Atyrau

Atyrau (Kazakh: Атырау, At?raw,??????, pronounced [?t????w]; formerly known as Guryev (Russian: Гурьев, until 1991) is a city in Kazakhstan, and the capital of Atyrau Province. It is located 2700 kilometers west of Almaty and 350 kilometers east of the Russian city of Astrakhan. Other transliterations include Aterau, Atirau, Atyraw, Atyraou, At?rav, At?raw.

Modern Atyrau is famous for its oil and fish industries. It has 154,100 inhabitants (2007, up from 142,500 (1999 census)), 90% ethnic Kazakhs (up from 80%), the rest being mostly Russians and other ethnic groups such as Tatars and Ukrainians. Since October 2006, its mayor is Salimzhan Naqpayev.

Geography

Atyrau (together with Aktau) is Kazakhstan's main harbour city on the Caspian Sea at the delta of the Ural River. Atyrau city is approximately 20 meters below sea level. The city is considered by many to be located both in Asia and Europe, as it is divided by the Ural River, which is often considered the boundary between Europe and Asia.

History

The wooden fort at the mouth of the Yaik River was founded in 1645 as Nizhny Yaitzky gorodok (literally, Lower Yaik Fort) by the Russian trader Gury Nazarov, a native of Yaroslavl, who specialized in trade with Khiva and Bukhara. The fort was plundered by the Yaik Cossacks, leading the Guriev family to rebuild it in stone (1647-62). Tsar Alexis sent a garrison of Streltsy to protect the fort from Cossack incursions. Despite these efforts, the Cossack rebel Stepan Razin held the town in 1667 and 1668. The fort gradually lost its strategic significance and was demolished in 1810. Between 1708 and 1992 the city was known as Guriev.

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