The first Russian settlement in the area dates from 1718, when Russia built a fort beside the river Irtysh, near a ruined Buddhist monastery. The monastery's seven buildings lent the fort (and later the city) the name Semipalatinsk (Russian for "Seven-Chambered City"). The fort suffered frequently from flooding caused by the snowmelt swelling the Irtysh, and in 1778 the fort was relocated 18 kilometres (11 mi) upstream to less flood-prone ground. A small city grew around the fort, largely servicing the river trade between the nomadic peoples of Central Asia and the growing Russian Empire. The construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway in the early 20th century added to the city's importance, making it a major point of transit between Central Asia and Siberia. On 19 May 1854 Semipalatinsk became the capital of the Semipalatinsk Oblast within the Russian Empire.
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