Penza Oblast is home to numerous museums such as the Tarkhany museum-estate where the writer Lermontov spent his childhood, the only museum in Russia with one painting, and the Belinsky museum-estate. However, this is only a part of the region's riches; there are also beautiful parks, churches and monasteries, and the working Nikolsky Glass Factory which even produced glass-ware for the Imperial table. The Russian circus was born in Penza.
"Our city is not for show but for living. It is the most beautiful city on Earth!... I want nothing more than to pass my remaining days in Penza," said the famous Russian figure, reformer and law-maker Mikhail Speransky, appointed Governor of Penza by Alexander I in 1816. Many of today's city inhabitants could repeat these words.
The beauty and attractiveness of the Sursky region is unique. Great Russian poets, writers, painters, performing artists and scientists leave a fantastic constellation of names in the Penza region skies. The poet Denis Davydov wrote, "Penza is my inspiration. The hill where the city lies is my Ancient Parnassus."
Penza Oblast lies in the south west part of the Middle Volga, where three nature zones join, forests, steppe and forest-steppe; people fr om more than 100 nationalities live and work here.
The region's history is inseparably connected with many famous names, including the historian Vasily Klyuchevsky; Lavrenty Zagoskin, an explorer of Alaska; the surgeon Nikolay Burdenko; the Great Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov; and the writers Vissarion Belinsky, Aleksandr Kuprin, Alexander Radishchev, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin and Alexander Malyshkin. There are numerous museums dedicated to their lives and works. Just in Penza, there are 11 museums, including the Museum of One Painting, the Meyerhold Stage Art Museum, the Savitsky picture gallery, a folk museum, etc.
There are lots of historical and cultural monuments in the oblast, as well as garden and park art. Many plants, shrubs and trees that are rare for the region have been preserved in the Belokamenka mansion in Kolyshleysky district, that once belonged to the Saburov landowners. In the south west of the oblast is the famous Tarkhany estate-museum, wh ere the poet Lermontov spent his childhood. The oblast is also home to the Belinsky estate-museum, one of the best literary museums in Russia, and the Radishchev memorial museum.
Lovers of antiquities will be greatly interested in the 18th century Trinity Cathedral in Narovchat; the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Church in Penza; the Rozhdestvenskaya Church in the village of Verkhnee Ablyazovo operating since 1724, containing a wonderful 18th century gold-plated wooden carved iconostasis; the 17th century Troitse-Scanov Monastery, and a cave complex two kilometers from the monastery created by the monks. The length of the complex exceeds that of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra of the caves. There is a miracle-working spring in the foothills of the mountains.
Penza is the home of the Russian circus, which opened here in 1873.
The region is famous for its skilled craftspeople. The Nikolsky Glass Factory has been producing beautiful items for more than two centuries. Its craftsmen made dishes for the Imperial court, the richest people in Russia. Even the Shah of Persia used the factory's services. The craftsmen's artistic diamond-cut works to this day are highly regarded at international and Russian exhibition. Second copies of items were kept by the factory's owners, which were used to create the museum. The Nikolsky Glass and Crystal Museum is one of the largest in Russia.
Arts and crafts are very popular in the region's districts. The most traditional are pottery, clay toys, charms, ceramics, glass dishes and items made from crystal. The whole world knows the famous Abashevsky clay toys, items made from golden straw, thin downy shawls, solomensky rugs and poimskie goods from felting and smith workshops.