Yelets (yĭlyĕtsˈ) [key], city (1989 pop. 120,000), E central Russia, on the Sosna River, a tributary of the Don. A rail junction in a black-earth agricultural district, the city exports livestock and grain. Yelets has been famed for its lace since the 19th cent. Other industries include grain milling, leather tanning, and the manufacture of machinery and hydroelectric equipment. First mentioned in 1146, Yelets was a frontier fortress protecting the duchy of Ryazan from Polovtsian (Cuman) attacks. It was taken by Timur in 1395 and the Mongols in 1414. Virtually abandoned in the 15th cent., the city revived in the 17th cent. and became an important commercial center.
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