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Samara History

About Samara

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The Zhiguli hills near Samara formed Samarskaya Luka (Samara Bend). Near Samara the Volga turns to the right and there is a narrow bend formed about 3 kms. the wide. Samara was founded on the very beautiful place in the center of great steppe beyond Moscow, the capital of early Russia.

Samara was founded in 1586 after the enactment of Russian czar Feodor Ioannovich as a "ostrogue" (the fortress for the guarding of river ways). The founders of Samara were voevoda (the military commander of the city) Zaseckin and streleckiy's golova (the head of 100 professional soldiers) Elchaninov and Streshnev. Voevoda was a officer in charge of any Russian fortresses or town till 1775. The main issue for them was negative activity of the Volga nomads. The first place for the Samara fortress was found on the right bank of the river Samarka which is a tributary of the Volga.

Later the area of the town increased to the left bank of the Volga. As early as 1606 Samara had customs service and a port on the river Volga. Customs service was used against criminals who organized their camps near Samara. Also customs service took part in the relations between Russian government and the Volga residents. Stepan Razin burnt down the town in 1670 because he had organized a great criminal band from Cossacks, peasants and marginals for fighting against czarist government. Samara's voevoda Alpfimov was drowned by Razin's criminals. Later Razin was executed in Moscow. Since 1688 Samara has been a town. Soldiers and officials lived there. They constituted the majority of inhabitants of the town. The minority of merchants and craftsmen has increased only since 1688.

The big fire burnt down Samara in 1703 because it was a wooden town. After the enactment of the Russian emperor Peter the Great in 1708 Kazan gubernia was organized like an American state only without its own legal system. Between 1708 and 1719 Samara belonged to Kazan gubernia. Between 1719 and 1745 Samara belonged to Astrakhan gubernia. That period was characterized by building of some fortresses around Samara. Between 1745 and 1773 Samara again belonged to Kazan gubernia.

Emelyan Pugachev was a leader of Cossacks, peasants and marginals who took part in jacqueries. In 1773 his army attacked Samara and occupied it. Samara's commandant Balahontzev fled from the town. When czarist forces returned to Samara, Balahontzev was deprived of his rank. Russian emperor Ekaterina the Great was afraid of him and sent a big army against Pugachev. Emelyan Pugachev was betrayed by his friends-Cossacks, caught and executed. Samara has had beautiful Strucov's garden since the 1849. It was the biggest and the most famous town's park along the Volga. Now it's a town's park of culture and rest named after A.M. Gorky. Strucov's park was dispossessed by general N.G. Strucov for the his duties. Also Samara has Botanicheskiy sad (Botanic garden) as a scientific park for botanists of Samara University.

After the 1851 the coat-of-arms of Samara was a silver goat with golden horns on the azure field. It was also the coat-of-arms of Samara gubernia. The patron saint of the town was St. Alexei who predicted in 1350 that on the place of the would-be Samara a large and rich town would stand. Since 1824 town's mayors in Russia were called gorodskoy golova (town's head). P.V. Alabin is the most famous "town's head". He worked in Samara as a mayor between 1885 and 1891. He also wrote some books that tell us about early history of Samara. He was deprived of his rank for bread speculation during the big failure 1879-1880. In 1877 Alabin organized samarskoe opolchenie (Samara volunteers) that with samarskoe znamya (Samara banner) left for Bulgaria to fight against the Turks. They thought the campaign to be a cakewalk. But this war was very difficult and took a heavy toll of human lives of volunteers from Samara. After the war Bulgarian's town Stara-Zagora became a twin-city of Samara. Samara banner was posed in Stara-Zagora. The government of Samara was a Gorodskaya Duma (Town's Thinking). The member of Duma was a glasnuy (Legal). There were 50 members in Duma. Town's government controlled the situation in Samara.

Samara has several museums. Art Museum branched of 1937 from the museum of regional studies which was organized in 1897. So did the museum of A.Tolstoy who wrote "Peter the First" and lived and worked in Samara during the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the new museums is called "bunker of Stalin" because it was built during the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) to organize the defense of Stalin if he should come to Samara. One of military parade was organized in Samara during the Great Patriotic War.

Samara is situated on the left bank of the Volga and stretches for about 15 km. In 1890 konka horse-railway line) was built. In 1914 - 1915 it was converted into Samara tramway. In 1991 4 stations of Samara subway was opened. Samara was a great transport center because it has been standing on the intersection of many commercial ways on the Volga for ages. Many transport routes crossed there: railways Moscow - Syberia, Moscow - the Caucasus, the Urals - South and the river way along the Volga to the Caspian sea. The first steamer "Volga" visited to Samara in 1846. Samara railway station was opened in 1876. There were many private ship of river companies and some private railways. Several thousands of river ships worked on the Volga.

Many river tourists visited Samara. Even a French writer Alexender Duma's had paid a visit there in 1858. In 1859 he wrote the book "From Paris to Astrakhan" after his travel where he left his description of Samara. Great mud on the river's bank destroyed his plans to go on an excursion around Samara. The steel railway's bridge was built in 1880 near Samara. The bridge named after Alexender the II because it was opened at the birthday of this great Russian emperor (he is known as the person who sold Alyaska to the USA in 1867). The length of the bridge was nearly about 2 km.

In 1901 Samara gubernia had 891 churches, 10 nunneries and 7 covenants. Since 1851 Samara became the main town of "Samara eparhia" (Samara diocese). In Samara there were many churches. Catholic Polish temple was built in 1906 and now is the building of the museum of regional studies. German Lutheran church which was built during 1865 - 1875 is now functioning. It was named after Saint George. Sinagogue housing one thousand people was erected on the 12th of August 1908. It had been one of the ten best synagogues of the world and it was desecrated later and now it's a bakery plant. Muslim mosque was built in 1856 and was abandoned some time later. The second Muslim mosque which was built im 1912 was also destroyed. Nikolaevskiy covenant and Iverskiy nunnery were erected during the XIXth century in Samara. Samara banner was produced in Iverskiy nunnery. There are 700 tombs and graves of riches and famous peoples of Samara on the nunnery's cemetery. Both monasteries were destroyed during the Civil War 1918 - 1924. The cathedral housing 3 thousand people was built between 1866 and 1894 on the Cathedral square and was destroyed in 1935. Russian emperor Alexander the II took part in the building of the cathedral when he visited to Samara in 1869. He laid a corner-stone at the wool of the Cathedral. Also his sons Alexander (next Russian emperor Alexander the III) and Vladimir laid their stones. The building of the Cathedral began after the inefficient terrorist act in 1866 when Karakozov shot at Alexander the II.Till the revolution of 1917 the monument to Alexander the II was situated on the Alexeevskaya square. Now it's a Square of the Revolution with the monument to Lenin. Heretics, the followers of the Old Belief, schismatics left their trace in the history of Samara and the Volga because Russian government strictly prosecuted them and they fled from the center of Russia to the Volga.

Samara reminded one of Chicago very much and it was often called "Russian Chicago". Both towns have similar climate, topography and branches of industry. Trading in wheat was the main business of Samara merchants in the 19th century. Old Police square was renamed Hlebnaya (Bread square). Near Samara was a very famous kumys lechebnitca (hospital for using the milk of horses) and mineral springs. Many visitors traveled to these institutions.

Towards the 19th century Samara became one of the biggest trade centers in Russia. The town was growing at rates incredible for the time. The great future was predicted to Samara, but the First World War and then the Civil War interrupted this intensive development. The First World War destroyed the economy of Russia. Samara had reduced the volume of its trade. The revolution of 1917 stimulated this negative process.

During the Civil War (the 1918 and 1922) Samara was a center of battles between "the red" and "the white" armies. Also the "belochekhi" (army of emigrants from Czechoslovakia) took part in the battle for Samara. There was a so called ComUCh (Committee of the founder's assembly, members of which wanted the reconstruction of the czarist government).

Kyibushev square with a monument to Kyibushev is the central square of the city. Between 1935 and 1990 Samara was renamed after Kyibushev because Kyibushev was a revolutionary who proclaimed the victory of the communist revolution in Samara in 1917. The second square of the city is the Glory square. There is situated the Eternal fire for participants of the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War). On the second half of the square there is a bust to marshal Ustinoff who fulfilled the order to organize the warfare in Afghanistan and who was born in a township near Samara.

During the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War) Samara was the second capital of the USSR. There were situated the Government of the USSR and many foreign embassies. For example, scientists of the "bunker of Stalin" have reliable information about the visit of Stalin to Samara during the Great Patriotic War. There are many factories and plants in Samara. Some plants were brought here during the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War) from towns that were attacked by fascists. It was exactly here, away from the front where the best munitions factories with their workers were evacuated. This was an enormous intellectual potential, and there were many who didn't suspect it because Samara was a top secret city until 1990.

In 1957 a new Hydro Electric Station was named after Lenin. It was built near Samara. In Dimitrovgrad an Atomic Electric Station was built later. In 1961 Gagarin, the first astronaut of the Earth had a space flight in the spaceship "Vostok" ("The East") which moved within a space launch "R-7" (in USA it has been also termed SS-6 or "Sapwood"). This space launch was built in Samara. In 1970 VAZ was built as the biggest automobile plant of the USSR in Togliatti. The majority of Russian cars are produced there.

Samara now is one of the biggest cities of Russia. Only a part of the buildings where diverse cultural traditions are combined in the unique way, where every mansion in its own way represent the modernistic style remained from bygone riches.