Kuibyshev

As the Nazis began to threaten Moscow in mid-October 1941, the Soviet government decided to evacuate the capital to Kuibyshev (Samara). The government, the diplomatic corps, prominent artists and academics, and the family of the Commander-in-Chief, Joseph Stalin, all moved to Kuibyshev. 

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The two-story building at the intersection of Pionerskaya and Alekseya Tolstogo Ulitsas (then Voskresenskaya and Kazanskaya) was built for the titular councillor Neronov in the 1840s. It is notable that the Renaissance front of this building has not changed a bit since the day the house was built.

The family of the Soviet head of state Joseph Stalin lived here from the autumn of 1941 to the early summer of 1942. This mansion was not a random choice, being situated next door to the NKVD office for the Kuibyshev Region. The whole neighbourhood of the Neronov mansion had an enhanced security status the whole time. Stalin’s family lived here in deep secrecy. In her book of memoirs, Twenty Letters to a Friend, Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva writes: “Suddenly they gathered all of us together and sent us to Kuibyshev. They took a long time loading our stuff into this special train car… No one knew if our father would be leaving Moscow also, but they loaded his library on the train just in case. In Kuibyshev, they gave us this cute mansion with a patio on Pionerskaya Ulitsa. The house was hastily renovated and smelled of paint. The hallway smelled of mice. Our whole household entourage come with us: the cooks, the porters, and security guards. I was in ninth grade in school…”

Inna Mendelson/Welcome2018.com

Pavel Guchkov, a merchant from Samara, had a two-story hotel built at Ulitsas Panskaya and Saratovskaya (now Leningradskaya and Frunze) in 1899. The merchant went bankrupt and the hotel was auctioned off. Another Samara merchant, Vasily Suroshnikov, bought it. He had the hotel built up three more floors, and opened the Hotel Nationale in 1911. The building is Art Nouveau, and its third and fourth floors are decorated with green and light-green tiles. 

The Nationale was considered one of the best hotels in Samara. Its deluxe rooms were every bit a match for similar-class rooms in the top hotels of St. Petersburg and Moscow. In 1941 the use of this building was handed over to the Soviet government, evacuated from Moscow to Kuibyshev. Some ministries and secretariats of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet moved into the Nationale. Among the officials who lived here in evacuation during the Great Patriotic War were Mikhail Kalinin, Chair of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Kliment Voroshilov, Marshal of the USSR, Andrei Andreyev, Secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of the Bolsheviks, and Andrei Vyshinsky, Deputy Foreign Minister. Hotel Nationale and its guests were under enhanced security. 

Inna Mendelson/Welcome2018.com

If you walk a block down Leningradskaya Ulitsa and take a right on Ulitsa Kuibysheva, you will see this building, now the Bristol Zhiguli Hotel. In fact, this was always a hotel, only the name has changed. The building was constructed in 1897 for one Elizaveta Subbotina, who would let a part of the house to a hotel. Then, in 1908-1909, the building was remodelled in the late Art Nouveau style.

This hotel was officially referred to as “Hotel B” during the Great Patriotic War. To foreigners, however, it was presented as the Grand Hotel. International journalists were put up here in October 1941. Eddy Gilmour of the Associated Press, recalling the “Grand Hotel” in Kuibyshev, wrote that there were two broken iron beds, a large broken down wardrobe and two tables in his room. The American journalist was particularly upset about there being no bathroom or running water in his room. It was so cold that the windows froze through. To make up for it, there was a pretty good restaurant at the Grand Hotel. American journalists assaulted Japanese diplomats and journalists here in December 1941 when they found out about Pearl Harbour.

When the diplomatic corps evacuated Moscow, the US Embassy was allotted a former school building in Kuibyshev. Local authorities had had no time to properly prepare the premises for foreign habitation. When the diplomats entered the building, they found some school desks and a few beds there. The beds were all the preparation that had been done. Swedish ambassador Vilhelm Assarsson recalls: “US Ambassador Steinhardt and his staff were accommodated in some secondary school building… The ambassador was anything but happy. I tried to tell him that, given the circumstances, we could hardly expect anything better, but he would not listen. With the air of a deeply offended person, Steinhardt said: ‘I did not go into diplomatic service to suffer like this. I went into diplomatic service to enjoy life. You cannot deny that this place is squalid in the extreme. We are trapped here.’”  

Inna Mendelson/Welcome2018.com

This early 1900s Art Nouveau mansion, designed by Alexander Zelenko, was meant for one Alexandra Kurlina, a Samara woman merchant. Now it is an Art Nouveau Museum, but during the Great Patriotic War it served as a temporary Embassy of Sweden. Kuibyshev authorities had very little time to find suitable premises for every diplomatic mission. The premises were selected in a great haste. It later transpired that the Swedes were fortunate enough to have received the best place of all. They were not so impressed when they first saw the building. “They took us, the seven junior embassy staff, to this old mansion, which was completely empty. All we found in the rooms were some twenty iron beds. This must have been a hospital in the recent past. We set about trying to make ourselves comfortable, buying some furniture wherever we could find any. But when we got a chance to communicate with our colleagues, other diplomats, we realized that our embassy was given the best building of all,” recalled Sverker Astrom, former secretary of the Embassy of Sweden in the Soviet Union. In his memoirs, Ambassador Vilhelm Assarsson wrote: “It is unlikely that the local authorities particularly liked or favoured us, Swedes. It was only chance, blind chance, that ruled their hasty wartime choice. But the fact that we got the best mansion in town was beyond doubt.”  

Inna Mendelson/Welcome2018.com

This two-story stone mansion in the Italian Renaissance style, built to the design of Alexander Shcherbachev for the local nobility leader Alexander Naumov, is currently the Palace of Young Creators. When diplomatic missions were evacuated from Moscow to Kuibyshev in the autumn of 1941, this building became the temporary abode of the British Embassy. It was in this building that critical decisions to supply allied tanks, warplanes, automobiles, fuel and other supplies for the Soviet war industry were taken. 

Inna Mendelson/Welcome2018.com

Composer Dmitry Shostakovich and his family – his wife and two small children – were first evacuated to Moscow from the besieged Leningrad. Then they were evacuated again, this time to Kuibyshev, with the second convoy of the Bolshoi Theatre. The Shostakovich family were given next to no notice so they had hardly any time to pack. Dmitry Shostakovich found himself without the bare necessities in Kuibyshev. Their first new home was a small apartment at Nekrasovskaya Ulitsa. He composed his Seventh Symphony here, the one that would win him the Stalin Prize.

Following the triumphal premiere of Seventh Symphony on the stage of the palace of culture on Ploshchad Kuibysheva (now the Opera and Ballet Theatre), the Shostakoviches were allotted a huge apartment in a prestigious neighbourhood, at the intersection of Ulitsas Rabochaya and Frunze. Dmitry Shostakovich had his own study here, overlooking the Volga and, most importantly, there was a grand piano. Shostakovich worked hard, composing six song cycles for bass and piano, and My Native Leningrad Suite. Rabochaya Ulitsa, where Shostakovich lived, is now named in his honour. 

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

Stalin’s bunker is a unique engineering installation, which was the most heavily protected site in the Soviet Union. The decision to build the bunker in Kuibyshev was taken in the autumn of 1941. Moscow Metro construction workers were rounded up to do the job in an atmosphere of profound secrecy, starting in March 1942. The bunker was completed the following October. The facility was built in a record nine months.

The bunker could hold upwards of 100 people for the duration of an air strike. The facility was built primarily for Joseph Stalin for the eventuality that it might become impossible to remain in Moscow. An exact replica of Stalin’s Kremlin study was reproduced here. The emergency meeting room for the national defence committee is sized 70 square metres. However, for all we know, the Commander-in-Chief never left Moscow. At least there is no official evidence of Stalin ever visiting his Kuibyshev bunker.

Another thing about this bunker is that it is 37 metres deep. Hitler’s Berlin bunker was only 16 metres underground. 

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

Military parades on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the October 1917 Revolution took place in three cities: Moscow, Voronezh and Kuibyshev on November 7, 1941. The leaders of the country, foreign diplomats and members of the press corps were in the stalls reviewing the parade in Kuibyshev. Participating in the parade were infantry units, trainees of the Military Medical Academy, the women’s battalion of the Volga Military District, cavalry, tanks and motorized infantry. Hundreds of warplanes flew overhead: bombers, fighters and fighter-bombers. All units went to the frontlines right after the parade.