Located in the Near-Volga (Povolzye) region, Saratov was founded in 1590 as a stronghold on the southeast border of Russia. Due to a convenient trading and economic location, in 19th century the city experienced rapid development and by early 20th century became one of the country's leading economic and cultural centers. The city became the largest producer of bread and flour, as well as a powerhouse for an array of other industriees. By that time the city's museums and theaters also gained considerable fame. By 1917 Saratov had over 230,000 residents, as compared to 140,000 about a decade prior. After the thirties the city significantly increased its industrial development in machine construction and chemistry, as well as extraction of natural gas. Today Saratov is one of the most important cities in the country and continues to develop its potential.