Tambov (təmbôfˈ) [key], city (1989 pop. 305,000), capital of Tambov region, S central European Russia. A rail junction and manufacturing center, it produces machine tools, instruments, and chemicals. Founded in 1636 as an outpost against the Crimean Tatars, Tambov became (18th cent.) an administrative center. The poet Derzhavin was governor there from 1786 to 1788.