Rostov-on-Don (Russian: Росто́в-на-Дону́, tr. Rostov-na-Donu) is a port city and the administrative center of Rostov Oblast and the Southern Federal District of Russia. It lies to the southeast of the East European Plain, on the Don River, 32 kilometers (20 mi) from the Sea of Azov. The southwestern suburbs of the city abut the Don River delta. Population: 1,089,261 (2010 Census); 1,068,267 (2002 Census); 1,019,305 (1989 Census).
Since ancient times, the area around the mouth of the Don River has held cultural and commercial importance. Ancient indigenous inhabitants include the Scythian, Sarmat, and Savromat tribes. It was the site of Tanais, an ancient Greek colony, Fort Tana, under the Genoese and Fort Azak in the time of the Ottoman Empire.
On December 15, 1749, a custom house was established on the Temernik River, a tributary of the Don, by edict of Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, in order to control trade with Turkey. It was co-located with a fortress named for Dimitry of Rostov, a metropolitan bishop of the old northern town of Rostov the Great. Azov, a town closer to the Sea of Azov on the Don, gradually lost its commercial importance in the region to the new fortress.
In 1756, the “Russian commercial and trading company of Constantinople” was founded at the “merchants’ settlement” (Kupecheskaya Sloboda) on the high bank of the Don. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, with the incorporation of previously Ottoman Black Sea territories into the Russian Empire, the settlement lost much of its militarily strategic importance as a frontier post.
In 1796, the settlement was chartered and became the seat of Rostovsky Uyezd within Novorossiysk Governorate. In 1806, its name was changed to Rostov and later Rostov-on-Don. During the 19th century, due to its river connections with Russia’s interior, Rostov developed into a major trade center and communications hub. A railway connection with Kharkiv was competed in 1870, with further links following in 1871 to Voronezh and in 1875 to Vladikavkaz.
Concurrent with improvements in communications, heavy industry developed. Coal from the Donets Basin and iron ore from Krivoy Rog supported the establishment of an iron foundry in 1846. In 1859, the production of pumps and steam boilers began. Industrial growth was accompanied by a rapid increase in population, with 119,500 residents registered in Rostov by the end of the nineteenth century along with approximately 140 industrial businesses. The harbor was one of the largest trade hubs in southern Russia, especially for the export of wheat, timber, and iron ore.
In 1779, Rostov-on-Don became associated with a settlement of Armenian refugees from the Crimea at Nakhichevan-on-Don The two settlements were separated by a field of wheat. In 1928, the two towns were merged. The former town border lies beneath the Teatralnaya Square of central Rostov-on-Don. By 1928, following the incorporation of the hitherto neighboring city of Nakhichevan-on-Don, Rostov had become the third largest city in Russia.
In the early 20th century, epidemics of cholera during the summer months were not uncommon.
During the Russian Civil War, the Whites and the Reds contested Rostov-on-Don, then the most heavily industrialized city of South Russia. By 1928, the regional government had moved from the old Cossack capital of Novocherkassk to Rostov-on-Don.
During World War II, German forces occupied Rostov-on-Don (for seven days from November 21, 1941 after attacks by the German first panzer army in the battle of Rostov and for seven months from July 24, 1942 to February 14, 1943). The town was of strategic importance as a railway junction and a river port accessing the Caucasus, a region rich in oil and minerals. It took ten years to restore the city from the ruins of World War II.
In the Soviet years, the Bolsheviks demolished two of Rostov-on-Don’s principal landmarks, St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (1908) and St. George Cathedral (1783–1807).