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Sabinsky rayon


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Administrative center: Bogatiye Saby
Area: 1097.70 sq.km
Population: 31,100

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Леса Сабинского района остаются гордостью республики. Герб района украшает красавица – ель – символ древа жизни. Шесть местных лесничеств, составляющих местный лесхоз, занимают площадь почти в 60 тысяч гектаров. Иное европейское государство не может похвалиться таким природным богатством!

The woodlands of Sabinsky rayon is its main pride. The rayon’s coat of arms features a beautiful fir-tree — a symbol of the tree of life. The six local forestries together cover an area of nearly 60,000 hectares. Not every European state possesses such natural wealth!

Our sacred city of Bolgar
and its dependency, Souvar,
Kazan with its high gates and walls,
Juke-Tau about the mirror of the river
And Saby in the depth of the woods.

In such a way old Tatar lands are described in the national epic “Idegey”. Saby is mentioned here as a remote and wild woodland. However, for the epic’s modern readers, Saby is rather a symbol of prosperity and wealth. The name of the place speaks for itself — Bogatiye Saby (Saby the Rich).

The history of development of these lands surely had begun long before the modern villages appeared. Some of the local settlements existed as far back as in Bolgar times. Saby is a cognate of one of the Volga Bolgars ethnonyms — sabakul ("saba" in the ancient Turkic language can stand for ‘word’, ‘speech’, ‘messenger’, ‘watcher’ or ‘sentinel’). Many villages in the neighborhood have related names, probably derived from the Sabinka River they all stand on: Sababash, Sredniye Saby, Bogatiye Saby, Chabki Saby. Dozens of archaeological sites in the rayon go back to the period of the Golden Horde.

The village of Izmya, located 10 kilometers away from Bogatiye Saby, has preserved a tombstone made in 1332. We know little about the Bolgar past of this area, and more details have survived from the centuries of the Kazan Khanate.

The village of Bogatiye Saby is believed to have been established early in the 16th century. In pre-revolutionary sources, it is referred to as Mametyeva Pustosh, from the name of its first settler, a Tatar servitor who arrived here from the Hillside of the Volga in mid-17th century. Folk legends attribute the name of Saba to a popular local craft — crockery production (savyt-saba). From the 17th to the first half of the 19th century, the villagers were state-owned serfs working in agriculture, cattle breeding, jewelry-making, tailoring, carpentry, joinery and turnery. By mid-19th century the village had four mahallas (Moslem communities), each with its own mosque and madrassa.

Local Moslem educational traditions deserve a special mention here. Studying and spiritual development in Saby madrassas were usually combined with working the land. The Satyshevo madrassa opened its doors to the first students in the 18th century. In the years following the toleration decree of Empress Catherine the Great, book publishing and the building of mosques and madrassas opened the era of rebirth of Islam in Russia. The Satyshevo madrassa was built on the donation of the rich merchant Haji Nasibullin, a native of the village of Bolshoi Sardyk (in the present-day Kukmor rayon). This one-storied rectangular building under a gable roof housed the boys from the nearby villages who came here in search of knowledge. Their parents were mostly engaged in farming and sheep breeding and were quite well off. The precious wool was carefully collected, sorted and stored in Satyshevo.

The future benefactor of the mosque, Haji Nasibullin, provided what we now would call logistics, hiring a lot of assistant workers each year. Laborers stacked together bales of wool and transported it to Kazan fulling mill. To express his gratitude to the people of the village, the rich merchant decided to build a mosque and set up a religious school. The traditions of philanthropy, once started by their ancestors, are supported by people of Saby in our days...

The madrassa became the neighborhood’s spiritual center. By the start of the 20th century it had about 300 shakirds (students), including the future poet Mirgaziz Ukmasi (1884 — 1946) and writer Muhammet Gali (1893 — 1952). Their spiritual mentors were Imam Mubarakshah Yarullin, Mullah Muhammed Muhammetvaliev and his son, Imam-Hatip Gabdrahman Muhammetov.

In Soviet times, the madrassa was closed and its classrooms were given to the Satyshevo eight-grade secondary school. The old building is now under restoration and will soon reopen as a local museum.

All in all, Sabinsky rayon has 49 mosques. The most impressive of them is the old mosque in Bogatiye Saby, built in 1841 at the expense of the Kazan 1st guild merchant Gabderashit Gabdulkarimovich Yunusov.

This small two-storied rectangular building with a hipped roof was an architectural and spiritual symbol of the rayon. Its first imam was Sayfutdin-bine Abubakir — a scholar and theologian who had received an excellent education in Bukhara and Kabul. In 1823, the Imam went on a Hajj, with his grandson Gabdulgallyam-bine Gabdulkadir Al Sharafi taking his place. In the opinion of Shihabuddin Marjani, the successor of the old imam was himself a brilliant theologian and philosopher and had an excellent command of several Oriental languages. The last Imam-khatib of the mosque was Muhammetvali Sagitov. Prior to the revolution, the local madrasa had around a hundred students. In the Soviet years, like most temples, the mosque was closed down and housed the local House of Culture. Interestingly, a southern half of the second floor was given over to the rayon Communist Party committee and a library.

In 1992, the old mosque was finally returned to the local Islamic community. On 21 November 1996 it was reopened after an extensive renovation. In 2002, a gilded crescent was installed at the top of its minaret. Today the old mosque looks truly impressive, especially at night, when the facade and minaret are illuminated.

How picturesque and majestic the mosque looks at night, with the village in the background! In 2000, another beautifully designed and decorated mosque opened in the small village of Leskhoz, so you can now often hear the residents of the two villages arguing with each other whose mosque is more beautiful.

The rayon was formed as a separate entity only under the Soviet regime, but it quickly found a place and voice of its own.

Among the settlements of Satyshevo volost’ (from 1924, Saby volost’) of Mamadyshsky uezd of Kazan gubernia, Bogaitye Saby always stood out by its sheer size, advanced home crafts and the relatively stable and strong economic condition of most households

The village of Bogatiye Saby was granted the status of a township on September 9, 2004.

Saby Agricultural College trains specialists for almost all neighboring rayons. The main staples of the rayon’s economy are agriculture and forestry. Every resident of Tatarstan knows and values the production of the local meat processing plant. Visitors will like the hospitable and neat homes of Saby.

The sporting life of the rayon is also rich and various. Statistics shows that every third inhabitant of the rayon is actively involved in sports. Four ice hockey rinks, an indoor swimming pool and other sports facilities are never idle or empty. People of Saby have a special passion for the Tatar-Bashkir "Koresh" wrestling. A number of local Koresh wrestlers have been awarded the titles of Masters of Sports in Tatarstan and Russia. Wrestling matches are the crown of the Sabantuy celebration in the area. Lovers of this old festival often acknowledge that the Saby version of it is the best in Tatarstan.

Sabinsky rayon has its own museum, and in 2004 another one was opened in the village of Leskhoz under the name of the “Saby Forestry Museum”.

Local historical and architectural landmarks include the Minger tombstone, Uternyasskoye and Izminskoye settlement sites.

You can get acquainted with the cultural heritage of the rayon from anywhere in the world, as the Abrar Kalimullin Library (over 40,000 books in total) has its own website.

Another specialty of the rayon is the local media. The Saba Tannary newspaper also has a website, providing a newsreel for readers across the globe. But the majority of local residents prefer the familiar look and smell of its printed version which has been delivered to subscribers for more than 80 years. People of Saby also like the local radio and television company, Saba Dulkynnary. There definitely is no hunger for information in the rayon.

The main pride of every town or village is its people. Saby is the birthplace of seven winners of the Gabdulla Tuqay State Prize of Tatarstan, including Fellow of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences Abrar Karimullin, People's Artist of the USSR Shaukat Biktimirov, musicologist Mahmut Nigmatzyanov, artist and creator of Tatarstan’s flag Tawil Haziahmetov, composers Rustam Yahin, Husnulla Valiullin, Fasil Ahmetov. Saby is famous for its military figures: Heroes of the Soviet Union I. Bashkirov, G. Zakirov, V. Khaziyev, Z. Habibullin, Full Companions of the Order of Glory K. Timergaliyev, A. Motygullin, Heroes of Socialist Labor G. Karimova (born in Mamalayevo), G. Shaimardanova (born in Satyshevo), M. Islamgaliyev (born in Oluyaz). The current President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Nurgaliyevich Minnikhanov spent his childhood here, in Sabinsky rayon. His father Nurgali Minnihanovich for thirty years had been the head of Saby’s logging enterprise.

The lyrics to an old song, like a prayer,
Spring to my mind: “You, a wanderer in a distant land,
Study life, but do not sever the blood ties,
Do not forget your native land..”
And howsoever far we roam,
Your light, unquenchable forever,
My republic, my native land,
Lives is us, protects and raises our souls!

Nouri Arslanov