Many peoples of the Volga and the Caucasus have their national versions of Sabantui, the holiday that marks the end of spring crop planting. Sabantui is the Tatars’ favourite holiday. Its staging in every district and community of Tatarstan is regulated by the central government. A Sunday in June is usually picked for the staging of Sabantui. The All-Russian Sabantui is held in different parts of Russia every year.
The Tatar word “saban” means “plough,” and “tui” in this case means “holiday.” It is believed that in ancient times, people engaged in merrymaking to appease the spirits of fertility. A contemporary Sabantui begins with collection of gifts for the “batyrs” - the warriors. After that, a series of tournaments take place in the big square – the maidan. The competitions include sack fighting on a log, walking on a wet tilted log, sack racing, running with a spoon in your mouth, which has a chicken egg in it, climbing up a slippery pole, and other amusing contests, as well as folk song and dance performances. The highlight is the Koresh tournament. Koresh is Tatar national belt wrestling: you have to lift your opponent up with the aid of a belt and throw him supine on the ground. Traditionally, the top prize was a sheep, but these days, prizes like automobiles or expensive home appliances are more common.
Kazan’s main Sabantui happens in the birch grove of the village of Mirnyi. In June, some 40,000 people from across the Volga basin flock to the village of Minger, Sabinsky District, for an itinerary of outdoor fun events, such as SUV racing or swim races with inflatable hurdles.