The Volga (Russian: Во́лга,
IPA: [ˈvoɫɡə] ( listen)) is the longest river in
Europe. It is also Europe's largest river in terms of discharge and
watershed. The river flows through central
Russia and into the Caspian
Sea, and is widely regarded as the national river of Russia.
Eleven of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including the capital,
Moscow, are located in the Volga's watershed.
Some of the largest reservoirs in the world can be found along the
Volga. The river has a symbolic meaning in
Russian culture and is
often referred to as Волга-матушка Volga-Matushka (Mother
Russian literature and folklore.
2.1 Confluences (downstream to upstream)
2.2 Reservoirs (downstream to upstream)
2.3 Human history
2.3.1 20th-century conflicts
3 Ethnic groups
5 Satellite imagery
6 See also
8 External links
Cruise ships on the Volga.
The Russian hydronym Volga (Волга) derives from Proto-Slavic
*vòlga "wetness, moisture", which is preserved in many Slavic
languages, including Ukrainian volóha (воло́га) "moisture",
Russian vlaga (влага) "moisture", Bulgarian vlaga (влага)
"moisture", Czech vláha "dampness", Serbian vlaga (влага )
"moisture", and Slovene vlaga "moisture" among others.
The Slavic name is a loan translation of earlier Scythian Rā (Ῥᾶ)
"Volga", literally "wetness", cognate with Avestan Raŋhā
"mythical stream" (also compare the derivation Sogdian r’k "vein,
blood vessel" (*raha-ka), Persian رگ rag "vein") and Sanskrit
rasā́- (रसा) "dew, liquid, juice; mythical river". The
Scythian name survives in modern Mordvin Rav (Рав) "Volga".
Turkic peoples living along the river formerly referred to it as
Atil "big river". In modern Turkic languages, the Volga is
known as İdel (Идел) in Tatar, Атăл (Atăl) in Chuvash, Idhel
in Bashkir, Edil in Kazakh, and İdil in Turkish. The Turkic peoples
associated the Itil's origin with the Kama. Thus, a left tributary to
the Kama was named the Aq Itil "White Itil" which unites with the Kara
Itil "Black Itil" at the modern city of Ufa. The name Indyl (Indɨl)
is used in Adyge (Cherkess) language.
Among Asians,[clarification needed] the river was known by its other
Turkic name Sarı-su "yellow water", but the
Oirats also used their
own name, Ijil mörön or "adaptation river". Presently the Mari,
another Uralic group, call the river Jul (Юл), meaning "way" in
Tatar. Formerly, they called the river Volgydo, a borrowing from Old
The Volga is the longest river in Europe. It belongs to the closed
basin of the Caspian Sea, being the longest river to flow into a
closed basin. Rising in the
Valdai Hills 225 meters (738 ft)
above sea level northwest of
Moscow and about 320 kilometers
(200 mi) southeast of Saint Petersburg, the Volga heads east past
Lake Sterzh, Tver, Dubna, Rybinsk, Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, and
Kazan. From there it turns south, flows past Ulyanovsk, Tolyatti,
Saratov and Volgograd, and discharges into the Caspian Sea
Astrakhan at 28 meters (92 ft) below sea level. At its
most strategic point, it bends toward the Don ("the big bend").
Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, is located there.
The Volga has many tributaries, most importantly the rivers Kama, the
Oka, the Vetluga, and the Sura. The Volga and its tributaries form the
Volga river system, which flows through an area of about 1,350,000
square kilometres (521,238 square miles) in the most heavily populated
part of Russia. The
Volga Delta has a length of about 160
kilometres (99 miles) and includes as many as 500 channels and smaller
rivers. The largest estuary in Europe, it is the only place in Russia
where pelicans, flamingos, and lotuses may be found.
The Volga freezes for most of its length for three months each
The Volga drains most of Western Russia. Its many large reservoirs
provide irrigation and hydroelectric power. The
Moscow Canal, the
Volga–Don Canal, and the
Volga–Baltic Waterway form navigable
Moscow to the White Sea, the Baltic Sea, the
Caspian Sea, the
Sea of Azov
Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. High levels of
chemical pollution have adversely affected the river and its habitats.
The fertile river valley provides large quantities of wheat, and also
has many mineral riches. A substantial petroleum industry centers on
the Volga valley. Other resources include natural gas, salt, and
Volga Delta and the nearby
Caspian Sea offer superb
fishing grounds. Astrakhan, at the delta, is the center of the caviar
Confluences (downstream to upstream)
Rzhev is the uppermost town situated on the Volga (photographed
A suspension bridge (Stariy Most/Старый Мост) across the
Tver (built 1897–1900, damaged during the war, repaired in
1947 and rebuilt in 1980)
Volga near Nizhny Novgorod, 2010
Akhtuba (near Volzhsky), a distributary
Samara (in Samara)
Kama (south of Kazan)
Kazanka (in Kazan)
Sviyaga (west of Kazan)
Vetluga (near Kozmodemyansk)
Sura (in Vasilsursk)
Kerzhenets (near Lyskovo)
Oka (in Nizhny Novgorod)
Uzola (near Balakhna)
Unzha (near Yuryevets)
Kostroma (in Kostroma)
Kotorosl (in Yaroslavl)
Sheksna (in Cherepovets)
Mologa (near Vesyegonsk)
Kashinka (near Kalyazin)
Nerl (near Kalyazin)
Medveditsa (near Kimry)
Dubna (in Dubna)
Shosha (near Konakovo)
Tvertsa (in Tver)
Vazuza (in Zubtsov)
Selizharovka (in Selizharovo)
Reservoirs (downstream to upstream)
A number of large hydroelectric reservoirs were constructed on the
Volga during the Soviet era. They are:
Kuybyshev Reservoir – the largest in
Europe by surface
Many Orthodox shrines and monasteries are located along the banks of
The area downstream of the Volga, widely believed to have been a
cradle of the Proto-Indo-European civilization, was settled by Huns
Turkic peoples in the first millennium AD, replacing the
Scythians. The ancient scholar
Alexandria mentions the
lower Volga in his Geography (Book 5, Chapter 8, 2nd Map of Asia). He
calls it the Rha, which was the Scythian name for the river. Ptolemy
believed the Don and the Volga shared the same upper branch, which
flowed from the
Subsequently, the river basin played an important role in the
movements of peoples from
Asia to Europe. A powerful polity of Volga
Bulgaria once flourished where the Kama joins the Volga, while
Khazaria controlled the lower stretches of the river. Such Volga
cities as Atil, Saqsin, or Sarai were among the largest in the
medieval world. The river served as an important trade route
connecting Scandinavia, Rus', and
Volga Bulgaria with
Ilya Yefimovich Repin's painting Barge Haulers on the Volga
Khazars were replaced by Kipchaks,
Kimeks and Mongols, who founded the
Golden Horde in the lower reaches of the Volga. Later their empire
divided into the Khanate of
Kazan and Khanate of Astrakhan, both of
which were conquered by the Russians in the course of the 16th century
Kazan Wars. The Russian people's deep feeling for the Volga
echoes in national culture and literature, starting from the
12th-century Lay of Igor's Campaign.
The Volga Boatman's Song
The Volga Boatman's Song is
one of many songs devoted to the national river of Russia.
Construction of Soviet Union-era dams often involved enforced
resettlement of huge numbers of people, as well as destruction of
their historical heritage. For instance, the town of
flooded for the purpose of constructing the
the largest artificial lake in the world). The construction of the
Reservoir caused the flooding of several monasteries with
buildings dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. In such cases the
ecological and cultural damage often outbalanced any economic
Soviet Marines charge the Volga river bank.
Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad and
During the Russian Civil War, both sides fielded warships on the
Volga. In 1918, the Red Volga Flotilla participated in driving the
Whites eastward, from the Middle Volga at
Kazan to the Kama and
Ufa on the Belaya.
In modern times, the city on the big bend of the Volga, currently
known as Volgograd, witnessed the Battle of Stalingrad, possibly the
bloodiest battle in human history, in which the
Soviet Union and the
German forces were deadlocked in a stalemate battle for access to the
river. The Volga was (and still is) a vital transport route between
Russia and the Caspian Sea, which provides access to the oil
fields of the Apsheron Peninsula.
Hitler planned to use access to the
oil fields of
Azerbaijan to fuel future German conquests. Apart from
that, whoever held both sides of the river could move forces across
the river, to defeat the enemy's fortifications beyond the river.
By taking the river, Hitler's Germany would have been able to move
supplies, guns, and men into the northern part of Russia. At the same
time, Germany could permanently deny this transport route by the
Soviet Union, hampering its access to oil and to supplies via the
For this reason, many amphibious military assaults were brought about
in an attempt to remove the other side from the banks of the river. In
these battles, the
Soviet Union was the main offensive side, while the
German troops used a more defensive stance, though much of the
fighting was close quarters combat, with no clear offensive or
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The Volga in the Zhiguli Mountains.
The first recorded people along the upper Volga were the Mari
(Мари) and their west ethnic group named
Merya (Мäрӹ). In the
8th and 9th centuries Slavic colonization began from Kievan Rus'. The
Slavs brought Christianity to the upper Volga, and a portion of the
local people adopted Christianity and gradually became East Slavs. The
remainder of the
Mari people migrated to the west far inland. In the
course of several centuries the Slavs assimilated the indigenous
Finnic populations, such as the
Meshchera peoples. The
surviving peoples of Volga Finnic ethnicity include the Maris and
Mordvins of the middle Volga.
Apart from the Huns, the earliest Turkic tribes arrived in the 7th
century and assimilated some Finnic and Indo-European population on
the middle and lower Volga. The Christian Chuvash and
are descendants of the population of medieval Volga Bulgaria. Another
Turkic group, the Nogais, formerly inhabited the lower Volga steppes.
The Volga region is home to a German minority group, the Volga
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great had issued a Manifesto in 1763 inviting
all foreigners to come and populate the region, offering them numerous
incentives to do so. This was partly to develop the region but also to
provide a buffer zone between the Russians and the
Mongols to the
East. Because of conditions in German territories, Germans responded
in the largest numbers. Under the
Soviet Union a slice of the region
was turned into the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.
Others were executed or dispersed throughout the
Soviet Union prior to
and after World War II.
The Volga at Volgograd
In some locations, the Volga has a rocky right bank.
The Volga, widened for navigation purposes with construction of huge
dams during the years of Joseph Stalin's industrialization, is of
great importance to inland shipping and transport in Russia: all the
dams in the river have been equipped with large (double) ship locks,
so that vessels of considerable dimensions can travel from the Caspian
Sea almost to the upstream end of the river.
Connections with the river Don and the
Black Sea are possible through
the Volga–Don Canal. Connections with the lakes of the North (Lake
Ladoga, Lake Onega),
Saint Petersburg and the
Baltic Sea are possible
through the Volga–Baltic Waterway; and commerce with
Moscow has been
realised by the
Moscow Canal connecting the Volga and the Moskva
This infrastructure has been designed for vessels of a relatively
large scale (lock dimensions of 290 by 30 metres (951 ft
× 98 ft) on the Volga, slightly smaller on some of the
other rivers and canals) and it spans many thousands of kilometers. A
number of formerly state-run, now mostly privatized, companies operate
passenger and cargo vessels on the river; Volgotanker, with over 200
petroleum tankers, is one of them.
In the later Soviet era, up to the modern times, grain and oil have
been among the largest cargo exports transported on the Volga. 
Until recently access to the Russian waterways was granted to foreign
vessels on a very limited scale. The increasing contacts between the
European Union and
Russia have led to new policies with regard to the
access to the Russian inland waterways. It is expected that vessels of
other nations will be allowed on Russian rivers soon.
View of the river and
Volgograd from space.
Volga river delta, Terra/MODIS 2010-07-17.
The Song of the Volga Boatmen
List of rivers of Russia
^ a b c d e f g Scheffel, Richard L.; Wernet, Susan J., eds. (1980).
Natural Wonders of the World. United States of America: Reader's
Digest Association, Inc. p. 406. ISBN 0-89577-087-3.
^ Volga at GEOnet Names Server
^ See Max Vasmer's dictionary under "Волга".
^ J.P. Mallory & D.Q. Adams, Encyclopedia of Indo-European
Culture, s.v. "dew" (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), 158-9.
^ Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other
Italian Languages, s.v. "rōs, rōris" (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 526-7.
^ Nourai, Ali. 2013. An Etymological Dictionary of Persian, English
and Other Indo-European Languages. Index of Words in Different
Languages Vol. 1 Vol. 1. p.130.
^ Lebedynsky, Iaroslav. Les Sarmates : Amazones et lanciers
cuirassés entre Oural et Danube. Paris: Editions Errance, 2002.
^ "The Volga" (
Microsoft FrontPage 12.0). www.volgawriter.com.
^ "In all, Soviet dams flooded 2,600 villages and 165 cities, almost
78,000 sq. km. – the area of Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts,
and New Jersey combined – including nearly 31,000 sq. km. of
agricultural land and 31,000 sq. km. of forestland". Quoted from:
Paul R. Josephson. Industrialized Nature: Brute Force Technology and
the Transformation of the Natural World. Island Press, 2002.
ISBN 1-55963-777-3. Page 31.
^ Brian Pearce, Introduction to
Fyodor Raskolnikov s "Tales of
^ "::The Battle of Stalingrad::". Historylearningsite.co.uk. Retrieved
^ Korotenko, K. A.; Mamedov, R. M.; Mooers, C. N. K. (2000).
"Prediction of the Dispersal of Oil Transport in the Caspian Sea
Resulting from a Continuous Release". Spill Science & Technology
Bulletin. 6 (5–6): 323. doi:10.1016/S1353-2561(01)00050-0.
^ "NoorderSoft Waterways Database". Noordersoft.com. Archived from the
original on November 9, 2005. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Volga.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Volga Delta from Space
Photos of the Volga coasts
Geographic data related to Volga
River at OpenStreetMap
Video about the source of the Volga