Joseph Stalin’s secret bunker has become the unlikely meeting point for thousands of fans who have descended on the Russian city of Samara during the World Cup.
Emerging from the underground shelter more than 120 feet (37 meters) below, Mexicans donning traditional sombreros and Colombians and Uruguayans carrying national flags were fascinated with this remnant of Soviet history that remained unknown for 50 years.
Stalin’s bunker was built in Samara in 1942. The city, which during Soviet times was known as Kuibyshev, became a strategic point during World War II because it was far from the conflict and it provided an escape route through the Volga River.
Many of the government’s offices were transferred to Samara when Moscow was under the threat of a German attack and Stalin became the main target of the Nazis.
For more than half a century, the bunker that could shelter about 100 people remained one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Few could imagine that in a nondescript common alley there was a house with an underground passage with a depth equivalent to a 12-story building
There is no written proof that Stalin ever made it to the bunker. But his bed of white linens is still in a room under a curved pink roof. Just a few steps away is his office, with a green lamp and an old rotary phone on top of a dark wooden desk.
An emergency meeting room with a large table reserved for the national defense committee is decorated with images of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin.