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(pyĕn`zə), city (1991 est. pop. 551,000), capital of Penza region, S central European Russia, on the Sura River. It is a large railroad junction and the center of an extensive and fertile black-earth district. There are machine, engineering, paper, and food-processing industries. Founded in 1666 as a fortress, Penza was occupied by Stenka Razin in 1670, by the Tatars in 1717, and by Pugachev in 1774. Before the Bolshevik revolution, Penza was a major agricultural trading center. A hilltop city, it has since spread to the lowlands around the Sura.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city and administrative center of Penza Oblast, RSFSR. Situated on the Sura River, a tributary of the Volga. Junction of railroad lines to Kuibyshev, Kazan, Riazhsk, and Rtishchevo. Highway junction. Population, 414,000 (1974; 60,000 in 1897; 80,000 in 1923; 160,000 in 1939; 255,000 in 1959; and 374,000 in 1970). The city is divided into three raions.

Penza was founded in 1663 as an outpost on the southeastern border of the Russian state; it was attacked by Crimean Tatars and Nogais and occupied in September 1670 by S. T. Razin’s detachments. In 1719 it became the center of Penza Subprovince within Kazan Province, and in 1723 a municipal magistracy was established in Penza that existed until 1866. E. I. Pugachev’s army passed through the city in August 1774. In December 1780, Penza was made the center of a namestnichestvo (viceger-ency), which became a province in 1796. It was a district capital of Saratov Province from 1797 to 1801 and the provincial capital from 1801.

The first factories and plants sprang up in Penza in the second half of the 19th century, and by 1913 the city had 116 small industrial enterprises, with a total of more than 3,600 workers. The Syzran’-Viaz’ma railroad was laid through the city in 1874, and the Penza-Ruzaevka railroad was built in 1895. The first Marxist circles were founded by G. El’shin and N. Dobronravov in 1894, and the Penza group of the RSDLP was formed in early 1905. Soviet power was established in the city on Dec. 21, 1917 (Jan. 3, 1918). From 1928 to 1930, Penza was the administrative center of Penza Okrug in Middle Volga Krai. It has been the oblast center since Feb. 4, 1939.

In the years of socialist construction, Penza developed from a trade city into a major industrial and cultural center. It is a major machine-building center of the USSR; light industry, the food-processing industry, and the building-materials industry are also developed. The city’s industries produce more than 40 percent of the oblast’s industrial output. Machine-building factories of all-Union significance include Penzkhimmash and chemical-disinfection-equipment plants, as well as the textile-machine-building plants Penztekstil’mash and Penz-mash. The city has compressor, diesel-engine, machines for municipal service, and refrigerator plants. The production of fittings and spare parts by the plants Tiazhpromarmatura and Avtozapchast’ for various branches of the economy is important. Instrument-making is of special importance; enterprises include the Schetmash Plant and factories that produce electronic computers, high-precision electromechanical equipment, and watches. Penza produces bicycles, motorbikes, and upright pianos. The paper and woodworking industries are represented by the Maiak Revoliutsii Plant, which produces high-grade paper, and a woodworking combine. Light industry is represented by the Klara Zetkim Factory (clothes) and knitwear enterprises. Food-processing enterprises include a meat-packing combine, macaroni and confectionery factories, a flour-milling plant, and creameries. The city also has a plant for the production of pharmaceuticals.

Penza has polytechnic, civil-engineering, agricultural, and pedagogical institutes, a factory branch of an institute of higher technical education, a department of the All-Union Correspondence Finance and Economics Institute, and 13 specialized secondary schools. Scientific institutions include the All-Union Scientific Research and Design and Technological Institute of Chemical-Machine Building and a research experimental and design institute of loom building. Penza has dramatic and puppet theaters, a circus, a museum of local lore, a museum of folk arts (founded 1975), the K. A. Savitskii Picture Gallery, and a botanical garden.

V. G. Belinskii lived, studied, and began his literary career in Penza. I. N. Ul’ianov, V. I. Lenin’s father, taught here at a Gymnasium from 1855 to 1863, and there is a museum reading room named after him in the city.


Dvorianov, F. M., and O. M. Savin. Penza: Putevoditel’, 2nd ed. Penza, 1972.
Petrov, S. P. Pamiatnye mesta Penzy. Penza, 1963.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in W Russia: manufacturing centre. Pop.: 514 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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