Notes on Mordovia

Tags: mordovia
The great cathedral
Shumbratada, yalgat! Shumbrachi, oyat! You haven’t understood a word, right? Don’t worry! Hello, my dear friends. Welcome to Mordovia, the center of the Finno-Ugric world. You will be surrounded by its bright local color from the very first moment you see the capital of the republic - Saransk. How can this quiet region of Russia, situated between Moscow and the Volga, attract your attention?

First of all, Mordovia will win your hearts with its unique culture. Have you ever heard about Mokshas and Erzyas? Austrian diplomat  Baron Sigismund von Herberstein wrote a book called Notes on Muscovite Affairs: “Great forests are situated in the eastern and southern territories of the valley of the Moksha river, the Mordvins live there - a nation which has its own language and is ruled by the Muscovite tsar. According to one source, they worship idols, according to the other - they are Muslims”.

The history of the Mordvins, their mythology, traditions and language can capture your attention with their exceptional originality. For example, one of the characters of Mordovian legends is Vir’-ava (vir’ means forest, ava means mother, woman). She is the mistress of the forest. People rarely have a chance to see her. Vir’-ava is depicted as a naked, sometimes one-legged woman with long hair and breasts thrown over her shoulders. She can help a lost wanderer out of the forest or, in contrast, twist the path and tickle you to death. Remember to leave her walking backwards so that she will not understand where your tracks lead. Are you intrigued yet? I’m sure you’re eager to find out more about the everyday life and religion of Moksha and Erzya.


Secondly, you will be absolutely amazed by the regional cuisine. Traditional dishes will deeply impress any gourmet with their richness and abundance. Especially the local pancakes - pachat. They are thicker and fluffier than Russian blini. Another dish popular among the local people is panzhakai. This is an extremely tasty giant pie with potato and cottage cheese. Don’t forget to taste it!

Musical Theatre

Third, the nature of Mordovia will touch your emotions. Virgin forests, sacred springs, rivers and lakes that could inspire anyone. If you love breathtaking scenery, you should definitely visit the Mordovski Nature Reserve, situated on the wooded bank of the Moksha river. These woods are home to many hoofed and carnivorous species: deer, lynx, brown bears, wolves, foxes and other animals. According to the official website, “the reserve’s objective is to preserve and protect the riches of Mordovian nature, without hiding it behind a fence, to make it available to sincere people who love nature with all their hearts. That is why we develop eco-tourism”.


The fourth reason to visit Mordovia is its sport facilities. Saransk is one of the host cities of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. At the moment, the city is actively developing infrastructure for the event.


Finally, there are many great places of interest. For example, the Mordovian Erzia Museum of Visual Arts, named after Stepan Erzia. Erzia was a world-famous sculptor and artist. The most interesting period of his life was spent living in Argentina. He used Latin American species of wood in his works. By the way, his real last name is Nefyodov. He made up this pseudonym to demonstrate how much he loves his nation.


We could describe the wonders of Mordovia forever, but seeing once is better than hearing twice. Welcome!

by Ekaterina Nizovkina, Elizoveta Uskova (Translator)