The island-town presents an alternative Sviyazhsk

Where else to send hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting the UNESCO Cultural Heritage site?

The island-town presents an alternative Sviyazhsk
Photo: Radif Kashapov/

On the Volga Day, May 20, the series of events “Sviyazhsk: the route through meanings” was presented in Sviyazhsk, the main of which was a test of the alternative route along the island-town, which was organised by the Institute for Urban Development of the Republic of Tatarstan foundation together with the executive committee of the Zelenodolsk district and the urban community URBANATAR.

We'll go the other way

Why is this done? Sviyazhsk is preparing an application for the All-Russian competition of small towns and historical settlements. The thing is that 1,3 million people visited the town last year alone. And all of them mostly go as a tourist group along the same route: along Troitskaya Street to the square, and then along Uspenskaya — back to their bus.

Now an alternative route is proposed: immediately after parking, go to the right, past the barrier, go up the Sergievsky Descent — and along the shore to get to Christmas Square, but with a different experience.

If on the main route tourists find themselves among houses and temples, then on the alternative, the emphasis is on the monastery walls, the Nightingale Grove and, of course, the river landscape. The authors suggest that this trip is for those returning to Sviyazhsk, for people who look for more tranquility, who are interested in the nature of the island.

The application for the route must be submitted before June 1, now it is being tested. Experts and residents are speaking out. If the project wins, there will be an improvement of the route, the amount declared is 80 million rubles. It is being developed by the teams of April and Miriada Group architectural bureaus, as well as the Tamga Institute of Urban Studies. The route began to be determined in January.

One of the talks took place on May 20, moderated by the co-founder of Tamga, Marya Leontieva. It was obvious that there were a lot of ideas and proposals. For example, one of the guides immediately grabbed a felt-tip pen and drew a typical route on one of the plans for clarity. Others suggested arranging a descent along Bolotnaya Street leading to the lower part of the island. Still others argued whether it was necessary to touch the Nightingale Grove…

The chances of winning are great, after all, in the competition, which has been held since 2018, 40 applications from Tatarstan won and received a federal grant, and 32 objects have already used this money.

Photo: Radif Kashapov/

Territory as hypertext

The press release promised an audio route with recordings of performances of folklore ensembles and church hymns (and qr codes with them could be noticed), as well as master classes. As a result, some of the volunteers who arrived by registration went to engage in pottery and fabric printing, while others gathered around Guzelia Gimatdinova, a historian, eco-activist, who has recently received the right to lead excursions around Sviyazhsk.

Gimatdinova, who rather immersed herself in the concept, suggested considering the territory as a hypertext, which presupposes a free choice of the interaction scenario. One can contemplate, one can independently explore. Excursion is allowed. Creativity is encouraged.

Among the experiments that are planned to be announced in the tour:

1) Sviyazhsk as a sacred centre, not only Orthodox, but also pagan (Sviyazhsk — Round Mountain, Kara Urman, Kara Kirmen);

2) military-administrative centre (from the base of preparation for the offensive on Kazan to the military fortress in the Civil War), isolation (including the experience of monasteries, prisons and correctional institutions);

3) ideological centre (missionary activity and the modern Sviyazhsky museum-reserve itself);

4-5) and, of course, the experience of intercultural dialogue and cultural artefact. The latter meant that Sviyazhsk has always been of interest to art historians, architects, icon painters, restorers, historians, poets, artists. For example, one of the houses we passed by is associated with the names of artist Gennady Arkhireev and documentarian Marina Razbezhkina. The eye inevitably clings to Pavel Tinyaev's boat, which became an opera platform, and the landing stage, which was painted during the Tom Sawyer Fest.

Although the main thing here is Sviyaga and the view of the opposite shore. The thing that both now and in the XVI century Kazan did not see Sviyazhsk. Even the new house of the mentioned Tinyaev. Therefore, I would like the new route, of course, to speak more about the modern island-town, about the people who moved here, returned, stayed. And this applies not only to Archireyev or Vladimir Guryanov.

Remains of the photographer's house. Photo: Radif Kashapov/

A photographer and stove maker

As for material objects, a significant part of the journey takes place along a paved road along the wall of the St. John the Baptist Monastery, which can be entered through the gate. This is not counting all the activities on the central Christmas Square. As well as the Photographer's House — the recently found remains are planned to be supplemented with a pavilion. The photographer's relatives help with the information. Not far from the shore, in the final part of the route, a large playground is to appear. And at the very beginning — a well-equipped Nightingale grove, a small park for contemplation.

Photo: Radif Kashapov/

Our day ended with a meeting not far from the church of Constantine and Elena, where a ceramic stove was built, and two samovars attracted the eye nearby. The harmonica player was playing familiar melodies, and the director of the museum-reserve Island-Town Sviyazhsk, Artem Silkin, said that the stove had not dried out. But it will definitely be lit, because a ceramic festival is planned here on June 10, and after that the islanders plan to make an open-air oven museum: there are already agreements on the Chinese kang stove, and negotiations with Tajikistan on the third construction took place at KazanForum.

Radif Kashapov

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