Russia and FIFA on Saturday announced the final list of the 11 cities that will host the 2018 World Cup, stretching from Kaliningrad on the Baltic to Yekaterinburg in the Urals, three time zones to the east.
While cities like Moscow and Winter Olympics host Sochi are well known to the outside world, the World Cup will bring to global attention Russian cities that have until now been almost unknown to foreigners.
Moscow will host the final at the Luzhniki stadium which hosted the summer Olympics under the Soviet Union in 1980. After Moscow hosts the world athletics championships in 2013, it will be reconstructed to a capacity of almost 90,000.
Matches in the Russian capital will also be held at a completely new stadium, Spartak, which is already being built.
The former imperial capital and Russia's second city will host World Cup games including a semi-final at a new stadium that will be the second biggest in the country with a capacity of 70,000. After the World Cup it will be used by Russian champions Zenit, who recently signed Brazilian star Hulk to help their search for European glory.
The Black Sea city of Sochi is already preparing to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The World Cup games will be held in the same stadium that will see the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games.
The city is the capital of the region of the same name that is an exclave separated from the rest of Russia, bordering Belarus and EU members Poland and Lithuania. Formerly German East Prussia, it was annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. A stadium of 45,000 is planned but so far the site is still a forest.
One of Russia's most dynamic cities, Kazan is already developing infrastructure to host the Universiade in 2013. Situated on the Volga, it is the capital of Tatarstan and its population is a mixture of Muslim Tatars and Orthodox Russians. The stadium should be ready in 2013 and host football games in the Universiade.
An industrial city on the Volga, Nizhny Novgorod was known as Gorky in Soviet times in honour of the Soviet writer. Construction on the stadium should start in the next two years.
A southern city on the Don River close to the Black Sea, Rostov is planning to build a stadium with a 43,000 capacity. However work has not started and the site is still a field.
Known as Kuybyshev in Soviet times after a Russian revolutionary, Samara is an industrial city on the Volga with a population of over one million. A stadium of 45,000 capacity is planned at a stunning waterside site but work as not yet started.
With a population of less than 300,000, Saransk is the smallest host city and arguably the most surprising choice. It is capital of the region of Mordovia which has a large population of Finnic-speaking Mordvins as well as ethnic Russians. The region of Mordovia is also famed for producing Olympic gold-medal winning race walkers. Construction of the stadium is already underway.
Volgograd was known as Stalingrad during World War II and up until 1961, after the Soviet tyrant Stalin. It was here that one of the decisive battles of World War II took place against invading Nazi troops that left the city in ruins. A new stadium will be built in place of the city's currently much smaller arena.
The home city of Russia's first post-Soviet president Boris Yeltsin, Yekaterinburg is also notorious as the place where the Bolsheviks shot dead Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918. A city closed to foreigners under the Soviet Union due to the concentration of military industry, it is the most easterly host of the 2018 World Cup. Its main stadium will be reconstructed for the event.
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