History of Astrakhan, stronghold of the Caspian

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The history of Astrakhan, which has always been one of the most important cities in the Caspian Sea

The words of Ibn Battuta

“When the party was over we set off with the sultan’s court and arrived at Astrakhan [El-Hajj Trakhan] [al-Hajj Tarkhan], where tarkhan, in Turkish, means a” tax-free place “. The name of the city is due to a pious Turkish hajj who settled there, in whose honor the sultan had exempted the area from paying taxes: first a town had sprung up there, then it had grown into a beautiful city, with large markets. , which had expanded on the banks of the Volga, one of the largest rivers in the world “

Astrakhan, stronghold of the Caspian

There are no certain sources regarding the birth of Astrakhan but, according to Magamet Garifovich Safargaliev, a great Soviet historian of Tatar origin, its birth would be linked to the second part of the 13th century and, specifically, to the moment in which the Golden Horde began to rely more and more on Islam and imams; not surprisingly, many believe that his initial name was “Hajj Tarkhan “, as reported by Ibn Battuta, but there is no certainty about this. In any case, the incredible Moroccan traveler was the first ever to write about it, but over time the city grew more and more in prestige, opulence and importance, so much so that every traveler could not help but narrate its beauties; among these there was also a large group of merchants, including Giosafat Barbaro, one of the greatest Venetian explorers. Well-being, as in the case of Azov and Majar, was mainly linked to the incredible strategic position, which allowed it to intercept both goods to and from the Silk Road, as well as those to Africa and the Middle East. As for the other 2 cities, its fortune was interrupted when Tamerlane arrived here in 1395, who razed everything to the ground, forcing the inhabitants to refound it 50 km further south, in the place where it is located today.


In 1459 it became the capital of the homonymous khanate but, visibly weaker than in the past, rather than generating terror in the neighbors, it acted as a catalyst for influences and ambitions. Many were in fact the peoples who tried to bind Astrakhan to their fate, but it will be Russia to impose itself as a protective power from 1533; in 1552, however, the locals began to seek new friendships and this led the Tsar Ivan the Terrible to conquer it in 1556. Under the new rulers the city was completely redesigned, transforming it into a great fort and naval center of the first order; however, this, coupled with its distance from Moscow, created the humus for future riots. Among the latter we must absolutely mention that of the Cossack Stepan Razin between 1670 and 1671, one of the greatest in Russian history, and that of 1705, which took place under the reign of Peter the Great. From then on the city became one of the most prestigious Russian centers on the Caspian Sea, but it never managed to return to the incredible commercial center it was in the Middle Ages. A curiosity: Ilya Ulyanov, Vladimir Lenin’s father, was originally from Astrakhan.

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