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Kamsko-Ustyinsky Rayon


Administrative center: Kamskoye Ustye
Area: 1198.8 sq.km
Population: 16,500


An increasing number of tourists come to have a look at the high cliffs above the “Sea of Kama” every year. The rayon is known for its wildlife sanctuaries: Lakes Karamalskoye (Baikol) and Lesnoye, three unique caves — Yurievskaya, Bogorodskaya and Konnodolskaya, Tenkovskaya feather grass steppe and three State Natural Reserves — Lobach Hill, the Labyshkinsky Hills and the Antonovsky ravines.

The lands around the mouth of the Kama are known for exquisite beauty and diversity of their landscape. This part of Tatarstan is situated on the right bank of the Volga where it meets the waters of the equally majestic and beautiful river Kama. Together the mighty rivers form the "Sea of Kama" 40 kilometers wide! Indigenous Permian sediments of gypsum, limestone and marlstone come to the surface on the shores of the “sea”. Huge lumps of rocks 60 — 70 meters high break off directly into the Volga and reach far into the bowels of the earth. Everyone coming to these shores is enthralled with their peace and quiet which make you look back at your life and think about eternity.

The rayon is known for its wildlife sanctuaries: Lakes Karamalskoye (Baikol) and Lesnoye, three unique caves — Yurievskaya, Bogorodskaya and Konnodolskaya, Tenkovskaya feather grass steppe and three State Natural Reserves — Lobach Hill, the Labyshkinsky Hills and the Antonovsky ravines.

The total area of the two lakes is 2.9 hectares. The feather grass steppe features many plants inscribed into the Red Book of Tatarstan. The Labyshkinsky hills are home to such rare plants as the lady's slipper orchid, dark red helleborine, broad-leaved helleborine, fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) and the common twayblade. Some rare insect species are also found here, such as the antlion and European swallowtail. The hills are covered with arroyos and small oak and limetree groves, feather grass plains and nominally primary woods.

Several kilometers down the Volga from the port of Kamskoye Ustye rises the Lobach Hill — the highest point of the rayon. The state reserve which the hill is part of covers 241 hectares of land and is abundant with rich flora and fauna, with some rare species also listed in the Red Book. On the opposite bank of the Volga, a branch of the Saralovsky Volga-Kama Natural Reserve offers no less rare and fine specimens of flora and fauna.

The steep river banks of the Kamsko-Ustyinsky rayon are rich with rocky outcrops of limestone. Old quarries, covered with the dust of time, have witnessed the long history of limestone mining in the area. One of the most valuable historical references to the township of Kamskoye Ustye is found in the Grand Map Book (Kniga Bolshomu Chertezhu), compiled by an anonymous editor in 1689. It mentions “icy waters in the Yurievsky hill caves, half a hill away from the Volga”.

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The famous Yurievskaya cave, the longest natural cave in the Middle Volga region, starts as a really narrow hole…

Yurievskaya (410 m long), Zinovievskaya (30 m), Bogorodskaya (36 m) and Konnodolskaya (320 m) caves form a unique labyrinth of limestone caverns on the right bank of the Volga.

The township of Kamskoye Ustye, the administrative center of the Kamsko-Ustyinsky rayon, was founded in the first half of the 17th century on the lands belonging to the Archbishop of Kazan. Until 1925 it was known as the village of Bogorodskoye, from the wooden Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos which was built there around 1630. It was originally a fishing village which supplied fish to the table of the Archimandrites and Archbishops of Kazan. Kamskoye Ustye was also known for its quarries and mining of limestone, alabaster, and sulfur (19th century).

Since times immemorial, Kamskoye Ustye had a large quay where goods were reloaded from heavy transport vessels coming from the Lower Volga to the smaller ones which continued up the Volga and Kama. Many barges and vessels docked here for repairs. In general, the abundance of different industries here helped to maintain a high standard of living even despite poor soils. Unlike most of the villages along the Volga, residents of Bogorodskoye almost never took up barge hauling (burlachestvo).

The lands around Kamskoye Ustye have some memories of its very early history.

One of the oldest settlements in the locality is the village of Tenki which probably already existed in the days of the Volga Bolgaria, as witnessed by the remains of earthen ramparts and moats. After the fall of the Kazan Khanate, the Moslem population of Tenki was destroyed or expelled. Those who remained had to undergo forced baptism and conversion.

In the following centuries, Tenki was owned by the royal family directly as a “palace hamlet”. In 1565 it was granted as a fief to the Governor of Sviyazhsk A.I. Shein, and in 1680 — to Naryshkin, friend and collaborator of Peter the Great. In the center of the village stands the Trinity Church, built by Hofmarshal (Marshal of the Court) S.N. Naryshkin in 1796. Among the village’s later owners were the princes Gagarin.

Not far from the village of Mordovsky Karatai, in a picturesque corner on the bankside runs the holy spring of Michael the Murdered. One of the legends associated with this place tells of a Roma camping ground in the neighborhood where a handsome youth named Mikhail lived. All of the women in the neighboring villages fell in love with him, which the male villagers did not like. Infuriated with jealousy, they conspired to kill Mikhail. Before dying, he asked that “in the place where I will be buried let there be no thunderstorms, but land rich and fertile." Indeed, storms have since avoided this place on the bank. Mikhail the Murdered has been commemorated with a small chapel, open for everyone to come and pray. Many women adored its walls with shawls and embroidered towels which cover the small building on the inside and even outside. A few meters away flows the healing spring. You can drink a little out of it and be cured of many diseases, but only if you do it with faith in your heart.

The Sokol (Falcon) Hill, rising 1223 meters above the river near the village of Kirelsky, marks the start of the Syukeyevsky Hills. For many centuries, the nemesis of this place has been a 10-meter high stone, which once broke away from the bankside and slid into the river. In high water it blocked the Volga waterway, presenting a grave danger to passing ships. The strong current dragged them onto the stone, so they had to drop anchor, and ask oarsmen to join forces and row past the dangerous site. A slightest mistake could be fatal. In mid-19th century the government ordered the Volga merchants to raise a sum of money and have the Kirelsky stone broken down.

In 1802, with the effort and funds raised by the parishioners of Kamskoye Ustye, a three-altar church of the Assumption of the Blessed Theotokos was built in the village, later destroyed during the Soviet period and rebuilt as the church of the Nativity of the Theotokos (opened September 21, 2005). The tower of the new church has seven bells.

This beautiful land was made famous by many of its natives, including Meritorious Worker of Arts of the Russian Federation Aham Belyaev, playwrights Fatih Khalidi and Tufan Minnullin, singer Razia Timerhanova, Flyora Muleymanova and Alfia Galimova.