Administrative center: Agryz
Area: 1796.62 sq.km
Agryzski Rayon lies at the crossing of four of Tatarstan’s major roads, on the land destined to be special, combining pure beauty of the North and bright charisma of the East.
Your journey in the area begins at the foot of Sarapul Hills, on the picturesque banks of the River Izh. The village of Agryz was first mentioned in the census booksor royal, church and village lands of the Kazan uezd in 1646. Farmers had been settling here since the reign of Ivan the Terrible. In the 20th century, a new road was needed that would connect Moscow and Kazan to Yekaterinburg.
Agryz has become a convenient point where railways to and from the south, north, east and west of the country could join. The construction of the Kazan — Yekaterinburg and Agryz — Votkinsk railways have completely changed the town, where the local locomotive depot became the biggest enterprise. The first exploratory work began here in 1912, and full construction started two years later, in 1914. Agryz then was a small Tatar village, which could provide a lot of labor for the construction, but still not as many as needed. The exhausting earthworks brought together local laborers and POWs captured on the battlefields of the First World War — Hungarians, Austrians, Germans. The first train from Moscow to Yekaterinburg entered the new station on July 1, 1920. Over time, Agryz has become Russia's largest railway junction.
The importance of the railway station for the town is clear from the very fact that all its main facilities were suited to the needs of the railroad. Three of the town’s four schools were originally intended for children of railway employees, as well as special dorms and entire streets for the families of railwaymen. The whole long and complicated history of Agryz, the heart of the railway, with its twists and turns, has been preserved at a special museum established in 1980.
The modern railway station building is a modern and convenient one. The infrastructure of the station features cutting-edge technologies. Arriving trains undergo a universal inspection, which is much more time-saving and effective than the older methods.
Although the railway has eventually joined in as an important part of the complex organism of culture created by human hand, the rayon has yet another part of its body — an incredibly rich and picturesque nature. First of all, there are the woods. Islets of the taiga paint the local landscapes blue and green, and the air is deliciously fresh. To protect this beauty, the Kichke-Tan natural reserve was established in 1997 at the mouth of the River Izh. Its 9800 hectares of area feature plants and animals listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Tatarstan, and are dotted with numerous springs. It is here that the largest colony of gray herons in Tatarstan nests. The wetlands are also populated by swans, whose numbers have grown from 3 in 1997 to 137 at present. Another unique phenomenon in the reserve is the Slozhnyi bor (mixed coniferous pine forest), where fir and spruce are indeed growing side by side with deciduous trees, which is quite rare for this part of Tatarstan. Picking berries and mushrooms is prohibited in the reserve, as well as campfires and driving vehicles that could damage rare plants.
To see the forests of Agryz in all their splendor, you must obtain a special permit, which will open the door to priceless natural treasure for you.
The Agryz land has become home to many Tatar authors, whose talent and work contributed to the spiritual heritage of the nation. Poet and journalist Lyabib Aituganov, the Bubi family, poet Daut Gubaydi — they were all born in Agryz rayon and made their land famous. Another famous local native and a classic of Soviet-time Tatar drama, Tazi Gizzat, was born in the village of Varzi-Omga in Agryzsky rayon (then known as Krasnoborsky). In 2005, the Tazi Gizzat Museum was started at the local high school No. 3, featuring the writer’s personal properties among its exhibits, as a donation from his son Kazbek Gizzatov. The school has since then been renamed after the playwright.
A separate page in the history of the area is occupied by the Izh-Bobya madrassa. Founded in 1781, it became famous far beyond Russia for its high level of education. Since late 19th century, the madrassa was led by the Nigmatullin-Bubi brothers, who made it one of the strongest centers of Islamic education in the Volga region. Students even arrived from abroad to join the madrassa. The curriculum included such subjects as the basics of Islam, philosophy, Russian and French languages, mathematics and physics.
The fame of the Bubi brothers’ madrassa reached as far as the Muslim East, with some professors even being invited to teach in Mecca. In 1907 Muhlisa Bubi, the sister of Gubaydulla and Gabdulla Nigmatullin, started a six-grade school for girls who could study secular subjects, languages and get household management skills there. The Bubi Madrasa was visited by Gabdulla Tuqay, who talked to the shakirds (students) and leaders.
It was this school that a young girl named Zaytouna Mavlyudova graduated from. At the editorial office of The El-Islah ("Reform") newspaper, Zaytouna and her friend met the famous young poet Gabdulla Tuqay, the rising star of Tatat poetry. Both girls had dreamt of meeting Tuqay, but after greeting the two, he looked only at Zaytouna, then dropped his eyes and never said a word. Only a few times in his short life had the poet been able to see the girl he loved. Even then, he never tried to talk to the girl and every time he saw her, his cheeks blushed... We can only guess that the sick poet, foreseeing his untimely death of tuberculosis, did not want to limit the freedom of the girl he loved and ruin her future. Tuqay only expressed his love to Zaytouna in his poem published in the Al-Islah under the pen-name Majnun.
I am writing this verse only because this case
Is like my love, equally strange.
I’m deep in love, but in an awkward way:
I shun my beloved, as if she was a forest devil.
I don’t look at her when we meet, as if not seeing her at all.
I don’t betray my love, although my heart is in pain.
I am signing this verse with an assumed name,
As I’m afraid that she will guess I’m obsessed with her.
She speaks, and I give a cold reply,
Although I’m burning at every moment I see her.
I have recently heard she left this place,
And has a heap of letters flown from me to her?
Quite contrary! I’m actually glad and am forgetting my anxiety,
Saying, “Thank God she’s gone without ever learning…”
In 1911 the Izh-Bobya mosque was closed and teachers charged with spreading pan-Islamist ideas. Gubaydulla and Gabdulla Nigmatullin-Bubi were imprisoned, and their sister Muhlisa was forced to leave the village. In 1937 she was arrested and shot on false charges. The madrassa was destroyed, so Muhametzyan Akhmetzyanov, a first-guild merchant, sheltered the students in a space he owned.
Despite all attempts to destroy this center of education, the school has continued into the Soviet era, teaching children in their native Tatar language. In 1987, a new building was completed for the Izh-Bobya secondary school (now bearing the Bubi brothers’ name). The modern school in a way continues the tradition of the legendary madrassa. It was one of the first in Tatarstan to receive the prestigious Qayyum Nasyri award for achievements in the development of ethnic education.
The school’s graduates continue their studies at the best educational institutions in the country and abroad.
The Bubi Madrasa compound also included an old mosque, which, sadly, did not survive. But the other mosque in the village, built at the end of the 19th century and also used by the shakirds, remained intact. Among other surviving historic buildings are the local merchant warehouse (now used for the same purpose by the school) and the house owned by the merchant Akhmetzyanov (now the village council). In order to preserve the legacy of the Bubi brothers, Ramzia Khaliullina, the local teacher of mathematics, in 1989 started a school museum of history. It has some rare exhibits of the madrassa days, such as the authentic Qurans and textbooks. A group of enthusiasts is striving to create an open-air museum in the area, featuring numerous historical artifacts.
The village of Isenbayevo has preserved a copy if the royal letter patent by Tsar Mikhail Romanov (17th century) granting the use of the land where the village now stands. The local school was built in 1897. Every year it welcomes the new generation of students, many of whom brought fame to their village.
Isenbayevo cherishes the memory of its heroes, so the 30th anniversary of victory in the World War II saw the start of an exposition in one of the rooms of a historic museum building. The exhibits show the most important events in the life of the village, featuring local residents who did a lot for their country in the years when their help was most needed.
The Latypov family lost one of the brothers, Sadiq, in the WWII. The absence of any information about him was not surprising, as anyone taken prisoner or serving in a unit under encirclement would be declared MIA. But Sadiq’s younger brother Said decided to find out the true fate of his sibling and began to collect materials that could shed light on what happened to his brother. It turned out that he was in fact a POW in Germany, where they placed him in concentration camp. It was at the camp that he met Musa Jalil, the hero poet, in 1942/43 and subsequently escaped and rejoined the fight against Nazism. In 1943 he was killed in Poland.
Agryzsky rayon has 71 settlements all in all, each adding a unique touch to the picture. But Krasny Bor has a particularly interesting story. This village was founded at the end of the 18th or the very beginning of the 19th century and is the oldest Russian settlement in the area.
Until 1920 the village bore the name of Pyany Bor (Drunken Pine Forest). It used to be a transit point for navigation along the river Kama. At Pyany Bor, barge owners would reckon and pay off the dues to the haulers. Often, all the money earned by hard labor immediately went away on a drunken spree, filling the pockets of Pyany Bor’s publicans. Day and night the village walls resounded with haulers’ songs, sometimes plaintive and full of sorrow and complaint, sometimes merry and rollicking, mixed with whistles and inebriated enthusiasm. Since 1843, the village hosted an annual fair.
This picturesque area has been attractive since ancient times. The site of the village and the nearby area has been famous with historians and archaeologists since the 19th century when they discovered a number of settlements and cemeteries of the ancient people who lived here in 1st -3rd centuries CE. Archaeological finds of this period are generally known under the umbrella name "Pyany Bor culture." Later, this area was populated by the Bolgar-Tatar.
In 1901 one of the visitors to Pyany Bor was the great Russian writer A.P. Chekhov, accompanied by his wife Olga Knipper-Chekhov. In her later years, the People’s Artist of the Soviet Union recalled this event in a letter to the editor of the Krasny Bor newspaper “Po Leninskomu Puti” (In the Path of Lenin): "In 1901 Anton Pavlovich and I took the steamboat to Ufa, intending to stay at a resort there. The boat stopped at Pyany Bor and did not go further. We had to look for accommodation for the night. It was evening already. So we found a clean hut and settled for the night there. This night left a huge impression on me: there we were, surrounded by vast expanses full of peace and silence. Not a sound anywhere, no human habitation — we were fully isolated from the world. I still remember that night and will never forget it. In the morning another boat came and picked us up. Anton Pavlovich and I often recalled the night we spent in Pyany Bor.
After the revolution, the new power considered the name of the village offensive, and in 1918 it was renamed Krasny Bor (Red Pine Forest). Up to 1960, Krasny Bor remained the rayon’s administrative center and the rayon itself was known as Krasnoborsky.
Sky-blue calm waters of the Kama, dense pine forest give the area a fairy-tale atmosphere and make the village a favorite holiday destination, not only for people of Tatarstan but of adjacent regions as well. A recently constructed boathouse is another place of attraction for tourists, which helps the development of domestic tourism.
Besides the railway, Agryzsky rayon has another passion — agriculture and forestry, with its own granaries and bakeries. Due to the fact that there is almost no developed industry in the area, Agryzsky rayon is considered one of the most environmentally friendly in Tatarstan. Today Agryz is a small but modern and developing town, where people values traditions and think about the future. There are new kindergartens, hotels and sports facilities under construction. In 2008 a big Ice Hockey Arena was commissioned. Kids can play hockey and go in for figure skating there. The Agryz Sports Training Camp opens doors to young athletes from all over Russia, as its infrastructure meets the highest standards. In 2010, the local football stadium was renovated. Agryzsky rayon has been endowed by many gifts of nature; it served the state and followed the course of the country's history, but always retained its original look — thanks to its people who love their land and create their own stories.