#1 Get to know an important part of Russian identity in the Museum of War and Work Efforts
Modern Russian identity depends to a large extent on its participation in the armed conflicts of the 20th century, most importantly in the Great Patriotic War (as the parts of WWII which occurred on Russian territory are known here) and also the Afghan and Chechen wars. Learn more about the veterans of those wars from the Republic of Mordovia in the Museum of War and Work Efforts. The museum is formed to resemble the shape of the Republic of Mordovia, and its orange and black facade is reminiscent of the Ribbon of St. George, a widely-recognisable military symbol in Russia.
#2 Go on a statue run.
Russia has gladly preserved the Soviet love of statues, along with many Soviet statues themselves. Some of them were taken down and put in a park next to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow; some others were left in place and can still be found peppered around Russian towns and cities. Saransk is no exception. Along the years, new statues connected with the history of the region or the new Russian identity were added to the mix. Find them all! Make it into a game, compete with your friends: Whoever ticks the fewest statues off the list, buys dinner that night. Here are only some of the monuments to look out for:
A hero of a popular rebellion of the times of Catherine the Great, immortalised in Pushkin’s writings.
If there are any statues in a Russian city, one of them must be of Pushkin…
… and the other one Lenin. Both can be found in Saransk.
This is a statue commemorating yet another side of the war efforts of the region.
One of the newest statues in Saransk, reinforcing new Russian values.
#3 Spend an afternoon in one of the city’s parks
Russian cities are very green, and so is Saransk. It is full of parks, which are excellent places to spend an afternoon. Pushkin’s park is, by far, the most popular one, but your options don’t end there. Feel free to explore!
#4 Witness a peaceful coexistence of faiths
It is not very obvious at first, but Russia is a country of multiple confessions. While the majority of believers are Orthodox Christians, Muslims are a significant majority. Mordovia is no different in that respect; it is house to multiple Orthodox churches and three mosques. Many of them are architecturally compelling. Walk around and discover the spiritual past and present of Saransk.
#5 Go to a theatre
Saransk is a relatively small city, but it also houses five different theaters. If one day you become tired of stadiums, football and crowds, go to a theater, watch an opera or a ballet, and imagine that you yourself are a character in one of Tchaikovsky’s librettos.
#6 Spend a day out of town
If you’re not particularly interested in opera and would rather explore natural treasures, Saransk and its nearby surroundings will not disappoint you. National Park Smolnyi, located 80 kilometers north of Saransk, is one of those treasures. Established to preserve the typical flora and fauna of the region, it is a perfect place for a relaxed, calm day few people but plenty of birds.
#7 Follow Gerard Depardieu’s footsteps
Upon acquiring Russian citizenship, Gerard Depardieu chose Saransk to be his city of residence. He renovated a cinema here and established a cultural center named after himself. Watch a film in Gerard Depardieu’s own cinema, a treat for fans of Russian trivia.