A view of Saransk's Millennium SquareAFP
If you’re coming to Saransk (318 miles southeast of Moscow) to attend FIFA World Cup matches, or simply as part of your trip across the world’s largest country, don’t worry: even though the city is small compared to Moscow or St. Petersburg, it’s hospitable and welcoming, eager to share its national culture with foreign guests
Visitors will be pleasantly surprised by Saransk’s clean streets, fascinating historical sites and friendly locals. Here are a few tips to help make for a memorable stay.
While walking around the city center toward Millennium Square and its musical fountain, you’ll definitely see a small lookalike of Lomonosov Moscow State University – that’s Ogarev Mordovia State University. Go to the rooftop observation deck and enjoy a birds-eye view. You can spot the new stadium and a musical-note shaped fountain next to the local Opera and Ballet Theater – all are difficult to see from the ground.
Within a short walk from the university is the green building of the Mordovian Museum of Fine Arts, which has a great collection of local artists, most importantly Stepan Erzia (1876-1959), a sculptor famous for his amazing wooden works.
Born in a nearby village, he took the pseudonym “Erzia” to honor his ethnic group: Erzia is an ethnic sub-group of the Mordovian people. His artworks have been exhibited in Italy and France, and he lived in Argentina for some time (1927-1950) where he fell in love with local trees and even took some with him back to the Soviet Union. If you reach Saransk and didn’t see his art then you made the visit for nothing! Definitely find an hour or two to see his stunning works and enjoy the many colorful paintings that depict local life.
The Mordovian people always lived in good neighborly relations with other nations in Russia, and in 2012 the republic celebrated 1,000 years of this friendship. The locals do their best to celebrate their past, and you can learn about it at the Local History Museum, located across the road
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