18th century Russian province, named after a town on the outflow of the River Don into the Sea of Azov, the northeastern arm of the Black Sea. The original settlement, the Greek Tanais, was not far away. The Grand Duchy of Kiev extended its influence to the Don region in the 960s, but the Pechenegs, a Turkic people, soon dominated the steppes.
The Tatars who controlled the steppes and the coastlands from the mid-13th century were encouragers of trade. Italian traders flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries, particularly the Genoese, who had a depot in Azov, which they called Tana. At the end of the 14th century the violent eruption of Tamurlane’s armies from central Asia badly damaged trade and confidence, and in the 15th century the Ottoman Turks increasingly intervened. In 1475 they made the Crimean Tatars, who controlled Azov (Asif in Turkish), subservient to them and the European traders ceased to function.
In 1637 the Cossacks seized Azov from the Tatars, but an appeal to the Russian Tsar to take the city over was rejected and they withdrew. The Russians under Peter the Great held Azov 1696-1711. Peter the Great even named a province after it. The province included the area on the middle and upper Don, and it continued to be called Azov even after the withdrawal from the city until reality induced its renaming as Voronezh in 1725.
The town of Azov finally became Russian in 1736, though by a Treaty of 1739, Russia could not fortify it or have naval vessels there. Only in 1774 was this prohibition removed; but Azov, which was not ice-free, was increasingly unimportant as Russia acquired more Black Sea lands, and its harbour gradually silted up.
Azov is now in the Rostov region, Rostov having long overtaken it in importance.