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Rybno-Slobodsky rayon


Administrative center: Rybnaya Sloboda
Area: 2041.4 sq.km
Population: 27,300


The earliest mention of Rybnaya Sloboda on the Kama River can be found in the guard- and platbook (Dozornaya I Mezhevaya Kniga) compiled by Nikita Obukhov in 1599. Tsar Boris Godunov officially authorized the construction of Rybnaya Sloboda to supply fish to the royal court.

Although Rybnaya Sloboda (literarily, Fish Settlement) was originally established as a military fort, it very soon grew into a trading village. The village is listed in the Scribal Book for the Kazan Uezd (1647-1656) as "The Sovereign's palace Fish Settlement on the bank of the river Kama". Now it is a small township and the administrative center of the rayon still famous for its strong fishing traditions.

It is known that the Kama’s main wealth prior to the flooding of Kuibyshev reservoir was its red fish: the sturgeon, beluga, sterlet and sevruga. The state distributed the best fishing areas and fishermen, employed by the landowners, set up teams to do the commercial fishing. Since taxes had to be paid in kind, a special Royal Fishery was created on Lake Strelka, where sturgeons were bred for the sovereign's table.

Live fish was sent up the river to Moscow in 200-liter oak barrels. In summer, they would change the water in the barrels in every port where the fish transport dropped anchor, and in winter they added pure alcohol to prevent the water from fishing. In this manner dormant fish was brought to the capital. Fishermen dynasties of Rybnaya Sloboda are sometimes more than a century old, like the Subbotins, who are proud of their 350 years in service of the fishing business. The descendants of the Subbotins continue the old familial business of their ancestors, who were famous for catching a 75-poud beluga (over a metric ton in weight). Yury Karaganov, also a relative of the Subbotins, is active in the fishing business. His enterprise, Krug, produces about 153 metric tons of fish a year. Thanks to businesses like his, fresh-frozen, salted and smoked perch, bream, pike or eel are a staple not only for the people of Rybnaya Sloboda rayon, but for the whole Tatarstan and nearby Samara, Nizhny Novgorod and Vladimir oblasts. Fisherman's Day, celebrated on the second Sunday of July, is a great holiday in the rayon. The Karaganovs invite their family members and neighbors to try the ukha (fish soup) and join them at the festival.

Other famous crafts of Rybno-Slobodsky rayon are lacemaking and jewelry.

The art of making lace came to the village from the North of Russia in 16th century, when a lot of craftsmen moved to the warmer climate in search of new opportunities. Women of Rybnaya Sloboda wove canvases for sale. When the prices for flax skyrocketed in 1870, weaving had to be abandoned, and lacemaking took the lead as the main female craft.

Women made lace after the seasonal agricultural work had been completed, starting with the girls aged 8 and above. Lacemaking was heavily patronized by the local landowner Yekaterina Donaurova, who spent summers at her estate near the village of Don Urai. She contributed patterns for the local masters to produce exquisite lace, which was later sold in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Cotton yarn was used for the simplest monochrome image, sold in the villages around Moscow and elsewhere.

Patterns created by Rybnaya Sloboda’s craftswomen are absolutely unique and fully original. In 1883, almost 250 women in the village were engaged in lacemaking. Samples of their work can now be seen at the local museum, where you can admire the amazing beauty and intricacies of “man-made cobwebs”. The lacemaking club at Rybnaya Sloboda’s house of culture is attempting to revive the old craft, bringing together all those interested in it.

Unlike lacemaking, jewelry was a male craft. The local silversmiths were mentioned as early as in the 1646 census book. However, jewelry-making has not been a major craft until mid-19th century, when it finally involved most of the men not employed in the fishing business.

Master jewelers made rings, earrings, bracelets, chains, decorative pins and other wearables for hats and clothing. Their produce was popular throughout the Middle and Lower Volga, as well as in Siberia. They had also mastered the art of making ashtrays, letter openers, sugar tongs and other small household items that were sold in large numbers across European Russia and Central Asia. Many samples of silverware from Rybnaya Sloboda are preserved in the museums in Tatarstan and in the Russian Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg.

In 1909, the Zemstvo (limited regional self-government) of Kazan gubernia established a workshop for silversmiths of Rybnaya Sloboda.

Its building has survived to our days, but the school had only been functioning until 1920. One of the famous silversmith dynasties were the Yarin family. For three and a half centuries, they have been accumulating their wealth of experience and knowledge and transferring it to the following generations. By 1886, Rybnaya Sloboda had about 150 jewelers. With the outbreak of World War I, Russian Revolution and the turbulent years of the Civil War and later conflicts, the craft of jewelry-making was lost, leaving only artifacts behind.

Rybno-Slobodsky rayon is rich in coniferous and deciduous forests, situated in its east, along the rivers Shumbut and Susha. They form such landmarks of nature as Bersutsky silver fir reserve, the 1906 larch woodlands, Meshinsky and Shumbutsky reserves.

The area is known for some archaeological monuments as well, such as the ancient settlements of Kashan-2 and Challynskoye. Experts have proved that the latter was started in the 12th century by the Bolgars and was mentioned in the chronicles under 1183 as Chelomaty. Its heyday fell on the period of the Kazan Khanate, when Chelomaty was only a little inferior to Kazan.

At this time the settlement, like other major centers of the Khanate, was the center of a vassal principality, which played a prominent role in the politics of this medieval state. The city was of a huge strategic importance, since it was controlling the whole Nogai Darugha and other lands on the right bank of the Kama.

Historical landmarks of regional importance provide powerful evidence of the rayon’s past in its many periods. Their list includes Bolshe-Oshnyakskoe and Kazaklarskoe cemeteries, the remains of a copper smelter, remains of Sorochyegorskoye, Sukachinskoye, Tarasova Pristan and Troitsko-Uraiskoye I settlements.

Several monuments of architecture and urban planning in the rayon also enjoy state protection: the mosques at Bolshiye Yelgi and Sabakayevo, the church of St. John the Theologian in the village of Maslovka. The manor house of Zakhary Kubarev also has cultural and historical value. It was built in 1913 for the merchant who purchased the Rybnaya Sloboda silverware and resold it at larger markets, sometimes outside Russia.

Rybnaya Sloboda is the birthplace of many prominent people: Meritorious Artist of the Republic of Tatarstan Zufar Bilalov, troupemembers of the Galiaskar Kamal State Academic Tatar Drama Theater Ravil Sharafeyev and Halim Zalyalov, actor at Karim Tinchurin Tatar Drama and Comedy Theater, People's Artist of the Republic of Tatarstan Nuretdin Nazmiyev, famous poets and writers, such as Ravil Faizullin, Waqif Nurullin, Ahat Gafarov, composers Mansour Shigapov, Fattrahman Akhmadiyev, Rezeda Ahiyarova, People's Artist of the USSR Maxim Mikhailov, athlete and two-time world champion in canoeing Gennady Bukharin (he was the first Soviet world champion in this kind of sport!).

Rybno-Slobodsky rayon is also the birthplace of the current President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Nurgaliyevich Minnikhanov (born March 1, 1957 in the village of Novy Arysh).

Created in 1927, Rybno-Slobodsky rayon has seen various transformations: it was disbanded and reestablished on 12 January 1965. Business is now developing rapidly in the rayon: a horse farm has been built, cattle and small livestock are bred, poultry is becoming a priority, including even a pheasant farm. The wooden warehouses built in 1886 are still used for storage and processing of medicinal plants.

The local creamery was opened in 1965. In 1978 it was renovated and equipped with modern machinery.

The waste-free production of butter, curd and other cheeses and whey is fully environment-friendly.

The rayon is now beginning to develop its tourism capability. New tourist routes are designed, especially the ones involving the site of Challynsky settlement. The Valentine Park has become popular with newlywed couples, and the bank of the river Kama has been adorned with a beautiful promenade. Rybnaya Sloboda anticipates new developments: the opening of the Museum of Fishing, a new pier and a hotel near a recreated "fishing village".

Every discovery has something of a loss,
The road to a discovery is never easy,
And the joy of it but brief.
But every little loss has so much pain!
There is many a truth in the world…
But can they coexist with purity
Or do they dim the wondrous light
That has glimmered in our thoughts since childhood?
Do discoveries improve me
Or decrease and break down what was once whole?
Does knowledge of these truths
Put out the creative fire — that is the question…
Only recently have I started
To grasp the meaning of discoveries and losses.

Ravil Faizullin