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Astrakhan region is a picturesque and marvelous land, where distant and mysterious past is harmoniously intertwined with the future.
Astrakhan once stood at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes, was part of the Silk Road and offered merchants and traders a gateway to the East.
Astrakhan once stood at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes, was part of the Silk Road and offered merchants and traders a gateway to the East. The land inhabited by nomads was renowned for its wealth, warmth and enigmatic beauty of the river delta. These places remember the times of the Golden Horde, the period of the Astrakhan Khanate, and Tsarist Russia. Walking along the city's oldest streets and along the banks of the Volga River, you can still imagine the bustling bazaars and colourful ships today.
For centuries, Astrakhan region has retained its status as the historical and cultural centre of the Volga region. And what the locals particularly value is their handicraft past. All Astrakhan people are literally fishermen from birth. Since ancient times, fishing has been the livelihood for those who lived on the lower Volga.
XIV century
XIV century
Historical sources state that sturgeons were being caught on the Volga as early as the 14th century. Perhaps back then they only knew about the exceptional taste of these fish, but in no way about how ancient and valuable these species are. Only centuries later, scientists will prove that the first ancestors of the sturgeon appeared even before the dinosaurs - 170 million years ago.
History says that sturgeons were hunted on the Volga back in the 14th century, in the era of the Astrakhan Khanate. Then these ancient and valuable species, whose ancestors lived on Earth even before the dinosaurs, inhabited the Caspian waters in abundance.
Catching a sturgeon has always been considered good luck. These fish often reached enormous sizes. A large sturgeon was enough to feed an entire village, or it could be sold at a profit. Astrakhan was renowned for its good catches. Filled with fish and caviar, the ships left Astrakhan for other cities and countries.Astrakhan was renowned for its good catches. Filled with fish and caviar, the ships left Astrakhan for other cities and countries.Sturgeons were called "red fish" - not because of their colour, but because of their special value. The Caspian sturgeon species have gone down in history. Since then, fish and caviar production has been identified with Russia.
The Caspian sturgeon species have gone down in history. Since then, fish and caviar production has been identified with Russia.
For a very long time this fishing had no limits: before the outbreak of the First World War, for example, the Caspian sturgeon catch exceeded 20,000 tonnes every season.It could not go on like this forever. The human intervention had already made itself felt by the middle of the 20th century.But it is not only centuries of fishing, but also the artificial regulation of rivers and the creation of reservoirs that have forever changed the habitual environment of sturgeons, cut off the natural pathways of fish and caused an irreparable blow to the resources of the Lower Volga, from which our nature is still struggling to recover.
Catching a sturgeon has always been considered good luck. These fish often reached enormous sizes. A large sturgeon was enough to feed an entire village, or it could be sold at a profit. Astrakhan was renowned for its good catches. Filled with fish and caviar, the ships left Astrakhan for other cities and countries.Astrakhan was renowned for its good catches. Filled with fish and caviar, the ships left Astrakhan for other cities and countries.Sturgeons were called "red fish" - not because of their colour, but because of their special value. The Caspian sturgeon species have gone down in history. Since then, fish and caviar production has been identified with Russia.
The Caspian sturgeon species have gone down in history. Since then, fish and caviar production has been identified with Russia.
For a very long time this fishing had no limits: before the outbreak of the First World War, for example, the Caspian sturgeon catch exceeded 20,000 tonnes every season.It could not go on like this forever. The human intervention had already made itself felt by the middle of the 20th century.But it is not only centuries of fishing, but also the artificial regulation of rivers and the creation of reservoirs that have forever changed the habitual environment of sturgeons, cut off the natural pathways of fish and caused an irreparable blow to the resources of the Lower Volga, from which our nature is still struggling to recover.
XXI century
New history of sturgeons
As the sturgeon appeared on the verge of extinction, there were those who could not stand by and watch the fading era of these fascinating fish.
I have love for fishing and for Astrakhan nature. I have observed all this since childhood, taking an example from my father Efim Aptekar and his brother Semyon Aptekar.
I have love for fishing and for Astrakhan nature. I have observed all this since childhood, taking an example from my father Efim Aptekar and his brother Semyon Aptekar.
Evgeniy Aptekar
Founder and CEO of Beluga
There were first aquaculture experiments. We tried to keep and breed sturgeons in cages (nurseries, ponds). This is how the history of the Beluga company began. It originated and developed as an integral part of the centuries-old history. Of the Astrakhan region and its unique nature. Looking back, we realise that in the very beginning there was neither sufficient knowledge nor experience, but there were aspirations and dreams of people close to us. In 20 years Beluga has come a long way and has become a powerful company, of which we are truly proud. And, most importantly, it has further global development ahead of it.
At the end of the 1990s, the sturgeon population was close to the point of no return. State-owned hatcheries were engaged in large- scale reproduction of juvenile sturgeons and their release into the Caspian basin. It was then that we had our first meeting with the scientists of the Caspian Scientific Research Institute of Fisheries (CaspNIRKh). At that time, we had little knowledge, let alone experience, but we had a great desire to help save the sturgeon population. It was as if we dipped into the future and saw that the situation would not improve and, together with CaspNIRKh, we started the practice of lifetime production of caviar. The scientists took the eggs to hatch the larvae and we left the fish "after giving birth" and sent them to cages where the fish continued to grow. I remember the first cages (nurseries, ponds) were brought to us from Smolensk. This was the beginning of the Beluga aquaculture farm - literally a few dozen sturgeons and belugas. It was much later that we started to produce commercial caviar and acquired a floating factory.
Continuity and family-like behaviour in any business are always very valuable and deserve special trust.
Maria Smutnaya
Beluga Branch Director in Moscow
Over the years, we managed to build long-lasting and reliable relationships with our clients. Openness guides our work. We want to tell people how we work and what we do it for. The main objective in communicating with customers is to make them aware of how unique we are and how far we have come to combine the production of authentic delicacies and care for the natural resources of our native land at Beluga. Just imagine - producing black caviar without harming sturgeons. It's something we have never even thought of before. This is one of the reasons why Beluga today is a company that is known not only in Russia, but also in many other countries around the globe.
Ekaterina Bataeva
Volzhenka Director-General
Volzhenka is a company established by Beluga in Europe. After graduation, I stayed in England to develop this brand in London. Today I can say with confidence that this project is safe and sound, even though it was once literally started from scratch. I was always motivated by my responsibility to my family. Knowing the scale of Beluga, I wanted to create something similar here in Europe. The interest in our business is huge. Europeans are keen to learn as much as possible about sturgeons, about the specifics of their breeding, about the Astrakhan region, where beluga and sturgeon historically lived, and about the measures we are taking to preserve the species. Therefore, Volzhenka not only introduces Europeans to the world-famous Astrakhan black caviar, it is also an embodiment of Russian culture and traditions, a guide to this wonderful and unfamiliar reality. This is very important to our family. We are on the difficult path of globalisation, but it is worth it and opens up the whole world to us.
The interest in our business is huge. Europeans are keen to learn as much as possible about sturgeons, about the specifics of their breeding, about the Astrakhan region, where beluga and sturgeon historically lived, and about the measures we are taking to preserve the species.