Rostov-on-Don is a port city and the administrative center of Rostov Oblast and the Southern Federal District of Russia. It lies in the southeastern part 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. The population is over one million people (1,125,000).
In 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 in 1797, it became the seat of Rostovsky Uyezd within Novorossiysk Governorate. In 1806, it was officially renamed 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 completed 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.