Saratovskaya region is one of the largest regions of European Russia. A hundred years ago, it was an ordinary backwoods Russian province; but at the same time, it had its own cultural distinctiveness.
The entire history of this region's development is linked with the Volga River. The people of Saratov Province had been farmers since the early days owing to the region's location in the forest steppe zone of the lower reaches of the Volga. It has a favorable temperate continental climate characterized by snowy winters and hot, dry summers.
Saratovskaya region borders on Penza, Ulyanovsk, Samara, Orenburg, Volgograd, Voronezh, and Tambov regions, as well as Kazakhstan. The administrative center is the city of Saratov, located in a scenic basin of the Volga Uplands. The city covers an area of 377.93 km2 and has a population of about 900 000.
The region's geographical location favors the development of a high-capacity regional transportation system. Modern airliners will convey you and your cargo to any point within Russia and beyond. The Volga Railway connects the region with the center of Russia, the Urals, Siberia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Water routes link Saratov with Moscow, the Western Urals, the Baltic States, and the Black and White seas.
Institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a large number of design and research institutes are located in Saratov Region.
The rich cultural traditions of Saratov Province have allowed the cities of Saratov, Balashov, Khvalynsk, Marks, Pugachev, and Petrovsk to be included among Russia's historic sites.
Saratov Region attracts both business people and tourists. Fresh air and inviting nature have favored the development of holiday homes, health resorts, sports and recreation clubs, and tourist centers. The most popular holiday center is Tantal.
The name "Saratov" is encountered in the name of a people on the Lower Volga (Ptolemy, 2nd century) and in the titles of Russian epic poems (byliny) of the Saratov Mountains, the Saratovka River, and the Saratov Steppe. It also survives in the names of the city of Saratov and Saratov Region. Legends and scientific evidence both say that two great turning points in human history-the revelation of monotheism and domestication of the horse-are associated with the Saratov Volga region. This territory was poetically called the "Land of Apple Trees" and the "Land of Liquorice." The Volga, the steppe, and oak forests were the main elements of nature in the region.
The Saratov Volga was evidently the location of one of the centers of the Old Russian state system (Volga Rus). From the 13th to the 15th centuries, these lands belonged to the Golden Horde and then to the Great Horde. The history of the Golden Horde city of Ukek (Uvek) is closely tied to the history of the new Russian city of Saratov, whose name is said to come from the Tatar words sary tau (Yellow Mountain). Thus, in a way, Saratov can be considered one of Russia's oldest cities.
Saratov's history began in the second half of the 16th century, when, after completing the formation of a centralized Russian state, Tsar Ivan the Terrible finally defeated the remnants of the Golden Horde on the Middle and Lower Volga. Following his plan, a series of fortified towns, including Saratov (1590), were built on the southeastern edge of the extended state boundaries.
Saratov first arose on the right bank of the Volga just above the city's present-day location, where the Guselka River flows into the Volga, forming a cape with a gently sloping plateau. The first town of Saratov was located in the center of this plateau; it was a fortress designed to protect Russian settlers and the Volga trade route from nomads. Two army commanders (voevody), Prince Grigory Osipovich Zasekin and strelets leader Fedor Mikhailovich Turov [the streltsy were members of special military corps set up by Ivan the Terrible], began construction of Saratov Fortress in July 1590.
Since ancient times, the main Old World trade routes from the Black Sea coast, the Caucasus, Persia, Khorezm, the Urals, and Rus had passed through the Saratov Volga. All of this had an impact on the overall cultural level of the resource-rich territory, on the extent of its development, and on its importance in the Russian state system.
Saratov Province was a territory with well-developed agriculture and processing industries, fairly high literacy levels among the population, and highly developed cultural forms (theater, fine arts, literature, and publishing).
Saratov's transformation into the provincial capital was accompanied by the appearance of a large number of private enterprises and rapid growth of trade. Saratov gained a reputation as a merchant city. Rapid industrial growth began, new steam-powered mills and oil-pressing factories were built, and the city became a major grain-trading and flour-milling center. In the 19th century, Saratov was not only a granary, but also Russia's "salt gate" and a center of the oil-pressing and fishing industries. Business brought English, French, Belgian, and German settlers to Saratov, which became the center of the Volga Germans. The city led other Russian provinces in attracting foreign capital to industry and in the number of foreign bank offices. In the 1890s, Western investments built the giants of heavy industry, e.g., iron foundries, metal works, an internal-combustion engine factory, a nail and bolt factory, steel mills, and shipyards. A Belgian tram company helped launch Russia's first tram service in Saratov.
This unique fusion of European cultures influenced the city's architecture. The downtown area preserves a large number of private residences and administrative buildings constructed in the provincial modern, pseudogothic, and Moscow baroque styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The buildings of the university campus (built in the finest European tradition), the Covered Market (similar to the Paris market), and the conservatory are particularly striking.
Up to 1917, Saratov was also considered the Volga region's largest religious center. An independent diocese (eparchy) and a bishopric functioned here; and Saratov was second only to St. Petersburg in the number of churches of different denominations. The city had more than 70 churches, chapels, and monasteries, 5 of which operate today. One of these is Trinity (Troitsky) Cathedral, the oldest architectural monument of the late 17th century.
Prerevoutionary Saratov was famous for Moskovskaya Street, the longest straight street in Europe. Among the Saratov's modern landmarks is a 2.8-km bridge, one of the longest in Europe.
Saratov's history is connected with the names of some of Russia's outstanding figures, such as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, traveler and writer Aleksandr Radishchev, Cossack rebel leaders Stenka Razin and Emelyan Pugachev, writer and democrat Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Saratov governor and later Russian prime minister Petr Stolypin, geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, and philosopher Nikolai Fedorov.
Today, Saratov is synonymous with airliners, refrigerators, automated machine tools, glass, bearings, synthetic fibers, electronics, and space communications.
Saratov is one of the most beautiful cities in the Volga region, a considerable road junction and a river port.
The official date of foundation is the 5th (15th) of July, 1590. It was the day when “Founding Fathers” of the city came to the Volga river bank – a prince Grigory Osipovich Zasekin and Fyodor Mikhaylovitch Turov. Thay laid foundation of the first fortree on the right bank of the Volga river, opposite Tatar fortress Uvek.
The city was moved from one place to another during its existence not once. Saratov was built in 1617 on the right bank of the Volga, where it is still situated.
According to one of the versions, the city’s name comes from Tatar Mongolian words: “sary” (yellow) and “tau” (a mountain). So that was the name of Saratov’s Sokolovaya mountain, yellow in colour.
City’s guests are, first of all, invited to take a walk through a local, ancient Arbat – along architectural monuments and modern shops. Here graceful antiquity matches stormy modernity.
A walk through a city park is pleasant. The oaks of 200 years old grow in the park. Blue spruce, acacia and linden are the park’s proud. Moreover, here are located various attractions both of extreme and traditional origin.
A drive though the city is interesting, crossing all the bridges, including the longest one in Europe (connects Saratov with a satellite town Engels). It is unusually beautiful and has become the city’s symbol.
Don’t miss a “National village” – a wide street, where stony Georgian houses neighbour to Ukrainian backyards; where you can taste Uzbek pilaf and visit a Mordovian hut.
Many nationalities’ representatives live in Saratov – the Russians, the Mordovians, the Tatars, the Chuvash, the Kazakhs, the Germans. It will be remembered that Catherine the Great signed a manifest in 1764, inviting foreigners to come to the Russian lands. Since then foreigners, primarily the Germans, have settled here. There are a lot of places in Saratov, telling about German culture.
For instance, a modern Kirov prospect was known as a German street before. Here stand architectural monuments which have become city’s carte-de-visite.
Saratov is a former merchant’s city. Here have been preserved ancient mansions, giving the city a special image. It is filled up with orthodox churches, monasteries and cathedrals of different religions.
Saratov is one of Russia's most important cultural centers. Its theaters have already played and continue to play an enormous role in educating the people of Saratov and introducing them to the world of art and literature. Saratov residents especially enjoy the Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, the Academic Drama Theater, the Young People's Theater (the first in Russia), the puppet theater, the oldest circus in Russia, and the Academic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.
At the turn of the 20th century, the theater companies of M.M. Borodai and N.I. Sobolshchikov-Samarin gave numerous performances in Saratov, and famous actors performed on Saratov's stages. Sobolshchikov-Samarin himself was a talented actor who did a lot to develop the national theater. D.M. Karamazov, one of the most interesting representatives of the provincial actor's art in the decade before the Revolution, acted in Saratov for many years. Another actor, V.I. Kachalov, began his stage career in Saratov, appearing on the stage of the City Theater for three years.
Saratov was the native city of composer Alfred Shnitke and artists Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Viktor Borisov-Musatov, and Pavel Kuznetsov. The Saratov Conservatory has created a dynamic piano school in the years since it was founded. Distinguished professors like I. Slivinsky, A. Sklyarevsky, I. Rosenberg, P. Egert, K. Radugin, A. Satanovsky, A. Shchapov, S. Benditsky, and B. Goldfeder have worked here at various times.
The organizers of the Governor's International Piano Competition in Saratov invite musicians from various countries to take part in it.
Saratov is regarded as a city with solid theatrical traditions, and many actors seek to come here.
Few know, that Yuri Gagarin studied in Saratov aircraft technical school; made his first bailing out and the most important thing is a legendary day – the 12th of April 1961 – when he landed the Saratov land! There is a national museum of Y.A.Gagarin, the first in the country, established while Gagarin’s alive, established in 1965. Archive photographs and materialss are exhibited in the museum. There is a memorial park “Y.A.Gagarin’s landing site” in Engels.
The museum of glass is among Saratov’s museums. Here are represented works of Saratov’s craftsmen. An exposition “Live glass” impresses visitors especially much: transparent floor, a glass bridge across a brook, a mysterious “rain man”. Don’t even try to solve the mystery; just listen to the water flowing and drops coming down the figure under the umbrella.
One of Sarato’v attractions is a Victory park stretched on the Sokolovaya Mountain. It is an unusual open air museum, a picturesque nature corner, a green balmy oasis in the city. A beautiful view is open from an observation point: Saratov and Volga’s blue space are spread before the eyes. A memorial monument in memory of fallen in the wars Saratov citizens was open here in 1982. An impressive monument is put up on the highest peak of the city: five flights of a grand staircase follow to three skyward pylons with a crane flight. A fighter plane Yak-1, the only plane of such a model in the world, is the museum’s brightest showpiece.
The Saratov region is the motherland of many famous writers, scientists, inventors and artists. N.G.Chernyshevsky’s house-museum consists of a memorial family house of the Chernyshevskys and the Pypinys family house, a modern building of a literature exposition. The museum collection is based on Chernyshevsky’s collected works, family documents, books and other personal things. The showpieces help to read a 200-years history of the family, which contributed a lot to Russian culture and education.
Saratov state art museum named after A.N. Radischev is real treasure and pride of the guberniya. It is the first in the country public museum, opened seven years earlier than the Tretyakov Gallery, and 13 years before the Russian museum in St.Petersburg. It is on the list of state cultural objects of special value. Works of Russian and foreign painting, sculpture, and applied and decorative art are represented in the museum.
It is worth mentioning, that a lot the city has now can be called “the first”. Besides already mentioned, this is the first in Russia immobile circus (1873), first in the province and the third in Russia music conservatory (1912), first children’s theatre (1918) and so on.
Saratov state circus named after the brothers Nikitins enjoys gained popularity among children and grown-ups.
Music lovers should for sure visit a concert in the music conservatory. And visit a local Philharmonic hall, one of Russian’s largest concert organizations.
There are a lot of wonderful cafes, restaurants, clubs and sport centres in the city.