Samara (former Kuybyshev) is the sixth-largest city in Russia. It is situated in the southeastern part of European Russia, the Volga Federal District, the administrative center of Samara Oblast. Population: 1,157,880 (2002 Census).
It was founded in 1586 as a defense outpost, a fortress, and later grew into a major grain-trading center for the Volga region. It was renamed after the Soviet politician Valerian Kuybyshev under Soviet rule, but returned to its historical name after the fall of Communism. Now it is a large social, economic, industrial and cultural center of European Russia. The metropolitan area of Samara-Togliatti-Syzran within Samara Region with a population of more than 3.0 million people is known for its automobile (AvtoVAZ), aluminum (Alcoa), railroad equipment, chemicals, oil and gas, machinery, and confectionery (Nestlé) industries. Due to this industry Samara was a closed city during the Cold War.
The city was the secondary capital of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943 when German troops threatened Moscow.
During this period the city was nicknamed The Second Baku because of the crisis, in which the Soviet State Defense Committee decided to transfer the main forces of oil-workers and oil enterprises of Baku to the regions of Volga, Ural Mountains, Kazakhstan and Central Asia for the enforcement of the oil extraction there. Meanwhile all the nine drilling offices, oil-expedition and oil-construction trusts and various other enterprises with their staffs were transferred to the Samara area. Highly qualified specialists and masters in oil industry were sent there along with more than 5,000 workers with half of their equipment. The Kuybyshev Square is the largest city square in Europe and the third largest in the world, largely for the accommodation of Soviet-era military parades. An enormous opera house is located on the square.
Along with its many universities (including Samara State University and Samara State Aerospace University), theaters, and museums, the city is also a major intellectual and academic center in Russia. The city is served by highways and railways. One popular tourist location in Samara is Stalin's bunker, a World War II bunker built to house military operations in the event of Moscow falling to the invading German forces. This monument is located south west of Kuybyshev Square, behind a series of apartment complexes. Vladimir Lenin's body was also evacuated to Samara when the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany, and Moscow seemed to be on the verge of falling into German hands.
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