Administrative center: Arsk
Area: 1843 sq.km
The land of beautiful nature and ancient history, the land Tuqay praised in his poems, is only 60 kilometers far from Kazan.
The silence is broken only by the song of the wind, playing with the leaves which fall from the trees. It seems as if time has stopped and daily cares and vanity have disappeared. In this blissful silence poems begin to take shape, as if by themselves. No wonder that this land has been the birthplace of Gabdulla Tuqay, the greatest Tatar poet and the creator of the Tatar literary language.
The foundation of Arsk is linked to the Bolgar colonization of the area in the 12th century. The settlement first appeared as outpost Archa on the sparsely populated northern bank of the Kazanka. In the Golden Horde period, Archa was one of the military citadels beyond the Kazanka, and in the 15th and 16th centuries, the center of the Arsk Daruga of the Kazan Khanate. The Arsk princes were Tatar feudal nobility who played an important role in the Khanate. In the 14th and 15th centuries the region was the center of the struggle between Moscow and Kazan for the control over Viatka. In September 1552 the town was overrun and burned down by the Moscow troops led by Princes Shumsky and Kurbsky. During the post-conquest colonization, a new fortified town was built on the old site in 1555.
In 1781 Arsky uyezd was set up as part of Kazan naestnichestvo (vicegerency), with Arsk advancing to the status of an uezd center.
… Many visitors to Arsky Rayon start their journey with a visit to the memorial complex in Novy Kyrlai village, where Gabdulla Tuqay spent five years, living in the family of a peasant named Sagdi. In his own words, it was here that “he discovered the world, and he began to remember himself”. The poet was born on 26 April, 1886 in the small settlement of Koshlauch, which lies in the vicinity of Arsk, to a family of Muhametgarif, the local mullah. Anyway, most of Tuqay’s childhood was spent in Kyrlai.
Fully orphaned at the age of three, Gabdulla Tuqay found himself in the family of Mukhammetvali, a childless man living in Novo-Tatarskaya sloboda (The New Tatar Settlement). He has spent almost two years there. When his adoptive parents fell seriously ill, the future poet was moved to Kyrlai in 1892-1895. Here he started living a peasant life, with its hard labor, joys and grievances.
NB. Tuqay poetry festival is held in Novy Kyrlai every year on 27 April, with the Gabdulla Tuqay museum as its venue. Famous writers and poets from all Russia come here to take part in it.
It was in Kyrlai that the future poet first started to study his ABCs. The “Kyrlai period” left an indelible mark both on Tuqay’s memory and his creative work. Folk holidays and legends, tales about Shurale the forest devil and Su-anasy the mermaid provided food for his imagination. Later, he made Kyrlai the scene of one of his masterpieces, the poem “Shurale”. A ballet was later based on this text. A “Shurale” park has recently been opened in Kazan (later renamed “Kyrlai”). The first Tatar 3D cartoon was also devoted to the favorite literary character in 2008.
Tuqay’s birthday is a special celebration in Arsky Rayon. The Tuqay poetry festival is held annually in Novy Kyrlai on 27 April. The Gabdulla Tuqay museum becomes the focus and the venue of the festival. Famous men and women of culture, writers and poets flock to Novy Kyrlai from across Russia. They recite the great poet’s verses and dedicate their own works to Tuqay. A poetry reading contest is organized. At the museum entrance stands a monument to the poet: Tuqay sits on the bench under the tree, as if taking a rest. Tuqay’s biography unfolds in chronological order in museum halls, where some of his genuine possessions are exhibited, as well as some furniture from The Bulgar hotel, where Tuqay spent his last years. The memorial and literary expositions at the museum are constantly being replenished.
Memories of Gabdulla Tuqay are also very important for the small village Koshlauch, where the poet was actually born. The Koshlauch Tuqay museum is located in the renovated mansion that belonged to his father, mullah Muhametgarif. The creators of this exposition attempted to reveal the inner “world order” of Tatar family homes, inhabited by two worlds — those of the Mother, a kind housekeeping power, and the Father, permeated with the feeling of religious mission and other responsibilities. Folk art objects like homespun rugs and embroidered towels are the expressive details that emphasize this unique homeliness. The poet loved his ancestors’ homeland with all his heart and often returned to both Koshlauch and Kyrlai.
The museum in Novy Kyrlai also bears memories of the life of yet another great person, the painter and sculptor Baki Urmanche. He masterminded the museum design. Wooden sculptures by Baki Urmanche in the Kyrlai park over the local river represent the characters of Tuqay’s verses and tales.
Prominent playwright and Tatar theatre founder Galiaskar Kamal, Tatar Enlighteners and educators Shihabutdin Marjani, Gabdelnasyr Kursavi, Shamsetdin Kultasi — all of them were born in Arsk lands, and made them famous with their deeds. Today all the necessary conditions are in place for the people of the rayon to develop their creativity. 89 palaces of culture and 58 libraries are active throughout the district.
The Alifba Museum of the Tatar ABC-book is unique in its kind. It is located at the pedagogical college in Arsky Rayon. Its creators were the college professors Ramziya Valitova and Saley Vagizov, who first wrote their version of the Alifba in 1965. Since then, schoolchildren have been learning their native language according to this book. Among almost 1.500 museum exhibits there are 300 copies of ABC-books in 54 languages of the world. Guides are always ready to tell the museum visitors that Phoenician writing system was the 1st phonetic writing system of the world; it appeared in the 10th century BCE. Later if formed the basis for Arabic, Greek and Latin alphabetical systems, which in their turn gave an opportunity for many other peoples around the globe to create national alphabets and ABC-books. Two stories met in the museum hall: the first one opens with a madrasah room where Muslim children were learning the first letters of the alphabet. The room has a low table and a pillow to sit on; on the table are a candle and an inkpot. The other story is related to later times. This room has a modern interior with a school desk and 1st grade girl’s uniform: a dark dress and a snow-white apron. One of the most valuable museum exhibits is Ahmethadi Maksudi’s ABC-book, which he gave to Khalif Kurbanov as a present. Later, Kurbanov gave the book to Valitova and Vagizov.
The couple wrote a total of 43 books throughout their life, including textbooks.
Tourists coming to Arsky Rayon visit the Shamsetdin Kultesi museum located in the village of Kultes where an outstanding enlightener was born.
Economic development of the region benefits from its convenient location. Arsk has a railway station along the Kazan — Perm and Kazan — Yekaterinburg lines. Textile industry and construction enterprises grow side by side with agricultural services, storage and processing facilities.
Arsky Rayon is one of the biggest in agricultural development in Tatarstan. Beef and dairy cattle and grain farming form the foundation of the rayon’s robust agriculture. There are around 100 schools in Arsky Rayon, and many pre-school institutions. The rayon’s educational system includes the Olimp and Archa youth sports school, Arsk children’s school of arts, Schoolchildren’s Palace and Novokinerkinsky children’s creativity center. Graduates of the Tuqay Pedagogical College and the Agroindustrial Professional College of Arsk have earned a lot of respect in the city.