1. Speak on the history of Mordovia region (early history, Mongol rule, Russian rule, the part of the Soviet Union, the part of the Russian Federation).



Saransk stands on the bank of two rivers: the Insar and the Sara. In 1641 it was built as a fortress to defend the south-eastern boundaries of the 17th century Russia from raids of the nomadic tribes. It was a fortress on the river Sara. Perhaps, the name of the city originated from the name of the river, though there are several other hypotheses as far as the etymology of the the city name is concerned. The low lying wet land along the rivers produced swamps, mashes and bogs. Thus, G.N. Peterson puts forward the idea that the area round Saransk in those days was marshy and many yellow flowers grew there. The word «sara» in the Tatar of those days meant «yellow» [Все о Мордовии, с. 85 – 86]. In spring and summer the fortress was a total yellow blossom.

Another version of the same scholar narrates that the area where Saransk had been built was wet and boggy and consequently, not very good for health thus it caused very severe fevers among the people.

The old Tatar word «zaran» meant «dangerous, evil and bad for health» and that is why the Mongol and Tatar tribes of those days gave this descriptive and emotional name to the fortress. The fortress used to be dangerous not only for health, but also for their lives. The inhabitants and warriors of the fortress defended the south-eastern borders of Russia of the 17th century from the raids of the nomadic tribes.


Dr Irina Anashkina

Mordovia State University


Saransk is one of the oldest cities of the Srednee Povolzhjie. It was founded in 1641 as a fortress to defend the south-eastern borders of the Moscow state. It is situated at the crossing of the main roads that connected Astrahan’ with Moscow and the Crimea with Kazan’.

Saransk stands on the Saranka, which in the 17th century was called the Sarley. Near the fortress this river had a vast marshy area. Beyond the present-day railways there used to be another sara, wide and long, the Insar. «Ine-» in Mordovian means «big». It used to be a wide and long river. It is nothing of the kind now. The Saranka is polluted to such an extent that it could hardly be called a river. It is a foul-smelling riverlet with dirty muddy water.

Originally the town was called Saransk. The fortress had a square form and was surrounded with a rampart with wooden towers at the four corners.



Taken from: http://sgpek.ru/sites/Edinenie/altsaransk.html Taken from:http://sgpek.ru/sites/Edinenie/altsaransk.html

To protect the inside of the settlement from the nomadic hordes, the fortress was also surrounded with a high wooden paling (частокол). Outside the parameter there were deep ditches.

The first settlers of the fortress were warriors (kazaks and strel’tsy – стрельцы), who were recruited to defend the Moscow state. Until the 18th century, the town was divided into small settlements (slobodiy – слободы), which were also fortified.

In 1651 Saransk acquired the status of a town.

In Russian in those times it was called «уездный». Since 1708 it had belonged in succession to the Azov, Kazan, Simbirsk guberniyas, and since 1801it belonged to the Penzenskaya guberniya. During its 3 hundred year history Saransk witnessed a lot of historic events: the two rebellions of Russian peasants, the one headed by Stepan Razin in 1670 and the other by Emelyan Pugachev in 1774. In 1817, 1825 and 1869 the town suffered three terrible fires. The town was burned to ashes and each time it was built anew; at the end of the 19th century a railway from Moscow to Kazan crossed Saransk.


Pre-revolutionary Mordovia

Mordovia, as an autonomous republic, entered the Russian Federation in 1934. Since 1930 till 1934 it had been an autonomous region.

The Mordovians are formed of two tribes the Moksha and the Erza that have been living in the basins of the rivers Moksha and Sura since time immemorial. Their neighbors have always been the Slavs. The Mordovian lands were subjected to attacks of militant nomad tribes from the East. Mordva were farmers, but during those attacks they had to take arms to protect themselves and their lands.

In the 13th century the hordes of Khan Baty invaded the Mordovian lands. They burnt the villages, made slaves of young girls and boys and stole the cattle. Mordovian people did not want to be conquered; they hid in the deep forests or asked Russian warriors for shelter. No matter how hard they fought the enemy they couldn’t possibly release themselves from the Tatar yoke without the help of Russian troops. So, after the victory on the Kulikov field, the Russian people helped to release the small people: Mordva, Mariytsy, Chuvashy.

The Mordovian lands joined the Russian State after the Grozny conquered Kazan in 1552. Since that time on, the Mordovian people united its fare with the fate of Russia forever, and the differences in the languages, clothes, traditions and customs didn’t make them enemies. Mordovian and Russian peasants had nothing to quarrel over. They equally suffered from injustice. So whenever Russian peasants rose in arms against serfdom, Mordovian people always joined them. When Mordovian people learnt about the peasant uprising led by Stepan Razin they organized and sent the troops headed by Murza Akayka and Pavel Yelashov against landowners and the tsars troops.

There are a lot of memorial places in Saransk connected with the participation of Mordovian people in the Pugachov uprising. It was in Saransk where in July 1774 the «peasant tsar» stayed with his warriors to uphold and make a just cause. When Pugachov came to Saransk the uprising spread out to all the Mordovian lands. The armed peasant troops seized Krasnoslobodsk, Temnikov, Insar towns. Only the regular army could put down the rebellion, very cruelly, indeed.

Almost untill the 20th century Mordovia had been a «peasant» land. The contemporaries of L. N. Tolstoy called Mordovia «the land of darkness» with signs of extreme poverty and ignorance.

The time of great changes came with the building of the railway. Trade relations with other regions of the state were established, different factories were built that brought an influx of workers. Those proletarian workers, mostly of Russian nationality, brought new ideas to the Mordovian people and the class struggle started to have a new well-organized character. The unsuccessful revolution of 1905 enriched with experience thoughts perhaps, somewhat sad, taught and confirmed the belief of opportunity to throw off tsarizm. So in 1917 when the Great October Socialist Revolution began Mordovian proletariats took an active part in it.


a tribe n. – племя

time immemorial – незапамятные времена

to protect v – защищать

a horde n. – орда

warrior n. – воин

yoke n. – иго

toops n. pl. – войска

fate n. – судьба

quarrel v. – ссориться

injustice n. – несправедливость

equally adv. – одинаково, в равной степени

serfdom n. sg. – крепостничество

uprising n. – восстание

peasant n. – крестьянин

tsar n. – царь

rebellion n. – восстание, бунт

cruelly adv. – жестоко

contemporary n. – современник

poverty n. sg. – нищета

ignorance n. sg. – невежество

influx n. – наплыв


Early history

The earliest archaeological signs of human beings in the area of Mordovia are from the Neolithic eraFinno-UgricMordvins are mentioned in written sources in 6th century[citation needed]. Later, Mordvins were under the influence of both Volga Bulgaria and the Kievan Rus. Mordvin princes sometimes raided Muroma and Volga Bulgaria, and often despoiled each other’s holdings.

Mongol rule

The Mongols conquered vast areas of Eastern Europe in the 13th century. They established the khanate of the Golden Horde in 1241, subjugating the area of Mordovia. Mordvins fought against Mongols and later alongside Russians.[citation needed] Mordvin lands territorially belonged to Mukhsha Ulus. The Golden Horde disintegrated in the 1430s, which resulted in some Mordvins becoming subjects of the Khanate of Kazan, whereas others were incorporated into Muscovy.

Russian rule

When Ivan IV of Russia annexed the Khanate of Kazan in 1552, the Mordvin lands were subjugated to the Russian tsars. The Mordvin elite rapidly adopted Russian language and customs, whereas 1821 saw the publication of the New Testament in Erzya to address the non-elite population. In rural areas, Mordvin culture was preserved. Russians started to convert Mordvins to Orthodox Christianity in the mid-18th century. Mordvins gave up their own shamanist religion only slowly, however, and many of shamanist features were preserved as parts of local culture though the population became nominally Christian. Translations of literature to Mordvin languages were mostly religious books. In the 18th century, the Latin alphabet was used in writing Mordvin, but from the mid-19th century, Cyrillic was used.

Part of the Soviet Union

During the Russian revolution and civil war, Mordovia was held by Bolsheviks from the beginning of the war. When the Bolsheviks prevailed in the war, Mordovia became a part of the Russian SFSR. In 1925, the Soviet government founded autonomous districts and village councils in the area of the Mordvins. During the Soviet era, two written languages were developed, one based on the Erzya dialect in 1922 and one on the Moksha dialect in 1923, both using Cyrillic script. The Mordovian Okrug was founded on July 16, 1928, and it was elevated to the status of an autonomous oblast on January 10, 1930. The autonomous oblast was transformed into the Mordovian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on December 20, 1934.[4]

Part of the Russian Federation

When the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Mordovian ASSR proclaimed itself the Republic of Mordovia in 1990, and remained a part of the Russian Federation. The Republic of Mordovia in its present form has existed since January 25, 1994.