The city of Astrakhan-also described as a "Russian Venice"- takes in a cluster of eleven isles in the estuary of the Volga, just where the great Russian river branches out to flow into the Caspian Sea. The first written record about this locality goes back to the thirteenth century A.D.: in his travel notes Francesco Pelagotti, a merchant of Florence, Italy, mentions As-Tarkhan, a major commercial and industrial center of the Golden Horde, just 12 kilometers north of what is now Astrakhan.
Crushing the Khanate of Kazan in 1552, Czar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) cleared the way to the Khanate of Astrakhan, a "gate to Asia". Gaining a foothold in this key strategic region, Muscovy enlarged her territory. Not only that: she could also build bridges to oriental countries and push ahead toward the North Caucasus and Siberia. After the victorious war campaigns of 1554 and 1556 Russia, as an eminent early 19th-century writer and historian Nikolai Karamzin noted, "moved her domains towards the Caspian Sea
and, besides glory and splendor, she was in for new sources of wealth and power, and kept expanding her trade and political sway."
Ivan Cheremisinov, the voivode (governor) of the newly added allodium who captained the Astrakhan war campaign, chose a vantage place for a fortress that was to safeguard the southern frontiers of the Russian state. As the Sacristan Chronicle (put down by Cyril Vasilyev, a sacrist of the local Dormition Church, and published as late as 1887), it was a tall holt rising on an island amidst "impassable bogs and quagmires and saline patches and woodlands in part... bounded by the Volga, three rivers... and by a deep saline lake... so that one could not approach it closer than ten versts (about ten kilometers) except by boats which the Tartars had none at the time".
Ivan Vyrodkov of the Works Prikaz (Administration)- the first Russian war engineer whose name is in the annals of history-started building a ram ... Читать далее