Saransk is, by far, not the most frequented tourist destination in Russia. In between Moscow and St. Petersburg, Saransk, although small, has some hidden gems to offer its visitors. If you’re heading to 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia fancy trying somewhere off the beaten track, here’s what to do in Saransk.
Check out 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, the Afghan war and the Chechen war. 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.
Go on a statue run
Russia has held onto 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, while others were left in place and can still be found peppered around Russian towns and cities. Saransk is no exception. Over 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 some of the monuments to look out for:
A hero of a popular rebellion during the reign 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 aspects of Mordovia’s war efforts.
One of the newest statues in Saransk, reinforcing new Russian values.
Go to a theatre
Saransk is a relatively small city, but it is home 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.
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. Smolny National Park, located 49.7 miles (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 with few people but plenty of birds.
Follow Gerard Depardieu's footsteps
Upon acquiring Russian citizenship in 2013, Gerard Depardieu chose Saransk to be his city of residence. The famous French actor renovated a cinema here and established a cultural center named after himself.
Spend an afternoon in one of the city’s parks
Russian cities are very green, and Saransk is a great example of that. The city is full of parks that are excellent to spend an afternoon in. Pushkin’s park is, by far, the most popular one, but your options don’t end there. Feel free to explore!