Saratov är en stad i sydvästra Ryssland, och är administrativ huvudort för Saratov oblast samt generalguvernementet Privolzjskij. Den ligger på västra sidan av floden Volga och har cirka 840 000 invånare.
Uvek, a city of the Golden Horde, stood near the site of the modern city of Saratov from the mid-13th century until its destruction by Tamerlane in 1395. While the exact date of the foundation of modern Saratov is unknown, all plausible theories date it to ca. 1590, during the reign (1584-1598) of Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich, who constructed several settlements along the Volga River in order to secure the southeastern boundary of his state. Town status was granted to it in 1708.
By the 1800s, Saratov had grown to become an important shipping port on the Volga. The Ryazan-Ural Railroad reached Saratov in 1870. In 1896 (26 years later), the line crossed the Volga and continued its eastward expansion. A unique train-ferry, owned by the Ryazan-Ural railroad, provided the connection across the river between the two parts of the railroad for 39 years, before the construction of a railway bridge in 1935.
During January 1915, with World War I dominating the Russian national agenda, Saratov became the destination for deportation convoys of ethnic Germans, Jews, Hungarians, Austrians and Slavs whose presence closer to the western front was perceived as a potential security risk to the state.
During World War II, Saratov was a station on the North-South Volzhskaya Rokada, a specially designated military railroad supplying troops, ammunition and supplies to Stalingrad.
Until the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Soviet authorities designated Saratov a “closed city” – strictly off-limits to all foreigners due to its military importance as the site of a vital facility manufacturing military aircraft.
The city of Saratov played an important role in the history of the Volga Germans. Until 1941, the town of Pokrovsk (present-day Engels), located just across the Volga from Saratov, served as the capital of the Volga German Republic. The ethnic German population of the region numbered 800,000 in the early 20th century, with some people whose families had been there for generations. (The Russian Emperors had invited German immigration in the 18th and 19th centuries to encourage agricultural development in the area.)
Beginning in the 1980s, a large portion of the surviving members of the ethnic Germans emigrated from the Soviet Union to Germany.
Reminders of the once prominent place of Germans in the city remain, with the Roman Catholic St. Klementy Cathedral (seat of the historic Diocese of Tiraspol) on Nemetskaya Ulitsa (“German Street”) the most notable. The building was converted into the children’s cinema “Pioneer” during the Soviet period. A new cathedral was built in 2000 elsewhere in the city: the Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Saratov.
Administrative and municipal status
Saratov is the administrative center of the oblast and, within the framework of administrative divisions, it also serves as the administrative center of Saratovsky District, even though it is not a part of it. As an administrative division, it is incorporated separately as the city of oblast significance of Saratov—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the city of oblast significance of Saratov is incorporated as Saratov Urban Okrug.