Formerly a closed city, Samara is now a large and important social, political, economic, industrial, and cultural centre in European Russia and hosted the European Union—Russia Summit in May 2007. It has a continental climate characterised by hot summers and cold winters. The life of Samara's citizens has always been intrinsically linked to the Volga River, which has not only served as the main commercial thoroughfare of Russia throughout several centuries, but also has great visual appeal. Samara's riverfront is considered one of the favourite recreation places both for local citizens and tourists. After the 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."
Samara gets its name from the Samara culture, a neolithic culture of the 5th millennium BC, and the Kurgan hypothesis associates the region with the original homeland (urheimat) of the Proto-Indo-European language.
Ahmad ibn Fadlan visited the area that is now Samara around the year 921 AD while on his journey up the Volga.
Legend has it that Alexius, Metropolitan of Moscow, later Patron Saint of Samara, visited the site of the city in 1357 and predicted that a great town would be erected there, and that the town would never be ravaged. The Volga port of Samara appears on Italian maps of the 14th century. Before 1586, the Samara Bend was a pirate nest. Lookouts would spot an oncoming boat and quickly cross to the other side of the peninsula where the pirates would organize an attack. Officially, Samara started with a fortress built in 1586 at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers. This fortress was a frontier post protecting the then easternmost boundaries of Russia from forays of nomads. A local customs office was established in 1600.
As more and more ships pulled into Samara's port, the town turned into a center for 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 and later Tsars.
In 1780, Samara was turned into an uyezd town of Simbirsk Governorate overseen by the local Governor-General, and Uyezd and Zemstvo Courts of Justice and a Board of Treasury were established. On January 1, 1851, Samara became the center of Samara Governorate with an estimated population of 20,000. This gave a stimulus to the development of the economic, political and cultural life of the community. In 1877, during the Russian-Turkish War, a mission from the Samara city government Duma led by Pyotr V. Alabin, as a symbol of spiritual solidarity, brought a banner tailored in Samara pierced with bullets and saturated with the blood of both Russians and Bulgarians, to Bulgaria, which has become a symbol of Russian-Bulgarian friendship.
The quick growth of Samara's economy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was determined by the scope of the bread trade and flour milling business. The Samara Brewery came into being in the 1880s, as well as the Kenitser Macaroni Factory, an ironworks, a confectionery factory, and a factory producing matches. The town acquired a number of magnificent private residences and administrative buildings. The Trading Houses of the Subbotins, Kurlins, Shikhobalovs, and Smirnovs—founders of the flour milling industry, who contributed a lot to the development of the city—were widely known not only across Russia, but also internationally wherever Samara's wheat was exported. In its rapid growth Samara resembled many young North American cities, and contemporaries coined the names "Russian New Orleans" and "Russian Chicago" for the city.
By the start of the 20th century, the population exceeded 100,000, and the city was the major trading and industrial center of the Volga region. During the October Revolution of 1917, Samara was seized by the Bolsheviks. However, on June 8, 1918, with the armed support of the Czechoslovak Legions, the city was taken by the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly, or Komuch, who organized a "democratic counter-revolution", which at its height encompassed twelve million people. They fought under the Red flag against the Bolsheviks. On October 7, 1918, Samara fell to the Fourth Army of the Red Army.
1921 was a year of severe hunger in Samara. To provide support to the people, Fridtjof Nansen (the famous polar explorer), Martin Andersen Nexø (a Danish writer), the Swedish Red Cross Mission, and officers of the American Relief Administration from the United States came to Samara. In 1935, Samara was renamed Kuybyshev in honor of the Bolshevik leader Valerian Kuybyshev.
During World War II, Kuybyshev was chosen to be the alternative capital of the Soviet Union should Moscow fall to the invading Germans, until the summer of 1943, when everything was moved back to Moscow. In October 1941, 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 Joseph Stalin known as "Stalin's Bunker" was constructed but never used. To mark its role as wartime national capital a special Revolution Day parade was held at the city's Kuybyshev Square on November 7, 1941, and since 2011 has been remembered in an annual military parade organized by the city government.
As a leading industrial center, Kuybyshev played a major role in arming the country. From the very first months of World War II the city supplied the front with aircraft, firearms, and ammunition. Health centers and most of the city's hospital facilities were turned into base hospitals. Polish and Czechoslovakian military units were formed on the territory of the Volga Military District. Samara's citizens also fought at the front, many of them volunteers.
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 for the country. The launch vehicle Vostok, which delivered the first manned spaceship to orbit, was built at the Samara Progress Plant. Yury Gagarin, the first man to travel in space on April 12, 1961, took a rest in Kuybyshev after returning to Earth. While there, he spoke to an improvised meeting of Progress workers. Kuybyshev enterprises played a leading role in the development of Soviet domestic aviation and the implementation of the Soviet space program. There is also an unusual monument situated in Samara commemorating an Ilyushin Il-2 ground-attack aircraft assembled by Kuybyshev workers in late 1942. This particular plane was shot down in 1943 over Karelia, but the heavily wounded pilot, K. Kotlyarovsky, managed to crash-land the plane near Lake Oriyarvi. The aircraft was returned to Kuybyshev in 1975, and was placed on display at the intersection of two major roads as a symbol of the deeds of home front servicemen and air-force pilots during the Great Patriotic War.
In January 1991, the historical name of Samara was given back to the city. Samara is one of the major industrial cities of Russia and has a multi-ethnic population.
The current coat of arms approved by the decision of the Samara City Council number 187 of November 26, 1998 (as amended in 2011) and has the following description: "The coat of arms of the city of Samara is a simple (undivided) shield of French shape, in the center of which is shown in the azure field standing wild green grass white goat. Escutcheon crowned with a golden imperial crown. " Shield is a rectangle whose base is 8/9 of its height.
Samara city district flag is a rectangular cloth of three equal horizontal stripes (top - red, middle - white and lower - blue) with the coat of arms of the city of Samara. On the blue band flag, under the arms, inscription "Samara", made with golden letters. The ratio of width to length of the flag is 1: 2. Coat of arms of the city of Samara is depicted on the flag of the center. The ratio of the height and width of the emblem to the width and length of the flag is respectively 1: 2 and 1: 7. The distance from the top edge of the flag to the coat of arms is 1: 7, the flag's width. The distance from the lower edge of the flag to the base of the inscription refers to the width of the flag is 1: 7. The height of a capital letter is the height of the crown. The height of lowercase letters is 1:10 width of the flag. The flag of Samara City Council approved on 30 December 1998.
Samara is the administrative center of the oblast and, within the framework of administrative divisions, it also serves as the administrative center of Volzhsky District, even though it is not a part of it. As an administrative division, it is, together with two rural localities, incorporated separately as the city of oblast significance of Samara—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the city of oblast significance of Samara is incorporated as Samara Urban Okrug. In April 2015, Samara's nine city districts were granted municipal status.
Samara is a leading industrial center in the Volga region and is among the top ten Russian cities in terms of national income and industrial production volume. Samara is known for the production of aerospace launch vehicles, satellites and various space services (Progress State Research and Production Rocket Space Center), engines (Kuznetsov Design Bureau) and cables (Volgacable, Samara Cable Company), aircraft (Aviakor) and rolled aluminum, block-module power stations; refining, chemical and cryogenic products; gas-pumping units; bearings of different sizes, drilling bits; automated electrical equipment; airfield equipment (Start plant); truck-mounted cranes; construction materials; chocolates made by the Russia Chocolate Factory; Rodnik vodka; Vektor vodka; Zhiguli beer; food processing and light industrial products.
Samara is a major transport hub.
The Kurumoch International Airport handles flights throughout Russia and Central Asia and to Frankfurt, Prague, Helsinki and Dubai.
There are rail links to Moscow and other major Russian cities. The new, unusual-looking railway station building was completed in 2001.
Samara is a major river port.
Samara is located on the M5 Highway, a major road between Moscow and the Ural region.
Public transportation includes the Samara Metro, trams, municipal and private bus lines, and trolleybuses. Local trains serve the suburbs.
Samara has an opera and ballet theater, a philharmonic orchestra hall, and five drama theaters. There is a museum of natural history and local history studies, a city art museum, and a number of movie theaters. As a dedication to the city's contribution to the development of aerospace industry there is a museum Cosmic Samara and an exhibition of aerospace history in Samara State Aerospace University. In the 2000s there has also occurred a large number of art galleries, dedicated to contemporary art.
There is a zoo and a circus in the city.
Samara has 188 schools of general education, lyceums, high schools, and the college of continuous education (from elementary up to higher education) known as Nayanova University existing under the aegis of International Parliament for Security and Peace attached to UNO. Samara is a major educational and scientific center of the Volga area. Twelve public and 13 commercial institutions of higher education as well as 26 colleges.
Samara is the home of Samara State Aerospace University (SSAU), one of Russia's leading engineering and technical institutions. SSAU faculty and graduates have played a significant role in Russia's space program since its conception. Samara is also the hometown of Samara State University, a very respected higher-education institution in European Russia with competitive programs in Law, Sociology, and English Philology. Scientific research is also carried out in Samara. The Samara Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences incorporates the Samara branch of the Physical Institute, Theoretical Engineering Institute and Image Processing Systems Institute. Major research institutions operate in the city. Samara State Technical University (SamGTU) was founded in 1914. There are 11 faculties with over 20,000 students (2009) and 1,800 faculty members. On campus, there are four dormitory and ten study buildings. Samara State Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities was founded in 1911 as Samara Teachers Institute. Currently, the academy offers 42 various specialization in its 12 faculties.
Samara is also a popular venue for National and International Ice speedway, and the City won the Russian Ice Speedway Premier League in 2012/13 season, meaning they will now compete in the Super League in the 2013/14 season. Samara is one of eleven cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup with 6 matches (4 Group Stage Matches, 1 Round-Of-16 Match, 1 Quarter-Finals) which will take place in the newly built Cosmos Arena stadium.
Samara experiences a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb). Samara's humidity levels are higher in the summer than many Russian cities thanks to the precipitation levels and the close proximity to the Volga. The humidity levels usually range from 29% to 98% humidity over the period of a year. There was a record high of +39.9 °C (103.8 °F) during a severe heat wave.
The asteroid 26922 Samara was named in honor of the city and the river on June 1, 2007.
Sergei Alexander Schelkunoff, a mathematician and electromagnetism theorist known for his important contributions in antenna theory, was born in Samara. Twentieth-century Russian Soviet writer Alexey Tolstoy lived in Samara, and there is a museum dedicated to him. Dmitry Shostakovich lived in Samara during World War II and finished his Seventh Symphony there. The archaeologist and ethnographer Boris Kuftin was born in Samara, Russian sociologist and ethnographer Pavel Romanov, too. Professional tennis player and a multiple junior Grand Slam champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was born in Samara. NHL goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche, Semyon Varlamov, also hails from Samara. Polish writer and novelist Maria Kuncewiczowa was born in Samara.
Samara, Russia is twinned with:
Samara is a multi-confessional city with various religious groups, including an Orthodox Christian majority and minorities of Armenian Apostolic Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Sunni Muslims, and Jews.
However, since 2009, a Russian "anti-extremism" law has led to an increase in repression of religious minorities. Local authorities and courts in Samara have targeted Jehovah's Witnesses by liquidating the group's legal entity ("Local Religious Organization" or "LRO") and designating it as an "extremist" organization. In November 2016, "the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the decision of the Samara Regional Court to recognize the Samara branch of Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organization and to ban its activities."