Inna Mendelsohn/

Spaceflights are very much part of Samara’s history. The city is the home of Progress, the rocket engineering centre that has manufactured Russian booster rockets for decades. The rocket that put Gagarin’s Vostok spaceship, flying the first man into space, into orbit was made in Samara.

A unique monument was installed in Samara’s Kozlova Square on Space Exploration Day, 12 April 2001. It is a genuine Soyuz booster rocket, formerly used as a specimen for emergency drills at Plesetsk launch site. Serving as a pedestal for the memorial rocket is an unusual building, which houses the Samara the Space Capital museum. The rocket and the pedestal together are 68 metres tall.

The museum’s permanent exhibits are located on the ground floor. Not only rocket replicas, but real spacecraft, rocket engines, real spacesuits and space food in tubes are on display. Some exhibits are interactive, like Spacebook – Space in Your Pocket, which explains the use of aerospace technology in daily life, including a detailed account of how flight navigation systems and cellular communications work. There is a display detailing the life of astronauts at a space station.   

Inna Mendelsohn/

This museum in the old part of town is located on the grounds of a historical late 19th-century estate at Ulitsa Frunze (formerly Saratovskaya). At the end of 1899, it was purchased by Aleksey Bostrom, the father-in-law of the future writer Aleksey Tolstoy. The young Aleksey, who was then a university student, would spend his summer holidays here every year. The suite on the second floor in the right-hand wing of the mansion was reserved for him. Aleksey Tolstoy would continue to visit his father-in-law here after graduating, and when he’d become a fa.m.ous author.   

The estate is now the Aleksey Tolstoy Literary Museum complex incorporating two mansions, a guesthouse, and some reconstructed utility buildings. Aleksey Tolstoy’s living quarters are the centrepiece of the exposition, which also includes a plethora of literary exhibits covering Tolstoy’s entire life and work. While the bulk of the museum is dedicated to Aleksey Tolstoy and his oeuvre, the exposition also covers other 20th-century authors of prominence whose life and work was associated with Samara. The museum hosts lectures and seminars on modern art. It is also the meeting place of a literary club. 

A graduate of the St. Petersburg Institute of Civil Engineering, Aleksander Zelenko was appointed head architect of Samara in 1897. Zelenko was fascinated by art deco architecture and had studied it extensively in St. Petersburg. His ideas and expertise found their fullest expression in the mansion he designed for the local merchant woman Aleksandra Kurlina. This playful blue-green house with wrought iron fences and stucco moulded front was the most luxurious residences in Samara. Its rich exterior was matched by its luxuriant interior decorations and furnishings. The place had all the modern amenities which were not widely available at the time: running water, heating, sanitation and electricity.

Today Kurlina House is an Art Deco Museum. Its permanent exhibits reconstruct the hey-day of this art trend, which lasted from the late 1800s through the early 1900s.    

This museum incepted in 1897, when a group of local artists, led by a local merchant and self-taught landscape painter Konstantin Golovkin, donated a few of their paintings to the local public museum. With these paintings, the museum started an art section which, however, would not become a museum in its own right until 1937. A little later, the art collection was relocated to a new building - the Palace of Culture, which is now the Opera and Ballet Theatre. The Samara Regional Art Museum was allotted new premises in 1989: the former offices of the Volga-Kama Bank in Kuibysheva Ulitsa, built in the neoclassical style in 1913–1915. Of particular note are its elegant art deco interiors. The front staircase, second-floor lobby and two rooms with stucco mouldings on the ceiling have survived intact.    

The Samara Regional Art Museum currently boasts a collection numbering more than 35,000 artworks, divided into sections for Russian, Western European and Oriental art, and some rooms attributed to the Samara artists who had made the museum possible. Painting by the great Russian masters such as Ivan Aivazovsky, Ilya Repin, Karl Briullov, Vasily Surikov, Ivan Shishkin, and many others can be found among the exhibits. 

Inna Mendelsohn/

Credit for the idea of this museum, the oldest of its kind in the Volga Region, goes to Piotr Alabin, who was the mayor of Samara in 1886. The museum possesses a collection exceeding 180,000 exhibits in archaeology, natural sciences and ethnography, including historical household utensils. There are also old coins, rare books, historical bladed weapons and firearms among the exhibits.

The Samara Regional Museum of Local History incorporates 2,500 square metres of exhibition space, a film theatre for 270 viewers, and a library with a reading room. Other establishments on the premises include an art studio, photo studio, café with seating for 40, museum shop and visitor information centre.  

Inna Mendelsohn/

The Ulyanov family rented a flat on the second floor of a boarding house in Samara, owned by the local entrepreneur Ilya Rytikov, from May 1890 to August 1893. The estate has survived almost intact. The house itself, the utility buildings in the backyard and the garden perimeter are still there. The building became a Vladimir Lenin Memorial Home in 1940. The original furnishings and atmosphere of the flat the Ulyanovs rented was reconstructed in 1970, for the 100th anniversary of the founder of the Soviet State. A display of documents covering the Samara years of the life of Vladimir Lenin was set up on the ground floor. A part of the shop once run by Ilya Rytikov on the premises has been reconstructed from historical evidence. There is also an exhibition room and a lecture auditorium in the museum. 

Samara deserves its own football museum as the city’s football history goes more than a hundred years back. Opened in October 2007 in the building of the Samara School of Sports on the initiative of a group of veteran footballers and fans, the Samara Football Museum became the first public museum of its kind in Russia. The museum moved to Molodogvardeiskaya Ulitsa in October 2014. Most of the exposition is devoted to the Samara football club Krylya Sovietov, founded in 1942. Most or all of the exhibits were gifted or donated to the museum by football fans, active or retired regional footballers and football coaches. For example, one can find such items on display as the boots of the iconic Soviet football coach Viktor Karpov, who was a Merited Master of Sports of the USSR, and the jersey of early 1960s Krylya Sovietov player Anatoly Kikin.

The employees of the tram and trolleybus depot collected the exhibits themselves for this museum, opened in March 1982. They searched the local museums and solicited exhibits from local residents. The museum covers the history of electrical public transit in Samara. Many authentic exhibits are currently on display, including documents related to electrical trams. The coolest part of the exposition is the unparalleled collection of tram models replicating almost every make and modification of tram that has ever existed.  

The largest exhibit is a real tram standing in front of the Samara Municipal Depot (which houses the museum). The tram on display is a 1915 model No. 12 with trailer No. 112 of 1926 vintage. A section of the historical part of Samara was reconstructed next to the retro tram with cobblestone pavement, an old-fashioned street light and an arbour.