Volga-Don Ship Canal

Volga-Don Ship Canal


(full name, V. I. Lenin Volga Don Ship Canal) connects the Volga and Don rivers at the point where they are closest. The length of this waterway is 101 km, of which 45 km pass through rivers and reservoirs.

The problem of joining the Volga and the Don has a history that goes back many centuries. An attempt to construct a ship canal was undertaken by Peter I at the end of the 17th century. Subsequently, several more plans were developed to connect these rivers, but they were not carried out. The building of the Volga-Don Ship Canal was begun before the Great Patriotic War (1941—45), which interrupted construction work on the canal. During the years 1948-52 the Volga Don Ship Canal was completed, and it became an important link in the unified deepwater transportation system of the European USSR.

The Volga-Don Ship Canal proceeds from the Sarpa Creek of the Volga in the southern part of Volgograd through the valley of the Sarpa River, along the foothills of the Ergeni, through the watershed between the Volga and the Don. It comes out into the valley of the Chervlena River and passes through the Varvarovka and Bereslavsk reservoirs (on the Chervlena River), as well as the Karpovka Reservoir (on the Karpovka River). It joins the Don River at the city of Kalach-na-Donu, on the Tsimliansk Reservoir, which is formed by the dam of the Tsimliansk Hydroelectric Power Plant. Located on the Volga slope within a sector of 20 km are nine single-chamber, single-way locks, which raise ships 88 m; on the Don slope there are four such locks, which lower ships 44 m. The canal is fed by Don water, which is supplied to its water-distributing section by three powerful pumping stations (Karpovka, Marinovka, and Varvarovka). Part of the water is used for irrigation. The overall dimensions of the canal’s lock chambers are smaller than those of the Volga, but they allow the passage of ships with a cargo capacity of up to 5,000 tons. Such ships, however, cannot pass with full cargoes through the lower Don, where locks have not yet been built. The principal bulk cargoes shipped from the Don to the Volga are Donets coal (most unloaded from the railroad at the port of Ust’-Donets), which is delivered mainly to the cities of the Volga Region and to the Central Zone, and mineral construction materials and grain. Shipped from the Volga to the Don are timber from the Upper Volga, Kama, and Siberian regions (from Siberia this is accomplished by an unloading operation from the railroad at ports in the Kama basin), sulfur pyrite from the Urals, and petroleum products from the Volga Region. A considerable number of diesel-powered tourist ships transport passengers.

The Volga-Don Ship Canal, with the Tsimliansk hydroengineering complex of power stations, dams, canals, and the like (designed by a group of architects under the direction of L. M. Poliakov), forms a single architectural unit, the theme of which is the battle for Tsaritsyn during the Civil War and the battle for Stalingrad during the Great Patriotic War.


Bernshtein-Kogan, S. V. Volgo-Don: Istoriko-geograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1954.
Strazhevskii, A., and A. Shmelev. Leningrad-Astrakhan’-Rostov-na-Donu (guidebook). Moscow, 1968.