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Coordinates: 59°22′N 143°15′E / 59.367°N 143.25°E / 59.367; 143.25

Coat of Arms of Okhotsk

Okhotsk (Russian: Охо́тск) is an urban-type settlement and a seaport at the mouth of the Okhota River on the Sea of Okhotsk, in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia.

Located at the eastern end of the River Route from the Urals, Okhotsk was the first Russian settlement on the Pacific Coast. It was established as a wintering camp in 1643 by the Cossacks under Semyon Shelkovnikov. The fort of Kosoi Ostrozhok was constructed in 1649. Although the Russian pioneers were skilled in building river boats they lacked the knowledge and equipment to build sea-going vessels. When the Russians entered Kamchatka they had to travel overland. In 1714 Peter the Great sent a party of ship-builders to Okhotsk to allow faster access to the furs of Kamchatka. In 1718 Kozma Sokolov built the first vessel in Okhotsk and embarked upon a voyage to Kamchatka. This route became so popular with Russian navigators that by 1731 Okhotsk had been firmly established as the foremost Russian seaport on the Pacific.

Map of Okhotskoi Ostrog, ink drawing, 1737.

At various points in its history, Okhotsk was a centre for the Russian-American Fishing and Fur-Trading activities. It is known for being the headquarters for the explorer Vitus Bering, who sailed from here for two extraordinary expeditions, discovering the Bering Strait on one and Alaska on the other. The Portuguese Jew Anton de Vieira was the town's governor at that time.

The growth of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky dislodged Okhotsk from its leading commercial position in the early 19th century, although it remained important as the base of the Siberian military flotilla, a predecessor of the Russian Pacific Fleet. In 1812 the town was moved to a new site across the Okhota River. In 1840 work began to move to a better port at Ayan 270 miles down the coast, but with the Amur Annexation in 1860 and the shift of naval power to Vladivostok both Okhotsk and Ayan lost their importnce. It was of some military importance during the Russian Civil War, when the White army generals Vasily Rakitin and Anatoly Pepelyayev used it as their place of arms in the Far East.

Okhotsk was also a launch site of sounding rockets between 1981 and 2005. The rockets reached altitudes of up to 1000 km [1].

The importance and population of the townlet sharply declined following the demise of the Soviet Union. Population: 5,500 (2004 est.); 5,738 (2002 Census); 9,298 (1989 Census).

Transportation

Okhotsk Airport serves Okhotsk.

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