Mordovian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mordovian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic


(Mordovia, Mordoviias’), a part of the RSFSR. Formed on Dec. 20, 1934. Area, 26,200 sq km. Population, 1,014,000 (1973). The Mordovian ASSR is divided into 21 raions and has seven cities and 17 urban-type settlements. Its capital is Saransk.

Constitution and government. The Mordovian ASSR is a socialist state of workers and peasants and an autonomous Soviet socialist republic. Its constitution was adopted on Aug. 30, 1937, by the Second Extraordinary Congress of Soviets of the Mordovian ASSR. The highest bodies of state power are the unicameral Supreme Soviet of the Mordovian ASSR and its Presidium. Elected to a four-year term (one deputy per 12,000 inhabitants), the Supreme Soviet of the Mordovian ASSR forms the government—the Council of Ministers of Mordovia. In the Soviet of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR the Mordovian ASSR is represented by 11 deputies. Local bodies of state power are the municipal, raion, settlement, and village Soviets of working people’s deputies, which are elected by the population to two-year terms.

The Supreme Soviet of Mordovia elects the Supreme Court of the Mordovian ASSR to a five-year term. The Supreme Court consists of two judicial collegiums, which handle criminal and civil cases, and a presidium. The procurator of the Mordovian ASSR is appointed to a five-year term by the procurator-general of the USSR.

Natural features Mordovia is located in the eastern part of the Eastern European Plain in the Volga Basin. The northwestern area of the republic is occupied by the Oka-Don Plain, where accumulative forms of terrain prevail. The southeastern section is occupied by the Volga Upland, which is dissected by a dense network of ravines and gullies. Elevations decrease from 330–310 m in the east to 100 m in the west. The republic’s main mineral resources are limestones, dolomites, peat, chalk, marl, clay, and sandstone.

The climate is moderate continental. The average January temperature is — 11.2°C, and the average July temperature, 19.2°C. The average annual precipitation ranges from 450 to 525 mm. The growing season (the period when temperatures are above 10°C) is 137–144 days long, and the sum of the temperatures during it ranges from 2,200° to 2,380°C.

A number of rivers flow through Mordovia. The Moksha, a tributary of the Oka, runs through the republic for 435 km. Its tributaries, including the Vad, Satis, Sivin’, Issa, and Urei, are located in Mordovia, as is the Sura (110 km), which flows into the Volga, and its tributary, the Alatyr’. The rivers have slow currents, and the flows fluctuate from season to season. From 60 to 95 percent of the annual flow occurs during April and May.

Podzolic chernozems are found in the west; leached chernozems in the east; gray forest soil in the west, the central regions, and the east; soddy podzols in the west and northwest; and alluvial and peaty-boggy soils in the river valleys.

Forests occupy 24.2 percent of the republic’s territory. Birch makes up 24.5 percent of the forests; oak, 22.5 percent; aspen, 14.1 percent; linden, 4.1 percent; and alder, 2.8 percent. Of the coniferous species, pine accounts for 29.5 percent of the republic’s forests. Most of the forests are located in the west and north and along the Moksha, Vad, and Alatyr’ rivers. All of the steppe areas have been plowed up. Mordovia’s diverse fauna includes the wolf, elk, badger, beaver, boar, mole, muskrat, fox, and blue and European hares; also found are black grouse, Hungarian partridge, and capercaillie. The most common fishes are crucian carp and carp. In 1935 the P. G. Smidovich Mordovian Preserve was established in the northwestern part of the republic.


Population Mordovia is inhabited by Mordovians (365,000; all data drawn from the 1970 census), Russians (607,000), Tatars (45,000), Ukrainians (6,000), and other nationalities.

In 1926 the population of the republic was 1,259,000; in 1939, 1,187,000; in 1959, 1,002,000; and in 1970, 1,029,000. As of 1973 the average population density was 38.7 inhabitants per sq km. The central and eastern regions are the most densely populated (more than 40 inhabitants per sq km). The urban population grew from 7 percent of the total population in 1939 to 40 percent by the beginning of 1973. In 1973 the republic’s major cities were Saransk (214,000), Ruzaevka (44,000), and Kovylkino (19,000). The smaller cities include Ardatov, Insar, Krasnoslobodsk, and Temnikov. Ruzaevka, Kovylkino, and Insar became cities under Soviet power.

Historical survey The oldest archaeological remains in the Mordovian ASSR date to the Neolithic period (sites along the Vad and Moksha rivers, for example). During the early Iron Age (seventh century B.C.-fifth century A.D.) tribes of the Gorodetsk culture lived in Mordovia, where they established permanent settlements and engaged in hoe farming, animal husbandry, hunting, and fishing. They knew how to smelt iron and used it to make tools and weapons. The first written mention of tribes with the common ethnic designation Mordva (mordens) dates to the sixth century A.D. During the tenth century the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus mentioned the country of Mordiu. From the ninth through 11th centuries territorial communes called vele and mar, which were somewhat similar to the ancient Russian verv* and mir, developed among the Mordovians. Feudal relations developed in the 12th and 13th centuries, and feudal political forms took shape. During this period Mordovia was referred to in the Russian chronicles as Purgasova Volost’, or Purgasova Rus’ (the territory around the lower reaches of the Moksha that was occupied by Mordvinian tribes and by Russian peasants who had fled from feudal oppression; ruled by Prince Purgasov). The Mongol-Tatar yoke (13th-15th centuries) retarded the economic and political development of the Mordovians.

The history of the Mordovian people is closely linked with that of the Russian people. As early as the 13th century the territory settled by the Mordovians became part of the principalities of Riazan’ and Nizhny Novgorod. The Mordovians joined the Russian people in the struggle against the Mongol Tatar yoke, participating in battles on the Vozhe River (1378) and at Kulikovo Pole (1380), as well as in Ivan IV’s campaigns against Kazan. With the fall of the Khanate of Kazan (1552), the Mordovians voluntarily became a part of the Russian state. This made it possible for them to achieve a higher material and cultural way of life. To protect the southeastern territories of the Russian state from attacks by nomadic tribes during the 16th and 17th centuries, abatis lines were built through the territory settled by the Mordovians (the Temnikov-Alatyr’ line and the Insar-Shishkeev-Saransk line). Some of the fortresses built on Mordovian territory became cities and centers for handicrafts and trade (for example, Saransk, founded in 1641).

During the Polish and Swedish intervention in the early 17th century the Mordovian people took part in the people’s militia under the leadership of Minin and Pozharskii. The tsarist government distributed Mordovian lands to feudal serf-owners such as the Morozovs and the Golitsyns, who exploited the Mordovian people on their votchinas (patrimonial estates) and in industrial enterprises (logging sites and potash plants, for example). The enserfment of the peasants, the seizure of the best lands by secular and ecclesiastical feudal lords, heavy taxes, government and landlords’ projects, and forced Christianization (in the 16th and particularly in the 17th century) caused a mass exodus by the Mordovians from their native lands to the territories across the Sura and the Volga and, subsequently, to the Urals and Siberia. The Mordovians took part in the peasant wars under the leadership of I. I. Bolotnikov (1606–07) and S. T. Razin (1667–71). A number of prominent leaders of insurgent detachments were Mordovians—Vorkadin and Moskov (1606–09) and Alena Temnikovskaia and Murza-akaika Baliaev (1670).

During the 18th century the enserfment of the Mordovian peasantry was intensified. Masses of peasants were conscripted for work in government and landlords’ plants and saltworks or at logging camps. As a result, as early as the first half of the 18th century several outbreaks took place among the serfs and the people who paid the iasak (tribute). Nesmeian Krivov and Shatreika Plakidin led the outbreak of 1743–45, and the uprising by the Mordovians of the Teriukhan’ Volosf’ (small rural district), Nizhny Novgorod District, was led by Nesmeian Vasil’ev. During the peasant war led by E. I. Pugachev (1773–75) all of Mordovia was engulfed by the peasant movement. Many insurgent detachments were active in Mordovia (for example, those of S. Martynov, a foundry worker at the Insar Ironworks; Evstifeev, a peasant who paid the iasak; and the serf I. Ivanov).

With the growth of commodity-money relations, there was an increase in commercial ties between the cities of Mordovia and Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov, and other Russian cities during the 18th century. People’s militia regiments were organized in Saransk, Insar, and other populated areas during the Patriotic War of 1812. During the first half of the 19th century, as the landlords seized more and more of the peasants’ land, uprisings broke out in the villages of Lada, Staroe Drakino, Novoe Drakino (1833), and Kochelaevo (1849), as well as at the Sivinsk Ironworks (during the 1820’s) and the Avgorsk Iron-works (1858–61).

With the implementation of the Peasant Reform of 1861, the landlords took away about 23 percent of the best lands from the peasants of Mordovia, leaving each peasant registered in the population censuses (revizskaia dusha) with about 2.6 desiatinas (2.8 hectares [ha]) of the worst land; they also compelled the peasants to make redemption payments that exceeded the income-producing capacity of their farms. Stratification increased among the peasantry. Increasingly, land was concentrated in the hands of the Mordovian, Russian, and Tatar kulaks and merchants. At the beginning of the 20th century, 28 percent of the land belonged to the landlords and the government, about 3 percent to the church and the monasteries, and approximately 13 percent to the urban and village bourgeoisie. More than 100,-000 Mordovian peasants who owned very little land were resettled in the Urals, Siberia, and Middle Asia.

Seasonal migratory work became a major source of livelihood for the peasants. The construction of the Moscow-Kazan Rail-road in the 1890’s strengthened Mordovia’s ties with the industrial regions of Russia and promoted the growth of local industry (primarily animal husbandry, logging, and enterprises for processing field crops), as well as the rise of the Russian, Mordovian, and Tatar bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 20th century, Mordovia had only 50 small industrial enterprises with an annual output valued at more than 1,000 rubles, and none of them employed more than 2,500 persons.

During the mid-19th century the first schools (primarily church schools) were opened in the Mordovian villages. Teaching was conducted in Russian. Progressive leaders such as I. N. Ul’ianov (V. I. Lenin’s father) and V. Kh. Khokhriakov played an important role in the development of education in Mordovia. In the second half of the 19th century, the ideas of the Narodniki (Populists) became widespread in Mordovia, and in the early 20th century revolutionary circles were organized in Saransk, the settlement of Ruzaevka, and the villages of Kulikovka and Zykov. Under the influence of the Russian revolutionary proletariat the working people of Mordovia took part in the Revolution of 1905–07. From December 10 to December 21 there was an armed uprising of workers at the Ruzaevka railroad terminal (the Ruzaevka Republic of 1905). Insurgent peasants destroyed 200 landlords’ estates.

After the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of February 1917 Soviets of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ deputies were established in Mordovia, but until the beginning of 1918 they were dominated by Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s). Under the leadership of the Moscow, Sormovo, and other organizations of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), party organizations were established in a number of Mordovian cities in late 1917. In January 1918 a district committee of the Bolshevik organization was elected in Saransk. After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, Soviet power was established in Mordovia (November 1917-March 1918). Under Soviet power the peasants received at least 1 million desiatinas (1,090,000 ha) of land that had formerly been privately owned, and committees of the poor were formed in almost all the villages. During the Civil War of 1918–20, tens of thousands of Mordovian workers fought against the interventionists and White Guards, and they opposed as well the Antonov Revolt and other kulak uprisings. The peasants of Mordovia rendered a great deal of assistance to Soviet power, sending foodstuffs to Moscow, Petrograd, and famine-stricken areas in the Volga Region.

The Great October Socialist Revolution was a radical turning point in the history of the Mordovian people, whom it rescued from capitalist slavery, lack of political rights, and nationalist oppression. It also made possible the socialist development of Mordovia and the creation of a Mordovian state. In 1919 a Mordovian Section of the People’s Commissariat for Nationalities of the RSFSR was formed. In 1921 the Congress of Communists of Mordovian Nationality, which took place in Samara, raised the question of establishing Mordovian autonomy. After the administrative reorganization of the Middle Volga Region, the Middle Volga Krai (as of 1928) included the newly formed Mordovian Okrug, which became the Mordovian Autonomous Oblast on Jan. 10, 1930. On Dec. 20, 1934, the Mordovian ASSR was established.

Under the prewar five-year plans the Mordovian people, with the support of the Russians and other peoples of the USSR, built socialism and made considerable progress toward eliminating economic and cultural backwardness. Engineers, technicians, skilled workers, and experienced party personnel were sent from the country’s new industrial centers to the Mordovian republic’s construction sites and enterprises. In Moscow, Leningrad, and other cities Mordovians were trained for work in the republic’s industrial enterprises and agriculture. Metalworking and the canning, hemp and jute, and timber industries were founded. In 1940 the total output of Mordovian industry was 9.5 times that of 1913. By 1932 most of the peasants had joined kolkhozes.

A cultural revolution was carried out. Illiteracy was, for the most part, eliminated. National cadres from the working class, as well as a popular intelligentsia, developed. A national literature and art took shape. The Mordovian territory was transformed from a backward, agrarian region of Russia into an industrial-agrarian republic, and the Mordovian people were consolidated into a socialist nation (natsiia, nation in the historical sense).

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) the workers of the Mordovian ASSR demonstrated their patriotism at the front and in the rear. More than 75,000 soldiers and officers from Mordovia were awarded orders and medals of the Soviet Union, and 102 of them won the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. With their own savings the working people of Mordovia outfitted the Mordovskii Kolkhoznik tank column, as well as a squadron of air-planes. Enterprises that had been evacuated from the western USSR were relocated on Mordovian territory, and the Mordovian ASSR rendered assistance to the oblasts and republics that had suffered most from the fascist German occupation.

During the postwar five-year plans the economy and culture of the Mordovian ASSR developed further. New branches of industry were established, including the chemical and machine-building industries. The material and cultural level rose considerably. The economic and cultural upswing was accompanied by a universal extension of mutual aid and a deepening of the ties between the Mordovian ASSR and its fraternal republics. There was a flowering of Mordovian culture, which was national in form, socialist in content, and internationalist in spirit and character. In the framework of a developed socialist society, the republic’s working people and all the peoples of the Soviet Union are working to create the material and technical basis for communism. For its achievements in developing the national economy the Mordovian ASSR has been awarded the Order of Lenin (1965), as well as the Order of Friendship of Peoples (1972). The 38 best workers in the Mordovian republic have been awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor (1974).


Economy The industry of the Mordovian republic is well developed, and its agriculture is diversified. Until 1950 the dominant branches of industry were light industry, food processing, and timber. The industrial profile of contemporary Mordovia is dominated by the progressive branches of machine building: electrical engineering and instrument-making. As of 1972, Mordovia accounted for 13.8 percent of the all-Union production of excavators. The chemical industry is also growing rapidly.

INDUSTRY. In 1972 the republic’s industrial output was 16.2 times that of 1940, and per capita production was 18.6 times that of 1940. Machine building and metal-working account for 46 percent of the total industrial output; light industry, for 15 percent; food processing, for 17 percent; building materials, for 6.4 percent; the timber, wood products, and wood-pulp and paper industries, for 4.7 percent; and electric power, for 1.2 percent. (See Table 1.)

There are steam power plants in Alekseevsk and Romodanovo and two in Saransk. Since 1960 the energy system of the Mordovian ASSR has been part of the Integrated Power Grid of the European USSR.

Half of the republic’s industrial workers are employed in machine building and metalworking. Semiconductors, lighting equipment, dump trucks, excavators, electric cable, metalworking instruments, and chemical and medical equipment are produced. Saransk and Ruzaevka are the centers of the machine-building and metalworking industries. A complex of lighting engineering enterprises has been established (Saransk, Ruzaevka, Temnikov, Kovylkino, Chamzinka, and Kadoshkino). In Saransk pig iron production and the chemical and petrochemical industries (rubber goods and pharmaceuticals) are well developed. Building materials enterprises produce cement, asbestos-cement products (the settlement of Komsomol’-skii), reinforced-concrete structural components, and wall materials. The wood products industry is a traditional branch of industry in Mordovia. Sawmilling and furniture production are well developed (Saransk and Kemlia). There is a paper mill in Temnikov.

A fifth of the republic’s industrial workers are employed in light industry and food processing. For a long time, Mordovia has been a hemp-producing center of the USSR. Located in the republic is a complex producing spun products (Saransk), as well

Table 1. Manufacture of different types of industrial production
Electric power (million kW-hr) .....4.832.3560658
Electric light bulbs (millions) .....133328
Excavators .....2,6634,804
Tractor trailers (thousands) .....12
Sawed lumber (thousand cu m) .....210240301335
Paper (thousand tons) .....
Cement (thousand tons) .....9702,139
Asbestos-cement slate (million standard slabs) .....124151
Building bricks (millions) .....212196228
Woolen cloth (thousand m) .....5045582,0743,008
Knit underwear (thousands) .....1,7734,417
Knit outerwear (thousands) .....591031,122
Leather footwear (thousand pairs) .....0.851112139
Animal fat (thousand tons) .....
Canned goods (million standard containers) .....8.730.548.6

as factories producing cloth (Shiringushi and Krasnoslobodsk), knit goods (Ruzaevka), ribbons (Insar), garments, and decorative fabrics (Saransk). Food processing (meat, butter and cheese, sugar, and canning) is important throughout the republic, particularly in Saransk, Romodanovo, and Kovylkino. The Saransk-Ruzaevka Industrial Complex has developed in the postwar period.

AGRICULTURE. In Mordovia cereal crop agriculture and animal husbandry are well developed. As of 1972, land suitable for farming occupied 1.7 million ha, of which 1.3 million ha were plowlands, 100,000 ha were hayfields (including 5,000 ha of flooded lands), and 300,000 ha were used for grazing and pasture. By the beginning of 1973 there were 315 kolkhozes and 50 sovkhozes. Almost all the farms have completely mechanized the harvesting of cereal crops and the planting of potatoes. Between 1940 and the end of 1972 the number of tractors (in physical units) increased from 3,500 to 10,000; the number of grain-harvesting combines, from 800 to 3,400; and the number of trucks, from 800 to 6,000. Projects for the irrigation of cultivated pastures are being implemented. The area planted with wheat has increased, as has the area planted with fodder crops (a result of the development of animal husbandry). There has been a decrease in the area sown with rye. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. Structure of sown area (ha)
Cereal crops and legumes .....825,90029,800432,200
Winter and spring wheat .....29,800194,300285,200
Winter rye .....432,200294,50040,900
Industrial crops .....27,90050,00029,200
Hemp .....18,00022,60012,400
Sugar beets .....14,700
Potatoes, vegetables, and
melons .....
Potatoes .....35,50057,30076,400
Fodder crops .....5,60027,700334,300
Total sown area .....903,0001,048,8001,208,100

Mordovia is a major supplier of commercial-grade potatoes to other regions. Makhorka and sunflowers are also grown.

In 1973 the total harvest of cereal crops was 1,311,000 tons (631,000 tons in 1940), including 530,000 tons of wheat (156,000 tons in 1940). The total harvest of sugar beets was 265,000 tons (none in 1940), and of potatoes, 1,150,000 tons (276,000 tons in 1940).

The leading branch of animal husbandry is the raising of cattle for dairy products and meat. Pig farming, poultry farming, and sheep raising are also important. (See Table 3.)

Table 3. Livestock (as of January 1)
Cattle .....239,000176,000518,000
Cows .....148,000105,000227,000
Pigs .....79,00087,000256,000
Sheep and goats .....577,000533,000494,000
Horses .....201,00093,00028,000

In 1972 animal husbandry produced 67,000 tons of meat (dressed weight; 14,000 tons in 1940); 477,000 tons of milk (144,-000 tons in 1940); 1,148 tons of wool (774 tons in 1940); and 220 million eggs (37 million in 1940). More than 40 major, specialized livestock raising complexes were under construction in 1974. By 1973 construction had been completed on six pig-farming and five poultry-farming complexes.

A traditional income-producing branch of agriculture is bee-keeping. Pond fishing is also well developed.

In 1973 the state purchased 386,000 tons of cereal crops (264,-000 tons in 1940), including 191,000 tons of wheat (68,700 tons in 1940); 233,000 tons of sugar beets (800 tons in 1950); and 302,000 tons of potatoes (48,700 tons in 1940). State purchases of vegetables totaled 26,100 tons (8,100 tons in 1940); of live-stock and poultry, (64,400 tons in liveweight, 7,500 tons in 1940); of milk, 285,200 tons (14,500 tons in 1940); of eggs, 93.2 million (10.9 million in 1940); and of wool, 1,042 tons (examined weight; 193 tons in 1940).

TRANSPORTATION. As of 1972, there were 539 km of railroads in the Mordovian ASSR, of which 303 km were electrified. From west to east the territory is crossed by the Moscow-Kuibyshev Railroad, which has been electrified since 1962. Running through the eastern part of the republic are the Gorky-Penza and Krasnyi Uzel-Kazan lines. Ruzaevka and Krasnyi Uzel are major railroad junctions. Much of the freight turnover is handled by the Saransk station. In 1972 the republic had 8,500 km of roads, of which 1,400 km were paved. Bus lines link Saransk with all the raion centers of Mordovia, as well as with Gorky and UI’anovsk. In 1974 the Saransk-Krasnoslobodsk-Novye Vyselki road, with an exit onto the Moscow-Kuybyshev highway, was under construction. The Saransk-Ul’ianovsk road is being rebuilt. Air routes connect Saransk with the major cities of the USSR. Local air service has become more important. The Saratov-Gorky natural gas pipeline passes through the republic.

Mordovia supplies other regions of the USSR with products of the machine-building industry, cement, slate, pharmaceuticals, sugar, and canned goods. From other regions of the country it imports fuel and metal; industrial, transportation, and farm equipment; lumber; and products of light industry. Industrial products from Mordovia are exported to 56 foreign countries.

ECONOMIC REGIONS. Eastern Mordovia (including Saransk and Ruzaevka) is an economically important region with favorable transportation links. It accounts for 42 percent of the republic’s territory, more than half its population, and approximately 80 percent of the value of its total industrial output. Machine building, the building-materials and chemical industries, light industry, and food processing are the region’s most important industries. Eastern Mordovia is also a major agricultural producer. Western Mordovia is a well-developed agricultural region. Cereal crops and meat and dairy animal husbandry are particularly important. The timber industry is well developed.

STANDARD OF LIVING. The standard of living has risen steadily. In 1970 the money incomes of the republic’s kolkhozes were twice those of 1960 and 24 times those of 1940. The average monthly money wage for workers and office employees in the republic increased from 55 rubles in 1955 to 112.6 rubles in 1972. Pensions and other types of assistance rose from 45.6 million rubles in 1965 to 71 million rubles in 1970. During the eighth five-year plan (1966–70) assets for consumer needs increased from 103 to 170 million rubles. In 1972 the people of the Mordovian ASSR purchased 4.6 times as much industrial goods and food-stuffs as in 1955. From 1966 to 1970 the republic built 1.97 million sq m of apartment space, of which 846,000 sq m was built by state and cooperative enterprises. In 1972 state and cooperative enterprises and organizations, kolkhozes, and the people built 391,000 sq m of housing, of which 175,000 sq m of usable space was constructed in rural areas.


Public health In 1913, 29 hospitals (517 beds) and four rural physicians’ sections were located on the territory of the presentday Mordovian ASSR. There was a high incidence of epidemic diseases, including typhus, cholera, and smallpox, as well as trachoma, which was a particularly serious health problem in the countryside. Under Soviet power, trachoma, smallpox, and typhus epidemics have been eliminated, and the incidence of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases has been sharply reduced. By 1973 the republic had 9,800 hospital beds, or 9.6 per 1,000 inhabitants (in 1940, 2,900 beds, or 2.5 per 1,000). There were 1,900 practicing physicians in the republic in 1973, or one per 541 inhabitants. (In 1940 there were 307 physicians, or one per 3,800 inhabitants.) Moreover, there were 8,100 secondary medical personnel in 1973, as compared to 1,900 in 1940. Medical personnel are trained in the medical department of Mordovian University, as well as at five medical colleges. Mordovia has four sanatoriums and four workers’ resorts.

Education and cultural affairs During the 1914–15 academic year the territory now occupied by the Mordovian ASSR had 787 general education schools, most of which were elementary schools, with an enrollment of approximately 58,000 pupils. There were no higher educational institutions or secondary specialized ones. During the 1972–73 academic year there were 1,215 general education schools of all types, with an enrollment of 237,800 pupils; 30 vocational and technical educational institutions with more than 13,000 pupils; and 21 secondary specialized educational institutions with more than 16,000 pupils. The Mordovian University and the Pedagogical Institute in Saransk had 18,700 students in 1972–73. In 1972 there were 264 pre-school institutions with an enrollment of 25,600.

As of Jan. 1, 1973, there were 622 public libraries with holdings of more than 6 million copies of books and journals. Located in Saransk is the Republic Museum of Local Lore of the Mordovian ASSR, which has branches in Ruzaevka, Temnikov (the L. I. Voinov Museum House), and the village of Sabaevo (the Museum House of A. P. Lavrovskaia, Honored Schoolteacher of the RSFSR). The F. V. Sychkov Republic Art Gallery in Saransk has a branch in the village of Kochelaevo (the F. V. Sychkov Museum House). There is a raion Museum of Local Lore in Krasnoslobodsk. The Mordovian ASSR has 851 club-type institutions and 889 motion-picture projectors.

Science and scientific institutions In 1972 there were ten scientific institutions in the Mordovian ASSR. The most important of them are the planning, design, and technological institutes: the A. N. Lodygin All-Union Institute of Light Sources (founded in 1958), the Institute of Powered Semiconductor Technology of the Elektrovypriamitel’ Plant (1959), and the Research Institute of Language, Literature, History, and Economics (1932), which is under the Council of Ministers of the Mordovian ASSR. Scientific research is conducted at the P. G. Smidovich Mordovian Preserve (founded in 1935) and at the Mordovian State Agricultural Experimental Station (1930). Higher educational institutions and scientific research institutions employ more than 2,000 scientific and scientific-pedagogical workers, including 400 doctors of science and candidates of science.

Press, radio, and television In 1972 the republic Mordovian Book Publishing House issued 110 titles of books and pamphlets with a total circulation of 727,000. Republic newspapers include the Moksha-language Mokshen pravda (Moksha Pravda, since 1921), the Erzia-language Erzian pravda (Erzia Pravda, since 1921), the Russian-language Sovetskaia Mordovia (since 1918), and the Komsomol newspaper Molodoi leninets (since 1939; published in Russian). There are two literary journals: Siatko (Spark, since 1929), which is published in Erzia, and Moksha (since 1928), which is published in Moksha.

Radio and television broadcasts are relayed from Moscow. Local television broadcasts are carried in Erzia, Moksha, and Russian for three hours a day, and local radio broadcasts, 2l/2 hours a day. There is a television center in Saransk.

Literature The written literature of the Mordovian people did not develop until the period of Soviet power. There are two literary languages in Mordovia—Erzia and Moksha.

Before the October Revolution the oral folk tradition was the most highly developed branch of literature. The founders of Soviet Mordovian literature were Z. F. Dorofeev (1890–1952) and la. P. Grigoshin (1888–1938). At first, short poetic forms prevailed, but as early as the mid-1930’s a substantial group of writers had mastered the genres of the narrative poem, the drama, and the novella, all of which were new to Mordovian literature.

During the 1930’s the first Mordovian novels were published, including Kinel (book 1, 1933) by A. M. Luk’ianov (born 1910), The Black Pole (1934) by A. D. Kutorkin (born 1906), and At the Foot ofChikhan Mountain (1934) by T. A. Raptanov (1906–36). P. S. Kirillov (1910–55) and M. I. Bezborodov (1907–35), whose works became classics in Mordovian literature, began their literary careers in the 1930’s.

During the period of the prewar five-year plans a number of important works were written, including Bezborodov’s narrative poems A Legendary Tale (1930) and For Liberty (1935), Kirillov’s historical drama Lithuania (1940) and his novella The First Lesson (1940), and the play In the Old-fashioned Way (1933) by K. S. Petrova (1892–1942). The novel Lavginov (1941–56; Russian translation, 1959) and the play Prokopych (1940), both by V. M. Kolomasov (born 1909), as well as Kutorkin’s novel in verse Lamzur (1941), which inspired the first Mordovian opera, were also written during the prewar period. The best works by Mordovian writers described the building of socialism in the republic. Mordovian literature has moved confidently toward the mastery of socialist realism.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Mordovian writers published patriotic poems, short stories, and essays. Most of the literary works of the first postwar decade described wartime events—for example, collections of poems by Kirillov, A. M. Moro (born 1909), S. E. Vechkanov (1914–65), M. A. Beban (born 1913), and I. M. Devin (born 1922) and the novel In a Solitary Family (1954) by I. Z. Antonov (1919–60). During the postwar period Mordovian literature was enriched by the works of many young writers, including A. S. Shcheglov (born 1916), A. S. Mal’kin (born 1923), I. E. Shumilkin (born 1924), and I. V. Chigodaikin (born 1921). The history of the Mordovian people continued to be an important theme for Mordovian writers (for example, the novel The Broad Moksha, 1953, by T. A. Kidriashkin [1888–1972] and Kirillov’s drama The School-teacher, 1953).

During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Mordovian writers wrote novels that could be interpreted on many levels. The most outstanding of these works is a trilogy by K. G. Abramov (born 1914)— The Forest Has Not Stopped Rustling(1961), People Have Become Close (1962), and Smoke Over the Land (1966). Among the novels published during the last 20 years are Luk’-ianov’s The Shining Path (1956), With Warm Hands (1962) and Three Winds (1971) by S. S. Larionov (born 1908), Beban’s of Spring (1959), and Kutorkin’s Apple Trees Near the Big Road (1958) and The Seething Sura (book 1, 1963–64). Other novels written during this period are The Issa Flows Into the Volga (1962) by I. P. Kishniakov (born 1922), The Beautiful Maidens (1967) by P. I. Levchaev (born 1913), By the Road of Our Fathers (1967) by A. K. Martynov (born 1913), and The Green Valley (1967) and The Branch of the Apple Tree (1968) by T. F. laku-shin (born 1916). Outstanding among the novellas of this period are Aleshka (1959) by N. L. Erkai (born 1906) and The School-teacher (1960) by L. F. Makulov (born 1907). Plays by G. la. Merkushkin (born 1917) and collections of short stories for children by la. M. Piniasov (born 1914) have been published. Among the most distinguished anthologies are Mordovian Short Stories (1954), Lenin Is With Us (1960), and Miracle Over the Moksha (1960). Many of the classics of Russian and Soviet Russian literature, as well as of the literatures of other republics of the USSR, have been translated into the Mordovian languages. Works by Mordovian writers have been published in many of the languages of the peoples of the USSR, and some Mordovian works have been published abroad. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Mordovian literary criticism and scholarship became noticeably more lively. The History of Soviet Mordovian Literature was written (vols. 1–2, 1968–71), and collections of critical essays and monographs devoted to the creative work of individual writers and to crucial literary problems were published. In 1934 a section of the Writers’ Union of the USSR was established in the Mordovian ASSR.


Architecture and art Richly ornamented pottery dating from the Bronze Age has been found in Mordovia. In the early Iron Age fortified settlements were built (for example, Osh-Pando in the Sura Valley). In the Shoksha and Kel’ginsk burial grounds (in the villages of Shoksha and Zarubkino, respectively), which date from the ninth through the 11th century, bronze open-worked breastplates have been found, as well as pendants with “ducks’ feet” and clasps, many of which are decorated with geometric and plant designs.

Mordovian peasant dwellings (in two or three sections) were similar to Russian ones, but residential and farm buildings were found far back on the grounds of an estate. The facades, plat-bands, and other details of the houses were decorated with blank, bas-relief, or open-worked (sawed) carving. In addition to ancient geometric ornamentation, plant motifs were common (wavy branches, grapevines, and hops), as well as stylized figures of humans, wild animals, and birds. The old villages had a “cluster” plan. In the 18th century, however, the “street“ plan came into use. In the cities, the oldest of which were founded in the 17th century, Russian-style houses and churches were built.

During the Soviet period cities have been laid out according to general plans. A major project has been the modernization of the old section of Saransk. In addition, new residential areas have been created, and apartment houses and large public buildings have been erected (for example, the House of the Soviets, 1940, architect I. A. Meerzon, and the House of the Unions, 1957, architect S. O. Levkov, both in Saransk). New houses and farm buildings have been built in the villages.

Mordovia’s chief handicrafts are embroidery, wood carving, and the making of metal ornaments. In embroidery most designs are in muted reds and dark blues, with touches of greens and blacks. The ground is filled in primarily with closely stitched patterns of zigzags, squares, diamonds, and crosses. Distaffs, saltcellars, and other everyday wooden utensils are covered with carving.

Russian artists played an important role in bringing representational art to Mordovia. For example, the painter F. V. Sychkov, who worked in Mordovia during the Soviet period, created portraits and colorful genre scenes of the everyday life of the Mordovian people. Since the early 20th century the works of the sculptor S. D. Erz’ia have been famous. During the 1930’s paintings by I. N. Abramov, N. V. Erushev, and V. A. Berezin became well known. The Artists’ Union of the Mordovian ASSR was founded in 1935. During the Great Patriotic War and the postwar decades Mordovian painters concentrated on historical and revolutionary subjects (V. D. Khrymov, V. D. Iliukhin), portraits (E. A. Nozdrin), landscapes (A. A. Mukhin, V. A. Bednov), and still lifes (P. F. Riabov). Busts and full-figure sculptures were created by M. I. Nefedov.

Music The oldest genre of Mordovian folk songs is the peasant song (spring songs and songs marking the winter solstice). In addition to lyrical and epic songs, chastushki, dances, tunes, and round-dance songs were common. The Mordovian folk song has always been multivoiced. The basic scale is pentatonic. Instrumental folk music includes the performance of folk songs and dance melodies. The reed pipe (nudi, niudi, nudei) is an ancient musical instrument. The homemade violin (karze) and the saw are also very old instruments. The concertina, balalaika, guitar, and baian became popular more recently.

Mordovian professional music began to develop in the 1930’s. Its founder was the composer L. P. Kiriukov, who wrote the musical drama Litova (1943; second version, 1959), the operas Nesmeiian and Lamzur’ (1944) and Normalnaiia (1962), and transcriptions and arrangements of folk songs, as well as original songs, choral works, and instrumental pieces. Numerous works for an orchestra of Russian folk instruments—the Mordovian Rhapsody, the March on Mordovian Themes, two concerti for balalaika and an orchestra of folk instruments, and the overture 7977—were written by. L. I. Voinov, who was the first to perform his own compositions on the balalaika. Other renowned compositions include symphonies, a piano concerto, symphonic overtures, and songs by G. G. Vdovin and a string quartet, oratorios, theater music, songs, and instrumental pieces by G. I. Suraev-Korolev.

The Theater of Opera and Ballet in Saransk (1937–48) made an important contribution to the development of Mordovian national music. In 1959 the operatic artists became members of the Theater for Musical Drama, which has been known as the Theater of Musical Comedy since 1969. Its repertoire includes classic Soviet and foreign operas, as well as operas by modern Soviet composers. In 1971 graduates of the Saransk School of Choreography joined the Theater of Musical Comedy. The Umarina Song and Dance Ensemble (1939) is a Mordovian group. As of 1974 the republic enjoyed the services of the L. P. Kiriukov School of Music (1932); the House of Folk Creativity (1945), under which the Kelu Folk Ensemble of Song and Dance was organized in 1963; and 29 children’s music schools. The Association of Composers of the Mordovian ASSR was established in 1955. Numerous amateur choral groups carry on the folk tradition of multivoiced a capella singing and enrich the traditional folk melodies with contemporary intonations and rhythms. Among the republic’s leading musicians in 1974 were the conductor P. P. Emets (Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR) and the singers People’s Artist of the RSFSR R. M. Bespalova, Honored Art Workers of the RSFSR M. N. Antonova and D. E. Eremeev, People’s Artists of the Mordovian ASSR V. S. Kiushkin and E. A. Okhotina, and Honored Art Workers of the Mordovian ASSR P. V. Gordeev, R. I. Kniaz’kina, L. I. Limonnikova, and V. P. lakovlev. The singer I. M. lakushev, Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR, has won great renown.


Theater The sources of Mordovian national theater are folk rituals and games. Before the Great October Socialist Revolution there was no professional theater in Mordovia. However, even in the first years of Soviet power amateur theatrical groups became active, laying the foundation for the creation of a professional theater and national drama.

In 1930 the Mordovian Musical Drama Studio was organized in Saransk. In 1932 it was reorganized as the Mordovian State Drama Theater. Touring companies were extremely important in educating the young Mordovian troupe, as was the artistic guidance given by the Malyi Theater from 1935 to 1938. With assistance from the directors of the Malyi Theater, A. N. Ostrovskii’s The Thunderstorm, Guilty Though Guiltless, and The Forest were staged in 1935–36. The production of Gogol’s The Inspector-General (1937) enjoyed great success. The repertoire of the Mordovian State Drama Theater also included Soviet plays, such as A. E. Korneichuk’s Platon Krechet, Chapaev (based on D. M. Furmanov’s work), and N. E. Virta’s The Land. Experimentation in the creation of original national plays culminated in the staging of P. S. Kirillov’s historical drama Litova (1939) and V. M. Kolomasov’s comedy Prokopych (1940). In these productions, which represent an important phase in the development of the republic’s theater, the best original qualities of Mordovian acting were revealed, particularly in performances by K. M. Tiagushev.

In plays written during the Great Patriotic War the heroic foundation of the republic was affirmed. Performances for Soviet soldiers were particularly important. Outstanding productions of the 1940’s included Kirillov’s Two Brothers (1942) and Kolomasov’s The Goddess of Fertility (1944). In the production ofD. Del’s The Bolshevik (1954) the character of V. I. Lenin was created for the first time in the history of Mordovian stage art by V. A. Zorin. Productions of A. K. Gladkov’s Long, Long Ago, K. M. Simonov’s The Russian People, and L. M. Leónov’s Invasion were important in the repertoire.

In 1947 the Mordovian State Drama Theater troupe merged with a group of graduates of the Mordovian Studio of the State Institute of Theatrical Arts, and in 1960, with another group from the Leningrad Theater Institute. During the early postwar years The Young Guard (based on A. A. Fadeev’s novel), N. F. Pogodin’s The Man With a Gun, and A. S. Shcheglov’s Komsomol Card were staged. The production of Kirillov’s The Schoolteacher (1954), a play about the development of revolutionary self-consciousness in a Mordovian woman, was an important event in the history of the Mordovian theater. The experience gained by Mordovian theater people in working on contemporary plays made it possible for them to turn their attention again to Russian and Soviet classics, including Anna Karenina (staged in 1951; based on L. N. Tolstoy’s novel) and Gorky’s Egor Bulychov and the Others (staged in 1952).

In 1959 the Mordovian State Drama Theater became a music and drama theater. In addition to Russian and foreign classics, from the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s the theater staged numerous Mordovian plays, including G. la. Merkushkin’s In the Name of the People (1955), At Dawn (1959), and Along the Road of Life (1962). The recreation of the character of Lenin in the productions of N. F. Pogodin’s The Kremlin Chimes (1957) and The Third Pathétique (1959) proved important to the development of the Mordovian theater. In 1969 the Mordovian State Drama Theater was again reorganized, this time as a drama theater. There is also a puppet theater in Saransk (founded in 1935). In 1947 the Mordovian Section of the All-Russian Theatrical Society was established.

Among the leading figures in the Mordovian theater in 1974 were Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR and People’s Artist of the Mordovian ASSR S. I. Kolganov and Honored Art Workers of the Mordovian ASSR A. A. Arzhadeeva, V. V. Dolgov, N. A. Ivanov, I. G. Kudel’kina, and G. M. Melekhin.



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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.