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- For hyssop, see Hyssop.
Early settlements in the vicinity
The mouth of the Don River has always been an important commerical centre. At the start of the 3rd century BC 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 AD. 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 azak (i.e., lowlands), from which appelation 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. The Turks put an end to its prosperity in 1471, when they seized the area and built a strong fortress of Azov.
Fortress of Azov
In what is known as one of the more legendary pages of Cossack history, the Don Cossacks captured the fortress with its Turkish garrisson of 4000 soldiers and 200 cannons in the summer of 1637 and held it for 5 years. In June 1641 they withstood a long siege by the enormous 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 7 years Azov was a capital of a separate government but subsequently declined in importance.
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