Astrakhan Oblast (Russian: Астраха́нская о́бласть uh-struh-KHAN-skuh-yuh OH-bluhst) is a region in the Lower Volga, descending from steppe along the Volga to the northwestern Caspian Sea. It borders Volgograd Oblast to the north, Kalmykia to the west, and Kazakhstan to the East
Znamensk — location of a major Russian missle test site, Kapustin Yar Cosmodrome (spaceport), and frequent UFO sightings, leading the town to be known as Russia's Roswell; Znamensk is currently a closed town due to its military significance
Astrakhan Oblast is a region steeped in the history of Central Asia. Before the arrival of Russian power, this area was at times ruled by the Jewish Khazar Khaganate, the Golden Horde, and the Astrakhan Khanate (centered on the present day city). In 1556 Ivan the Terrible conquered the region and annexed most of its territory at a time when Russian-allied Kalmyks were attacking and displacing the Muslim Tatars of the region. In 1580, having seen off Ottoman challenges to Russian rule, Russia constructed Astrakhan's magnificent Kremlin, which is a mix of traditional Russian and Baroque styles. Astrakhan's nature as a pivotal region for Central Asia continued when Peter the Great established a major shipbuilding yard on the Caspian Sea and established the region as the base for Russian expansion into the great Khanates of Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara, located in present day Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Today Astrakhan Oblast is a relatively sleepy, sparsely populated region near the confluence of the Volga River and the Caspian Sea, notable for its large gas reserves. The region retains sizeable Kazakh and Tatar minorities.