The Russian fortress Atemar, founded in 1641, took its name from a nearby Mordvin village; at the time the fortress stood on the southeastern frontier of the Tsardom of Russia. The current name, "Saransk", refers to the city's situation on the Saranka river. Soon after its founding, the city became an important trade center for nearby Erzya villagers. After 1708 Saransk was assigned to Azov Province, and later to the Kazan Governorate. In 1780 the settlement was granted town status and was again transferred, this time to the Penza Governorate. In 1928 Saransk become the administrative center of the newly established Mordvin National Okrug, which became the Mordovian Autonomous Oblast in 1930. Soviet planners reconstructed the old city center in the 1960s and 1970s, adding wide streets and planning the construction of massive residential areas.
Saransk is the capital of the republic. Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is, together with three work settlements (Lukhovka, Nikolayevka, and Yalga) and thirteen rural localities, incorporated as the city of republic significance of Saransk—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the city of republic significance of Saransk is incorporated as Saransk Urban Okrug.
Saransk has a relatively chilly version of the humid continental climate with warm but not hot summers and cold winters, that averages well below freezing for five months of the year. Transition periods are extremely short and only April and October are between 0 °C (32 °F) and 10 °C (50 °F) in mean temperatures.
Industrial activity in Saransk includes the production of electrical cables, chemical production, textile manufacturing, food processing, machine building, and metallurgy. The city has two thermal power stations. The city has the confectionery plant Lamzur.
The most notable industrial enterprises include the Lisma Electrical Factory which employs nearly 12,000 people; the Biokhimik pharmaceutical facility; Rezinotekhnika, a rubber products manufacturer; cable manufacturer Saranskkabel; and Elektrovypryamitel, which manufactures electronic components and, on a small scale, television sets.
Saransk is by far the largest city in Mordovia and accounts for 34.3% of the total population of the republic (as of the 2002 Census). Ethnic Russians form the majority of the population (about 85%), and Russian, rather than any of two co-official Mordvinic languages, is the common language of communication in the city. As with many provincial capitals in Russia, the population of Saransk decreased after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, primarily as a result of economic migration to larger cities, made especially attractive by the downsizing, or outright collapse, of many smaller, regional, industrial enterprises. The population started to grow again in 2009.
The Saransk Regional Museum is dedicated primarily to the history of the city, while the Mordovian Museum of Visual Arts has an excellent collection of works by Russian masters Stepan Erzia and Fedot Sychkov.
The city is also home to Mordovian State University (founded in 1957) as well as several technical colleges.
Saransk has three Orthodox Churches and also a small Lutheran Church provided by the Finnish Lutheran Church and opened in 2005. There are also three Mosques. The main cathedral in Saransk is Cathedral of St. Theodore Ushakov, which was completed in 2006.
Saransk has several theaters, including:State Russian Drama Theatre
State Russian Drama Theatre of the Republic of Mordovia was founded in August 25, 1932 and, initially was called Mordovian National Theatre.
The first theatrical season was opened with the plays «Poverty is No Vice» by Alexander Ostrovsky and «Crank» by Alexander Afinogenov. The plays were directed by Nina Grigorskaya and Boris Brilliantov, the directors of the Maly Theatre. During the World War II it was free for everyone who wanted to come and see the plays. The most popular plot was the Russian Civil War. Since 1950-s the theatre has presented mostly the classical Russian plays, such as «Anna Karenina», «Uncle Vanya» etc. Since 2006 the theatre has hosted the International festival «Compatriots».
Now it is situated in Sovetskaya Street, 60. The present director of the theatre is Sergey Igonkin. Nowadays the theatre is being reconstructed.Opera and Ballet Theater
New Opera and Ballet Theater buildings of Yaushev was open on September 9, 2011 in Saransk.State Puppet Theater of the Republic of Mordovia
Mordovia National Drama Theatre
Mordovia National Drama Theatre is situated in Saransk, the capital of Mordovia. It was founded in 1932 by Moscow Academy of Maly Theatre . Initially the theatre performed Russian classics, translated into the Mordovian languages, but later they began to adapt the drama works of national authors for the stage.
The theatre was reopened in 1989. It was given an old building with 35 seats for the audience in semi-basement room. The graduates of M. S. Schepkin acting school became its first artists. For that they were sent to Moscow to get education exactly for this purpose. In 2007 the theatre was given a new building. His opening ceremony was 21 July 2007 during International festival "Shumbrat, Finno-Ugria".
The city has a large number of buildings remaining from the 17th and 18th centuries; however, many parts of the town are dominated by Soviet era apartment blocks, dating mainly from the 1960s, similar to other provincial towns which expanded rapidly due to fast industrialization. These buildings are nearing the end of their service life and are in need of serious repair and, in many cases, replacement. Industrial enterprises are mainly located to the north of the town center. The eastern part of Saransk, located east of the Insar River, is Posop. An interesting detail is the Soviet era military base, belonging to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is located along the railway lines and serves of a time when Saransk was, effectively, a closed city. Another city landmark is the Saransk TV Tower — a 180-meter-tall guyed tubular steel mast built in 1961.
As in any other city, Saransk has many monuments. These are some of them:Monument to Pugachev
The Monument of Eternal glory
Monument to Puskin
Monument to Polezhaev
Monument to Heroes-stratonauts
Monument of The Plane
Family Monument is one of the most popular and interesting ones. It is set in the center of the city, near the Cathedral of St. Feodor Ushakov, at the crossroads of Sovietskaya and the Democraticheskaya streets. It was opened in 2008, which was declared the Year of Family in Russia. The author of the monument is a sculptor Nikolai Filatov. This monument is a symbol of absolute family values, the true foundation of society. The sculpture depicts a life-size large family. They are the husband with a little child on his shoulders, his pregnant wife, the mother of the children and two more children, holding on to their parents. Monument is realistic and dynamic because all people are shown at the time of movement. The place for the monument was chosen with the special idea, because it is located in front of the Cathedral of St. Feodor Ushakov. On the wedding day some new families visit the monument of the family, sincerely believing that the sculpture will bring them good luck.
The municipal transit system of Saransk consists primarily of a network of bus and trolleybus lines.
Saransk I railway station is a station on the Kuybyshev Railway. The city has additional stations serving regional railways to Ruzayevka and Krasny Uzel. Formerly, Saransk was also served by two daily Penza–Nizhny Novgorod passenger trains, carrying passengers from nearby villages mainly to either Ruzayevka junction station and Penza or to Arzamas and Nizhny Novgorod.
There is a daily direct train service with Moscow.
The city is served by the small Saransk Airport (IATA: SKX, ICAO: UWPS) southeast of downtown. It is served primarily by small regional carriers; the most common aircraft is the An-24. There are scheduled flights to and from Moscow's Domodedovo airport on weekdays. Saransk is also home to the Lyambir airforce base.
Saransk is twinned with: Botevgrad, Bulgaria
Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland
Mikhail Bakhtin who lived and taught in Saransk between 1949 and 1969. A monument to Bakhtin unveiled in 2015 in the city.
Gérard Depardieu, registered as a resident of Saransk since February 2013