Administrative center: Mendeleyevsk
Area: 746.4 sq. km
A world-famous city of chemists is located in the north-east of the Republic of Tatarstan, on the right bank of the great river Kama. The rayon is a large hub of industrial enterprises and communications, which is by no means accidental as it lies at the intersection of important geographical and trade routes. Kama has always connected the resources of Russia’s east and the commercial potential of its west into a single system.
Mendeleyevsky rayon lies within the mixed forests zone on the Vyatka-Kama Uplands. It is rich in mineral resources such as building stone, sand, gravel, carbonate rock, brick and tile clays, etc. All of them used to be prospected and mined privately.
During the reign of Emperor Pavel I, kollezhsky assessor (a collegiate assessor held the 8th rank in the Table of ranks) Nikolai Ivanovich Kamashev received a grant of land in this area and built a nice house on a hill overlooking the village with a romantic name – Mirnoye Pristanishche (literally, Quiet Refuge, now the village of Kamashev).
In the 1840s, his land changed hands. Its new owner was a 1st guild merchant K.Ya. Ushkov. Kapiton Yakovlevich was born to a serf family owned by a landowner named Demidov. A self-made man, known for his energy and persistence, Ushkov found out that potassium bichromate (an expensive dye) that was imported into Russia from England was actually produced there from the raw materials found in the Urals. Ushkov’s idea was to set up his own bichromate production.
Soon, construction of Ushkov’s plant began in the village of Kokshan. In 1850, the first batch of potassium bichromate was produced and soon cornered the market. Three years later, the Kokshan production got two gold medals at an exhibition.
Ushkov started building a second chemical factory near his native village of Bondyuga, two kilometers away from the Kama. The proximity of the waterway and cheap local labor were the main factors of his astounding success. In August 1868, the first production line of sulfuric acid is commissioned, soon followed by papermaker’s alum, potassium alum and other ingredients for soaps, paints and other products. It was at this point that the area has become the chemistry capital of the Volga region. A self-taught peasant turned a businessman has attracted the attention of eminent scholars. He employs a German, Karl Bayer, to inventing a new way to produce alum and set up the first production of chlorine in Russia. In 1889, Ushkov’s factories began making hydrochloric acid and synthetic sulfates by the Leblanc method. N.P. Alexeyev, P.P. Fedotyev, K.G. Dementiev and N.P. Valberg open their chemical laboratories there. Most importantly, the young factory owner managed to make acquaintance of Russia’s most brilliant chemist D.I. Mendeleyev, A very fruitful 30-year-long cooperation followed. The production of Ushkov’s factories received medals at many exhibitions in Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vienna, London, Chicago, Philadelphia and Paris. It is hard to overestimate the contribution of the Ushkov family into the development of the region.
The research that the great Russian chemist Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev did at Ushkov’s chemical plant focused on the production of smokeless gunpowder.
In addition to creating jobs, factory owners tried to provide education and healthcare to workers and their children. They sponsored the establishment of primary and technical schools, as well as hospitals.
In October 1915, a young scientist named Lev Karpov (later, the Minister of Chemical Industry of the Soviet Union) was invited to take the job of the plant superintendent at Ushkov’s. Karpov managed to both increase the capacity of existing plants and start new productions of technical and medical chloroform (first ever in Russia), copper and ferrous sulfate, alum, chlorine sulfur, calcium chloride and liquid chlorine. Among those working with Karpov at the time was the young biochemist Boris Ilyich Zbarsky (later famous, together with Professor Vorobyov, for embalming the body of Lenin).
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, the future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, worked at the conscription desk in the village of Tikhiye Gory (Silent Hills). Bondyuga plants made him think of "the English Manchester": "...this Manchester is known as P.K. Ushkov’s Plant, Tikhiye Gory, Yelabuzhsky Uezd, Vyatka gubernia". Pasternak’s stories "An uezd in the rear" and "Loveless" were inspired by the real events received in Bondyuga.
For many generations, the factory was both a job and a kind of a favorite child. When Bondyuga was about to be renamed, the opinion of its inhabitants was unanimous: their city could only bear the name of Dmitry Mendeleyev. In August 1967, by the decree of the Presidium of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, the industrial township of Bondyuga became the city of Mendeleyevsk.
One of the rayon’s successful businesses is the producer of mineral fertilizers, Mendeleyevskazot LLC.
2011 will go down in history as the year when the construction of the Ammonium chemical plant began. This federal-level project is aimed at creating Russia’s first hi-tech facility producing ammonia, methanol and carbamide. It is symbolic that the construction of a new complex started in the Year of Chemistry, as a tribute to and a new development in the history of the chemical industry in the rayon.
The Mendeleyevsky rayon of today is an economically developed industrial and agricultural area, specializing in the production of basic chemicals, fertilizers, extraction of oil and gas.
Its depths contain considerable reserves of minerals used in construction, as well as of high-quality underground mineral water. The Izhminvody resort is known far beyond the borders of the republic for its medicinal waters and excellent healthcare.
The industry of Mendeleyevsky rayon is represented by the chemical, food and textile branches. The local agriculture specializes in rye, barley, oats, peas and potatoes, and cattle breeding, on cows, swine and horses.
Among the city of Mendeleyevsk’s largest enterprises are Prikamneft NGDU, Kama Sachs LLC and Spetsstroy. But the local economic mainstay is the L.Ya. Karpov Chemical Plant. Chemical industry remains the main job creator in the city workers. To honor the local chemists, an alley devoted to them was opened in 2011 and soon became a popular venue for rest and recreation.
Residents of Mendeleyevsk hold sacred the memory of their heroes. The downtown features a monument to the Unknown Soldier, with the Eternal Flame lit on the 30th anniversary of the World War II victory. The Alley of Heroes has followed the Alley of Chemists. A small township, whose total population by the outbreak of the war was slightly over 7000, became the homeland of six Heroes of the Soviet Union:
Vilen Ivanovich Burmistrov, Mikhail Sergeyevich Fomin, Vasily Ignatyevich Belousov, Mikhail Vladimirovich Sudnishnikov, Vasily Grigoryevich Piskunov and Pavel Grigoryevich Frolov.
Tikhiye Gory, once a rich trading village, has now become a borough of Mendeleyevsk. From afar, one can see the blue-domed stone church of the Epiphany. After the destruction of the 1930s, the church was rebuilt in the 1990s. The church is closely linked to the Ushkov dynasty. One of its founders, Yegor Maksimovich, is buried beside its walls. In 1898, the family crypt received the body of Pyotr Kapitonovich Ushkov. After the church cemetery was renovated in 2003, anyone can pay honor to the great industrialist at his grave.
The building originally constructed in 1870 as the head office of P. & K. Ushkov Partnership Chemical Plants Co. now houses the local history museum. Many of its exhibits tell the stories of industrial workers’ lives at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some are linked to the life of Dmitry Mendeleyev. The museum also features a collection of pottery of the same period.
The Ushkov estate now attracts a special attention of tourists. The Ushkov family have designed a living space of their own among tall pines and birches. Having purchased the estate from Kamashev, they added to it a greenhouse with a heating system, multiple fountains and a pond. They kept their own stables and a farm. The estate has become a pillar of stability for the entire family, a place where they developed ideas of increasing growth rates and economic development of their business, and thus the entire area. Among the well-known guests of the manor house were the artist Ivan Shishkin, traveler Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky, poets Kavi Najmi and Hadi Taktash. Despite the obvious historical significance of the estate, since 1924 it has been used as a hospital. Only in 1998 the surviving buildings were transferred to the care of the local museum. The manor house is now expecting a major change:
the new development plan envisages the creation of the historical, industrial and natural museum in the Ushkov Estate by 2017. It will include including every surviving facility somehow connected with the dynasty of merchants and industrialists. The plan which will revitalize the area can, however, become possible only after a thorough restoration and reconstruction of the manor, turning it into an open air museum. Residents of the rayon expect it to give a boost to cultural tourism in the area. The museum will also include the river Toima as a natural landmark. These global transformations will help the rayon preserve its unique and distinctive past in order to make its present more beautiful and inspired.