Despite the disintegration of the USSR into many states, Russia is still the largest country in the world with 17 million km². However, the situation in viticulture has changed enormously as a result. South of the Caucasus, vines may have been cultivated and viticulture practised as early as 8,000 years ago, and the Transcaucasus region, along with Mesopotamia, is considered the cradle of wine culture. The North Caucasian South Dagestan in the coastal strip of the Caspian Sea is considered to be the oldest wine-growing region of today's Russia. At the beginning of the 17th century, vineyards were planted in Astrakhan in the estuary of the Volga near the Caspian Sea to supply the Tsar's court with wine and grapes. At that time, however, wine culture was underdeveloped and wine was imported in large quantities from France and Germany. Exceptions were the vineyards of Count Vorontsov (1782-1856) and Prince Lev Golitsyn. The latter is also considered the founder of the famous Crimean sparkling wine on his Novy Svet estate. Golizyn also built the famous Massandra State Winery on behalf of Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918). These three wineries on the southern coast of the Crimea (Ukraine) also produced sweet dessert wines in the style of Château d'Yquem, Madeira, port and sherry, which were much sought after by the aristocracy.