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, city, Russia

Astrakhan (ăsˈtrəkăn, Rus. äˈstrəkhənyə), city (2020 pop. 535,000), capital of Astrakhan region, SE European Russia. A Caspian Sea port on the Volga River's southern delta, it is a center for river transport thanks to a canal built for barge traffic. Russia's Caspian flotilla is based at the port. Astrakhan is also an important rail junction and a major transshipment center for oil, fish, grain, and wood.

The capital of the khanate of Astrakhan (see Tatars) from the 1460s, the city was conquered by Ivan the Terrible in 1556. Astrakhan had a flourishing trade with Persia, Khiva, and Bukhara until 1917. It has a kremlin (1587–89) and a cathedral (1700–1710).


, pelt and fabric
astrakhan (ăsˈtrəkən) [from Astrakhan], pelt of the newborn Persian lamb, used like fur in garments, and also the woolen fabric woven to resemble real astrakhan. The cloth is woven on a cotton base entirely covered by a pile of closely curled mohair. Before being woven the mohair is wound on spindles and steamed to produce a tight, permanent curl.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



city, the center of Astrakhan Oblast, RSFSR. Situated on both banks of the Volga on the upper part of its delta. Astrakhan is a major industrial and cultural center and the most important river port and seaport of the Volga-Caspian Basin. It is a railroad junction (lines to Saratov, Kizliar, and Gur’ev). In 1970 the population was 411,000 (163,000 in 1913; 254,000 in 1939; 305,000 in 1959). Astrakhan is divided into three city raions.

The first information about Astrakhan dates from the 13th century, when the village of Ashtarkhan (Adzhitarkhan), located on the right bank of the Volga 12 km from contemporary Astrakhan, was mentioned among Tatar settlements. Located at the crossroads of caravan and water routes, Astrakhan soon became a large trading city. From 1459 to 1556 it was the capital of the Astrakhan Khanate. The founding of modern Astrakhan began in 1558 with the construction of a new fortress on the high Zaiachii or Dolgii, a hill washed by the Volga and its branches. Around the mid-17th century Astrakhan was one of the Russian state’s border fortresses protecting the mouth of the Volga. Astrakhan was one of the centers of the antifeudal uprising led by S. T. Razin (during 1670–71 the city was ruled for 17 months by the cossack atamans V. Us and F. Sheludiak). There was a major uprising in the city in the early 18th century (the Astrakhan Revolt of 1705–06). A strong military fleet, an admiralty, shipyards, and a port were established in Astrakhan in the first quarter of the 18th century. From 1717 on, Astrakhan was a provincial capital. From the 16th to the 19th centuries Astrakhan was the chief center for trade with the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, Middle Asia, Iran, and India. In the 1870’s the port of Astrakhan became one of the largest in the country as a result of the development of the oil fields in Baku.

Among those who served their terms of exile in Astrakhan were V. V. Bervi-Flerovskii, N. G. Chernyshevskii, and the Bolsheviks L. M. Knipovich, I. F. Dubrovinskii, O. A. Var-entsova, S. G. Shaumian, and N. N. Narimanov. In 1903 a committee of the RSDLP was formed in Astrakhan; in 1905 the committee led a general strike in the city. On Jan. 25 (Feb. 7), 1918, an armed uprising in Astrakhan brought about the establishment of Soviet power. During the Civil War intense battles were fought for Astrakhan (the Astrakhan Defense of 1919).

The food, metalworking, woodworking, and chemical industries are the most important in Astrakhan. The processing of fish in the fish-canning and refrigeration combine and in fish factories plays a key role in the food industry. The city has a meat-packing plant, a dairy factory, and a confectionery factory. Machine-building serves primarily the fish and transportation industries (shipyards, ship-repairing factories, and a diesel locomotive repair plant). Woodworking factories produce construction components, packaging, furniture, pulp, cardboard for packaging, and paper. The chemical industry produces fiber glass and industrial rubber goods; light industry produces kapron nets, footwear, furs, and sewn and knitted goods. Wood floated down the Volga and petroleum (in roadsteads) from the Caucasus and Middle Asia are transshipped in Astrakhan.

In the center of the city stands a kremlin encircled by stone walls with eight towers (1580–1620, artisans Mikhail Vel’iaminov and Dei Gubastyi) and the Uspenskii (1700–10, Dorofei Miakishev) and Troitskii (c. 1700) cathedrals. Construction is now going on according to a general plan (1957) which provides for the development of the regular layout of the late 18th century. A number of large public buildings and housing developments have been built, and gardens and parks have been laid out. The city has a well-organized square near the kremlin and an embankment. A bridge has been built across the Volga (1952). There are monuments to S. M. Kirov (1939; sculptor N. V. Tomskii, architect I. A. Rudenko), A. S. Pushkin (1947; sculptor Z. I. Azgur), and V. I. Lenin (1958; Z. I. Azgur).

Astrakhan has a technical institute for the fish industry, medical and pedagogical institutes, an evening division of the Rostov Institute for Railway Engineers, an evening and correspondence department of the Gorky Institute for Water Transport Engineers, a conservatory, 20 specialized secondary schools, the Caspian Scientific Research Institute of the Fish Industry and Oceanography, and an institute for scientific research on sturgeon. It has a museum of local lore and its branch, the Museum House of S. M. Kirov, and the B. M. Kustodiev Picture Gallery (founded in 1918).

Theaters include the S. M. Kirov Dramatic Theater, a theater for young audiences, and a philharmonic society. The city has a television station.


Shaposhnikov, A. S. Astrakhan: Geograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1956.
Promyshlennaia Astrakhan [Sbornik]. Astrakhan, 1959.
Vorob’ev, A. V. Astrakhanskii Kreml’. Astrakhan, 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a fur, usually black or grey, made of the closely curled wool of lambs from Astrakhan
2. a cloth with curled pile resembling this


a city in SE Russia, on the delta of the Volga River, 21 m (70 ft.) below sea level. Pop.: 507 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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