Capital of Rostov oblast (region), southwestern Russian Federation; population (2002) 1,068,300. A major industrial and commercial city and the centre of a fertile agricultural region, it lies on the River Don, 46 km/29 mi from its mouth. Rostov is home to many large engineering concerns manufacturing chemicals, agricultural machinery, aircraft, and ships; there are also tobacco and food-processing plants, shoe factories, and textile mills. The city is an important transportation centre; railway lines from Moscow and Kiev converge here, and river cruises run up the Don and Volga. Rostov has been called the ‘Gateway to the Caucasus’.
Rostov-on-Don is the most important cultural centre of northern Caucasia and the surrounding regions, in particular as the focus for the revival of Don Cossack culture. Founded in 1761 as a fortress, it has been a town since 1797. It was included in the Don Cossack Region in 1888, absorbed Nakhichevan-on-Don in the early 1920s, and was capital of the North Caucasus (Caucasia) from 1924 to 1934. It has been a centre for the export of goods (especially grain) via the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea since the early 19th century. Its industrial development dates from 1846. During the Russian Civil War (1918–20) it was held by the White Army. It was occupied by the Germans in 1918 and was the scene of fierce fighting in 1941–43, when its successful defence was the first serious reverse for the German campaign in the Soviet Union.