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  • Samara in southeastern Russia will play host to six games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (Instagram/Zhigulevskoepivo/Getty Images)
In Russia, Samara is known as the "football city". Here's what you need to know about it before it plays host to the Socceroos' match against Denmark.
Petr Kuzmin

5 Jun 2018 - 11:49 PM  UPDATED 7 Jun 2018 - 4:19 PM

You're unlikely to see Samara on the top of any tourist destination lists, but this unrated city in Russia's southeast has history that extends back beyond 1586 -- the official year it was founded. 

During the Soviet era from 1935 until 1991, this 400-year-old city was renamed Kuybyshev after one of the Communist leaders.

Like many other strategically important cities, Kuybyshev which was the home to the secret aerospace, defence and research institutions, was closed to foreign visitors. 

Historically, before the Revolution, Samara's position on the Volga River made it an an important trading centre before it became even more prominent during WWII.

In 1941, when Moscow was under siege by the Nazi forces, Samara became the "backup" capital of the Soviet Union. Many government agencies, diplomatic missions and even football players were moved to Samara.

A special underground bunker was constructed for Stalin. Nowadays it has been converted into a museum.

After the war, Samara became an aerospace centre.

The rocket engine that sent the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, was designed and built in Samara.

Gagarin was also meant to land near Samara but problems during descent resulted in landing about 400 km off the original area.

The actual rocket is now displayed in the middle of the city with the Samara Aerospace Museum underneath it. 

Football city

Samara has a reputation in Russia for being a "football city".

Its team FC Krylya Sovetov (Soviet Wings) was formed during WWII from the footballers evacuated here from Moscow.

Krylya Sovetov never won major titles but they were the most consistent provincial team in top division of Soviet and Russian football.

In fact, they were one goal away from becoming the first Soviet team to represent the USSR in European club competitions.

In the early 2000s, their home stadium was the most attended in Eastern Europe, averaging over 35,000 people per match. Krylya Sovetov have a fascinating history that mirrors the history of Russia over the past 80 years.

Drinking culture 

Finally, Samara is famous for its beer. The Zhiguli brewery dates back to 1880 when an Austrian brewer Alfred von Vacano arrived to Samara and started his own production and crafted a unique beer that's still popular today.

The brewery has a bar called "Na dne" (Rock bottom) where you can taste several types of beer with crayfish, dried fish, sausages and other snacks.

Samara will host six matches during the 2018 World Cup, including the Socceroos. So they'll likely be a few Aussies hitting up the city to sample its beer and gaze upon the tranquil visage of the Volga and Samara rivers.

SBS Radio will broadcast all 64 matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, live and free via the official FIFA World Cup and SBS Radio apps

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