May 01, 2021

The Little Classic That Could

The Little Classic That Could
Anything can happen on race night. Anar Movsumov

Every Russian knows that Tolyatti* is the birthplace of the Zhiguli and Lada cars. Formerly known as Stavropol, in 1964 this city along the Volga was renamed, and in 1968 the Soviet government decreed that it would be made the country’s car-making capital. Just two years later the first Zhiguli – the VAZ-2101 – rolled off the AvtoVaz assembly line.

Tolyatti was conceived as something of a Soviet dream city: wide avenues, an orderly street grid, large parks, and modernist architecture that to this day attracts tourists from all over the world. Yet the dream did not last. Today, among all of Russia’s cities with populations over 500,000, the monogorod† that is Tolyatti is the poorest. In recent years, over 30,000 workers have been laid off from the city’s factories. Still, cars continue to roll off the lines at AvtoVaz.

The problem is, not everyone needs, or wants, a new Lada.

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