Astrakhan region is situated in the South-West of the European part of Russia - in the South part of the East-European plain. In the West it borders upon the Kalmykya-Halm Tangch Republic, in the North - upon the Volgograd region, in the East - upon the Kazakhstan Republic, in the South it's washed by the Caspian sea.
The first written references to Astrakhan go back to the 13-th century, when the Astrakhan Khanate emerged in the lower reaches of the great river after the Golden Horde disintegrated. For several centuries, Astrakhan prospered at the crossing of trade routes, which linked Europe and Asia. Today Astrakhan is a major industrial and cultural centre of the Volga region with a multi-ethnic population. Every visitor will be greeted here as a long-expected guest.
The length of the low stream of Volga within the region is more than 40 km. Volga-Akhtuba poima, Volga delta and the neighboring semi-deserts and deserts of the pre-Caspian lowlands are situated here. The bigger part of the territory is 15-20 meters lower than the ocean level in the North; the Caspian sea coast is 28 meters lower.
The climate of the Astrakhan region is sharp continental, drought. It is characterized by huge differences of temperature: from +40 C in summer to -34 C in winter (though such low temperature is rather rare). The average annual quantity of the precipitations is not significant - 244 mm in the North of the region and 175 mm in the South. The duration of the vegetation period with the temperature higher than +5 C is 201 days in the North and 216 days in the South.
The area of the region is 44 thousand sq. km, the population - 1 million and 24.9 thousand people. The region consists of 6 towns and 11 rural areas. The regional center of the Astrakhanskaya oblast is Astrakhan city with population of 485.3 thousand people. The second largest town of oblast is Akhtubinsk (50 thousand people).
Astrakhan region is rich in natural resources, among which are large resources of oil and gas, pooch, construction materials (clay, gypsum, ceramics, Crystal sand, salt saturated with bromium and chlorine). The resources of fish are unique.
Astrakhan deposit of gas condensate is the largest in Europe. Mining exploitation has promoted the region as a leader of Russian oil, gas and sulphur producer. Current deposits of natural gas and oil are unique because of the gas and carbonic hydrogen volume (from 3.6 till calculated 6.0 thousand billions of cubic meters), that is by 2-2.5 times larger then the Orenburg resource (1.6-1.8 thousands billions of cube meters). Peculiarities of current deposit lie in composition of gas and oil. Besides the average content of sulphurhydrogen (24%), there is carbonic gas (12-16%), oxide of carbonic and sulphur.
On the comprehensive level of mining, the deposit will be enough for centuries. Nowadays, 5 billion of cubic meters are mined every year. JSC Gasmining Company "Astrakhangasprom" is exploring the deposit.
Oil-gas complex is the leading branch in Astrakhan region economy. Part of this branch of industry in the total volume of production is constantly increasing. It used to be 6.2% in 1990 and became 34.2% in 1997. Fuel industry is based on the main famous oil-gas deposits and on exploring the new ones, even larger than previous becomes the main branch of local industry. This branch is presented by several companies: "Astrakhangasprom", "LucOil-Astrakhanmorneft", "Astrakhanenergo", "Astrakhanoblgas", "LucOil-Astrakhannefteproduct", "Astrakhangasservice", "Astrakhantopproduct", "Astrakhanneft" (founded in 1998), "Right Bank" (founded in July 1999).
Favorable climatic conditions, presence of rich water resources have determined the Astrakhan area as a zone of heat-loving melons and gourds and rice cultivation.
The Astrakhan region occupies leading positions in rice collection among other regions of Russian Federation (Rostov region, Primorye Territory), specializing on rice cultivation.
Gross crop of rice, basic grain culture of region, makes about 133 thousand tons per year. It is 12% of a whole crop of rice in Russian Federation and 83% of total volume made in the Volga river regions.
The areas, engaged under vegetable culture, are largest in the Volga river regions. Astrakhan vegetable and melons differ by high flavoring qualities. The water-melons on flavoring, healing and dietary qualities have no equivalents neither in Russia, nor in Europe, and tomatoes are sources valuable vitamins and mineral substances. As for the content of vitamin C tomatoes do not concede to a lemon. The area has unique genetic potential of fine-wool, astrakhan fur and meat sheeps ensuring the large opportunities on manufacture of wool.
Despite of affinity to "to hot points" and multinational structure of the population the Astrakhan area always was and remains one of most politically stable areas of Russia. Here there are no national conflicts. The officials of the Astrakhan Administration have good relations with the federal Authorities. There are no tendencies of separatism in the region.
The investment-financial policy of regional Administration is directed on creation of conditions for activization of investment process in region, on creation of legislative base for increase of investment activity of the individual investors and reliable protection of putting means. Special attention is given to creation of economic conditions for increase of a share of long-term investments in private sector of economy to mobilize them for structural and technological reorganization of manufacture.
Astrakhan Region is known for contrasts - boundless steppes and shrub-grown banks, the north Caspian ice-bound for half a year, and lush lotuses in the Volga estuary. With it inimitable beauty, eventful past and age-old hospitality, this land attracts tourists by the thousand.