According to one of the versions, the name of the city comes from the Greek word ‘Samar’, which means ‘merchant’ or ‘Ra’ – the ancient name of Volga. Another version is that it comes from the name of the Samara River that flowing into the Volga River in our city. In Turkic languages (Turkic people were leading nomad’s life across the Samara region territory) ‘Samara’ means ‘Steppe River’. There is a legend that Alexius, Metropolitan of Moscow and Heavenly Patron of Samara, visited the site of the community-to-be in 1357 and predicted that a great town would be erected there, and that the town would never be ravaged.
For the first time, Samara was mentioned in the Russian chronicles in 1361. The Volga Port of Samara appeared on Italian maps of the XIV century, but officially the town appeared when a fortress was built in 1586 at the confluence of the Volga and the Samara Rivers. This fortress was a frontier post protecting the easternmost boundaries of Russia from forays of nomads. A local customs office was established in 1600.
In 1688, the Samara fortress got the town status. As more and more boats pulled into the Samara port, the town turned into a center for diplomatic and economic links between Russia and the East..
Samara opened its gates to peasant war rebels headed by Stepan Razin and Yemelyan Pugachyov, welcoming them with traditional Bread-and-Salt. Peter the Great, the tsars Alexander and Nicholas II visited Samara.
On January 1, 1851 Samara became the center of the Samara Province with an estimated population of 20,000. This gave a stimulus to the development of economic, political, and cultural life of the community. Besides, the Province of Samara was on the 1-st place for the wheat harvest in the Russian Empire.
In 1858, Nestor Postnikov founded the first koumiss health resort in Europe in our town, which was built in the famous ravine named after Postnikov. In 1880, the Austrian nobleman Alfred Fon Vakano won the rental tender for a land plot on the Volga bank; and this is how the history of the world-known Zhigulyovsky Brewery began.
The Soviet power was proclaimed in Samara in 1917. During the Civil War (1918-1922) Samara was involved in battles between ‘the red’ and ‘the white’ armies. Also the ‘belochekhi’ (army of emigrants from Czechoslovakia) took part in the battle for Samara. The so-called Comouch (committee of the constituent assembly, members of which wanted to restore democracy in Russia) is also one of the Samara’s history pages. Between 1935 and 1990 Samara was called Kuibyshev because Kuibyshev was a revolutionary who proclaimed the victory of the communist revolution in Samara in 1917.
During the Great Patriotic War (WW II) Samara was the second capital of the USSR. The Government of the USSR and many foreign embassies were located here. Unique Stalin’s Bunker was constructed here for the leader of the Soviet state; and specialists argue over the likelihood of Stalin visiting Samara during the Great Patriotic War. There are many factories and plants in Samara. Some of them were evacuated to this place during the Great Patriotic War (WW II) from the western parts of the country that were attacked by fascists. Stalin’s Bunker was built at the depth of 37 meters. Nowadays it is an exclusive tourism product. Very few people knew of its existence until 1990.
In 1957, a new Hydropower Plant was built not far from Samara. In 1961, Gagarin – the first astronaut on the Earth – undertook a space flight in the spaceship ‘Vostok’ driven by the ‘R-7’ launch vehicle. This space launch vehicle was developed in Samara. AvtoVAZ – the biggest automotive plant of the USSR – was built in 1970 in Togliatti; the majority of Russian cars are still produced there.
Every year, the town grew and developed. Lev Tolstoy bought an estate here, where he spent every summer with his family. Alexey Tolstoy spent his young years in Samara too. Maxim Gorky started his career in a local newspaper. Such outstanding artists as Ilya Repin, Vasily Surikov and Ivan Aivazovsky also lived here.
The main treasure of our city is the intelligent and kind-hearted Samarians who have been living here. One of the best known historical personalities of Samara is Pyotr Alabin. In 1877, during the Russian-Turkish war Pyotr Alabin brought a banner tailored in Samara to Bulgaria; this banner symbolizes the Russian-Bulgarian friendship.
Samara is an amazing city featuring various architectural styles represented by a great number of historical buildings erected in different epochs. The old part of the city is a kind of ‘open-air museum’, where antique moldings go side by side with cornices of ancient mansions and wooden houses decorated with beautiful carving. One of the most attractive streets of Samara is Leningradskaya Street, the so called Local Arbat.
There are 13 museums, 8 theatres, more than 70 public libraries, 11 cinemas and several entertainment centers in Samara. Exhibitions, vernisages, concerts and festivals are regularly held here. City museums and libraries often organize excursions, lectures and contests.
Contemporary Samara, with its unique historical and cultural background, is developing, growing and becoming more and more beautiful. For this reason, it is often referred to as ‘Gem on the Volga River’. Welcome to Samara – the city of charm, smiles and unique environment.