There is a popular phrase in the Russian language that literally translates as “Tambov wolf is your comrade”. It is usually said to someone who you don’t see as a friend and means something like “look for comrades elsewhere, it’s definitely not me”. Despite its wide usage by locals, no one actually knows the origin of the saying. Yet, there are a few versions. The legend has it that the Streltsy and Cossacks (Russian military corps) who started building the Tambov fortress in 1636 spotted some giant wolves in the nearby forests. Later, the words “Tambov wolves” were used as a nickname for local carpenters who beat off construction contracts from their colleagues in the neighboring cities, in Moscow, and in St. Petersburg. Another version is connected with the Antonov Uprising in a way that the rebels were allegedly immensely cruel and hostile and for that they were nicknamed as “Tambov wolves”. According to another legend, Tambov forests were really inhabited by regular wolves, however, their fells were of high value for the good quality of the fur. By the order of the Queen of Great Britain, they were used for edging of officer uniforms. Every time foreign merchants traveled to Russia for the goods, they used to make sure whether the furs were from Tambov wolves.
The expression became highly popular after the release of the 1956 movie – “The Rumyantsev Case”. It comes as no surprise that several wolf monuments have been erected in Tambov. The most famous monument is a three-meter wooden sculpture installed at the eastern entrance to the town. This forest denizen greets guests with an inscription saying: “Tambov wolf is a reliable friend”. The wolf was carved out of a solid trunk of a 200-year-old oak by the sculptor Valery Paramonov. The sculpture turned out to be friendly and fairy-tale.
Another wolf sits on the pedestal near the hotel. The figure of the animal resting on the rock manifests peace and confidence, benevolence and hospitality. The inscription of the monument says: “By giving people joy, you make the wolf your good boy”.
One more sculpture of the forest beast stands in Sosnovka work settlement. The settlement is reputed for its pine forests. And can you imagine a forest without wolves? All the more, without Tambov wolves?
It is impossible to visit Tambov and not to snap a photo with one of the wolves. It’s definitely a must!