Administrative center: Bazarnye Mataki
Area: 1726.76 sq.km
In this land, one can think about nothing but history. The main feature of this rayon lies in its abundance of historical monuments. Barrows dating back to the Bronze Age and Turkic Kaganate period can be found intact. The Nizhneal’keyevsky barrow is 3.500 years old!
There are remains of ancient cities in the rayon that refer to the heyday of the Volga Bolgaria and the Golden Horde. They were destroyed by Batu Khan and Tamerlan troops, respectively. The most unique of them are Staronokhratskoye, Staromatakskoye, Kala-Bash and Yakimovo-Strelkinskoe settlement sites. Also some remains of a medieval fortification have survived to the present day in the form of Verknealmurzinsky Val (rampart). Many an old cemetery has preserved Moslem grave stones dating back to the Golden Horde period - Starosalmanskoye, Staroballykulskoye, Tatburnayevskoye, Starochelninskoye and Tatshapkinskoye, to name just a few…
It was in the Stone and Neolithic Ages that the southern part of Tatarstan which now includes Al’keyevsky Rayon used to be one of the settlement centers in the Volga region. These lands were important in the Migration Period and the era of the Turkic Kaganate, with military and trade routes running through them from Suvar to Bilar. The remains of the ancient city Shakhri Bolgar are also not too far away. Unsurprisingly, 126 barrows, 130 ancient villages and 9 hectares of cemeteries – in short, the objects that bear peculiar historical significance – were entered onto the Municipal List of Protected Areas in 2007.
The river Ata-Su has always been the main waterway in these lands. People thought that it was the shortest route between Bolgar and Bilar. Khan’s horses grazed along the banks of the river Aktai.
Most of the local villages were founded in 17th or 18th centuries. A letter of patent by Tsars and Grand Dukes Ioann Alekseevich and Pyotr Alekseevich (the future Peter the Great) has survived. It grants some “wild lands” of Kazansky uyezd to a Tatar servitor of the Murza origin Derbysh son of Urmanchey Akhmimetov: “And according to this letter patent by the Grand Sovereigns, and in compliance with the charter from the Kazansky Palace Prikaz, it is ordered to give the said murza Urmancheyev, good fertile land around Kamkino village, totaling 120 chetverts of field, and 100 of meadowland; and arable lands in Altyrsky uyezd as the books say, and all the land granted to mirza Urmancheyev shall be his forever, and not to be taken away”. By the way, recently Staroye Kamkino has celebrated its 400th anniversary!
Al’keyevsky Municipal Rayon is situated in the very south of Tatarstan, its nearest neighbors being Ulyanovskaya oblast, Spassky, Alexeyevsky and Nurlatsky Rayons. Its administrative center is the village of Bazarnye Mataki.
The nature itself is a treasure of these lands. Natural water basins and artificial lakes cover 225 hectares. The rivers in the rayon include the Maly Cheremshan, Aktaika, Ata-Su and Bezdna.
The Maly Cheremshan was mentioned as early as in 921 – 922, in the notes of the famous traveler Ahmed Ibn Fadlan, who visited Volga Bolgaria in those years.
Besides, there are 15 artificial ponds in the region. It is good to catch pike, bream and carp in their waters. Local marshes and ravines are considered to be unique as they form a part of a special ecological system. For example, Tatarsko-Akhmetyevsky pit bog has preserved a relic of the Ice Age, Betula humilis (small birch). Bogs along the Maly Cheremshan river are part of wild game reserve. Also there are some bogs beyond human reach. They are a paradise for different water-fowl birds, which use it as a habitat or reproduction area. Also, these lands are famous for their colonies of muskrats, beavers and wild ducks.
Fishing and hunting in the reserves is strictly prohibited!
River Belaya delta, Kulyagash bog and the Ashit river flood-lands are also listed as water basins which have international importance. Specialists have spotted relic fauna species here, such as red-breasted goose, duck plague, scoter, otter and many hundreds of other water fauna species. All of them are under special protection.
Al’keyevsky rayon is also rich in forests, which total over 32,300 hectares. Most of these are mixed forests, good for timber. Nevertheless, one may encounter pine groves in the south-west. Local forests have beasts in abundance: moose, wild boar, fox, squirrel, mink and marten live there. If you are lucky, you can spot a lynx or a badger.
Geologists have explored these lands and found them rich in clays, gravel and peat. There are also rich oil-fields and water deposits.
There are plans to start extracting these riches in the near future.
Scholars cannot agree on a single opinion as regards the etymology of the rayon name. Some think it is derived from the word “Al” (hand) and “Kai” (diminutive ending). Locals like to tell the legend about a certain Alki babay (Grandfather Alki), who supposedly founded the first Tatar settlement in the region. In one way or another, at present three localities bear the name Al’keyevo – Nizhneye Al’keyevo, Sredneye Al’keyevo and Verkhneye Al’keyevo respectively. Nizhneye Al’keyevo was a volost’ centre in the 1920s, and the rayon name might be linked to it.
There is a book written about history and people of Al’keyevsky Rayon - “My cradle” (Alkiyem, Balliyem) by I. Gaziz. Local beauties are praised in poems by Gabdelzhabbar Kandali. Poet N. Dauli and composer Z. Gibadullin dedicated a song to the rayon. Famous natives of Al’keyevsky Rayon have become the pride of Tatarstan, and of both Tatar and Chuvash peoples. For instance, Galiya Bulatova, Azal Yagudin, Islamiya Makhmutova, Askhat Khismatov, Anas Galiullin, Ruziya Mutygullina enjoy a good deal of popularity. Well-known and respected figures include singers Mirsait Sungatullin and Rezida Tukhvatullina, scholars Said Vakhidi and Hisamouddin al-Muslimi, writers Fatih Saifi-Kazanly, Fahri Asgat, Nabi Dauli, Peder Huzangai, Shamil Mannapov and Salih Mannapov (Mudarris Valeyev), Asrar Galiyev, journalists Il Gaziz, Sarmadiya Suleiman, Nasikh Taziyev, sportsman Rashit Samigullin and many others. Family roots link the female gymnast Alina Kabayeva, composer Louisa Batyr-Bulgari and businessmen Khairullin brothers to this area.
Novoye Kamkino is the birthplace of poet Nabi Dauli. Poet Shamil Mannapov was born and raised in village Tatarskoye Mullino. The famous Chuvash poet Peder Khuzangai comes from the village Staraya Sikhterma, poetess Bika Rakhimova was born in Chuvashsky Brod, artist Askhat Khismatov is from Nizhnee Al’keyevo.
At present the population of Al’keyevsky Rayon is more than 20,000 people – Tatars, Russians, Chuvashes and representatives of many other ethnicities. Multinational peace and stability is a matter of long-standing tradition. Indeed, people of different nationalities have been living in these lands in harmony for many a decade.
Speaking about today’s reality of Al’keyevsky Rayon, let us focus on its inhabitants’ main achievements. The biggest enterprises include a brick factory, mixed fodder factory, creamery and bakery. Spring and winter wheat, winter rye, barley, oat, millet, peas are cultivated. The leading cattle-breeding branches include milk and meat cattle and pig-breeding. There is also forestry in the rayon. Some years ago a fish-factory became operational. Rare and valuable fish species are bred here using the latest techniques. Nine artificial ponds were created on 600 hectares, on which sterlet, sturgeon, sheat-fish, carp, sazan (European carp) and even trout.
The museum of Chuvash people’s poet Peder Khuzangay exists in Sikhterme-Khuzangayevo village. In August 2007 the Lysenkov History and local history museum was opened in Bazarnye Mataki. So the history of Al’keyevsky Rayon, whose roots go back to the distant past, now extends into the future.