Tambov was founded in 1636 by the military commander Roman Boborykin on the orders of Tsar Michael. It was founded as a wooden fortress in order to increase Moscow's influence in the land then known as the Wilderness and to protect the capital from raids of Crimean Tatars and the Nogai. Later the fortress began to develop into a settlement and peasants settled here attracted by the region's fertile soil.
In 1708 Tambov became part of the Azov Governorate, which was created during the administrative reforms of Peter the Great and renamed the Voronezh Governorate in 1725. Under the reforms of Empress Catherine the Great in 1779, Tambov became the centre of the newly established Tambov Viceroyalty. A coat of arms was adopted for the city in 1781 which featured three golden bees and a beehive. In 1785 the famous poet Gavriil Derzhavin became the viceroy of Tambov. The Tambov Viceroyalty was later elevated to the status of a governorate by Emperor Paul in 1796.
Throughout the 19th century Tambov developed as an industrial centre and as a major producer of grain and bread. During the Napoleonic War, not only did Tambov provided men, funds and supplies for the war effort, but it also became a centre for refugees from Moscow and the surrounding areas. In addition, French prisoners of war were also brought to Tambov.
Almost immediately after Soviet power was established in Tambov, peasants began rebelling against the Bolshevik policy of forcibly confiscating grain from them. A governorate-wide rebellion broke out in 1920 which has become known as the Tambov Rebellion or the Antonov Rebellion (Antonovschina) after one of its leaders - Aleksandr Antonov. This was one of the largest rebellions to take place during the years of the Russian Civil War. In 1921 the rebels declared the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Tambov Lands, however soon afterwards the Soviet authorities managed to crush the rebellion, albeit with much bloodshed which even involved the use of chemical weapons.
In 1928 the Tambov Governorate was dissolved and Tambov became the centre of the Tambov District of the Central Black Earth Region until the district was dissolved in 1930. In 1934 the Central Black Earth Region was split in two and Tambov became part of the Voronezh Region. In 1937 Tambov became the centre of the Tambov Region, which adopted the song Proschanie Slavyanki (Farewell of the Slavic Woman) as its official anthem. The famous marching song was written and premiered in Tambov in 1912.
Second World War
During the Second World War Tambov was not directly threatened by the Nazi invasion, but it nevertheless played its part in the war. Men from Tambov were enlisted and sent to the frontline while injured Soviet soldiers were evacuated to Tambov's hospitals. The city's industry was turned over for military needs and towards the end of the war, Tambov's industrial output rose rapidly.