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England’s odyssey to continue in city associated with Soviet space programme

Samara, formerly known as Kuibyshev, was where the rockets that propelled the likes of Yuri Gagarin into space were built.

The centre of the Soviet Union’s space rocket industry is next on England’s World Cup orbit.

Now a sprawling city of 1.2 million people along the banks of the Volga river, Samara was known as Kuibyshev between 1935 and 1991.

It was here that Soviet scientists designed and built the rockets which blasted the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1, and first manned spaceship, carrying Yuri Gagarin, into space.

During the Second World War, workers in the city built 15,000 Ilyushin-2 fighter bombers for the war effort against Nazi Germany.

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Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space (RIA Novosti/PA).

But modern-day Samara appears as much a holiday resort as an industrial centre, with a 5km-long esplanade and beaches lining the banks of Europe’s longest river.

England fans will feel familiar with the Volga now, having visited its stretches in Volgograd and Nizhny Novgorod.

But the mosquitoes and midges that plagued England’s first stop did not seem to reside 536 miles further upriver, even though hotels warned customers to keep the windows shut.

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Laika, a dog from the Soviet Union, was the first creature to live in space (PA)

People on skateboards and roller blades can zip along the esplanade, and beach volleyball is a popular sport, while river cruises are popular among tourists.

England fans can also visit the home of Russia’s favourite beer, Zhigulevskoe, at the Zhigulevsky Brewery, which was founded by an Austrian man in 1880 but nationalised after the 1917 Revolution.

The purpose-built Samara Arena, where England will play Sweden and which has a capacity of 45,000, will be used as the home of local Russian Premier League club FC Krylia Sovetov after the tournament.

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