Samara (Сама́ра) (Kuybyshev (Ку́йбышев) from 1935 to 1990) is one of the largest cities in Russia. It is situated in the southeastern part of European Russia, the Volga Federal District. Samara is the capital of Samara Oblast. Population: . The metropolitan area of Samara-Togliatti-Syzran within Samara Region constitutes the population of more than 3.0 million people. Formerly a closed city, Samara is now a large and important social, political, economic, industrial and cultural center of European Russia which in May 2007 held the European Union — Russia Summit.
Samara is located on the left bank of the Volga river which acts as its western boundary. Its northern boundary is formed by Sokolyi Hills and by the steppes in the south and east. The land within the city boundaries covers 46,597 ha. Samara has a continental climate characterized by hot summer and cold winter.
The life of Samara's citizens life has been associated with the Volga river, which has not only served as the main commercial route of Russia through several centuries, but also has great visual appeal. Samara's river-front is one of the favorite recreation places of local dwellers and tourists. After Soviet novelist Vasily Aksyonov visited Samara, he remarked: "I am not sure where in the West one can find such a long and beautiful embankment. Possibly only around Lake Geneva".
Samara is a leading industrial center in the Volga Area and is among the top ten Russian cities in regard to produced national income and industry volume. Samara is known for the production of aerospace launch vehicles, satellites and various space services, engines and cable, aircraft and rolled aluminum, block-module power stations; refinery, chemical and cryogenic products; gas-pumping units; bearings of different sizes, drilling bits; automated electric equipment; airfield equipment; truck-mounted cranes; construction materials; chocolate made by the Russia Chocolate Factory; Rodnik vodka; Zhiguli beer; food processing and light industry products.
Legend has it that Metropolitan Alexy, later Samara's heavenly patron, visited the site of the city in 1357 and predicted that a great town would be erected there lighting up with piety, and that the town would never be ravaged. The Volga quay of Samara appears on Italian maps of the 14th century but officially the town started with a fortress built in 1586 at the confluence of the rivers Volga and Samara. This fortress was a frontier post protecting the then eastern boundaries of Russia from forays of nomads. A local customs office was established in 1600.
As more and more ships pulled up to Samara quay, the town turned into the center of diplomatic and economic links between Russia and the East. Samara also opened its gates to peasant war rebels headed by Stepan Razin and Yemelyan Pugachyov welcoming them with traditional Bread-and-Salt. The town was visited by Peter the Great, all the Tsars Alexander, and Nicholas II.
In 1780 Samara was turned into chief town (uyezd) of Simbirsk Region ruled by the local Governor-General. Uyezd and Zemstvo Courts of Justice and Board of Treasury were established. On January 1, 1851 when Samara became the center of the Province of Samara with an estimated population of 20,000. This gave a stimulus to development of economic, political and cultural life of the community. In 1877, during the Russian-Turkish war, a mission of Samara Town Duma led by Pyotr V. Alabin brought to Bulgarians a symbol of spiritual solidarity — a banner tailored in Samara. Pierced with bullets and saturated with blood of Russians and Bulgarians it has become relic of Russian-Bulgarian friendship.
Quick growth of Samara economy late 19th – early 20th centuries was determined by the scope of bread trade and milling business. Samara Brewery came into being in the eighties, as well Kenitser Macaroni Factory, Ironworks, Confectionery Factory and Match Factory. The town was decorated with magnificent private residences and administrative buildings. Trade Houses of the Subbotins, Kurlins, Shikhobalovs, Smirnovs — founders of the milling industry who contributed a lot to development of the town — were widely known not only nationwide but also abroad where Samara wheat was exported. By its rapid growth Samara resembled young North-American cities, and contemporaries by right coiled the town "new Russian Orleans" and "Russian Chicago".
By the start of the 20th century the population of the town has reached more than 100,000, and it was a major trade and industrial center of the Volga Area. The Russian Revolution resulted in Soviet control of Samara in 1917, but in June 1918 under the armed support of the Czechoslovak corps the town was taken by the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly.
1921 was the year of severe hunger in Samara, In order to provide support to the people F. Nansen (the famous Polar explorer), M.Andersen-Nexe (Danish writer), Swedish Red Cross Mission and officers of APA from the United States came to Samara. Samara was renamed Kuybyshev in the honour of the Bolshevik leader Valerian Kuybyshev in 1935.
During the Second World War Kuybyshev was chosen as the capital of the USSR if Moscow fell to the invading Germans. In 1941 October the Communist Party and governmental organizations, diplomatic missions of foreign countries, leading cultural establishments and their staff were evacuated to the city. A dug-out for Stalin known as Stalin's Bunker was constructed but never used.
As a leading industrial center Kuybyshev played a major role in arming the USSR. From the very first war months the town supplied the front with aircraft, firearms and ammunition. The famous military parade of November 7, 1941 was held on the central square of the town. On March 5, 1942 Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony was first performed in the town's Opera and Ballet House by the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra conducted by S.A. Samosud. The symphony was broadcast all over the world. Health centers and most of the hospital facilities were turned into base hospitals. Polish and Czechoslovak military units were formed on the territory of Volga Military District. Samara citizens fought at the front, many of them volunteered.
Kuybyshev has remained the alternative capital of the Soviet Union until the summer of 1943 when everything was moved back to Moscow.
After the war the defense industry developed rapidly in Kuybyshev; existing facilities changed their profile and new factories were built leading to Kuybyshev becoming a closed city. In 1960 Kuybyshev became the missile shield center of the country. The launch vehicle Vostok which delivered the first manned spaceship to the orbit was built at Samara Progress Plant. Yury Gagarin, the first man who stepped into the space on 12 April 1961, took a rest in Kuybyshev after the landing. He first spoke of an improvised meeting of Progress workers. Kuybyshev enterprises played a leading hand in development of domestic aviation and implementation of space programs. An unusual monument is situated in Samara. This monument is an Ilyushin Il-2 ground-attack plane assembled by the Kuibyshev workers late 1942. This attack plane was damaged in 1943 over Karelia, but the heavily wounded pilot, K. Kotlyarovsky, managed to crash-land the plane near Lake Oriyarvi. The aircraft returned to its native land in 1975. It was placed at crossing of two major roads as a symbol of deeds of home front servicemen and air-force pilots during the Great Patriotic War.
January 1991 — historically fixed name Samara was given back to the city. At the end of the 20th century Samara is one of major industrial cities of Russia with powerful cultural potential, multinational population and great history.