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Yelabuzhsky rayon


Administrative center: Yelabuga
Area: 1401.4 sq.km
Population: 82,600



The birthplace of the great painter Ivan Shishkin and the last refuge of the great poet Marina Tsvetayeva, this blessed land is full of enchanted nature and creative inspiration!!

I love your mountains and cathedrals,

I love the Kama and the grasslands beyond it,

I love the wide spaces of your fields.

I love everything about you, my sweet Yelabuga.

Nina Balashova "The Ballad of Yelabuga"

Yelabuga is one of the oldest cities in the Volga and Urals. It is a city which managed to maintain its unique historic character and the surrounding landscape. The abundance and and uniqueness of the nature of the rayon can be seen in the Lower Kama National Park, with its landscape varied from deciduous forests to Siberian taiga and then to wooded steppe with numerous rivers, lakes and islets. The park is a habitat for a number of rare animals, endangered species of plants, including those listed in the International Red Book.

The city was founded on the high bank of the Kama River. Prior to 1993, the official foundation date was the 18th century. Recent archaeological excavations have unquestionably shown that the settlement existed much earlier, even in the Ananyinsky (1st millennium BCE) and Pyanoborsky (late 1st millennium BCE) periods, and during the heyday of Bolgar (10th — 14th c.).

At the turn of the 11th century the lands by the Kama joined Volga Bolgaria.

The spot of the presence-day Yelabuga, due to its excellent natural defense, was chosen for one of the outposts of Bolgar — little more than an observation point, with a watchtower and barracks.

The choice was hardly surprising. The new outpost in the eastern part of the Kama lands protected the river crossing, which in itself was an important point on the caravan route from the inner Volga Bolgaria to the middle and upper Kama and further north to the Arctic Ocean. A 10th- 14th century stone tower still stands on a high bank of the Kama, near the ruins of the Bolgar outpost. It is now known as Yelabuzhskoye, or Chortovo Gorodishche (Devil Site) — a federal-level landmark of history, architecture and archaeology and a symbol of millennium-old Yelabuga.

Many legends and stories associated with this place. The “Kazanskaya Istoriya” (History of Kazan), compiled in the mid-16th century, describes the site as “the sacrificial prayer grounds of the Bolgars of old”. The famous Russian 19th century archaeologist A. Spitsyn, having thoroughly examined the place in his 1888 expedition, suggested that it originally was part of a caravanserai (large inn on the trade route), or a tomb of a Moslem saint. Old Tatar manuscripts mention the town of Alabuga as a dwelling of famous Bolgar scholars of Islam Akbali Hoja and Amlen Hoja, whose graves were visited by Tamerlane at the close of 14th century.

There are several versions of the origin of the name ‘Yelabuga’. One of them connects the name with an earthquake that lodged a large stone in the Kama riverbed, causing flooding and other damage. The bull-shaped stone was named Alabugay (from the Bolgar ‘ala’ — (evil, harmful, black) and ‘bogay’- bull, warrior). A lot of ships ran on the stone and wrecked. People used to say, "This place is cursed (possessed by the devil), killing so many ships and men." This is why the name Devil Site was applied to the hill where the Bolgar fort rose.

A second version looks at the large lake beyond the Toima (a tributary of the Kama), which was known as Lake Alabuga (from the Tatar name of the perch).

Yet another version derives the name of the city from the Finno-Ugric words ‘yela’ — ‘milk’ and ‘boog’- ‘froth’.

Yela was the name of a small lake with milk-colored water once situated between the town and the river Toima. A stream which now flows into the Toima originally flowed into this small lake, which made the lake water spume.

After the conquest of the Khanate by Ivan the Terrible, a Russian settlement appeared at the ruins of the Bolgar fortress of Alabuga. It soon grew into a village, or rather, a fort surrounded by small settlements (slobodas). The village got the name of Trekhsvyatskoye (Three Bishops), from a church festival of three bishop saints — Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. Local legend has it that the original icon of the Three Bishops was a gift to the village church of the Intercession of the Theotokos by Ivan the Terrible. It was in Trekhsvyatskoye that the famous Ermak stayed for a while to replenish his stock of food on his way to Siberia. Another peasant army, that of Emelyan Pugachev, also reached Trekhsvyatskoye, albeit with less peaceful intentions. Pugachev found the village a heavily fortified stronghold. In 1780 Empress Catherine II signed a decree granting the village of Trekhsvyatskoye a status of the uezd town, thus subordinating it to the vicegerency of Vyatka.

An advantageous geographical location along the river trade routes connecting Vyatka, Perm, Ufa and Kazan defined the status of Yelabuga as an economic center and a transit point in the grain and fish trade, which started in the Urals and were transported up the Kama and Volga to other regions of Russia, as well as abroad.

Yelabuga owned its prosperity in the 19th and early 20th centuries to its merchants. They strove hard to preserve the town’s original importance as a trading center on the caravan route. Yelabuga traded with all regions of Imperial Russia and with Europe. By the end of the 19th century, of the town’s 11,000 residents 600 were merchants, including the widely known family dynasties of the Stakheyevs, Ghirbasovs, Ushkovs and Chernovs. Textiles accounted for over a half of the total trade turnover, with a large share going to tea and sugar trade as well. Thanks to its merchant class, Yelabuga developed both economically and culturally, earning its fame as a model of 19th century urban planning and a city museum in the open.

Yelabuga started to become a center of local education as early as the first half of the 19th century. By the end of the century, the city had 19 schools of different types: technical, church, primary, municipal, women's gymnasium, the Emperor Alexander vocational school and a school for blind children. The current Yelabuzhsky Institute of Kazan Federal University started as a Teachers’ College and for more than a hundred years has been training teachers in various fields. Its original incarnation was the diocese-run women's college, built in 1898 on the money donated by the town’s hereditary honorary citizen Glafira Feodorovna Staheyeva.

Yelabuga is a small homeland of great talent. Nadezhda Durova, famous for her cross-dressing adventure at the French war of 1812, when she was a field adjutant of Field Marshal M.V. Kutuzov, lived and wrote her "Notes" here. Ivan Shishkin, the famous landscape painter, was born and worked here. Yelabuga is also the birthplace of the great neuro-psychiatrist, the founder of the Brain Institute, Vladimir Bekhterev.

Stop, passerby! Can't you feel it?
I too, passerby, once was.

Marina Tsvetayeva

Hero of the Soviet Union Marshal Leonid Govorov spent his childhood in Yelabuga, as well as the Russian writer Stanislav Romanovsky who later discovered the literary talent of Vassily Shukshin. The great poet Marina Tsvetayeva spent her last days here. Also born in Yelabuga was Nikolai Pinegin, an artist and polar explorer, founder of the Arctic and Antarctic Museum in St. Petersburg.

The rich historical and cultural heritage of Yelabuga is placed under the protection and care of the city’s State Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve. Established in 1989, it has become a crucial component of the modern city. Its protected area covers 491.5 hectares of land, with 184 landmarks of history, architecture and culture on it. The Museum-Reserve comprises 12 museums and exhibition halls. Each of them is a unique institution, the only one of its kind in Russia:

The Ivan Shishkin Memorial Home, N.A. Durova Estate Museum, Marina Tsvetayeva Literary Museum and the Museum of the City proper.

With the discovery of a rich oil deposit near the city, the patriarchal merchant Yelabuga started to transform. In 1987 Yelabuzhsky Automobile Plant (ELAZ) started production. The new boost came in 2006, when the ‘Alabuga’ special economic zone of industrial type became operational. At present, there are 33 residents from different countries in the SEZ, representing a variety of industries: automobiles, non-flammable insulation materials, industrial gases, non-woven cloth and polymeric products, fiberglass, heat pumps and climate system elements, molded parts for cars, windows and mirrors, paintwork materials. ‘Yelabuga City’ also features a confectionery and canning factory.

The SEZ’s strategic plan is to establish an economic zone for the benefit of the economy of Tatarstan and the Russian Federation as a whole. SEZes with their mild tax climate can create optimal conditions for investment in industrial production.

History, culture, nature and people of such cities as Yelabuga are the real gold reserve of our country. It is also the center of unity of different cultures and faiths and the source of moral support for the developments that the new generations will introduce. Respect for tradition and a commitment to innovation, museums side by side with businesses, a high level of culture and excellent business skills — such dazzling diversity creates the special charm of Yelabuga.