Even though Saransk’s history goes as far back as the 17th century, the city started expanding vastly only in the last hundred years. The layout of its neighbourhoods clearly reflects that. Saransk grew around its historical centre, with new layers growing around it along with industrial development. The city is administratively divided into three major districts: Leninskiy, Oktyabrskiy and Proletarskiy.
Its central part is also the oldest part of the city. Most of the city’s attractions are located right here: this is where the Mordovia Erzia Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Mordovia Folk Culture and the Museum of War and Work can all be found. The northern part of Leninsky was mostly constructed in the 1940s and 1950s, along with an electric lamp plant. The southwestern part of Leninsky (where Gérard Depardieu, now a Saransk resident, has opened his cinema), constructed in the 1950s, is the district’s youngest part and one of the first residential areas. Green, surrounded by a forest, without major industrial plants, this is most certainly one of the most pleasant parts of Saransk.
This district stretches across the entire eastern part of the city, encompassing a few suburban areas as well. It is a very industrial part of the city, with a medical equipment factory, furniture factory, trolley bus centre and many more industrial enterprises located here. The southern part of the district has grown to be a student area. It is the home to two universities, many professional high schools, boarding houses and student accommodation. Oktyabrskiy is a perfect area for a day trip for curious travellers interested in seeing what the real Russia looks like.
Proletarskiy encompasses the northwestern parts of the city. It is the most industrial part of it. It started developing around a light source research institute and lightbulb factory named Svetotekhnikha. The district consists mostly of Soviet multi-story buildings, which still remain one of the most popular forms of accommodation in Russia. Just like Oktyabrskiy, Proletarskiy is a non-export face of Russia, which makes it all the more worth seeing.
Saransk is a city whose history reflects the turbulent history of the country that gave rise to it. It is not the most popular tourist location, yet Saransk is Russia as it is, not as it would like to be seen. This is why it is a place worth visiting.