Samara Oblast

Samara Oblast
   Known as Kuybyshev Oblast during the Soviet era, Samara is part of the Volga Economic Region and Federal District. Samara Oblast borders Saratov, Ulyanovsk, Orenburg, and Tatarstan. At its southern tip, the region is adjacent to Kazakhstan, and the regional capital of Samara (pop. 1.1 million) is a transit gateway to the Kazakhstani city of Uralsk and other points in Central Asia.
   Samara was once a closed city due to its role in the defense and aerospace industries, but it is now one of southern Russia’s most thriving industrial centers. From 1941 to 1943, the city was the seat of Soviet government as Moscow was threatened with German conquest. The city is also the site of a large number of educational and cultural institutions. The region’s second city, Togliatti, is a center of automobile manufacturing. In 2007, the government-owned spa town of Volzhsky Utyos near Togliatti hosted the European Union–Russia summit.
   The region covers 53,600 square kilometers and has a population of 3.2 million. Ethnic Russians form a majority (83 percent); Tatars (4 percent), Chuvash (3 percent), and Mordvins (2.7 percent) are the largest national minorities in the region. The region’s varied topography is divided between uplands (Zhiguli Mountains), forests, and the Kazakh steppe; the region is one of Russia’s warmest. Natural resources include coal, oil, and natural gas. Deposits of various minerals important to the building industry are also found in the area. Local crops include corn, sugar beets, grapes, and melons. Samara also produces wool, meat, and sturgeon. The region has a comparatively lengthy history of industrialization within Russia’s south. A number of hydroelectric power plants are found in the region, as well as factories relating to the chemical, mechanical engineering, and military industries. The largest company in the region is AvtoVAZ, the Volga automobile plant, Russia’s leading car manufacturer. AvtoVAZ is the maker of Lada cars, and, through a joint venture with the American automaker General Motors, of the Chevrolet Niva sport utility vehicle. With ample local financing through Sberbank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the region has attracted a number of foreign companies, including Coca-Cola, Alcoa, and Nestlé. In 2007, foreign investment rose to over $2.3 billion, up from $260 million in 2001. The number of small businesses in the region is in excess of 25,000.
   Boris Yeltsin removed the local leadership in the wake of the constitutional crisis of 1993. In 1996, the centrist economic reformer Konstantin Titov assumed the governorship. As one of Russia’s longest-serving regional governors, Titov exerted a great deal of influence over the local economy, turning it into one of Russia’s most vibrant and sophisticated; he also dismantled many Soviet-era social programs. In 2007, facing high disapproval ratings in rural Samara, he stepped down after having lost the confidence of Vladimir Putin. Titov was replaced by Vladimir Artyakov, former managing director of AvtoVAZ. Since taking office, he has worked to expand ties between the region and Belarus.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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