Administrative center: Verkhny Uslon
Area: 1302.82 sq.km
In the north-eastern part of the Volga Uplands, across the river from Kazan, lies the stunningly beautiful land designated on the map of Tatarstan as Verkhneuslonsky Rayon. Stretching along the banks of the rivers Volga and Sviyaga, this picturesque land of rivulets, small streams, marshes, pristine lakes, forests and plains is rich in wild strawberries, apples, plums and raspberries. Clean river banks and generous gifts of its fertile land have been attracting settlers and travelers for centuries.
If you ask the experts, they will start their explanation with specific climatic conditions in Verkhny Uslon. Due to this factor, the small territory of the rayon features a full transition in soils and vegetation from forest to steppe zone. Alternately wavy and flat terrain runs down to the Volga in bizarre cliffs and flood river valleys and has numerous ravines and gullies. The Uslon and Yuriev hills run along the river bank. The first settlers of this truly blessed land arrived here in 4th century BCE, according to archaeologists. Traces of their sites have been found in Naberezhnye Morkvashi and Medvedkovo.
Since the opening of Kazan Imperial University, the high bank of the Volga opposite the city has been the subject of serious research and the venue of students’ internship. At the Geological Museum of Kazan Federal University you can see "natural wonders" discovered at the Pechishchi section: rock samples and fossilized seashells. The Pechishchi section is a unique landmark of nature, a reminder of the Permian sea and its waves that rolled here millions of years ago. From the bottom of the sea layers of the earth's crust rose to the surface. Geological prospecting showed the abundance of limestone, clay, dolomite, sand and sandstone in the area.
In the first half of the 16th century, the territory of the present-day Verkhneuslonsky rayon was a part of the Kazan Khanate. With the bulk of the Khanate’s lands lying on the left bank of the Volga, its right-bank possessions formed the north-western part of the Khanate, usually known as the Hillside. In 1553, all lands newly ceded to Moscow were divided into uezds. The Hillside became part of Sviyazhsky uezd.
Today's administrative center, Verkhny Uslon, was founded around 1575 on the land which belonged to Trinity and St. Sergius Monastery of Sviyazhsk. The village started from an inn used as a temporary shelter for travelers, known as Novoye Zaymishche. In 1594, the hamlet got the name of Bolshoi Uslon ("uslon" is an obsolete word meaning ‘descent’ or’ ascent’). With time, the name changed to Verkhny (Upper) Uslon. This place on the right bank of the Volga was very important in its earliest days — it was the main location of limestone quarries. The Uslon limestone was used in the construction of the Kazan Kremlin and the churches of Sviyazhsk.
The village remained a monastery domain until 1784. Later it was transferred to the Collegia of Economy (which was later known as the Ministry of State Property). In the late 19th century, Verkhny Uslon became a volost’ center.
The Moscow and Simbirsk Roads passed through the vicinity of Uslon. As a transport hub, it had preserved its paramount importance until the construction of the Romanov railway bridge across the Volga in 1913.
A chronicle of the rayon must include most diverse pages and events: the peasant rebellion led by Emelyan Pugachev and the travails of barge haulers, pulling multi-ton barges up the Volga. The children of the great Russian poet Yevgeny Boratynsky were buried near the Yumatovo church. It was also here that the future Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky wed the Kazan beauty Olga Baranovskaya, and disgraced Prince Alexander Menshikov buried his wife on their way to exile. Many years later, in 1876, Menshikov’s great-grandson erected a chapel in Uslon to commemorate this sad event.
The famous industrialist Nikita Demidov had a warehouse in Verkhny Uslon. Among the people who admired the stunning views of the Volga and Kazan from the Uslon hills were Peter I, Catherine II, Paul I, famous politicians, writers and poets, such as A.S. Pushkin, A.N. Radischev, A.I. Herzen, T.G. Shevchenko, S. Saidashev, Maxim Gorky, V.I. Ulyanov.
The modern Verkhneuslonsky Rayon covers the area of 1302.82 sq.km, with a population of about 16,700. It currently has the total of 72 settlements. The rayon has access to two federal highways: Kazan — Moscow and Kazan — Ulyanovsk.
The rayon’s industry is represented by two brick factories, a bakery and a confectionery factory. Mining has declined since the 16th century, but gravel and lime flour are still actively mined. The rayon is famous for its dairy and fish products, as well as kvass wort.
But life is not limited to just working. People of Verkhny Uslon know how to relax, play sports, sing and dance. The picturesque bank of the Volga is a great venue for holidays and traditional festivals. The rayon has an excellent museum, with an especially touching recreation of a 19th century estate of the nobility. The museum of Belarus poet Yanka Kupala is located in the rayon. Uslon has a children's art school as well.
The rayon is home to many favorite vacation places for townspeople of Kazan, recreation camps owned by large plants, and a children's summer camp of the Ministry of the Interior.
The compound of St. Macarius monastery (Makarieva Pustyn) has been declared a federal-level object of cultural heritage. It includes the Cathedral of the Ascension (built 1829), the bell tower (1839) and the house of the archimandrite (1886). The rayon also features 15 cultural heritage sites of regional importance.
Thousands of visitors from Kazan and other regions come to the Kazan mountain skiing center, where all the facilities meet the highest European standards to guarantee you a perfect holiday. The center also features a trap shooting range and a golf club.
Today, economists are seriously considering Verkhny Uslon as an area of potential interest for investors. A thorough economic, cultural and social transformation would strengthen the rayon’s position as the regional provider of recreational services. This will open a new and equally interesting page in the history of Tatarstan’s oldest rayon.
Verkhneuslonsky rayon is known for the longevity of its residents, six of whom have become centenarians!