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According to one version, the name of the city is derived from the Greek language and is made up by two words: Samar meaning merchant and Ra, the ancient name of the Volga River. Other specialists say, the city was named after the Samara River (steppe river) joining the Volga at the city limits.

The city of Samara was first mentioned in official documents in 1586. To protect the city from the Nogays and Kalmyks and to provide the waterway from Kazan to Astrakhan, the Russian Tsar Fedor Ioannovich started the construction of a fortress on the Volga River. The fortress was small; an impenetrable forest approached almost close to it from the North and East; the Samara River protected it in the South and the mighty Volga - in the West. In 1636 the length of the town made up 1.7 kilometres and the width was 350 metres. Later Samara served as a focal point for trade with the eastern merchants.

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 grew rapidly and in 1708, under the reign of Peter I, Samara ranked the ninth town of the Kazan province. Since 1719 it was attached to the Astrakhan province. At that time there were 210 homesteads on the territory of the town. Since 1851 Samara became a provincial center with the population of 15 000 citizens. The Samara province was famous throughout the Russian Empire for the amount of wheat harvested. 375 shops traded colonial, manufactured and other goods. Bazaars took place every week in two squares.

Later in the 19th century there were 46 plant and factories in Samara where 2.5 thousand regular workers were employed. The rise of industry was hampered by absence of the required energy supply. The first city power station in Samara was built in 1900.

Since the town has a convenient geographical location the Donbass and Urals became major metal suppliers for the industry that laid foundation for the set-up of a lot of big enterprises of the machine engineering and metal processing. There were such natural resources in the vicinity of the town as sulphur, phosphorites, limestone, dolomite, gypsum, chalk, clay and sand. It made for the industry of construction materials. In the 30s Samara became a center of oil production and processing in Russia. All those natural and economic conditions made for the development of the city as a big industrial city.

Samara was previously called Kuibyshev. Between 1935 and 1990 Samara was renamed after Kuibyshev after a revolutionary who proclaimed the victory of the communist revolution in Samara in 1917.

During the World War II the local industrial potential was complemented by powerful industrial base of the enterprises evacuated from Moscow, Leningrad and other cities. They supplied the Soviet army with weapons, ammunition and thousands of famous fighters IL 2. During the War Samara became a shelter for all governmental bodies, twenty embassies and legations, Bolshoi Theatre Company and many famous workers of Art including Shostakovich, Gladkov and Gipels. Kuibyshev was regarded as the second capital of the Soviet Union. At the depth of 37 metres below the surface a special bunker for Josef Stalin was built. Today it is a kind of museum.

After the war Samara maintained its status as a biggest industrial and cultural centre of Russia. Besides, it became an important scientific centre.

In different periods the city was known as a home of Maxim Gorky, a Soviet writer, Ilya Repin, Vasily Surikov, Ivan Aivazovski, famous artists and Alexei Tolstoy. The seventh Symphony by Dmitry Shostakovich was first time performed in Samara. Famous Russian writers Solzhenitsyn, Aksenov and Voinovich visited Samara before they had to leave heir mother land in the Soviet times.




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