Saransk was founded as a fortress in 1641. It was part of a chain of fortifications, created by Grand Duchy of Moscow and later the Tsardom of Russia, to protect it from the raids of the Crimean Tatars. The fortress was far away from the main trade routes, so it could not become a major economic center and until the 1930s it was largely comprised of wooden one-story houses. It was appointed as the capital of the Mordovia in 1934 which imposed grand urban redevelopment; the old center was almost entirely demolished and replaced by Stalin-era architecture. The center was then again modernised between 2000 and 2010; some houses were restored using modern materials and some were demolished and replaced by modern harmonious buildings. In 2018 Saransk will host World Cup football matches and at least the city center will not lose face in front of guests.
There are no architectural ensembles in the center of Saransk. Overall, the old architecture is quite sparse and is not a first-class one. In this regard the city doesn't differ a lot from other cities in central Russia. Also you won’t hear any national languages other than Russian spoken here unless you make some special efforts.
There are two main tourist sites which make Saransk worth visiting: a museum of fine arts with a large collection of sculptures created by Stephen Erzi and 18th century Makarov Monastery - one of the most spectacular ensembles of the Middle Volga region. Additionally, there is a good museum of Mordovian national culture and some modern architecture partly stylised as a national one.
There are regular train services from Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan taking you to Saransk. The trains between Moscow and Saransk take around 10 hours 40 mins to cover the route. Saransk has a small airport too and a flight from the Russian capital takes just about an hour.
- Museum of Mordovia Folk Culture, Sovetskaya St, 19, ☎ . Learn about the histories of the two Mordvin ethnocultural groups, the Erzya and Moksha.
- 1 Cathedral of St. Theodore Ushakov (Собор Святого Феодора Ушакова).
- Pushkin Park.
- Mordovian Erzia Museum of Visual Arts. Established in 1941.
- Sovetskaya Square. The main square in the city.
- Opera and Ballet Theatre of Saransk.
- 1 Mordovia Arena. The yet-to-be completed stadium will host four group stages matches in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and have a capacity of 45,000.
- Dikovinka, Prospekt Lenina, 17, ☎ . Gift shop selling Erzhya arts and craft, traditional clothing and other souvenirs.
- Mordovskoye Podvorye, Ulitsa Saranskaya, 21, ☎ . Serves authentic Mordovian cuisine. Has a rustic wooden interior. RUB1000.
- Harat's Pub, Ulitsa Tereshkovoy, 7, ☎ . Irish pub with over 50 types of beer.
- Admiral Hotel, Respublikanskaya St., 103, ☎ . Spacious rooms. The staff at reception and the restaurant don't speak English very well but there are menus in English.
- Head to the second largest city in the republic and industrial center Ruzayevka
- Explore the rural areas of Mordovia