Saratov was founded in 1590 by the Russian Tzar Ivan the Terrible as a stronghold for his armies following their conquest of the Tatar Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan. Initially, it was a small wooden fortress to protect Russian frontiers from nomads. The name of the city comes from the Tatar word Sary-Tau (Yellow mountain).
In the 1760’s, colonists primarily from Germany settled in Saratov and the surrounding steppe near the Volga River. Saratov grew from a small provincial outpost to become one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Russia. In those times Saratov was often called ‘the capital of the Volga region’.
In the late 19th century Saratov became a regional center of industry, trade and culture. By that time, Saratov had become famous for its agricultural products, fishing and salt industries, as well as for manufacturing and metal processing. It was famous for its wheat, which was exported to many countries, including even Australia and also for its iron and steel works, dockyards, and mills to which people brought grain for grinding from all around European Russia.
In the Soviet era Saratov was closed to foreign travelers and visitors due to the high share of the military industrial complex in the regional economy. It was opened for visitors in 1993. During its 400 year history Saratov has served as the crossroads for many historical events.
The City Today
Today Saratov is the cultural center of the region. The city’s architecture has been influenced by both European and Asian cultures. Among the modern landmarks of Saratov is the 2.8 km bridge which connects Saratov with Engels town. Saratov is also famous for the longest straight street in Europe called Moskovskaya street.
Whatever the season, weather or time of the year, the city is alive. It is bustling community with a full social calendar of events and activities. Saratov offers some recreational opportunities for those who want to enjoy life: beautiful parks, picnic areas, swimming pools and beaches along the Volga River. Saratov has always been known as the city of students, as there are ten universities and institutes.
Saratov is one of the largest industrial centers in the Volga region. Oil and gas are the main natural resources in the region. It also has substantial deposits of such building materials as sand, clay, limestone, dolomites and chalk.
37% of local industry is devoted to the production of heavy equipment, 15% to chemical production, and 13.5% to food production. In general, industries of the region are presented by more than 2000 large and middle-sized enterprises engaged in aircraft manufacture, electronics, machine-tool manufacture, oil and gas production and processing, chemical and construction industries.
The main trends of the regional agriculture are determined by grain-crops, meat and milk cattle-breeding and meat and wool sheep-breeding. The Saratov region is one of the leading Russian producers of winter wheat.
Advantageous location of the city, abundance of natural resources, highly qualified and skilled workforce, and unique combination of heavy industry, research facilities and agriculture make Saratov attractive for investors. International partners are coming to Saratov to create joint ventures with local entrepreneurs. As a result more than 190 joint ventures are now operating in the city.
The Saratov Region is connected to other Russian regions via road, rail, river and air. Almost 90 percent of freight and 40 percent of passengers are carried by rail. Saratov is an important railway junction, connecting the center of Russia with the Urals, Siberia and Asia. There are 4 direct trains from Moscow to Saratov.
Saratov airport offers daily flights to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Three direct flights are available from Moscow (Sheremetovo-1 and Domodedovo Airports) to Saratov. The time on board is 1 hour 30 minutes. From Saratov airport it’s possible to get quickly to all main Russian cities. The local air carrier is Saratov Airlines.
Saratov is one of the largest river ports on the Volga River. Volga connects the city with Russian main industrial centers, as well as with the Western Urals, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and the White Sea. In summer five ships an hour arrive at the Saratov port.
Saratov has a well-developed public transportation network. 450 buses, 270 trams, 200 trolleys and 1000 taxis service the city daily.
Places to Visit
Saratov offers many attractions: theatres, Russia’s oldest circus, opera, ballet, philharmonic orchestra, conservatory, and professional basketball, hockey and soccer teams. Saratov is a city of ‘firsts’. At the end of the 19th century the first public theater, the first circus, the first public museum in Russia (now the State Art Gallery) opened their doors in Saratov. Saratov’s Medical, Agricultural, Archive-Ethnographic and Scientific Societies were also the oldest in Russia.
Five Saratov theaters, (the Opera House, Drama Theater, The Puppet Theater, the Theater of Musical Comedy and the Theater for Young Spectators) are open year round.