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Chistopolsky rayon


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Administrative center: Chistopol
Area: 182.3 sq.km
Population: 79,900

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Arms akimbo, in a scarlet frock
That the hand of dawn threw over his shoulders,
As a young gallant, the city of Chistopol
Rises proudly over the Kama.

V. Belov

An evening walk along Chistopol seems to be taking you back in time. You see a merchant uezd town around you. Here, a shadow of a horse-drawn carriage has swiftly glimpsed; there, a ghostly flash of kerosene street lamps… A 230-year-old town has retained the dignity and modesty of bygone eras. Having emerged as a humble abode of runaway peasants, Chistopol managed to become one of the cultural centers of Tatarstan, and the focus of a strong industrial region as well.

During the Bolgar period, one of its most powerful cities, Juketau, was located in the vicinity. It had reached its peak development under the Golden Horde. Having been devastated by Mongolian troops in 1236, Juketau eventually rose again as the center of a vassal khanate of the Horde. The site of the old settlement on the high bank of the Kama has now become a popular tourist venue and a focus of comprehensive research. Hoards of coins, jewelry, gold, pearls and crystal found here have convincingly proved that the medieval history of the area was a period of high culture.

Until mid-17th century, the border of the Kazan region ran along the Kama, which served as a natural bastion against the raiding nomads. The fertile lands on the south bank had stood fallow since the dominion of the Golden Horde. With the situation gradually changing, since the end of 16th century farmers had started to move their tillage to the lands across the river. Russian landowners gradually secured the Trans-Kama lands as their property. The first village on the southern bank, Urakhchi, was founded by a certain Savva Aristov. In the census, the village was listed as "an estate across the Kama River" or simply "the Savva town."

The name Chistoye Pole (Open Field) is known since the late 18th century. As always, there are several versions of the origin of the name.

One of them tells the story of a group of runaway serfs who first settled on the spot of the future city. When they had been captured and deported back to their owners, other people squatted on their homesteads, as if in the open field. In the 18th century, settling in Trans-Kama was indeed becoming more intensive. Peter I ordered to resettle here serf farmers from Russia’s interior provinces, so that they could be forced to work at a manufacture a certain number of days a year, thus becoming a sort of peasant workers. This was the start of such villages as Chistoye Pole, Buldyr, Sarsazy, Yelantovo, Tolkish and others. Peasants of Chistoye Pole (officially known as Arkhangelskoye) were attached to Petrovsky manufacture on the river Avzyan, owned by the famous industrialists Demidov. Every autumn, the peasants had to walk 600 versts (400 miles) through Bashkir lands to reach the manufacture, only to return from thence in late spring. Having completed the annual agricultural cycle, after the grain harvest the farmers became workers again sown the bread and removing it, the farmers went back to the factory.

Chistopol became an uezd town by decree of Empress Catherine the Great in 1781.

In 1796 the first school was opened in the town — the Maloye Narodnoye Uchilishche. Chistopol expanded and developed, having become the second largest town in Kazan gubernia and second only to Perm on the Kama, both by the population and amount of grain trade.

The astounding success in grain trade has left its imprint on the town’s coat of arms. The merchants of Chistopol sent their grain caravans down the Kama and Volga to the neighboring cities and Russia’s capitals. The grain docks, with adjacent barns and mills, were an important economic center of the town. In 1896, the St. Alexander Lodging House was constructed. It provided shelter for the town’s poorest residents around the year. The merchants of Chistopol left a rich architectural legacy, changing the look of the town forever ... One of the main streets of modern Chistopol features a beautiful building of the former Zemskaya Uprava (Local administration). Rozentreyter’s house (built by a local 2nd guild merchant in 1863-1864) has recently been renovated. One of the local colleges occupies the former Chelyshev’s house. The elegant mansion once owned by I. Staheyev is now the Uezd Town Museum, with its collection illustrating the most important historical milestones of Chistopol. We owe the idea to set up such a museum to amateur naturalist Alexander Bulich, who was its long-time head since the museum opened in 1921. His personal collections laid the foundation of museum funds and have since then been massively expanded. They contain unique manuscripts and documents dating back to late 18th century, including handwritten and printed books. A special pride of the museum collections are two wooden bicycles, manually assembled by Nikolai Melnikov from the village of Chistopolskiye Vyselki in 1902 and 1909 respectively. These artefacts were an absolute novelty for Russian province of his times.

Since its earliest years, Chistopol have had the luck to be built on a regular plan. Municipal authorities were to issue construction permits only if the building complied with the plan. All houses had to keep within the building line, and that helped urban planning proceed smoothly. All the central streets intersected at right angles, forming clear-cut blocks. Almost every street in Chistopol has its own style and image, which survived through the centuries. In Vakhitov Street we can see the childhood home of Gabdulla Tuqay’s only love, Zeituna Mavlyudova. Many famous people were born in Chistopol, such as the world-famous chemist and public figure Aleksandr Butlerov, Russian historian Nikolai Likhachov and internationally renowned composer Sofia Gubaidulina.

On February 22, 1878 the prominent Tatar writer and social activist Gayaz Iskhaki was born in the village of Yaushirma (Kutlushkino). Later he was a student at a Chistopol madrassa, where he started his campaign to defend the interests of the Tatar people. The city has preserved a 1910-built house of his sister Faridabanu, where Iskhaki stayed many times. Since 1999, the house features a museum of the writer. Its exhibition rooms recreate the atmosphere of the tortuous life of this outstanding figure in Tatar culture.

In the early 20th century, Chistopol, with its two mosques and a big madrassa, became a center of Islamic education. The first stone mosque in the town was built in 1858 on the site of an earlier wooden construction. It is a landmark of mid-19th century Moslem architecture. Some of the well-known educators and spiritual leaders of the Volga region served as its imams, including Muhametzakir Muhametkamalov and Muhametnazip Amirhanov.

Chistopol’s Orthodox churches are a must-see as well. Some of them are over a hundred years old. The majestic three-altar stone Cathedral of St. Nicholas was built in 1838. It is also worth noting that many of the ethnic Russian merchants in Chistopol were Old Believers.

A girl said goodbye to a soldier
Going to the battlefront
They parted in the dark
At the doorstep.
And as long as the boy
Could see through the mist
The light was on
In the girl’s room

It is little known that these lines, which have become a symbol of love and hope, were written in Chistopol where their author, Mikhail Isakovsky, lived in evacuation at the time. His neighbors were other members of the Union of Soviet Writers — Anna Akhmatova, Nikolai Aseyev, Arseny Tarkovsky, Alexander Fadeyev, Konstantin Paustovsky, Kornei Chukovsky. Many of them gathered in an ad hoc club at the local pharmacy. Once owned by K.F. Kowalewski, the building has since become a Teachers’ Club memorial.

81, Volodarsky Street was the address of the Nobel Prize laureate Boris Pasternak. The author of the famous “Doktor Zhivago” lived here, in a small room on the second floor of a small two-storied mansion from October 1941 to June 1943. Some of Pasternka’s translations from Shakespeare, articles and war poems were written here.

When in my memoirs I start
Recalling Chistopol,
I will think of the town drowned in geraniums
And of the small house with boats in the garden.
I will remember its river and shoals,
And the town lights and the fire tower.
And in the autumn, before the river freezes off,
I would want to get there.

Boris Pasternak

The poet’s writing desk by the window, a modest bed and wallpapers with a bird-themed border pattern — the room’s scanty furnishing has not changed since Pasternak’s lifetime. The Pasternak memorial museum in Chistopol was the first in Russia to commemorate the life and works of the great author. In autumn 1941, Moscow Watchmaking Factory No.2 was evacuated to Chistopol. It was the enterprise which made Soviet watches famous all over the world.

In mid-1970s watches made at Vostok (“Orient”) of Chistopol were first worn by the Russian astronauts in space missions. Astronaut Georgiy Grechko, on his visit to the factory, gave his "Komandirskiye" (“Commander’s watch”) as a present to Vostok’s employees. Another waterproof brand, “The Amphibian" in the late 1980s was used in the US military, which was the recognition of the highest quality and cutting-edge technologies used at the Chistopol factory. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vostok began to look into new segments of the market. New production types include air gauges, tacheometers, tachographs, pulse scalers, electricity, gas and water counters and other mechanisms. Betar Ltd., formed as an offspring of the Chistopol Watch Factory, has become one of the market leaders both in Russia and the whole CIS. Its production includes water, gas and heating meters, as well as related testing equipment.

In 2010 Chistopol joined the federal program for the development of single-industry cities. The main focus of this program is to diversify local economies by creating industrial parks. So the city of Chistopol is looking forward to new developments, ideas and projects!