Ulyanovsk (on the Volga 160 kilometers south of Kazan) is an old Russian town with about 650,000 people. Founded in 1648 on the widest point of the Volga, it was originally named Simbirsk and was first used as a fortress for defending the eastern frontiers of Russia. Tourist Portal of Ulyanovsk Region www.goulyanovsk.ru

Ulyanovsk is known best as Lenin's birthplace and the town where he spent his youth. The name Ulyanovsk is based on the Lenin family name (Lenin was born Vladamir Ilich Ulyanov). Partly because of its association with Lenin, Ulyanovsk boasts three universities and a prestigious academy. Most of the city’s development took place during the Brezhnev era.

Ulyanovsk city lie between the Volga and Sviyaga rivers flowing in opposite directions. According to archaeologists, people have been living in this area since the Paleolithic period over 100,000 years ago. Tribes of the Imenkovo culture, then Tatars, Bulgars and many other peoples have lived here.

Ulyanovsk today is the administrative center of the Ulyanovsk region and an important cultural center in the Volga region. Located on the shore of the Kuibyshev reservoir, 893 kilometers southeast of Moscow, it is a major center for machinery manufacturing and metal working with plants like Kontaktor Electrotechnical, UAZ Automobile, and Avtozapchast dating back to the Soviet era. There are also house-building plants, a knitting factory, enterprises for the production of construction materials and food products and factories that make hydraulic equipment and aircraft parts,

Ulyanovsk: Where the Soviet Era Lives on?

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ulyanovsk attracted millions of visitors a year, many of whom stayed in lavish hotels like the October, the Volga and the Sovietkya, where people dined from crystal to the music of an orchestra. The orchestra is still there but the hotels are hopelessly dilapidated. The Lenin museums are often deserted.

Ulyanovsk in many ways remains stuck in the Soviet era and has largely been bypassed economic reforms. In late 1990s, people still waited in line with ration coupons to buy meat at artificially low price mandated by the government, collective farms still exist, private enterprise is discouraged, customs officials are posted at the airport to prevent the smuggling of "contraband" like cheap eggs and butter and bread sell for a third o he price it does in Moscow.

David Holley wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Between Bolgar and Ulyanovsk, where Vladimir I. Lenin was born, the river broadens into one of its periodic elongated lakes, reaching a width of about 15 miles before narrowing again. Natalia Drozdova, 57, director of Lenin’s birthplace museum, said that most people she knew lived more poorly than in The Soviet era and had lost confidence in the future. “For me it was a tremendous shock when at the age of 50 I first saw homeless children and street urchins living outside,” she said. “Before we never knew what drug addiction was. Everyone could get a free education, and so on. Very often you hear the same kinds of things I’m saying from people who come to visit this museum. Perhaps reforms were necessary, but not in the way they took place.” [Source: David Holley, Los Angeles Times,, December 5, 2005]

“A few hundred yards from the museum, a bride and groom had come to a scenic embankment overlooking the Volga to pose for wedding photos. The young friends accompanying them had an upbeat view of the changes. Alexei Kim, 25, manager of an auto repair shop, even had kind words to say about Russia’s widely unpopular “oligarchs,” who in the 1990s gained control of state assets that were privatized and are now fabulously wealthy. “Those people who envy them say bad things about them, but those willing to work hard don’t have anything against them,” he said. The groom, Sergei Grishin, 21, said he was looking forward to a good life. “The new part of our city is very young and flourishing, and young people want to have children, and want their children to have children,” he said. “So we’re optimistic about the way things are going.”

Tourism in Ulyanovsk

Accommodation: Ibis Ulyanovsk hotel is located in the Zavolzhsky district of the city. It has a high comfort level, modern interiors, close to nature. Animals are welcome. Highly recommended by guests. The Rakurs stands on the bank of the Volga River. Well-lit, comfortable rooms with full amenities. It is five kilometers to the central railway station. The Spinach Restaurant is also located here. The menu features European and vegetarian cuisine, as well as gluten-free dishes. A wine bar and pub are available to guests. An average meal costs you about RUB 1,000-1,500.

Getting There: The airport is 15 kilometers from Ulyanovsk. Several planes arrive here from Moscow every day. The flight takes about 1.5 hours. The average ticket price is RUB 5,500. There are no direct flights to St. Petersburg. A train ride from Moscow to Ulyanovsk takes 14–17 hours. The ticket will run you RUB 1,500 to 3,500. About five trains arrive here a day. From St. Petersburg, it’s one train per day, with over a day and a half on the road. Ticket prices range from RUB 1,600 to RUB 5,500. A trip from Moscow to Ulyanovsk by car will take 12-15 hours. The advantages of this option is that you’ll be able to admire the great natural diversity of all the places along the way, stop in small villages, chat with the colorful locals, and treat yourself to farm-grown produce.

Currently, a new tourist cluster is being built in Ulyanovsk. In 2012, the children's interactive entertaining and teaching complex “Kolobok Manor” was opened in the region. Every year there are various events, for example, the festival of living history and historical reconstruction, “Volga Way”, International Cultural Forum and International Museum Festival.

Sights in Ulyanovsk

The city as a whole is rather drab and uninspiring. There are few churches in the city. Stalin had most of the old ones torn down. Two of Russia's most famous writers, M. Karamzin and I. .A. Goncharov lived here. The Goncharov Museum is housed in the writer's childhood homes. The Palace of Marriages is housed in a former merchant's house. There is a cable car ride between a small mountain a river. New Venets Boulevard is the main pedestrian street of Ulyanovsk: the city’s answer to Moscow Arbat. The boulevard is a green alley of trees and shrubs. It is located in the very center of the city, at the highest point of Ulyanovsk hill. From here, one can get a nice view of the Imperial Bridge and the Volga River.

Ulyanovsk has a drama theater and a puppet theater, and a philharmonic society. Museums include the State Historical and Memorial Museum-Reserve Motherland of V.I. Lenin, Museum of Local Lore, Literary Museum, the House of Yazykovs, Plastov Gallery, 20th Century Art Museum and the Museum of the History of Civil Aviation. There unusual monuments to the Russian letter yo (ё) and to the fairy tale character Kolobok. Among the classical buildings are male gymnasium (1786), the Public Offices (1807) and the Nobility Assembly (1838-1847).

Volga Embankment is a favorite place for walking. It has a picturesque view of the great Russian river and the Imperial and Presidential bridges. In the summer, there are fountains, cafes, bicycle and roller skate rentals on the Embankment. A lot of attractions are within walking distance from it. These are the monument to the founder of the city, Bogdan Khitrovo, the square of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lenin, the Memorial Center, the singing fountain, the monument to the letter Ё (Yo), as well as the Ulyanovsk Philharmonic.

Civil Aviation History Museum is the largest aviation museum in the world. Opened in 1983 at the Ulyanovsk Higher Aviation Academy, it contains over 9,000 exhibits, including an open-air exhibition of aircrafts. There are several museums like this in Russia, but Ulyanovsk is by far the biggest one. About 40 aircraft are on display, including the ANT-4, MI-1, l-28, Mi-4, MiG-25P, Po-2, Tu-116, Tu-144. many of which are quite rare. There are both military and civilian airplanes. The TU-116 is the only one of its kind, It was designed and constructed at the end of 1950s especially for trans-Atlantic flights by the leaders of the U.S.S.R. The museum covers 17.5 hectares. A “museum inside museum” was opened several years using one of most outstanding aircrafts in the collection: the world's first supersonic passenger airliner, the TU-144. Tourists can sit in the pilot's seat and chill in the cabin of the aircraft.

Lenin-Related Sights in Ulyanovsk

Lenin-related sights include a marble statue of three year old Lenin with his mother, Lenin's grammar school and seven Ulyanov homes, including Lenin's childhood home. The Big Hall on Lenin Street in the Lenin district was completed in 1970 and near three Ulyanov family homes. It boasts a white marble cultural center, historical research facility and concert hall. In the upstairs are thousands of portraits of Lenin and dioramas of old Simbirsk.

V.I. Lenin Flat Museum opened in April 1970 in the house on former Streletskaya St., which the Ulyanov family rented from 1871 to 1875. This is where Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) spent his early childhood and where his younger brother Dmitry was born in 1874. The museum's ground floor houses the documentary exposition dedicated to the life of the Ulyanovs in Simbirsk (the old name of Ulyanov), as well as the social and pedagogical work of Ilya Ulyanov, an inspector and later director of public schools of the Simbirsk province. The first floor preserves the household environment.

The flat includes four small rooms, a kitchen and hall. The preserved furniture, books and various items of the 19th century, including genuine items that belonged to the Ulyanovs. The museum staff also organize thematic exhibitions of works by Ulyanovsk artists and photographers. There is also the library of Zhores Trofimov, the local history expert. Four times a year a local history discussion club called “The Origins of Simbirsk Mindset” holds meetings at the museum attended by local history experts, scientists and authors. Since October 2006 the museum also includes Children Historical Center.

House Where Vladimir Lenin Was Born is where Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) was born on April 22, 1870. It was difficult to find. Only by the end of the 20th century did the researchers find out that the house where Lenin was born still existed. In 1970, for the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birth, the house was renovated and a memorial plaque was installed. A The household exposition opened on the first floor in October 1984, and 1988 saw the opening of the documentary exposition on the ground floor.

When Ilya Ulyanov was assigned to Simbirsk, the Ulyanov family moved there from Nizhny Novgorod in September 1869. They rented the annex of a house in the Streletskaya St. and lived there for about a year. This is where Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) was born. The museum describes the work of Lenin’s father Ilya Ulyanov, who was considered by his contemporaries to be “a pedagogue and enlightener known all over Russia”. There are also some genuine items that belonged to the Ulyanovs. Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, visited the museum in 2002. Many other politicians, actors and scientists have also been there, including Evgeny Mironov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Gennady Zyuganov, Zhores Alferov, Sergey Bezrukov, Elena Drapeko and others. The museum is also quite popular with tourists.

Lenin Memorial

Lenin Memorial opened in 1970 and is the best known place in Ulyanovsk. Over the years, more than 20 million people have visited it. The Lenin memorial includes the building of the memorial center itself, the house where Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) was born, the apartment-museum of Vladimir Lenin, and the house-museum of the Ulyanov family. The memorial is dedicated not only to the life and work of the leader of the world proletariat, but also of the history of the Russian revolutions of the early 20th century.

The idea to commemorate Lenin's life by creating a memorial in Ulyanovsk first appeared in the Izvestia newspaper on February 7, 1924. However, the memorial itself was not built until preparations had begun for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birth. The facility was designed in 1967 by the Central Scientific and Research Institute of Experimental Architectural Design of Entertainment and Sports Facilities (TsNIIEP). The authors planned for it to be a multi-functional building: a museum as well as a place for education and entertainment.

The Central Committee of the VLKSM (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League) declared this a top-priority construction site. People from all over the country and representatives of more than 30 nationalities worked on creating the Lenin memorial. Along with U.S.S.R. citizens, youth from all countries of the Socialist commonwealth participated in the construction project: Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, and Romania,. On the April 16, 1970, the Lenin memorial was officially inaugurated in the presence of L.I. Brezhnev, the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

The total surface area of the memorial's exhibition halls is over 3,000 square meters. More than 4,000 items are on display, of which 70 percent are originals. The holdings and the scientific library of the museum contain over 100,000 depository items, including the collections of lifetime editions of Vladimir Lenin's works, illegal and prohibited literature, satirical magazines, and gifts to the leader of the world proletariat from all over the world. The museum also displays numismatic and phaleristic collections, paintings, posters, sculptures, and works of applied and decorative arts. The memorial center includes exhibition halls, an art gallery, library, concert hall, socio-political center, winter garden, and cinema and conference halls. The video library of the museum comprises over 300 documentary films.

House Museum of V. I. Lenin

The "House of Lenin" — also known as the Ulyanovsk House-Museum VI Lenin — is the first museum of dedicated Lenin in Russia. It is located in the house where Lenin’s family — the Ulyanovs — lived from 1878 to 1887 when Lenin was a school boy and his father worked as an educator in Simbirsk.

House Ulyanovs acquired August 2, 1878 from the widow of councilor and the title was officially in the name of Maria Alexandrovna, Lenin’s mother. In this house the Ulyanov family spent their evenings in the dining room playing chess, discussing literary heroes and doing needlework. Lenin graduated from high-school while in this house. His brother Alexander Ulyanov, a student at St. Petersburg University, was award a gold medal for his scientific work in biology.

Tragedies while Lenin lived here. His father died suddenly at age 55 in January 1886. In May 1887 Alexander was executed for participating in the assassination attempt of the tsar Alexander III. In June 1887, after selling the house to a police chief, the Ulyanovs left Simbirsk. In 1923 the house was opened Historical and Revolutionary Museum named after VI Lenin. In 1928-1929, after a careful restoration it was converted into a memorial and everyday house-museum VI Lenin.

The "House of Lenin" is a restored manor typical of that found in pre-revolutionary mid-size city. Visitors can see appliances and household goods, the garden and yard area, including a playground for children. The museum collaborates with clubs, childcare centers and organizes exhibitions and introduces students to the life and traditions of the Russian intelligentsia of the 19th century. The museum is open daily from 10:30am to 5:30pm An adult ticket costs RUB 100.


Samara (130 kilometers southeast of Ulyanovsk and 880 kilometers southeast of Moscow) is situated on the Volga River. Formerly called Kuybyshev and founded in 1586, it grew and developed along the Volga, with its location at the convergence of the Volga and Samara rivers contributed to its growth as a trade hub. There are a number of factories here, many powered by a hydroelectric plant up-river. Samara has research and cultural organizations, and a population of about 1.17 million. Tourism Information Center of Samarskaya Oblast / www.tic-samara.ru

Samara lies on the left elevated bank of the Volga River in the bend of Samarskaya Luka, between the mouths of the Samara River and the Sok River. North of the city are Sokolyi “mountains.” whose highest peak, Tip-Tyav mountain, is 286 meters high. The city stretches for more than 40 kilometers along the Volga. The city embankment stretches for four kilometers. “Samara River Port” is the largest transport hub in the Middle Volga region of Russia. The flow of passenger transport is serviced by the Samara river station and a number of landing stages.

The names of Gorky, Tchaikovsky, Pasternak, Nemirovich-Danchenko, Tolstoy are associated with this city. Yuri Gagarin was launched into space in a rocket created in Samara’s Rocket and Space Center "Progress", whose history began in 1894 as a small bicycle factory. During World War II, the city was the “reserve capital” of the Soviet Union. The bunkers of Stalin and Kalinin are both located here. In the summer months the water in the Volga warms up to 24 degrees and many people go swimming then. Samara has the longest river embankment in Russia, good news for people that like to take long walks and bicycle rides along one of the world’s largest rivers.

Hotels and Getting to Samara

Accommodation: Samara has a relatively new Marriott Renaissance hotel that used to have a casino. Lotte Hotel Samara is the first 5-star hotel in Samara. It has a pool, lounge bar, fitness center, and is home to the La Terazza restaurant.Room rate: 5670 rubles per day. Address: st. Samara, 110. Phone: 8 (846) 920-10-00. Ibis Samara is a “three star” hotel. Room rate: 2600 rubles per day. Address: st. Novo-Sadovaya, 160. Phone: 8 (846) 339-68-52. Hotel “My Glinka” is located in the green area of the city near the Volga and has its own beach. The price includes a buffet breakfast. One night in a standard room costs 1800 rubles. There are cottages in which pets are allowed. Address: Krasnaya Glinka, quarter 2/35. Phone: 8 (846) 372-42-72.

Public Transport consists of buses, trolleybus, trams routes, and a subway. The trams have been running since 1915. In the summer, river transport becomes a widely used. River “trams” can quickly get you the places that might take several hours to get to by car.

Getting There: By Plane: . Flights from Moscow are operated by Aeroflot, UTAir, S 7, and Pobeda from Domodedovo and Vnukovo. The minimum cost of a round-trip flight is about 4600 rubles. The travel time is 1 hour 40 minutes. From St. Petersburg Pulkovo you will fly for 6265 rubles and 2 hours 23 minutes.

By Train: . You can get to Samara By Train: from the Kazan station in Moscow. Trains run smoothly and in large numbers, so choosing a convenient time will not be difficult. The travel time is 21 hours at the usual fast (ticket price is 1500 rubles). But the Zhiguli train will drive you in 13 hours, however, it costs more — about 4000 rubles. But that is not all! Since 2015, a double-decker train runs between Moscow and Samara. Travelers” impressions of him are extremely positive. From St. Petersburg, trains leave from the Moscow station. The cost of a reserved seat is about 4,000 rubles, the coupe is 5,470 rubles. The travel time is 32 hours.

By Bus: . Buses leave Moscow from the Varshavskaya bus station. Ticket price — 2210 rubles, travel time — 18 hours 45 minutes. From St. Petersburg, the bus takes 25 hours; ticket price — 3800 rubles. By Car: The distance between Moscow and Samara is slightly more than a thousand kilometers. By car, this can be done in 14 hours. The M5 highway runs through Ryazan and Penza. It takes longer from Petersburg to Samara — about 22 hours. St. Petersburg is 1768 kilometers from Samara.

History of in Samara

Officially, Samara was founded in 1586. However, in historical documents it is mentioned in an earlier period: in the “Steppen Book” there is information about the Samara tract, which existed back in 1357. There is a fortress of Samara on the map published in Italy in 1459. According to folk legends, the place of the modern city was once the settlement of the Ataman Yermak Timofeyevich. The 1586 date comes from fortress built at that time. Before the construction of the Russian fortress at the mouth of the Samara River, the Moscow government was negotiating with the Nogai Murza. Nogais demanded that “the sovereign cities in Ufa and Samara should not exist.” Moscow refused, because it did not want to destroy the new cities.

The fortress of Samara, which was named after the river, was built very quickly. The first inhabitants of the fortress were military men: archers, gunners and boyar children, who carried out patrol duty and guarded the new fortress from “thieves” and from Nogai attacks. A few dozen houses and log walls with towers and loopholes were built. At the beginning of the 17th century, an archers head, a policeman, three archery centurions, 100 horses, 250 foot archers, eight gunners, three collars, a blacksmith, three translators and 20 boyar children were stationed in the fortress.

In 1688 Samara officially became a city. During the 18th century, Samara experienced many events: several large fires, and occasional raids. The local population supported the serf rebellion un 1773 and was captured by Pugachyov, the rebellion leader. At the beginning of the 19th century, Samara was divided into regular oblong quarters. Each street in the city was different from the other. The big street, where merchants settled, was a lively, noisy commercial area. Kazan, the street of the nobles and landlords, was quiet and orderly. The main commodity of the city was bread. Samara was considered the most important bread market on the Volga. By the middle of the 19th century there were about 30 small industrial enterprises.

With the laying of the Orenburg railway, the city's industry began to develop at an accelerated pace, and by the beginning of the 20th century the number of large enterprises had increased from one in 1879 to 72 in 1914. By that time the city was the largest center of grain processing in Russia. During World War II, Samara became the reserve capital of the Soviet Union. Government bodies headed by Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, military departments, the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, the entire diplomatic corps, 20 embassies and missions were evacuated and placed in Samara. For himself, Stalin ordered the construction of an underground bunker, which perfectly preserved to this day. Until 1990, Kuibyshev was a closed city. That year it reopened and welcomed back its historical name — Samara.

Sights in Samara

Samara Concern “Progress” is a rocket factory that produces launch vehicles that put satellites and spacecraft into orbit. In the Samara Cosmic Museum, the main exhibit is a 70-meter Soyuz rocket. The exposition occupies two floors. Website www.samaracosmos.ru . The Zhiguli Brewery is the oldest brewery in Russia, founded in 1881 by the Austrian nobleman and philanthropist Alfred von Wakano. At the brewery you can sample different types of beer and a snack on dried Volga fish.

House with Elephants, built by the Samara merchant Konstantin Golovkin in 1909 at his a country estate, was widely criticized when it was built. Artists and architects were especially indignant: in their opinion, the life-size sculptures of two elephants, which are visible from ships sailing along the Volga, were an example of bad taste. But, fortunately, Golovkin ignored them and now you can see them yourself today.

The Museum-Estate of Alexei Tolstoy (not Leo) is one of the most charming places in Samara. The house, built in 1882, belonged to the writer's stepfather, and after nationalization turned into an ordinary communal apartment. As a museum, the estate was restored and opened in 1983, on the centenary of the birth of Alexei Tolstoy. Everything here breathes antiquity — furniture, dishes, wardrobe items have been preserved.

Stalin's Bunker and the Shiryaevskie Мine Тunnels

Stalin's Bunker Museum, situated at a depth of 37 meters, is one of the most interesting tourist spots in Samara. The bunker was constructed in 1942 especially for the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S.S.R., Joseph Stalin, to be used in case the Nazis took over Moscow in World War II, and the capital relocated to Kuibyshev (modern-day Samara). The furnishings and decor in the bunker is quite basic. Stalin, it is said, did not like luxury. In 1990, the bunker was declassified and is particularly popular with Germans and Americans.

Today, Stalin's Bunker is one of the largest bunkers in the world. A micro-climate is maintained inside. The air temperature is held constant at 19 degrees Celsius. The bunker contains Stalin's private office and a multitude of false doors and secret exits. During a visit the museum, the son of Field-Marshal Rommel, was asked if he wanted to be photographed behind Stalin's desk. “I am afraid,” he joked, “that the owner might walk in on me”. According to the opinion of Samara's “diggers,” Stalin's bunker is not the only one in the city.

The Shiryaevskie mine tunnels (15 kilometers north of Samara) were dug into Popova mountain in the village of Shiryaevo. These limestone fields were first excavated before the Revolution of 1917. After that, the scope of excavation only grew. Initially, limestones were burned into lime, and later, applications were found in the chemical industry. The fields are being excavated up to the present, but new tunnels have not been dug. Only the surface is now mined. The old tunnels are accessible to visitors.

The Shiryaevskie mine tunnels make up a whole underground city with tunnel galleries through which a double-deck bus could easily drive. You can still see traces of the sleeper ties of the narrow-gauge railway, and here and there, you can find miraculously spared pieces of rail. Visitors can walk along the various rocks, where earlier entire mountains of limestone had stood. Some of the rock piles are the results of landslides, so visitors must watch their step as they walk through this amazing underground world.

Samarskaya Luka National Park

Samarskaya Luka (west of Samara and south of Tolyatti) is a land mass almost totally enclosed by a ring of water, formed by a bend of the Volga River and the Usa River. The only mountain range of the Russian plain along the Volga river — the Zhiguli Range — is situated on Samarskaya Luka.

In 1927, thanks to the efforts of the Russian biologist I. I. Sprygin, this area became the Zhigulevski State Natural Preserve. Originally the preserve was only 2,500 hectares, By 1937, it had been extended to 22,500 hectares. In 1984, Samarskaya Luka National Park was established and all of the area between the bend of the Volga and Usa rivers became a special natural preserve.

In Samarskaya Luka, plants can be found that have existed since the last Ice Age, and some can be found nowhere else in the world. The park is inhabited by 10 species of vertebrates and 28 species of invertebrates that are listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation. Hiking and sightseeing paths lead to landmarks like Molodetsky mound, Devya mountain, Kamennaya Chasha (Stone Bowl) and Vedmino (Witches”) lake. Also check out the large cave linked with the Robin-Hood-like folk hero and bandit Stepan Razin. It is said that in the 17th century he and his men used it as a hideout.


Saratov (on the Volga 435 kilometers southwest of Samara) was the center of German colony founded by Catherine the Great. It is pleasant, fairly prosperous city of 900,000. There isn't much to see. However it boasts a pedestrian street with cafes, shops and restaurants, a 17th century church, art museum and a folklore museum. The bridge that spans the Volga at Saratov is one of the largest bridges in Europe. Website: Ministry of Youth Policy, Sports and Tourism of Saratovskaya Oblast www.minmolodsport.saratov.gov.ru

The Yuri Gagarin — the first man in space — landed in Saratov Oblast. Featuring a moderately temperate climate and once a major trading center, it is regarded as the cultural capital of the Volga region. Its museum contains many beautiful paintings, including works by Ivan Aivazovsky and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, and a collection of samovars. Outside the capital, you can find the unique Lion House, with its beautiful painted interior, and open-air thermal spas.

Saratov was founded in 1590 on the left bank of the Volga in the summer of 1590 by Prince Grigory Osipovich Zasekin and Boyar Fedor Mikhailovich Turov under Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich in a place where the Golden Horde had settlement. The early settlement changed its location three times before acquiring its modern position a century or so later on the right bank of the Volga, in a large picturesque hollow, surrounded on three sides by mountains. Saratov was founded as a city-fortress to protect the southeastern borders of the Russian state. According to one version, the name of the city comes from the merger of two Tatar-Mongolian words “Sary” (“yellow”) and “Tau” (“mountain”).

The first Volga Germans arrived in the early 19th century and German settlements were formed. By the end of the 19th century, railways were laid through Saratov helping to make it the largest trade center of the Middle and Lower Volga regions. Saratov was a closed city in the Soviet era as the defense industry had a large presence there. During World War II a powerful blood transfusion station was established in the city. Saratov inhabitants gave up 71 tons of blood. In the Saratov area more than 10 military schools trained tens of thousands of officers. During World War II, 5 armies, 132 divisions, 65 separate regiments, 253 separate battalions, including the division of the people's militia, were formed in the city. More than 100 industrial and cultural enterprises were evacuated to the Saratov region from Leningrad, Moscow, Kharkov, Odessa, Vitebsk and other cities.

Today Saratov is a large educational, scientific, industrial and cultural center of the Volga Federal District. In Saratov, the first stationary circus in Russia — the Nikitin Brothers Saratov Circus — was founded in 1873. The city also the home of one of the first theaters for young people.

Sights in Saratov

Victory Park on Sokolovaya Hill and the Museum of Military Glory, with an enormous exposition of functioning military equipment, are “must sees”. There is an observation deck near the Cranes monument providing an amazing panoramic view of the city and the Volga River. On the outskirts of the Victory Park, there is a National Village with 14 ethnic dwellings, including Russian log huts, Bashkir and Kazakh yurts, Georgian and German houses, and Mordovian and Tatar farmsteads. Very interesting tours are given here.

Kosmonavtov Embankment is the best place for taking a walk. Here you can enjoy wonderful views of the Volga river. You can sit near the water and watch ships and various vessels pass by. From the embankment you get a wonderful view of the famous Saratov bridge connecting the two banks of the Volgograd Reservoir, which is especially beautiful in the evenings when the lights are on.

Yuri Gagarin National Museum honors the first man in space, who is practically a native son of Saratov. Gagarin studied at the Industrial Technical School in Saratov. He first flew as a cadet of the aero club here. After his triumphant space conquest, the descent module landed not far from Saratov city. On January 5, 1965, a museum was opened for a visit of Yuri Gagarin and his wife. The exposition features about 1,400 pieces. Among them are authentic documents, photographs, personal things and even a fragment of the casing of the crashed plane, in which the astronaut made his last flight together with the test pilot Vladimir Seregin.

Holy Trinity Cathedral is the oldest building in Saratov. Built in the 17th century in a Moscow baroque style, it contains the treasured wonder-working icons of the Vernicle, Kazan and Iberian Mother of God. There is an image of Seraphim of Sarov as well as a piece of his clothing, the reliquary of the prince of Golitsyn and other sacred things. Assuage My Sorrows Church, built with the blessing of the martyr Hermogenes, the Bishop of Saratov and Tsaritsyn, is almost a miniature copy of St. Basil's Cathedral.

Uvek (in the southern outskirts of Zavodskoy district of Saratov) is one of the first and largest cities of the Golden Horde. During the excavations of Uvek, a large number of objects were discovered, some of which are real works of art. The objects found during excavations are now stored in the collections of the Saratov Museum of Local History, in the State Hermitage and even in the British Museum. Also in this complex, the remains of a brick mausoleum with nine aristocratic burials were discovered and studied. The excavations are still being carried out.

Saratov is a city with long theatrical traditions. The Saratov Drama Theater and Opera and Ballet Theater are more than 200 years old. There are 10 theatrical venues, including a magic theater and an operetta theater. Museum of Samovars opened in 2015. Its has over 700 pieces. Among the many types are ceremonial, daily use, military, travelling, tavern and family ones. Harmonica Museum contains rare pieces made by famous masters. Saratov Lemon Tree Nursery is a tropical greenhouse with papaya, feijoa, lemon, passion fruit and dwarf banana trees. It also has a small zoo with exotic animals.

Hotels and Getting to Saratov

Accommodation: 1) Bohemia Hotel is located in the city center. A night in a double room costs RUB 4,200. There is free parking, breakfast, Wi-Fi and bathroom amenities, air conditioning flat-screen TVs, safes and mini bars. Address: Prospekt Kirova, 25 Telephone: 8 (8452) 26-33-34. 2) Х&O Hotel is within five minutes” drive of the railway station and fifteen minutes” drive from the airport. Rooms have air conditioners, safes, and fridges. Pets are allowed. A double room costs RUB 4,400. Address: Astrakhanskaya str, 85/144.. Telephone: 8 (8452) 75-78-86. 3) Iceberg Hotel offers modern and comfortable rooms and got a good TripAdvisor ranking. Rooms go for RUB 2,040 a night. Address: Prospekt Entuziastov, 18-a. Telephone: 8 (8452) 94-65-25.

Transport and Emergency Numbers: Buses, trolleybuses, trams and shuttle buses run all over the city. There are several taxi services, including Yandex.taxi. Emergency calls on mobile phones. Beeline: 001 in case of fire; 002 for police; and 003 for ambulance. MTS: 01 in case of fire; 02 for police; and 03 for ambulance. Megafon: 112.

Getting There: By Plane: . Most flights to Saratov are provided by Saratov Airlines. There are no direct flights from St. Petersburg. The flight from Moscow takes about an hour and a half. Adult round-trip economy-class ticket cost around RUB 4,600 to RUB 5,000.

By Train: The Moscow–Saratov premium service train departs from the Paveletsky railway station. The trip takes 15 hours 45 minutes. A one-way ticket costs RUB 1,730. Trains from Saint Petersburg leave from Vitebsk and Moscow railway stations. The trip takes approximately 27 hours. The ticket costs RUB 1,518.

By Bus: . The Southern Gate bus terminal and the Krasnogvardeyskaya bus station in Moscow offer eight bus trips a day. The trip takes 16 hours and costs RUB 1,760. There is a direct bus from Saint Petersburg to Saratov from the bus terminal. The ticket costs from RUB 2,500, and the trip takes about 26 hours 15 minutes. By car: The trip from Moscow will take about 12 hours (840 kilometers) without stops. There is a choice of routes: through Borisoglebsk, Penza or Voronezh.

Yuri Gagarin Landing Site

Yuri Gagarin’s Landing Site (40 kilometers south of Saratov near the village of Kvasnikovka) is marked by a commemorative monument. .It was here that Yuri Gagarin landed at the end of his history-making 108-minute-long space flight on April 12, 1961. Ever since, this place has been known as the Gagarin Field.

In July 2012, the site of Gagarin's landing was designated as federal landmark. An obelisk in form of a space rocket and a monument to Yuri Gagarin were erected at the landing site, as was a monument to the Foton landing craft. In addition, Cosmonautics Alley was constructed, including a composition in memory of the founding fathers of modern astronautical science, K. E. Tsiolkovskiy and S. P. Korolev, as well as twelve bronze bas-reliefs of cosmonauts.

Every year the landing site is visited by 14,000 people. The most crowded time of the year is of course April, the month when Cosmonautics Day is celebrated. Every year the region prepares a special festive program for the occasion, and major events are held at the landing site. Cosmonauts and astronauts from around the world as well as tourists from many countries have come here to honor the memory of Yuri Gagarin.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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