ALATYR

In the central regions of Russia stands a small Russian town. To the Russian ear its name sounds enigmatic and mysterious. There are many ancient stories and legends which tell of how the town acquired its name. The people who live here prefer the version which says it means 'a white stone' as it sounds so beautiful and poetic. And the town truly is wonderfully poetic. Two rivers, the Alatyr and the Sura, surround it. Its gardens and parks are full of trees and flowers. Its streets have many modern buildings, and yet still bear witness to the town's ancient foundations.

At the moment, spring is coming to our town. The domes of the monasteries recently raised from their ruins, stretch forth into the sky. The branches of the awakening trees nod to one another across the streets. The last puddles are drying up in the spring sunshine. And there's a smile on people's faces, the people of one of Russia's ancient towns - Alatyr.

Irina Lvova, Alatyr poet March 2002

Alatyr celebrates 450 years of history.

This year is a special year in the life of our town, as it is celebrating its 450th anniversary. It was in August 1552, during Tsar Ivan the Terrible's conquest of Kazan that a fortress and a settlement called Alatyr were built on a high promontory, a naturally fortified place where the River Alatyr flows into the River Sura. At first, it was a wooden fortress with oak walls and a moat full of water surrounding it. Until the end of the 17th century, the town was one of the large military outposts on the south-eastern frontier of the Russian state. Vast areas of the surrounding land inhabited by the Chuvash, the Mordva and the Tartars, were under its control. Inside the fortress there was a wooden church and the houses of noble people. Others lived near the fortress.

Alatyr is granted a coat of arms.

As the people of Alatyr had bravely defended the Russian state, in 1780 Empress Catherine the Great granted the town its own coat of arms. In the upper half of the coat of arms is the coat of arms of Simbirsk as Alatyr then belonged to the Simbirsk Province (Simbirsk is today the city of Ulyanovsk). In the lower half are three golden quivers of arrows as the people of Alatyr were praised for their great skill in using such weapons.

Alatyr in the 18th and 19th centuries.

With time, Alatyr lost its military significance but it remained an important centre of Russian culture and Orthodoxy in the newly acquired territories. In 1584, the Holy Trinity Men's Monastery was founded, and in 1639, the Kievo-Nikolayevsky Women's Monastery. In the 18th century in particular, the building of Orthodox churches in wood and stone flourished in the Alatyr region. By the 19th century, the town had become a wealthy market town on a trade route between east and west. In 1894, the Kazan to Moscow railway line was built through the town and this brought renewed prosperity to the town. Today, in Lenin Street, you can see the beautiful houses where rich merchants lived at this time.

Modern Alatyr.

In 1925, the Alatyr region became part of the Chuvash Republic, and since then it has been one of the largest industrial and cultural centres along the banks of the River Sura. During Soviet times, the look of the town changed when a large electronic components factory was built on the site of the Old Town Square in the historic part of the town. The new town centre sprang up in its present location around the Town Hall, the House of Children's Creativity, the Stadium, the Library, the Palace of Culture and modern blocks of flats. Today, the population of Alatyr is about 48,000 people. There are several large factories in the town where electronic components and industrial fridges are made. Smaller factories produce a wide range of goods: paper, furniture, shoes, musical instruments and dairy products. There are 10 schools with primary and secondary departments, music, art and sports schools, several technical colleges and a branch of the Chuvash State University.

Some Key Dates in the History of Alatyr.

  • 1552 On August 4th Alatyr was founded by Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
  • 1584 The Monastery of the Holy Trinity was founded.
  • 1606-1609 A national peasant's revolt.
  • 1612-1614 Alatyr was attacked by the Nogaisk Tartars.
  • 1621 172 soldiers from Bryansk were sent to serve in Alatyr.
  • 1639 The Kievo-Nikolayevsky Women's Monastery was founded.
  • 1670 Alatyr was destroyed by the Cossack Maxim Osipov during Stepan Razin's uprising.
  • 1708 Alatyr became part of the Kazan Province by decree of Peter the Great.
  • 1714 Alatyr became part of the Nizhnii Novgorod Province.
  • 1722 The first Russian school opened.
  • 1774 Emilian Pugachev was in Alatyr. The fortress was burnt down.
  • 1780 Alatyr was granted its coat of arms and became part of the Simbirsk Province.
  • 1787 A small national school opened.
  • 1804 The town was rebuilt.
  • 1812 Soldiers from Alatyr took part in the war with Napoleon.
  • 1872 Telegraph came to the town.
  • 1877 The Public Bank opened.
  • 1893 The Alatyr-Sviyazhsk railway line opened.
  • 1894 The Moscow-Kazan railway line opened.
  • 1906 A large section of the town, including the Men's Monastery, was destroyed by fire.
  • 1908-1910 Nikolai Nikolayevich Valukhin, a photographer from Nizhnii Novgorod made his unique photographic portrait of the town.
  • 1910 The summer theatre opened.
  • 1911 The first cinema, 'Pathe' opened.
  • 1917 The struggle for Soviet power.
  • 1918 In May there was a counter-revolutionary revolt.
  • 1918 The Military Aviation School opened.
  • 1925 The electric power station began to operate.
  • 1925 Alatyr became part of the Chuvash Republic
  • 1939 The Teacher Training Institute opened.
  • 1941-45 The people of Alatyr took part in the 2nd World War against Germany.
  • 1963 The Kanash-Alatyr electrified railway line opened.

    The Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

    The Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Alatyr was founded in the 16th century shortly after Ivan the Terrible's conquest of Kazan. It is a men's monastery whose most famous inhabitant was the Schemamonk Vassian who lived here in the 17th century. He was known for his great holiness and prayer. The first buildings were wooden, but later, stone churches were built, the first being the Church of the Holy Trinity in 1748. From 1801-1818 a church with 2 altars was built. One altar was dedicated to St Sergius of Radonezh and the other to the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. In 1905, the Abbot of the monastery, Archimandrite Gabriel started to build a church in the crypt under the Kazan Church where the relics and the holy well of the Monk Vassian were. But in 1906 a terrible fire destroyed much of the town and the monastery buildings were seriously damaged. The monastery was rebuilt in time for the next tragedy to occur. In 1919 the monastery was closed and in the 1920's and 1930's many monks, priests and believers from the town were shot in the monastery grounds. In Soviet times the monastery was turned into a cigarette factory and a ski factory.

    Since 1996 restoration work has been carried out under Fr Hieronim Schurigin who was raised to the rank of Archimandrite when Patriarch Alexis II visited the monastery in July 2001. There are now about 100 monks and novices, and pilgrims come from all over Russia to worship at the daily services and seek spiritual guidance from the monks. Three churches are now open for worship and have been beautifully restored with the help of icon painters from Moscow. Visitors and pilgrims are always welcome at the monastery, at services in the Churches of St. Sergius of Radonezh and of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. The crypt church with the well of the Monk Vassian has been rededicated to St Seraphim of Sarov. The relics of Vassian have not yet been found, but at his holy prayers, the monastery is flourishing once again.

    The Kievo-Nikolayevsky Women's Monastery.

    Alatyr's women's monastery was founded in 1639. The Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was built in 1737 inside the northern wall of the monastery. Later, monastic cells were built on its western side. The Church of the Protecting Veil was built in 1767 and the Church of the Ascension was built in 1753. The monastery was closed in 1919 and suffered severe damage. It was partly returned to the Church in 1994 and restoration work is being carried out under the supervision of the present Abbess Elizaveta. There are daily services in the Church of the Protecting Veil which are attended by local people and pilgrims to the monastery.

    The Church of the Exaltation
    of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross

    This church was built in 1826 in the grounds of the old town cemetery. The cemetery was closed in 1931. The church was the only church in Alatyr to remain open for services during most of the Soviet time. It was only closed during the years 1938-1944.

    Lenin Street ( Simbirsk Street)

    The picture shows part of one of the town's oldest streets which was built from the south gate of the Alatyr fortress to Simbirsk. Until the 1917 Revolution, Simbirsk was the central town of the region.

    Alatyr's merchants built houses along the street at the end of the 19th century.

    One of the beautiful old houses belonged originally to I.V. Novikov, but after 1909 it became a men's college which gave a high-quality education. The college was closed in 1918. Later this building was used as a school. Many famous names are connected with this place. Today there is a cafe and some offices in the building.

    At the end of Lenin Street are the Kazan Church and Belltower. The Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was built by parishioners in 1779 to replace a wooden church which burnt down in 1754. The belltower was built separately from the church in 1887-90. On the left is the Parish School built in 1887. Both belltower and school were built at the expense of the Alatyr merchant, K.N. Popov. The Church was closed in 1930 and at the present time is in a severely damaged state. Simbirsk Street was renamed Lenin Street on 23rd April 1920 to commemorate Lenin's 50th birthday.

    The Shoe Factory.

    This is at the end of Lenin Street and was originally the house of the Brothers Popov who were the richest merchants in Alatyr. The Popovs produced flour and wine. K.N. Popov founded his own theatre and built the Kazan Church and its belltower. He also built the school alongside the church. Today his house is the Shoe Factory, one of the biggest industrial enterprises in Alatyr.

    The Alatyr District Council Building (Zemstvo).

    The District Council Building was built in 1870. When the 'Zemstvo' was introduced in 1866 the post of the first president of the Alatyr District Council was held by the Deputy Marshal of the Nobility, Nikolai Alexandrovich Krylov, the father of the famous Academician and Ship Designer, Krylov. On 18th January 1918 the first meeting of the members of the town's RSDRP took place here. The building is still the administrative offices of the Alatyr District.

    The Alatyr Local History Museum.

    The Local History Museum helps you to understand what life was like in Alatyr in the past. Until recently, the museum was situated in a church but it has now been relocated in a new building near the Pond. There are two main halls in the museum. A new hall devoted to the flora and fauna around Alatyr was opened in 2002.

    In the first hall you can see a very big collection of different kinds of samovars. There are many interesting ancient and modern lamps. You can see many old books, toys and crockery. In the second hall there is a big set of bells and ancient musical instruments such as musical boxes and pianos.

    There is also a very interesting collection of examples of local flora and fauna. There are many stuffed animals and birds of types that live in and around Alatyr. On the second floor the main hall is in the process of restoration. It will be the most interesting and beautiful hall in the museum.

    The Alatyr Art Gallery

    If you would like to visit the Art Gallery you can find it in the old, historic part of Alatyr. In the Art Gallery you can see paintings by local artists and find out about Alatyr's most famous sculptor, Erzya. There are paintings by Alatyr artists Vovashkin, Dugina, Razutkin, Lenkov, Karacharskov and Kamenshikov and paintings by artists famous throughout Chuvashia such as Ovchinnikov, Semenov and Makarov.

    In the Gallery you can see a bronze statue of the famous sculptor, Erzya. A monument to Erzya has also been erected in the park near the Men's Monastery as part of Alatyr's 450th Anniversary celebrations. Every few months there is a new temporary exhibition in the Art Gallery usually devoted to the work of a local artist or craftsman. Please call in at the Art Gallery to find out about the current exhibition. In the Art Gallery you can find many interesting and unusual things to look at.

    The Children's Art School.

    You can find this building on Lenin Street . It was originally the house of the rich merchant, Skorobogatov. Today the Children's Art School is situated in his house and many young artists have their first lessons there.

    The Railway Station

    The Moscow-Kazan railway line was built in 1891 by a company directed by Von Mekk. The old building of the station is still in use.

    The Chuvash State University

    There is a branch of the Chuvash University in Alatyr where students can study at several faculties of the Cheboksary-based university.

    One of the university buildings is a beautiful old wooden building in Komsomol Street (formerly Station Street). It was built in 1911 as the Town College and later became a school. The building has been specially restored to celebrate the town's 450th anniversary.

    The Town Gardens

    Its old name was the Zemskiy Gardens as it is situated next to the Zemstvo (District Council) building. It was opened in 1886 and it has always been a favourite place of the people of Alatyr. It is still a wonderful place to wander or sit and have a rest.

    The Memorial to the people of Alatyr killed in the 1941-45 War.

    This monument is situated in an area of the town called 'Venetz'( the wreath). The sculptures are by I.N.Bylinkin and V.B.Shelov and you can read the following words there: 'Let's remember them name by name, With all our grief:::: This is necessary not for those who are dead, But for those who remain alive.'

    In the centre of the memorial is a majestic obelisk. On the wall around you can find the names of all the soldiers from Alatyr who died in the war.

    The Monument to M.P.Boronin and V.F. Vetvinsky

    This monument was the creation of M.I.Nefyodov. Boronin was a pilot, a hero of the Second World War. He fought in the Air Forces of the Northern Navy. Vetvinsky was born in 1924. During the war he served in the artillery. In 1944 he was given the award 'Hero of the Soviet Union'. Soon after, he was killed in battle.

    Our Rivers - The Sura and The Alatyr.

    The Sura River was first mentioned in a historical essay in 1868. It has its source near the village of Surki and flows into the Volga. The river flows from south to north in the eastern part of the town.

    The Alatyr river flows into the Sura. The length of the river is 252 km. These rivers have always been of great importance to the town's development and have played an important role in the town economy. The Sura, in particular, was until very recently navigable for quite large vessels and goods were shipped to and from the town along the river.

    The New Town Centre

    The Town Hall

    This is situated in Pervomayskaya Street and contains the offices of the Town Administration which governs town affairs. The Mayor at present is V.I. Pakhomov who is supported by the citizens of the town.

    The House of Children's Creativity

    This is situated in Alatyr's central square opposite the Town Hall. The children of our town love going there as it gives them an opportunity to develop their artistic and practical gifts. Children enjoy attending a wide variety of different clubs according to their interests.

    Alatyr's Cinemas

    Cinema first appeared in Alatyr in 1911. I.F. Blokhin founded the first cinema which was called the 'Pathe' after the French film company. Cinema soon became very popular and soon two more cinemas were opened.

    Now there is only one cinema in Alatyr. It is called the 'October' and was opened in 1956.

    School No.6

    Grammar School in 1992 and has a reputation for giving a high-quality education. The school teaches a wide variety of subjects and there are many opportunities at the school to develop not only intellectual abilities but also artistic and practical gifts. Due to the broad education they receive, pupils enter many different institutes of higher education when they leave school.

    The photo shows School Leavers' Day which is a special celebration at the school each year. The school gives such a high quality education that in the year 2000 it was awarded the second place in the School of the Year competition of the Chuvash Republic.

    Famous People of Alatyr

    Alexei Nikolayevich Krylov

    Krylov was an outstanding Russian scientist, ship designer, mathematician and academic. He was born in the village of Visyaga in the Alatyr region on 3rd September 1863. Many streets, ships and institutes are named after him, and many of the people of Alatyr still remember him. A monument to him has been erected to celebrate the town's 450th anniversary near the Kazan Church.

    S.D. Nefyodov (Erzya)

    S.D. Nefyodov was born on 9th November 1876 in the village of Baevo in Mordovia. In 1890 he came to Alatyr to train at Tyulyudino's icon painting workshop. He painted many portraits and landscapes. He later became famous as a sculptor not only in Russia but all over the world. He lived much of his life in Argentina as the wood he used in his sculptures grew there.

    Klavdiya Ivanovna Muravyova

    She was a teacher and very famous all over Russia before the Second World War. She was awarded the title, 'Honoured Teacher of the Russian Federation' in 1935. She made a great contribution to the development of education in Russia. She died in 1946.

    Mikhail Vladimirovich Pokrovskii
    (1881-1974)

    He was born in Yantikovo and studied at the Medical Faculty of Kazan University. He served as a doctor and surgeon in the First World War, the Civil War and the Second World War. In 1941-61 he was the Head Doctor, and responsible for the Department of Surgery at the Alatyr Hospital. He received the award of 'Honoured Doctor of the RSFSR'. He was also awarded the Order of Lenin. One of the streets of Alatyr is named after him.

    Nikolai Alexandrovich Kamenshikov

    He was a famous painter, an 'Honoured Teacher of the Chuvash Republic' and a member of the League of Soviet Artists. From 1908 he organized a lot of exhibitions of paintings in Alatyr and in 1918 he set up an Artists' Studio in Alatyr. His pictures can be seen in many museums.

    Alexei Ivanovich Sudaev
    (1912-1946)

    He was born in 1912 and was a military engineer and designer. During the Second World War, his sub-machine gun PPS was produced in Leningrad and he played an important role in the victory over the Germans. A.I Sudaev was awarded a state prize for his gun in 1946. He died in 1946 and is buried in Moscow in the Vagankovskoye Cemetery.

    Konstantin Petrovich Gorshenin
    (1907-1978)

    He was a Professor and Doctor of Law and a very famous figure in Russian public life. He was an undergraduate at the Moscow Institute of Law and did graduate studies at the Institute of Soviet Law. He worked in Kazan where he was the Deputy Director of the Institute of Law. Later he served on the National Committee of Justice and became Procurator of the USSR. In this capacity he took part in the Nuremburg Trials in 1945-46. He was the author of 200 scholarly works and was awarded the Order of Lenin twice, as well as other medals

    Pyotr Grigorievich Makarov
    (1922-)

    He was born in Alatyr on 10th July 1922. He was a pilot during the Second World War. In 1945 he was given the title 'Hero of the Soviet Union' for his bravery during the war. He was also awarded many other medals. P.G. Makarov still lives in Alatyr.

    Musa Manarov

    Manarov studied at School No 8 in Alatyr and later became a cosmonaut. He flew into space in 1987 on board the ship 'Soyuz TM-4' together with V.G. Titov and A.S. Levtenko.

    This Tourist Guide was written and compiled by the pupils of Alatyr Grammar School No. 6, and their teachers, N.I. Denisova, L.I.Krasnova, N.N.Mashtakova, I.S.Shabanova, G.N.Zemskova, N.A.Mashargina and A.R. Backhouse. The photographs were taken by Igumen Vasilii Pasquiet, I.S. Shabanova and Natalia Sudnikovich. We thank A.K.Krasnov for the use of his photographs of famous people of Alatyr and acknowledge our use of photographs from the official website of the Chuvash Republic. A special word of thanks to Igumen Vasilii Pasquiet and Evgeni Kiruhin of 11T for their help with computer graphics and layout. For further information, please apply to the English teachers of Grammar School No.6, 429800 Alatyr, Chuvash Republic, Russia. Alatyr, April 25th 2002.

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