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    Astrakhan

Astrakhan museum, with over 250 000 exhibits, preserves the past of Astrakhan as Russias south outpost, crossed by the Great Silk Route. The city attracted merchants from Khiva, Bukhara, Persia and India. The Bukhara and Indian arcades, Armenian and Persian trade missions came to Astrakhan. The museum also illustrates the history of a vast area in the Volgas lower reaches from the Mesolithic Age to the present day, and demonstrates links between eras and nations, their customs, cultures, traditions and religions.

The city has an unforgettable image, with a number of historical and architectural monuments. Of special note among them are St. Vladimir`s Cathedral, the Transfiguration Monastery tower, the former Azov-and-Don Bank, and the Astrakhan Cossack headquarters. The Tetyushininov Mansion decorated with lacy carvings may serve as a good example of the Russian wooden architecture.

The Kustodiev Art Gallery, in its lovely ancient house, is named after Boris Kustodiev, famous painter and stage artist, one of the most brilliant pupils of the celebrated Ilya Repin. The gallery has an extensive collection, with sculptures and paintings by such artists as Nesterov, Kustodiev and Levitan. The Astrakhan Drama, one of the Russias oldest provincial theatres, celebrated its 180th anniversary in 1990. It was known for guest performances of renowned drama actresses Maria Yermolova and Vera Komissarzhevskaya, as well as opera singers Fedor Chaliapin and Leonid Sobinov. In more recent times, film and drama star Lydia Tselikovskaya and prima donnas Maria Maksakova and Tamara Milashkina started their careers here.

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