ASTRAKHAN IS THE CAPITAL OF THREE STATES

     Astrakhan is one of the most hospitable cities in the world. It is one of the 115 cities in Russia recognized as historically valuable. About 184 nationalities and 14 religious denominations live peacefully in the city. Only in Astrakhan you can see Russians dancing the Caucasian lezginka, Dagestanis in a Russian round dance, Tatars treating you with Easter cakes. Here, they together celebrate Russian Maslenitsa, Kazakh Zholdystyk-toi, Tatar Sabantuy, etc. with the same scope.

     Since the old days lower reaches of the Volga River hosted settlements, through which Arabs and Persians laid their trade ways. In VI-VII centuries AD the Khazar Kaganate appeared here, a large state with capital, named Itil. Khazars often made incursions on Russian territories. In 965 Russian Prince Svyatoslav defeated Khazars and destroyed their capital. Then Pechenegs came, followed by other aggressive tribes. Tatars founded a settlement near the place, where ancient Itil stood, and named it Khadzhi-Tarkhan. The settlement quickly grew into a town, which had various names: Ashtarkhan, Gitrokhan, Tsitorkhan and Astrakhan. In XIII-XIV centuries AD Khadzhi-Tarkhan was a large trade centre of the Golden Horde, and after its collapse it became the capital of the Astrakhan khanate. The town’s location on the crossroads of main caravan tracks was the reason for its rapid development.

     In XVI century AD Russia started a campaign for acquisition of Low and Middle Volga Regions in order to provide an access to the Caspian Sea. In 1552 Russia conquered Kazan khanate and four years later the troops approached Astrakhan. The town gave in without a struggle, and its population swore allegiance to the Russian tsar. First migrants from the Central Russia started arriving to Volga territories.

     In 1558 a wooden Kremlin was built on the left bank of the Volga River. This was the birth of new Astrakhan. In 1569 the Kremlin stood a siege of the Ottoman and Crimean Tatar army, and in 1580 – the army, consisting of Crimean Tatars and Nogai people. In order to reinforce Astrakhan and protect it from various enemies, construction of a new stone Kremlin began in 1582. After seven years, a powerful fortification structure with eight towers was finished.

Astrakhan was reigned by voivodes (governors), who called out troops and distributed money, controlled order in the town, were responsible for legal proceedings and etc. Governors were chosen from the noblest Russian families.

     Astrakhan used to be the centre of the peasant war. In 1717 the Astrakhan province appeared. Peter the Great ordered to organize the Caspian fleet, which was considered quite powerful at those times. Peter the Great visited Astrakhan in 1722, and his presence accelerated construction of the port, admiralty and shipyards.

     In 1785 Astrakhan became a regional city of the Caucasus province, but in 1802 it regained its previous status. In XIX century population of Astrakhan reached 46 000. Main industrial occupation at that time was fishing and processing of fish. Merchants were also very active – 1225 shops opened in the city by 1838. Moreover, Astrakhan became one of the largest centres of shipbuilding and ship-repairing. The city hosted over 500 shipping company with Russian and foreign ships crowding the quays. Transportation of oil and oil products was very profitable for the city. Here a new “Russian” method of transporting oil was invented – oil was poured straight inside the ship. First oil tankers appeared in waters of the Caspian Sea. The city also made money on gardens, vineyards and melon plantations, located in its outskirts.

     Early in XX century Astrakhan was not only a large industrial centre, but also the city with cultural, musical and theatrical traditions. City administration did its best to help the city flourish – they built a water pipeline, improved markets and trade squares, paved streets and so on. Astrakhan had eight educational institutions

Russian carnival(Maslenitsa) in Astrakhan

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Kazakh holiday Zholdystyk-toy in Astrakhan

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Tatar holiday Sabantuy in Astrakhan

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Dagestanis and Chechens at Navruz celebration

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Astrakhan Kremlin

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Restored Saray-Batu

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Excavations of Itil

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