Administrative center: Bolshaya Atnya
Area: 681.4 sq. Km
A beneficial geographic location, picturesque nature, congenial climate and social stability — these features are all characteristic of Atninsky Rayon. If we take a bird’s eye view of its territory, we will see a wavy plain split with river valleys and ravines.
In the central part of the rayon lies the Ashit natural reserve, which is included into the physical and geographical region of Kazan erosional-flat sector of dark coniferous and large-leaved forests. Long ago coniferous forests containing silver-firs and rare oak-tree groves covered the whole territory of present-day Atninsky Rayon. Open flood-lands only remained intact along the Ashit river valley at its confluence with the river Urtyomka as a result of annual spring floods. Waterfowl still prefer
this place during spring migration. Hundreds of their species are found here, including such rare ones as the curlew, crane and swan. The reserve lies along the Ashit river valley and its upstream. The main feature of this scenic place is the river’s lofty right bank, which is up to 50 meters high. There are many crystal-clear springs and picturesque lakes in the area, decorated with spatter-dock and water-lily. One can spot a moose, wild boar, a fox or a badger, a mink or a muskrat in the wild. And how invigorating is the local air infused with the aroma of fragrant meadow flowers and herbs…
This rayon deserves its current reputation for keeping old traditions and culture. Kipchak tribes have greatly influenced local distinctive culture. According to the legend, they named these lands to honor the day on which this settlement was founded: “Atna kich” stood for “Thursday”. The river Ashit, mentioned in the epic Idegey, flows through the rayon. Back in the days the epic was created the river served as a convenient trade route. On its high right bank a fortified city was built in the heyday of the Volga Bolgaria, later to become a big trading center. This city actually was a predecessor of Kazan, because the trading capital had to move further to the south, as the river Ashit started to dry up. The ancient city is now known to historians as Ayshiyazskoye gorodishche (site), and to the people as Kala-tau (“city on the hill”). Even stones here speak the language of stories and legends. Ancient grave stones are preserved to the present day near the villages of Malaya Atnya, Stary Menger, Stary Uzyum and in the vicinity of the site itself. Believers come here to venerate holy places and to get healing from water springs, which are believed to revitalize body and soul. And it is here that people, like thousands of years ago, gather each year to celebrate the ancient festival of Alyasha. The history and traditions of this event trace back to those days when people were abiding by the old Turkic beliefs and traditions and worshipped Tengri, their primary chief deity.
On this day those who live pray for their deceased ancestors. This is a special day to feel the link between historic generations…
In 1769 one of the first mosques in Tatarstan was built in the village of Beryozka. The construction was sponsored by the local patron Ibragim bin Yusuf (Burnaev). Obtaining permission to build that mosque only became possible after a personal appeal to Empress Catherine the Great. Catherine signed the construction permit after her visit to Kazan in 1768. Builders did their best, and as soon as in a year the building was finished and it became possible to pray to Allah there. The two-storied building contained two praying halls and had a minaret on its roof. It was located at the very center of the village. Unfortunately, the minaret did not survive, and during the Soviet period the northern part of the mosque suffered numerous architectural rearrangements: its premises were used for the local community center. Today only the preserved wall pier fragments on the façade and windows of the first and second floors with Petersburg-baroque casing are reminiscent of the previous architectural glory of the mosque.
Later one of the oldest madrasah in Tatarstan was opened in the mosque. Grandfather and father of outstanding educator and religious leader Shihabutdin Marjani were students there.
The history of another village — Yabynchi (Yepanchino) — began in the days of the Kazan Khanate, when Yapancha-batyr had his family estate on these lands. Yapancha, a capable military leader, led the army of Soyembike, paid by her father. World-famous scholar Shihabutdin Marjani, the first to come up with the idea of mass secular education for Tatars, was born in this village in 1818. The first stone mosque in Kazan built in the 18th century now bears the name of Marjani who was its imam.
More than 200 ancient manuscripts written in the 12th — 15th centuries and preserving the spirit and language of those days have become available to modern historians.
Marjani was the man who opened a treasury of world scholarly and cultural potential for his nation. The Marjani museum is situated not far from Yepanchino. His personal memorabilia are carefully kept there.
More than 200 ancient manuscripts written in the 12th — 15th centuries and preserving the spirit and language of those days have become available to modern historians. And this clearly shows that the forefathers of present-day inhabitants of the rayon were educated people. Scholar G.V. Yusupov investigated 10 Muslim Tatar cemeteries of the rayon and found more than 30 epitaphs, all of which date back to 15th — 18th centuries.
… Six kilometers away from Bolshaya Atnya are the villages Stary and Bolshoy Mengers. The legend has it that they once were summer residencies of Kazan khans. Scholars have found information that in the Khanate period coins were minted here. And khan and mirza tombs of the same period have been discovered in the vicinity. The names of people of Tatar culture that are connected with these beautiful lands include the first Tatar architect Ismail Gainutdinov and a renowned patron Ahmetvali Menger (Ibragimov). Tatar poet and writer Ahmet Shakir was born in the village of Kubyan. A museum honoring him has been opened at the local high school. Traditions of patronage and enlightenment were continued by merchant Gabdelkarimov, who built 10 mosques and 5 madrasah. It is interesting to note that Gabdulla Tuqay made friends with his daughter. The Gabdelkarimovs helped Tuqay publish his books.
… And higher climbs the horse on a hill.
And mounting joy is what the heart feels.
I saw how limitless, like gigantic seas
Oh Zakazanye, and how wide were your fields.
Reviving ancient tales
The wind breezed by and clung to shrubbery.
Oh Zakazanye, oh my cradle
Where I mastered my native tongue
Yes, it was that place.
These are the lines that the famous Tatar poet Sibgat Khakim, who walked along the bloodied roads of the World War II, devoted to his homeland — Zakazanye, the part of Tatarstan that lies beyond the Kazanka river and the city of Kazan. The rayon inhabitants also take pride in other famous fellow countrymen, such as the well-known linguist Rashid Rakhmati-Arat.