Administrative center: Zainsk
Area: 1900 sq.km
Zainsky rayon stands on the rivers Stepnoy Zai and Lesnoy Zai (Steppe Zai and Forest Zai). Highways link it to the adjacent cities of Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhnekamsk, Almetyevsk and other settlements in the south-east of Tatarstan. The rayon is located at the northernmost tip of Bugulma-Belebey Uplands. There are large reserves of natural bitumen in the rayon, largely untouched, as well as those of gravel, clay and rubble stone. The Zainsk reservoir has been constructed on the Stepnoy Zai and is known for its fisheries. 28.2% of the area is covered with woodlands, for the most part deciduous forests.
These lands at the edge of chernozem (Black Earth) soils since the ancient times have been a haven for farmers. Rich and fertile soil made ancient tribes settle along the banks of the Zai and Irnya rivers. They lived in dugouts, tilled the land with wooden hoes, cultivated emmer wheat, millet and barley and used hand grates to crush grain. The recent excavations near the village of Karmanovo confirm this picture. The archaeologists managed to find bronze sickles, a stone spindle whorl and shards of ancient pottery here. Near the village of Old Palchikovo they have discovered an old town site (4th — 5th centuries), and near the village of Tonguzino, a 7th-6th centuries BCE bronze celt. The finds in Zainsk-2 include some objects which date back as far as 16th or 15th century BCE — a bronze saddlery needle and a speartip.
In the 11th century the area between the Sheshma and Zai rivers marked the eastern boundary of the Volga Bolgaria.
The rayon’s administrative center, Zainsk, was founded in spring 1652 as a fort in the Old Zakamskaya (Trans-Kama) defense line, intended to protect the Trans-Volga and Trans-Kama inhabitants from the raids of the Kalmyks, Nogais, Bashkirs, Kirghizes and Karakalpaks. The name of the new town was quite transparent, coming from the river Zai — the Old Turkic for ‘river’.
The first settlers of the fortress were soldiers (the streltsy) and their families from the Chelny ostrog (fort), as well as the Polish gentry captured in the siege of Smolensk. In the 1730s, when the new zasechnaya cherta (abatis line) was being built in Trans-Kama to enhance the Orenburg fortification line, many of the servitors were transferred from Zainsk to new forts.
The half-emptied city was repopulated by the veteran soldiers and corporals of the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments which had been the foundation of Russia’s regular army in the reign of Peter the Great. The historic date of January 15, 1774 was commemorated by Pushkin in his “History of the Pugachev Rebellion”. On that day, the garrison of Zainsk surrendered to two detachments of Pugachev’s rebel army without a fight. Soon the fort was retaken by the government troops in a sudden assault.
The 1790s’ reform of public administration made Zainsk a volost’ center. People of the neighboring villages- farmers, cattle breeders, beekeepers — were either landlord serfs or state peasants.
The town’s coat of arms shows a tamga — a family mark among the Turkic peoples. Typically, descendants of a certain family borrowed the tamga from their ancestors and added some element of their own invention.
Another popular occupation was seasonal work — felling trees, working in smithies and cooperages, building ovens and making pottery.
A copper smelter functioned near Zainsk until mid-19th century, the last of the many operating in days of yore along the Kama and Vyatka. Slag from its furnaces was utilized to build the Chelny post road, which also passed through Zainsk.
The Stolypin land reform brought major changes to the lives of the peasants in the Zainsk volost’. Peasants were encouraged to leave communal land and resettle to their own plots (otruba). Thus appeared new villages in the vicinity of Zainsk: Bugulda, Vinokurovka, Krasny Yar and others. Although 13 gentry families owned almost half the lands in the volost’, every new individual farm had at least 9 dessiatinas (27 acres) of arable land and pastures.
Soon after the revolution, Zainsk once again found itself in the center of a powerful peasant uprising, which came to be known as "pitchfork rebellion". Rebels of Zainsk were supported by people of the adjacent uezds: Menzelinsky, Chistopolsky, Bugulminsky, Belebeyevsky and Birsky. In 1920 Zainsk became the headquarters of the rebels. After the collapse of the uprising, the town continued its development in a peaceful way.
The discovery of oil and gas deposits in the south-east of Tatarstan after the World War II marked the start of the era of rapid oil rush. The Zainsk hydropower plant was built in 1963 to provide electricity to oil extraction areas. To this day, the power plant remains a major enterprise in the city.
Early 1960s were marked with an interesting event for the people of Zainsk. On March 9, 1961 a space lander with Chernushka the dog on board touched down near the village of Stary Tokmak (9 km from Zainsk), less than a month before the first manned flight into space.
The modern town of Zainsk was formed in 1978 in the merger of industrial communities of Zainsk and Novy Zai with some adjacent villages.
The Zainsk land gave birth to many talented people: heroes of war and labor, scientists and scholars, people of the arts and culture, industrious farmers, dedicated builders and power engineers, and all those who brought more glory to these land with their great efforts.
On March 9, 1961 a space lander with Chernushka the dog on board touched down near the village of Stary Tokmak (9 km from Zainsk), less than a month before the first manned flight into space.
Among them is Mansur Hasanov, Fellow of the Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Philology, Professor, President of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, Director of the Tatar Encyclopedia Institute of the TAS, member of the Writers' Union of Tatarstan, Honored Worker of Science of the Republic of Tatarstan, winner of the International Qol Ghali Award.
The latter title is especially significant as it was here, in a small village on the banks of the river at the confluence of Zai and Kama, that Qol Ghali himself was born, a Bolgar poet, one of the greatest figures in the medieval Volga Bolgar literature. He perished in the 13th century Mongol invasion. Qol Ghali’s most famous work is the “Qissai Yosif" (The Tale of Yusuf) — an artistic version of the Old Testament and Koranic story of Joseph the All-Comely and his twelve brothers. The text of the poem was well known to the Turkic peoples of the Volga region, the Urals, Siberia and the Caucasus. Tatar historian Tajeddin Yalchygul-ugly (1763-1837) in his "Tavarih-i Bulgaria" (History of Bolgaria) provides a genealogy of Qol Ghali, collated from family memories and written sources. Tajeddin claimed to be a direct descendant of Qol Ghali on his father’s side, naming 1183 as the year his great ancestor was born.
It is thus not surprising that the arms of Zainsk feature a sheet of paper and a quill pen. This symbolizes the tradition of great writing and prominent writers in the area. The coat of arms also shows a tamga — a family mark among the Turkic peoples. Typically, descendants of a certain family borrowed the tamga from their ancestors and added some element of their own invention.
People of Zainsk have a lot to add to the heritage of their forefathers. Major industries in the area are food processing and electricity generation. The agriculture is focused on cattle breeding. The Zainsk Museum, the Subbuh Rafikov Central Library, the Space youth center in Zainsk and the youth center Zainsk-2 promote culture and history. Zainsk has 85 sports facilities, including the Yashlek Ice Arena, the Energiya stadium, a sports center with swimming pool, municipal additional education facilities, the Zai, Lyzhnik and Yashlek sport schools, 4 open-air ice hockey pitches, 2 shooting ranges, 14 gyms, 39 sports grounds and 20 grounds for gymnastics.