Situated at the upper end of the Volga River delta, about 100km from the Caspian Sea, Astrakhan is both a river and a sea port. The Golden Horde controlled this area in the 13th century and founded a city on the west bank of the Volga River. After Kazan fell to Ivan the Terrible, however, his troops took over the rest of the Volga River region and destroyed the original Tatar city. In 1558 the Russian troops built the kremlin on the east bank of the river and founded the modern city of Astrakhan.
As a trading centre between Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Astrakhan has always been prosperous. Today its economic role hinges on its dwindling sturgeon population for caviar production and its disputed access to the Caspian Sea for oil production.
Astrakhan serves as a gateway to the beautiful Volga Delta and the carefully preserved area of waterways and wetlands leading south to the Caspian. Marked by canals and bridges, an impressive kremlin and lively markets, Astrakhan is pleasant for whiling away a day.