Administrative center: Zelenodolsk
Area: 1424.5 sq.km
Endless forests shroud the banks of the Volga, hiding Zelenodolsk in their shadows. This quiet and smart city is Tatarstan’s gate to the neighboring regions: the Republics of Chuvashia and Mari El.
The first settlements on the territory of present-day Zelenodolsk appeared at the beginning of the 19th century, but the development of the area began in serious only at the end of the century, with the construction of the first industrial enterprises and the Kazan-Moscow railway. Unlike other cities in the region, Zelenodolsk originally formed as an assemblage of factory townships. The outskirts were built earlier than the downtown: the city began from compact settlements scattered across a large area, including Gari (1802), Kabachishchi (1865) and several forest ranger stations (1845). Their merger created the Paratsky settlement, promoted to town status in 1932.
As early as 1895 the Volga backwater became home for ship repair yard which primarily served state-owned ships. Later this shipyard grew into the Gorky Shipbuilding Plant. The completion of the railway bridge across the Volga gave a significant impetus to the development of Zelenodolsk. Prior to the construction of the bridge, passengers of the Moscow train had to get off at Sviyazhsk station, take a horse-drawn cart to the river, then cross it by ferry and take another cart to Zeleny Dol station, where another train would take them to Kazan.
The bridge was opened on July 11, 1913 during the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, thus earning the nickname of the Romanov Bridge. By the width of its spans, the bridge was at the time of its construction No. 1 in Europe and No.2 in the world. For the commissioning ceremony, a chapel was erected next to the bridge.
Another reason for the growth of population in Zeleny Dol in the late 19th century was the construction of a steelworks plant by a French company in 1898. New townspeople were also attracted by job openings at the US-built match factory (1890), which formed the basis of the modern plywood factory.
The economy of today’s Zelenodolsk is also shaped by the military and timber industries.
The area is home for the unique Volga-Kama State Natural Reserve, which is one of the largest in Russia. It combines several areas, namely the southern taiga, mixed and deciduous forests. The reserve has a large dendrogarden, featuring more than 400 species of plants from North America, Western Europe and Asia.
"We are Tatars, and Tatar is our language," Qayyum Nasyri used to say. His research and teaching was devoted to Enlightenment of his people. He wanted to see Tatars educated, knowledgeable about their native language, history, national culture and the culture of the neighboring peoples.
The beauty of nature works wonders and transforms the nature of man. This is also true for places famous for their spirituality. One such favorite place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians of Middle Volga is the Raifa Monastery of the Theotokos — a landmark of architecture and the residence of a most revered Orthodox shrine — the icon of the Theotokos of Georgia. This monastery, miraculous, tolerant and open to all visitors, has a tragic history. Founded in the 17th century by a hermit named Filaret, in the years of the Bolshevik Revolution it became one of the first centers of opposition to the new regime.
The all-time favorite among the many Raifa legends is the one about local frogs. It says that once the monks asked God to stop the frogs in the nearby lake from croaking, which disturbed prayers and church singing. God sent them a miracle — frogs fell silent forever. They are silent to this day, although there is an abundance of them in Lake Raifa. Many researchers have tried to debunk this myth. They brought extremely noisy French frogs to the lake, so that they could break the forced "vow of silence". The French frogs croaked loudly in Kazan, and fell silent by the walls of Raifa. An extensive study of native frogs showed that, when taken a kilometer from the monastery, they started to excitedly jump and croak. The silence of the frogs is a miracle witnessed in Raifa by every visitor.
A real gem of Zelenodolsky rayon is the island city of Sviyazhsk. Retreating in 1550 from Kazan after a failed campaign, Tsar Ivan the Terrible made a stop on the right bank of the Volga and chose this site for the future fortress, a Moscow stronghold in the lands of the Khanate. In 1551 the Kremlin was assembled in just four weeks from the timber walls and towers made in advance in Uglich and then dispatched on ships down the Volga. Sviyazhsk became the base of Russian troops during the final siege of Kazan in 1552. In mid-16th century the fortress of Sviyazhsk was larger than the Kremlins of Novgorod, Pskov, and even Moscow. Over centuries, the artists and architects of Sviyazhsk created unique monuments of architecture and iconography on the island. In 2011 Sviyazhsk was entered onto the Preliminary List of World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Today, the Vozrozhdeniye (Revival) Foundation, chaired by the First President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiyev, is working to restore the old city.
We see Sviyazhsk returning from oblivion right before our eyes to become a unique "tourist island", a destination for pilgrims and lovers of art and culture.
Zelenodolsky rayon is also famous for its health and fitness establishments, such as the Vasilievsky balneoclimateric resort, featuring treatment by mineral waters and curative mud, the Pine Forest, the Dolphin and the Volga resorts, a rehabilitation center for children and two orphanages for 170 children total. Statistics shows that every third inhabitant of Zelenodolsk is engaged in sports. Football life is active at the Avangard and Komsomolets stadiums and elsewhere — the game is very popular in the courtyards and school grounds of the city. The local professional team FC Zelenodolsk has achieved considerable success at the national level. The Mayak sport facility, a wrestling school, a physical culture and sports center and a number of gyms have contributed to the city sports. It is thus not surprising that Zelenodolsk is the home town of Victor Kolotov — a member of Russia’s national football team and a two times Olympic medalist (1972, 1976), M. Domracheva — USSR record holder in speed skating, Rinat Safin — 1972 Olympic champion, Evgeny Belov — the champion of Russia in cross country skiing (2000) and many others.
Zelenodolsk is also called the city of a thousand artists. This land has given to the world the famous Konstantin Vasilyev, whose museum is located in his family home in the village of Vasilyevo. His work is now continued by other painters — Sarandov, Mironov, Sibgatullin, Klimenko, Galiullin, Krylov, Novikov, Biryuchevsky, Valiullin.
The city has a children's art and music schools, a school of fine arts, Alyye Parusa (Scarlet Sails) Children Creativity Center, Zelenodolsk Museum of historical and cultural heritage, Museum of the Great Patriotic War in lyceum (high school) No 9.
The village of Verkhniye Shirdany is the birthplace of Qayyum Nasyri, the great Tatar scholar and educator who made a huge contribution to the development of self-consciousness of Tatar people. "We are Tatars, and Tatar is our language," Qayyum Nasyri used to say. His research and teaching was devoted to Enlightenment of his people. He wanted to see Tatars educated, knowledgeable about their native language, history, national culture and the culture of the neighboring peoples.
The current investment potential of Zelenodolsky rayon is focused on the creation and development of industrial production and logistics centers. Examples include the M7 technopark, Novaya Tura technopolis, Tander JSC logistics center and the Sviazhsk multimodal logistics terminal. Investing in agriculture and small business is also efficient, with a special emphasis on the development of environmentally-oriented innovative production which uses cutting-edge technology.