Administrative center: Bugulma
Area: 1409 sq.km
The crown of this rich and picturesque area is the beautiful old city of Bugulma, located among scenic plains and stunningly beautiful green hills that foreshadow the mountainous land of the Urals. The very sight of the homes of merchants of old among lush gardens takes us back to Russia’s imperial times. Bugulma is a city with its own unique image, provincial in a kind way, calm and unhurried.
People of Bugulma greet their guests with a characteristic warmth and openness. These qualities are wonderfully mixed with an enterprise and business-like spirit, with determination and a genuine self-confidence, all of them based on the love for the native land. For you to better understand the nature of Bugulma and its people, let us start with a story. The city’s coat of arms features a spring as a symbol of life, purity and spirituality. In general, throughout Tatarstan people have a special love of springs, which is supported by centuries-old religious traditions, both Islamic and Orthodox Christian. Springs often bear the names of patron saints of local settlements. As a rule, a chapel or a holy Moslem symbol is erected nearby, as if to say, "Touch the life-giving waters and get empowered with the energy of the Earth, which will fill you with health and life."
There are many springs in Bugulma, but the local custom is not simply to enjoy the gifts of nature, but to develop them. Residents of the city have come up with an idea to deliver pure spring water to every home — a project that they skillfully implemented by means of crowdfunding. Nearly a million rubles in voluntary contributions was raised to ensure that pure spring water flows down from every tap in every single house. This is the Bugulma way of being special!
The history of the city arms is as complicated and fascinating as that of the city itself. On December 23, 1781 in St. Petersburg, Catherine the Great signed a decree conferring the status of uezd town on the sloboda (settlement) of Bugulma. As the legend goes, the coat of arms was granted at the same time, with the following blazon, "Azure, a fish argent, spots azure”. The fish mentioned was a local species known as the “pestrushka”, very abundant in the rivers around Bugulma. Later the upper field of the coat of arms was adorned with the image of the running marten — the emblem of the vicegerency capital, Ufa. Thus history predetermined the combination of regularity and efficiency, harmony and strength in everything related to Bugulma and its life.
Bugulminsky rayon is located in the most elevated part of the country — on the plateau named after the city. Looking at things philosophically, we can point out that a hill, mountain or summit is the symbol of growth and achievement. People of Bugulma have always been famous for that. A short look at its history will suffice to prove it.
The first mention of Bugulma (1736) describes it as a small village in the woods by the river Bugulminka (Izvilistaya, or Twisted), next to a popular merchant route. Bugulminskaya sloboda was regarded by the authorities as one of the Russian outposts in the exploration and settlement of the lands east of the Kama. To make this imperial idea viable, soldiers and their families, yasak peasants and even exiles were sent here from Central Russia. Next to the Tatar, Chuvash and Mordva villages rose the Russian ones. People of the settlement were engaged in grain farming, carting goods and traditional arts and crafts of the Volga region. Wheels and carts of local production were popular throughout the region because of their reliability. Despite the large numbers of fugitive peasants and exiles, honesty, integrity and business mindedness have always been highly esteemed in Bugulma. Troublemakers were never top of the pole here. It may sound surprising, but Bugulminskaya sloboda was one of the earliest and strongest pro-government strongholds in the Pugachev rebellion. By the fall of 1773 it had become the headquarters of government army.
In 1806 Bugulma joined the Orenburg gubernia. One fact is enough to illustrate its commercial value: the roads to Ufa, Orenburg and Kazan all converged here; hence eight large trade fairs were held annually.
In mid-19th century Bugulma turned even more beautiful when it became a uezd center in the Samara gubernia.
At the turn of the 20th century, the town had seven and a half thousand population, four churches, two mosques, a monastery and a convent.
There were six schools in the town, including a technical school (realnoye uchilishche) for boys and a women’s progymnasium, a theater, a tea room, a library, two pharmacies and a town hospital of the zemstvo (local administration). The industrial potential of the town gradually increased: twenty factories were functioning, providing jobs to local workers in brickmaking, foodstuffs and fur processing.
The completion of the Bugulma railroad in 1911 had an especially beneficial effect on industrial growth. Up to the 1930s the railroad was known as the Volga-Bugulma line.
Prior to World War II Bugulminsky Canton was primarily an agrarian one. The town had a number of state-run enterprises: a meat packer, several flour mills and a creamery.
A world-famous Czech writer and satirist Jaroslav Hasek served as assistant military commander of the Bugulminsky Uezd in 1918, during the Russian Civil War. The commandant’s house now is Hasek’s only literary and memorial museum in the world. The unusually decorated rooms of the museum display some personal belongings and photos of the writer, as well as editions of his works in many languages and souvenirs showcasing his most famous character — Good Soldier Schweik.
A teacher training college, schools of commerce, mechanics and medicine added up to the image of an educated provincial town. And in 1937 Bugulma even opened an airport, an extremely rare development for a small town in the 1930s. It was probably the ambitiousness of the people of Bugulma that actually did the trick. We could only guess how the town would have developed from that point — and we assume some interesting path would have been discovered — but the stars smiled down on the town. Immediately after World War II large reserves of oil were discovered in Bugulminsky Rayon. In 1950 Bugulma was chosen as a location for the head office of the newly established Tatneft. In the early 1950s the fast-growing city also hosted Tatarstan’s office for exploration and production of oil, a research center and a transportation agency for the “black gold”. Over a short period of time, the city's population grew tenfold. For a long time, until the late 1960s, Bugulma remained the second largest city in Tatarstan, losing in economic importance only to Kazan.
The years of the zastoi (stagnation of the 1970s) turned out to be the most productive for Bugulma. Up to early 1990s, the infrastructure of the city and the rayon developed on the basis of what was laid down in the 1950s. Bugulma had better roads than its neighbors; the oil complex brought in new promising enterprises, factories and construction companies. Among the best of them were the Nefteavtomatika pilot plant, Tatneftegeofizika group and the North-Western Oil Pipelines Maintenance Office. All of them received many awards for their production and efficient management. The electrical equipment plant worked with customers across the country, from the Baltic to Sakhalin, the local mechanical plant exported its produce into dozens of countries, and the porcelain made at a local factory was in great demand in Italy, Germany and elsewhere.
The collapse of the Soviet Union put the town’s industry in a difficult position. Many businesses were seriously hit by the economic downturn, but none closed down. In the hard post-Soviet years Bugulma remained the most stable city in Tatarstan in economic, social and political aspects, including inter-ethnic relations. And this is what its inhabitants can be proud of, too!
Bugulma now is a happy and friendly city with the overall population of 93,000. But despite its oil wealth, Bugulma does not favor extravagance. This major center of the oil industry of Tatarstan does not lose its traditional moderation and intellectualism. It is still the home of many industrial enterprises: mechanical, concrete, electric pump and brick factories, the Nefteavtomatika pilot plant, two bakeries, a dairy plant, and furniture and textile factories. Research and design institutes (TatNIPIneft) of the oil industry, as well as TNG-Group, one of the leading geophysical companies in Russia, are also located in Bugulma.
The city was awarded the "Olive branch of peace" UNESCO gold medal for the revival and maintenance of dynamic development in the region. Recently, the city was named among top 3 most comfortable cities of Russia.
Bugulma has 9 libraries, the A.V. Batalov Russian Drama Theatre, Tatar culture center, a center of technology, the Rayon House of Culture, two children's art schools, a museum, a recreation park and the unique literary and memorial museum of Jaroslav Hasek.