[az-awf, ey-zawf; Russ. uh-zawf]
Azov, city (1990 est. pop. 82,000), SE European Russia, a port on the Don River delta near the Sea of Azov. It is a rail junction, a light industrial center, and a fishing center. Tourism supplements the economy. Founded as the Greek colony of Tanaïs (3d cent. B.C.), it was a trading center and fortress. It came under Kievan Rus in the 10th cent., was taken by the Cumans in the 11th cent., became a Genoese colony in the 13th cent., and passed to the Turks in 1471. The Don Cossacks held the city (1637-42), but were driven out by the Turks. Peter the Great won the city in 1696 and thus opened southern routes for Russia; he was forced to cede it back to Turkey in 1711. Russia took it again in 1736, but was forced by the Treaty of Belgrade to dismantle the fortress in 1739. Russia secured Azov definitively by the treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji in 1774.
Azov, Sea of, Gr. Maiotis, Lat. Palus Maeotis, ancient Rus. Surozhskoye, northern arm of the Black Sea, c.14,000 sq mi (36,300 sq km), shared by S European Russia and E Ukraine. The shallow sea (maximum depth 45 ft/13 m) is connected with the Black Sea by the Kerch Strait. Its chief arms are the Gulf of Taganrog (in the northeast) and the Sivash Sea (in the west), which is nearly isolated from the Sea of Azov by Arabat Tongue, a narrow sandspit. The Don and Kuban rivers flow into the sea, supplying it with an abundance of freshwater but also depositing the silt that tends to make the sea more shallow. The Sea of Azov has important fisheries and accounts for a large portion of the freshwater catch of Russia and Ukraine. The major ports are Rostov-na-Donu, Taganrog, Zhdanov, Kerch, and Berdyansk. The sea's importance increased with the opening of the Volga-Don Canal; the Manych Canal connects the Sea of Azov with the Caspian Sea.

Azov (Азо́в, a'zof) is a town in Rostov Oblast, Russia, situated on the Don River just sixteen kilometers from the Sea of Azov, which derives its name from the town. Its population is 82,090 (2002 Census); 80,297 (1989 Census).

Early settlements in the vicinity

The mouth of the Don River has always been an important commercial centre. At the start of the 3rd century BCE the Greeks from the Kingdom of Bosporus founded a colony here, which they called Tanais (after the Greek name of the river). Several centuries later the settlement was burnt down by king Poleumon of Bosporus. The introduction of Greek colonists restored its prosperity, but the Goths practically annihilated it in the 3rd century. The site of ancient Tanais, now occupied by Nedvigovka village, has been excavated since the mid-19th century.

In the 10th century, the area passed under control of the Slavic princedom of Tmutarakan. The Kypchaks, seizing the area in 1067, renamed it Azaq (i.e., lowlands), from which appellation the modern name is derived. The Golden Horde claimed most of the coast in the 13th and 14th centuries, but the Venetian and Genoese merchants were granted permission to settle on the site of modern-day Azov and founded there a colony which they called Tana. Later, the Ottoman Empire gained control of the area and built the strong fortress of Azak (Azov).

Fortress of Azov

In the summer of 1637 the Don Cossacks captured the fortress with its Turkish garrison of 4000 soldiers and 200 cannons and held it for 5 years. In June 1641 they withstood a long siege by an Ottoman army. In 1642, when the Turks retreated, the Tsar summoned a popular assembly, or Zemsky Sobor, which decided to surrender the fortress in order to avoid the full-scale war with Turkey. Before leaving the castle, the Cossacks annihilated all the fortifications.

The town, however, had yet to pass through many vicissitudes. During the so-called Azov campaigns (1696), Peter the Great managed to recover the fortress, but the disastrous Pruth Campaign constrained him to hand it back to the Turks in 1711. A humorous description of the events is featured in Voltaire's Candide. During the Great Russo-Turkish War it was taken by the army under Count Rumyantsev and finally ceded to Russia under the terms of Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774). For seven years Azov was a capital of a separate government but, with the growth of neighbouring Rostov-on-the-Don, gradually declined in importance.

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