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Astrakhan

The first reliable mention of Astrakhan, called at the time Haji-Tarkhan, was left in 1333 by the Arab traveller Ibn Battuta. Haji-Tarkhan was the autumn residence of the khans of the Golden Horde; the city was considered to be the largest trade centre on the way from Persia and India to the Russian principalities and Europe. In 1395, the lands of the Golden Horde were attacked by the hordes of Tamerlane, and Haji-Tarkhan was sacked and fell into disrepair. Since 1456, Astrakhan became the capital of Astrakhan Khanate, an extremely weak state with mostly nomadic Tartar population.

In 1556, Ivan the Terrible annexed the Astrakhan Khanate to Russia, and in 1558, the city was moved 12 km lower on the left bank of the Volga River to make it easier to defend from troublesome neighbours.

In 1670, Astrakhan residents let Stenka Razin in the city and organized a local government. A year later, a tsarist governor besieged the fortress of Astrakhan and the Astrakhan residents’ rebellion was crushed in two and a half months. The plague epidemic in 1692 claimed the lives of more than 10 thousand people of the 16 thousand inhabitants of the city (according to the Brockhaus Encyclopaedia).

The Astrakhan province was created by the decree of November 22, 1717 by Peter the Great.

Until 1934, Astrakhan was an administrative part of the Lower Volga Region with its centre in Saratov, in the Stalingrad region. Since 1943, the city of Astrakhan is the centre of the Astrakhan region.

In the summer of 1942, Hitler's troops approached Astrakhan at a distance of 100-150 km. The enemy aviation bombed the ships on the Volga River, but only a few bombs hit the city. During the war, Astrakhan was a key exchange point of combustive and lubricating materials on the way from the Caucasus towards Central Russia. Many hospitals were located in Astrakhan.

In 1950-60s, Astrakhan was reconstructed. A new general plan for the development and reconstruction of the city was approved, according to which new parks and squares were built, the reconstruction of the Volga River embankment and the restoration of the Kremlin were launched, new housing estates appeared, roads were sealed, etc.

The city is situated on 11 islands of the Caspian lowland, in the upper part of the Volga Delta, 1 500 km to the south-east of Moscow. The main part of the city is located on the left bank of the Volga, and approximately 20% of the city residents live on the right bank. Two bridges connect both parts of the city across the Volga.

The rich nature of the Volga Delta attracts to the Astrakhan region hunting and fishing amateurs from all over Russia.

Among the main attractions of the city are Astrakhan Kremlin (recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site), the building of the former Azov-Don Bank, Gubin’s mansion, tent-roofed tower of the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, Demidov’s courtyard

Among the famous people who were born or lived in Astrakhan are the scientist and poet of the XVIII century, Vasily Trediakovskii; the poet and novelist of the early XX century, Velimir Khlebnikov; the Russian artist of the early XX century, Boris Kustodiev; and many others.

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