mercure Saransk Centre, Park Hotel next to the park, Fresco Hotel or Four Points by Sheraton. You can also book a modern, fully equipped apartment in Octyabrsky district not far from the centre via Airbnb, Booking or Trivago.


Bars and Restaurants


To experience the national spirit, try some local food at Mordovskoe Podvorie, Big Pig or Kaban Y Bryukva where they hold live concerts. Veranda Balcon offers a quintessential taste of Russian, Japanese and Italian cuisine, where you can treat yourself to sushi, traditional Russian soups and pizza at the same time. At Rozmarin café, they offer a good selection of wines, steaks and veggies. Harat’s Pub, Samurai and Baron Munchausen are also worth visiting.


What to See

 

  • Start exploring the city at its main sight, Cathedral Square, located on Sovetskaya Street in the city centre. The main attractions here are the House of Soviets, the Saransk City Council of People's Deputies, the Mordovia Regional Committee and, of course, the beautiful Spassky Cathedral. The Square was founded in the 17th century.
  • The Ioanno-Bogoslovsky Monastery appeared in the 18th century. In addition to the main cathedral, you’ll find an almshouse, a manor house and a park with ponds and bridges.
  • To relax, visit the city’s Pushkin Park with its Ferris wheel and ponds. An amateur theatre opened here at the beginning of the 20th century. Locals organise various events, folk festivities and theatrical performances here.
  • Russia’s taiga zone has always attracted tourists. The Mordovsky Reserve is a natural wonder located between the Moksha and Satisa Rivers. Most of the territory of the reserve is covered with forest tracts, mostly of pine trees. Here you can see rare species and century-old trees. The territory of the reserve is inhabited by mammals (about 60 species), birds (about 215 species) and fish (32 species).
  • The other religious buildings worth visiting are St Nicholas Church and the Trinity Church.
  • When in Saransk, visit Bolshoe Boldino, a settlement located in the Nizhny Novgorod region 100 km from the city. It belonged to the great Russian writer A.S. Pushkin. The autumn months spent in Boldino provided Pushkin's inspiration. Here he wrote “The Miserly Knight”, “Don Juan”, “Mozart and Salieri” and many other famous works.
  • The museum of the well-known sculptor Stepan Dmitriyevich Erzi contains a collection of more than 200 exhibits. You can see a collection of paintings by Mordovian artists as well as sculptures and graphics.

 

Transport


Trains and buses are the only way of travelling to Saransk as there is no international airport in the city.
Saransk’s transport network is inexpensive and quite extensive. To get around the city, use buses (No. 7, 20, 6), trolleybuses (No. 11 or 8), route taxis (No. 15, 16) and shuttle buses. All the routes with their stops are available online. You can also take a taxi or a car with a local driver. The historical centre is small, so you don’t need transport to see everything.