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Astrakhan is a major city in southern European Russia and the administrative center of the Astrakhan Oblast. The city lies on the left bank of the Volga River, close to where it discharges into the Caspian Sea at an altitude of 28 meters below sea level. Astrakhan features a steppe climate with cold winters and hot summers. Rainfall is scarce but relatively evenly distributed throughout the course of the year. It's this even distribution of rainfall and the relatively low annual temperature that causes the city to fall under this climate category as opposed to an arid climate. Winters tend to be cold in the city, though by Russian standards, Astrakhan features relatively balmy winters. Summers in the city can be hot with high temperatures in excess of 40°C. Spring and fall are basically transitional seasons between summer and winter. Astrakhan is situated in the delta of the Volga River about 60 miles or 100 kilometers from the Caspian Sea. It lies on several islands on the left bank of the main, westernmost channel of the Volga.
Astrakhan was formerly the capital of a Tatar Khanate, a remnant of the Golden Horde, located on the higher right bank of the Volga, 7 miles or 11 kilometers from the present-day city. Situated on caravan and water routes, it developed from a village into a large trading centre. It was conquered by Timur (Tamerlane) in 1395 and captured by Ivan IV the Terrible in 1556. In 1558 it was moved to its present site. A cathedral and castle (Kremlin, 1582–89) are still in existence. The great ethnic diversity of its population gives a varied character to Astrakhan. A city of bridges and water channels, it is an important river port, but because of the shallowness of the northern Caspian, seagoing craft have to transship about 125 miles or 200 kilometers by road from Astrakhan, which is reached by a dredged channel. The city is the base of a large fishing fleet and is important as a fish-canning and caviar-preserving center. Other industries include clothing and footwear manufacturers and ship repairs. Astrakhan fur, from the Karakul lamb of Central Asia, is so named because it was first brought to Russia by Astrakhan traders.
The city is served by Narimanovo Airport. It is managed by OAO Aeroport Astrakhan. After its reconstruction and the building of the international sector it opened in February 2011. Narimanovo Airport is one of the most modern regional airports in Russia with direct flights from Astrakhan to and from Aktau, Baku, Yerevan and Moscow. Astrakhan is linked by rail to the north - Volgograd, Moscow, east - Kazakhstan, Atyrau; south - Makhachkala, Baku. There are direct trains to Moscow, Volgograd, Saint Petersburg, Baku, Kiev, Brest and other cities. Astrakhan has no tramway system and its public local transport is mainly organized by trolleybusses and marshrutkas.