Built in 1942, it took almost 50 years for locals to discover Stalin’s hidden underground bunker. The secret hideout is 37 metres below ground, around the depth of a 12-story building. It can hold up to 115 people for up to five days before air supplies run out.
When the Bolsheviks entered the city in 1918, it marked the start of the city’s Sovietisation. During the Soviet era, the city was renamed after Valerian Kuibyshev, a Bolshevik politician who went on to lead the local Soviet party. The town’s main square retains the name to commemorate this particular epoch of Samara‘s history.
A day trip out of Samara, the Zhiguli Mountains offer the perfect opportunity to explore the region’s natural beauty. The mountain range used to hide pirates back in the day. Around the ‘Samara Bend’, the naturally occurring hairpin bend just out of the city created a perfect opportunity for pirates to ambush cargo ships and then flee into the cavernous expanse of the mountains.
Belgian astronomer Eric Walter Elst was a prolific asteroid spotter, and in his lifetime discovered over 3,000 minor planets. In October 1996, he discovered and named the asteroid 26922 Samara after the Russian city and river.
Outside the Samara Space Museum, a real-life Vostok rocket has been erected to commemorate Samara’s contribution to the Soviet space race. A closed city during Soviet times, space rockets, including Vostoks, were manufactured here. It is the rocket model that catapulted Yuri Gagarin into space, heralding the Soviets as space pioneers.
The Zhiguli Brewery was founded in 1881 and went on to produce the iconic beer of Soviet times, Zhigulevskoye. The brewery had already gained a reputation for producing quality beers before it was seized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Through the tumultuous Soviet era, the brewery survived food shortages and industrial collectivisation and still produces Zhigulevskoye to this day.
At 174,000 square meters, Kuibyshev Square is bigger than London’s Trafalgar Square and Moscow’s Red Square and just under half the size of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The Samara Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is located within the square. Kuibyshev Square is the FIFA World Cup 2018 Fan Fest Zone for Samara.
During the Second World War, Samara was earmarked to be a new industrial hub. Factories in western Russia were at risk of being seized by the Germans and so the Soviet regime sought to push its important industries into the safer strongholds of cities like Samara. Given its easterly location, Samara, or Kuibyshev as it was called then, would have become the Soviet capital if the Germans had captured Moscow. In addition to moving industries, a number of important politicians, artists and athletes were moved across, including Moscow’s footballers. In 1942, they formed Samara’s local team, Krylya Sovetov FC, otherwise known as ‘Wings of the Soviets’. They are now play in the country’s second division, the Russia Football National League.