Admittedly, world geography is not a popular subject in the US public education system. Many people ask about exactly where I go on these adventures to Russia, and when I say SAMARA is about 500 miles east-southeast of Moscow, I often get that “eyes glaze over” response and an uncertain nod. So, for all of you inquiring minds who really want to know… (click on icon if your browser doesn’t show the map.)
On this map of eastern Europe and Asia, between Moscow (red dot) and the Caspian Sea (lower left) you will see Samara – slightly to the east – on the Volga River.
Samara is the 6th largest city in Russia with a population of 1.3 million. In Soviet times, it was called “Kuybyshev” after a hero of the Bolshevik Revolution. Also during Soviet times, Samara was a closed city to foreigners.
During WW II – Kuybyshev (Samara) became a major manufacturing center for aircraft, munitions, and other war-related industries. In addition, the Soviet government evacuated to Samara when the Fascists threatened Moscow. Joseph Stalin had a bunker constructed there (the deepest ever built). Although he never used it, it remains as it was for tourists to visit today. (Yes, I have seen it three times.)
Since 1991, the city reopened its beautiful “doors” to all people and returned to its original name of Samara. The city is known for its sandy beaches, embankment parks and walkways along the Volga, its local beer, chocolate, and the most beautiful girls in all of Russia. I often enjoy concerts in the Philharmonic, performances in the opera house, events in the many parks and squares throughout the city, or picnics in the forests of the Zhiguli mountains.
Most recently (and to the consternation of a few of you) Samara was in the international news because of a problem with sink holes. I checked with my friends and learned that the internet photos are a compilation from the past two to five years. Which is apparent by the pictures of people in shirtsleeves, which is NOT reflective of the weather in March and April. No one is “living in fear” as the article says. But, I will definitely be watching where I stand … 🙂
I love my second home and the people waiting for me there. Samara is more than just a dot on the map. It is the place I go to grow, to learn, to serve, and to live out my God-given passion. Sink holes and all.