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Astrakhan ( ; , ; ) is a major city in southern European Russiamarker and the administrative center of Astrakhan Oblast. The city lies on the Volga River, close to where it discharges into the Caspian Seamarker. Population: 502,800 (2004 est.); 504,501 (2002 Census); 509,210 (1989 Census).

Medieval history

Astrakhan' is situated in the Volga Deltamarker, rich in sturgeon and exotic plants. The fertile area formerly contained the capitals of Khazaria and the Golden Horde. Astrakhan' itself was first mentioned by travellers in the early 13th century as Xacitarxan. Tamerlane burnt it to the ground in 1395. From 1459 to 1556, Xacitarxan was the capital of Astrakhan Khanate. The ruins of this medieval settlement were found by archaeologists 12 km upstream from the modern-day city.

In 1556, the khanate was conquered by Ivan the Terrible, who had a new fortress, or kremlin, built on a steep hill overlooking the Volga. In 1569, Astrakhan' was besieged by the Cossack Ottoman army, which had to retreat in disarray. A year later, the Sultan renounced his claims to Astrakhan, thus opening the entire Volga River to Russian traffic. In the 17th century, the city was developed as a Russian gate to the Orient. Many merchants from Armeniamarker, Persia, Indiamarker and Khivamarker settled in the downtown, giving it a multinational and variegated character.

Modern history

Astrakhan in the 17th century.
For seventeen months in 1670–1671 Astrakhan' was held by Stenka Razin and his Cossacks. Early in the following century, Peter the Great constructed a shipyard here and made Astrakhan the base for his hostilities against Persia, and later in the same century Catherine II accorded the city important industrial privileges.

The city rebelled against the tsar once again in 1705, when it was held by the Cossacks under Kondraty Bulavin. A Kalmuckmarker khan laid an abortive siege to the kremlin several years prior to that.

In 1711, it became a capital of a guberniya, whose first governors included Artemy Petrovich Volynsky and Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev. Six years later, Astrakhan served as a base for the first Russian venture into Central Asia. In 1702, 1718, and 1767, it suffered severely from fires; in 1719 it was plundered by the Persians; and in 1830 the cholera swept away a large number of its people.

Astrakhan's kremlin was built from the 1580s to the 1620s from bricks pillaged at the site of Sarai Berke. Its two impressive cathedrals were consecrated in 1700 and 1710, respectively. Built by masters from Yaroslavlmarker, they retain many traditional features of Russian church architecture, while their exterior decoration is definitely baroque.

In the autumn of 1942, the region to the west of Astrakhan became one of the easternmost points in the Soviet Unionmarker reached by the invading German Wehrmacht, during Case Blue, the offensive which led to the Battle of Stalingradmarker. Light armoured forces of German Army Group A made brief scouting missions as close as 100 km to the city before withdrawing.In the same period, the Luftwaffe flew several air raids on the oil terminals and harbour installations of the city.

Image:Astrakhan Maria Ascension cathedral.jpg|Ascension Cathedral in the Kremlin (1700–1710)Image:Astrakhan Trinity cathedral.jpg|Trinity Cathedral (1697–1699)Image:Astrakhan pamofpetr1.jpg|Monument to Peter the Great in Astrakhan (2007)Image:Astrachan Kremlin.jpg|The towers of the Astrakhan Kremlin.


Astrakhan has five institutions of higher education. Most prominent prominent among these are Astrakhan State Technical University and Astrakhan State University.

Notable people

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Astrakhan is twinned with:


External links

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