Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of Mari Republic

This time we tell about major attractions of Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of Mari El Republic: the museums, architecture, monuments, where to try Mari food and simply to walk.

Yoshkar-Ola was called Tsaryovokokshaysk before 1919 and Krasnokokshaysk from 1919 to 1927; the name “Yoshkar-Ola (“red city” in Mari language) appeared due to the Soviet power. The question about renaming the city back to Tsaryovokokshaysk has been recently raised for several times, but the majority of citizens are still against.
Along with well-kept pre-revolution and Soviet architecture, a new style of buildings which has recently emerged in Yoshkar-Ola is undoubtedly unusual, and we would name it neo-authoritarian. Unexpected architectural projects originate in the head of one person – the president of the republic Leonid Markelov, who rebuilds the city the way he wants. For instance, when he went to Belgium, he was impressed with Bruges. On the return home, he ordered to build the Bruges embankment in the center of the city, along the Kokshaga river.
bridge over Kokshaga river

Bruges embankment

Bruges embankment

Other buildings nearby are architecturally close to those on the embankment.
Bruges embankment

Yoshkar-Ola. Bruges embankment

At the same time, Markelov is rather brave and is not afraid of mixing the different styles. Not far from Bruges, there is some Orthodox culture.
Yoshkar-Ola Cathedral

Yoshkar-Ola Kremlin

The final touch is the decoration with sculptures and monuments. Markelov has an odd set of cult figures, among whom, for instance, there is Grace Kelly, Rainier III (prince of Monaco), Lorenzo de’ Medici, Albert von Keller, Rembrandt, Patriarch Alexy II and many others. And Markelov puts up monuments to them. In addition, there are fewer “popular” projects, like a bench of love and faithfulness, a monument to family, Youshkin cat, Pushkin and Onegin.
Yoshkar-Ola sculpture

Yoshkar-Olan sculpture

Yoshkar-Ola sculpture

Yoshkar-Ola sculpture

Yoshkar-Ola sculpture

Youshkin cat

Yoshkar-Ola. Pushkin and Onegin

One of the major squares has a clock with a donkey, the so-called Mari chimes. Markelov who came up with the idea of its creation wanted them “not only to count time and moments of our life, but also to visually show how the Queen of Heavens cares about everyone, and how gracious she is to all of us”. The chiming clock strikes every hour demonstrating the legendary plot of how the icon of the Mother was saved with the help of the donkey.
Yoshkar-Ola. Town clock

Jack of one trade is Jack of all trades, as another, poetic talent Markelov thinks he has, certifies. His poems are exhibited in Mari museum.
Markelov poem

Here a picture ordered by him to embody Yoshkar-Ola is kept.
Mari El museum

It is needless to say that Markelov is a contradictory personality: even the embankment raises various attitudes. Some argue that Markelov improved the city landscape, while others consider the new buildings very tasteless. But even those who truly dislike the newest architecture have many more other interesting objects to see in the city. Among them, for instance, there is folk architecture: the fairy-tale corner and the glasses museum. The author of the fairy-tale figures is Sergei Slesarev, who himself cut all the fairy tale protagonists.
fairy-tale corner

Sergei Slesarev

newest architecture

The glasses museum was founded several years ago, based on the state enterprise producing glasses. This is an unusual shop, where you may order glasses too. It is nicely decorated and you may learn a lot here. There is no entrance fee.
museum of glasses


Finally, next to the glasses shop there is a an interestingly decorated flower shop Medea.

flower shop Medea

flower shop Medea 2

The Tsaryovokokshaysk Kremlin nearby is also very interesting, although on some reason we did not take a picture of it. Those who like history will find other historical attractions in Yoshkar-Ola too:
historical buildings 1

historical buildings 2

historical buildings 3

historical buildings 4

In addition to the museum of Gulag, about which we must tell separately, there is a tiny museum of USSR in the city.
museum of USSR

The museum of Yoshkar-Ola city presents the exhibition of pre-revolution everyday life.
exhibition of pre-revolution everyday life

Do you think this is a torture instrument on the last picture? No, these are the tongs for making curls.
The national museum has many exhibitions, with that of gzhel crockery among others.

In addition, Yoshkar-Ola has an applied art museum, and art gallery, central department store and old good amusement park. On the whole, the city is different enough to be interesting to walk around.
central department store

amusement park

Those who want to try traditional Mari food, may go to the so-called Podkogolnaya cafe, to try podkogols – something similar to meat ravioli.

Sometimes in the center of the city there are dances for the elderly people, and some are really incredible in dances!
Yoshkar-Ola dancing

It is very difficult to tell about the city, and, more, about Mari Republic within one post. Not many tourists come here, and it may seem that Mari Republic is small and homogeneous, but this is not true! One has to keep in mind, for instance, that one republic has several Mari languages, the bearers of which do not understand each other. We will certainly return to telling more about the stunning GULAG museum, Mari festival “The Land of Ancestors”, the peculiar Mari town Kozmodemiansk, and the studio of Mari painter Sergei Aldushkin, famous all over the world.

[notification type=”info”]See also:
Batumi (Georgia)
One day in Munich
Sviyazhsk Island (Tatarstan, Russia), or How Ivan the Terrible Conquered Kazan


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