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(vŏl`gə, Rus. vôl`gə), river, c.2,300 mi (3,700 km) long, central and E European Russia. It is the longest river of Europe and the principal waterway of Russia, being navigable (with locks bypassing the dams) almost throughout its course. Its basin forms about one third of European Russia. The Volga has played an important part in the life of the Russian people, and it is characteristically named in Russian folklore "Mother Volga." For centuries it has served as the chief thoroughfare of Russia and as the lifeline of Russian colonization to the east. It carries one half of the total river freight of Russia and irrigates the vast steppes of the lower Volga region. Grain, building materials, salt, fish, and caviar (from the Volga delta and the Caspian Sea) are shipped upstream; lumber is the main commodity shipped downstream.

Course and Navigation

Rising at an altitude of only 742 ft (226 m) in the Valday Hills, it winds E past Rzhev and Tver, through the Rybinsk ReservoirRybinsk Reservoir,
artificial lake, c.2,000 sq mi (5,200 sq km), NW European Russia. It was formed in 1941 between the upper Volga River and its tributaries, the Mologa and Sheksna rivers, with the completion of the dam and hydroelectric station at Rybinsk.
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, and past Shcherbakov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Nizhny Novgorod (formerly Gorky) to Kazan, where it turns south and continues its broad, majestic course past Ulyanovsk, Samara, Saratov, and Volgograd. From Volgograd (c.300 mi/480 km upstream) the Volga River flows in a course below sea level through the Caspian lowland. The Volga enters the Caspian Sea through a wide delta below Astrakhan.

The Volga's chief tributaries are the Oka, Sura, Vetluga, Kama, and Samara rivers. The chief ports are Tver, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Samara, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Saratov, Yaroslavl, and Rybinsk. The Volga-Baltic WaterwayVolga-Baltic Waterway,
canal and river system, c.685 mi (1,100 km) long, N European Russia. It links the Volga River and the St. Petersburg industrial area. It consists of the Moscow-Volga Canal, the Volga River, the Rybinsk Reservoir, the Mariinsk system (composed of the
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 links the Volga with the Baltic Sea and with the Baltic–White Sea Canal; the Volga-Don Canal links the Volga with the Azov and Black Seas; the Moscow Canal connects it directly with Moscow.

In its upper course the Volga traverses numerous lakes. Below Nizhny Novgorod it broadens considerably and is lined on its right (western) bank by the bluffs of the Volga Hills, which contrast sharply with the steppe that extends from the left bank. The Zhiguli Mts. cause the river to make a sharp bend (the Samara Bend), which reaches its easternmost point at Samara. The Volga is navigable from late April to late November at Shcherbakov and from early March to mid-December at Astrakhan. A tranquil, regular stream, it has a flood stage in May and June and a low-water stage in the late summer, when shoals and sandbars impede navigation.

Dams and Hydroelectric Stations

Numerous dams and reservoirs have been constructed in the Volga basin for flood control, improved navigation, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. There are many important hydroelectric stations, notably at Uglich, at Shcherbakov, and at Ivankovo, all along the upper Volga. At Ivankovo, NW of Moscow, a dam creates the vast Volga Reservoir or Moscow Sea, covering an area of c.125 sq mi (320 sq km); this is connected with the Moskva River by the Moscow Canal. Large hydroelectric stations have been built at Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Kama, Volgograd, and Votkinsk.


The Volga was known to the ancient Greeks as the Rha, but little was known about the river until the early Middle Ages, when Slavic tribes settled along its upper course, the Bulgars (see Bulgars, EasternBulgars, Eastern
, Turkic-speaking people, who possessed a powerful state (10th–14th cent.) at the confluence of the Volga and the Kama, E European Russia. The Bulgars appeared on the Middle Volga by the 8th cent. and became known as the Eastern, Volga, or Kama Bulgars.
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) along its middle course, and the KhazarsKhazars
, ancient Turkic people who appeared in Transcaucasia in the 2d cent. A.D. and subsequently settled in the lower Volga region. They emerged as a force in the 7th cent. and rose to great power. The Khazar empire extended (8th–10th cent.
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 in the south. Its importance as a trade route dates from that time. The Russians soon extended their control as far as Nizhny Novgorod, founded in 1221. The Mongol invasion of the 13th cent. resulted in the direct control by the Golden HordeGolden Horde, Empire of the,
Mongol state comprising most of Russia, given as an appanage to Jenghiz Khan's oldest son, Juchi, and actually conquered and founded in the mid-13th cent. by Juchi's son, Batu Khan, after the Mongol or Tatar (see Tatars) conquest of Russia.
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 of the Volga below Nizhny Novgorod and in the creation (15th cent.) of the Tatar khanates of KazanKazan
, city (1989 est. pop. 1,094,000), capital of Tatarstan, E European Russia, on the Volga. It is a major historic, cultural, industrial, and commercial center. Manufactures include chemicals, explosives, electrical equipment, building materials, consumer goods, and furs.
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 and AstrakhanAstrakhan
, city (1990 pop. 521,000), capital of Astrakhan region, SE European Russia. A Caspian Sea port on the Volga River's southern delta, it is a center for river transport thanks to a canal built for barge traffic. Russia's Caspian flotilla is based at the port.
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, which fell to Moscow only in the 16th cent. Sarai, on the Volga River near modern Volgograd, was the capital of the empire of the Golden Horde. The conquest of these territories was largely the work of the Cossacks, who used the Volga and its tributaries for their epic forays into Siberia (under Yermak in the 16th cent.) and into the Caspian Sea (under Stenka Razin, in the 17th cent.). Many of the Finnic and Turko-Tatar nationalities still live in the middle and lower Volga regions, notably in the Chuvash, Mari El, Mordovian, Tatar, and Udmurt republics. The Kalmyrs settled in the lower Volga region in the early 17th cent. The lower Volga was the center of the great peasant rebellions under Stenka Razin and Pugachev. After their suppression Catherine II settled many German colonists in the region around Saratov.



an urban-type settlement in Nekouz Raion, Yaroslavl Oblast, RSFSR, on the left bank of the Volga. Railroad station 25 km southwest of Rybinsk. Population, 5,600 (1968). Volga has a wool-spinning mill and a textiles technicum.



(the Rha in antiquity, Itel or Atel in the Middle Ages), a river in the European USSR, one of the longest rivers in the world and the longest in Europe. The Volga is 3,530 km long (before construction of dams, 3,690 km), and its basin area is 1,360,000 km2.

Physical-geographical sketch. The Volga originates in the Valdai Hills 228 m above sea level and flows into the Caspian Sea; the mouth lies 28 m below sea level. Approximately 200 tributaries flow into the Volga. The left tributaries are more numerous and deeper than the right. The river system of the basin includes 151,000 waterways (rivers, streams, and temporary waterways) with a combined length of 574,000 km. The basin itself occupies approximately one-third of the European USSR, stretching from the Valdai and Central Russian hills on the west to the Ural Mountains on the east. At the latitude of Saratov the basin becomes very dry, and the river flows from Kamyshin to the Caspian Sea without any tributaries. The main, feed section of the Volga’s drainage area, from the sources to the cities of Gorky and Kazan’, is located in the forest zone; the center of the basin up to Kuibyshev and Saratov are in the forest-steppe zone; the lower part is in the steppe region up to Volgograd; and the southernmost part is in the semidesert zone. The Volga is usually divided into three parts—the upper, from the source to the mouth of the Oka; the middle, from the confluence of the Oka to the mouth of the Kama; and the lower, from the confluence of the Kama to the mouth.

The source of the Volga is a spring in the village of Volgo-Verkhov’e in Kalinin Oblast. In its upper reaches, the Valdai Hills, the Volga passes through small lakes—Verkhit, Sterzh, Vselug, Peno, and Volgo. At the outflow of Lake Volgo there was a dam built as early as 1843 (Verkhnevolzhskii Beishlot) to regulate the water flow and to maintain navigable depths during low water.

Between Kalinin and Rybinsk the Volga reservoir (the so-called Moscow Sea) was created, with a dam and hydro-electric power station at Ivan’kov; also on the river are the Uglich reservoir (power station at Uglich) and the Rybinsk reservoir (power station at Rybinsk). In the region of Rybinsk-Iaroslavl’ and below Kostroma the river flows through a narrow valley between steep shores, bisecting the Uglich Danilov and Galich-Chukhlom Hills. Further on the Volga flows along the Unzha and Balakhnin plains. At Gorodets, above Gorky, the Volga is blocked off by the dam of the Gorky hydroelectric power station, forming the Gorky reservoir. The main tributaries of the upper Volga are the Selizharovka, Tvertsa, Mologa, Sheksna, and Unzha.

In its middle portion, below the confluence of the Oka, the Volga becomes even deeper, flowing along the northern edge of the Volga Hills. The right bank of the river is steep, and the left bank low. In 1968 construction was begun at Cheboksar on the Cheboksar Hydroelectric Plant, above whose dam is the Cheboksar reservoir. The largest tributaries of the middle Volga are the Oka, Sura, Vetluga, and Sviiaga.

In its lower reaches, after the confluence of the Kama, the Volga becomes a mighty river. Here it flows along the Volga Hills. The dam of the V. I. Lenin Volga Hydro-electric Power Plant is constructed near Tol’iatti, above the Samar oxbow, formed by the river as it bends around the Zhiguli Hills; the Kuibyshev reservoir stretches above the dam. The dam of the Saratov hydroelectric plant is located on the river near Balakovo. The lower Volga has relatively small tributaries—the Samara, Bol’shoi Irgiz, and Eruslan. Twenty-one km above Volgograd the Akhtuba (537 km long) branches off to the left and flows parallel to the main course of the river. The broad stretch between the Volga and the Akhtuba, which is crossed by numerous channels as well as bayous, is called the Volga-Akhtuba floodplain; floods on this plain formerly reached 20-30 km. The Twenty-second Congress of the CPSU Volgograd Hydroelectric Power Plant is built on the Volga between the beginning of the Akhtuba and Volgograd.

The Volga delta, which begins where its course separates from the Buzan branch (46 km north of Astrakhan), is one of the largest in the USSR. It has up to 500 branches, channels, and small rivers. The main branches are the Bakhtemir, Kamyziak, Staraia Volga, Bolda, Buzan, and Akhtuba, of which only the Bakhtemir is navigable.

The Volga is fed mainly by snow (60 percent of the annual flow), ground waters (30 percent), and rain (10 percent). In the spring there is flooding (April-June), during summer and winter low water, and in autumn rain floods (October). The annual variation in the level of the river before its regulation reached 11 m at Kalinin, 15-17 m below the mouth of the Kama, and 3 m at Astrakhan. After construction of the reservoirs the Volga’s flow was regulated, and variations in the water level were sharply reduced.

The average annual flow of water at the Verkhnevolzhskii Beishlot is 29 m3/sec, at Kalinin 182, at laroslavl’ 1,110, at Gorky 2,970, at Kuibyshev 7,720, and at Volgograd 8,060 m3/sec. Below Volgograd the river loses about 2 percent of its flow to evaporation. Maximum water flow during the high-water season below the confluence of the Kama formerly reached 67,000 m3/sec, while at Volgograd, as a result of spreading over the floodplain, it did not exceed 52,000 m3/sec. In connection with regulation of the flow, maximum flows at high water have been sharply reduced, while the summer and winter low-water flows have been greatly increased. Over a period of several years the average water balance of the Volga basin before Volgograd has been 662 mm or 900 km3 a year of precipitation, 187 mm or 254 km3 a year of river flow, and 475 mm or 646 km3 a year of evaporation.

Before the creation of reservoirs, the Volga carried to its mouth about 25 million tons of alluvial matter and 40-50 million tons of dissolved minerals annually. The temperature of the water reaches 20-25° C in the middle of the summer (July). The ice in the river near Astrakhan breaks up in mid-March, and in the first half of April the breakup occurs on the upper Volga and below Kamyshin; the rest of the river opens up in mid-April. The upper and middle reaches of the Volga freeze at the end of November, and the lower reaches freeze at the beginning of December; the river is ice-free for about 200 days, 260 days near Astrakhan. The reservoirs have changed the temperature of the river; the duration of ice on the headwaters has been increased, but on the lower reaches it has been decreased.

Historical and economic-geographical sketch. The geographical location of the Volga and its large tributaries gave it great importance even in the eighth century as a commercial route between East and West. Fabrics and metals were brought from the East and traded for furs, wax, and mead from the Slavic lands. Centers such as Itil, Bolgar, Novgorod, Rostov, Suzdal’, and Murom played an important role in trade of the ninth-tenth centuries. Trade began to decline in the llth century; in the 13th century the Mongol Tatar invasion destroyed the economic links, except in the basin of the upper Volga, where Novgorod, Tver’, and the cities of Vladimir-Suzdal’ Rus’ played an active role. In the 14th century the importance of the trade route was renewed, and centers such as Kazan’, Nizhny Novgorod, and Astrakhan grew in importance. Ivan IV the Terrible subdued the Kazan’ and Astrakhan khanates in the middle of the 16th century; this led to the incorporation of the entire Volga river system within the embrace of Russia, facilitating the flourishing of Volga trade in the 17th century. New large cities such as Samara, Saratov, and Tsaritsyn arose, and laroslavl’, Kostroma, and Nizhny Novgorod played large roles. Large caravans of up to 500 ships sailed along the Volga. In the 18th century the main trade route shifted to the west, while the economic development of the lower Volga was checked by sparse population and the incursions of nomads. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Volga basin was the main area for the activities of rebellious peasants and Cossacks during the peasant uprisings led by S. T. Razin and E. I. Pugachev.

In the 19th century the Volga trade route grew considerably after the connection of the Mariinsk River system with the basins of the Volga and Neva (1808); a large river fleet arose (the first steamship in 1820), and a huge army of barge haulers (up to 300,000 men) began to work on the Volga. The river was used for large-scale transport of bread, salt, fish, and later petroleum and cotton. The Nizhegorod market took on great economic significance.

During the Civil War of 1918-20 there were large-scale military actions on the Volga (struggle with the White Czechs and troops of the constituent assembly governments in 1918 and with Kolchak’s and Denikin’s forces in 1919), and it acquired important military-strategic significance. During the years of socialist construction the significance of the Volga route grew in conjunction with the industrialization of the entire country. At the end of the 1930’s the Volga was first used as a source of hydroelectric power. In the period of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 the great Battle of Stalingrad took place on the Volga. In the postwar period the economic role of the Volga increased significantly, especially after the creation of a series of large reservoirs and hydroelectric power plants. After completion of the Volga Kama Cascade Hydroelectric Plant the total output of hydro-electric energy will reach 40-45 billion kvolt/hour a year. The reservoir surface area is about 38,000 km2, the full volume is 288 km3, and the useful volume is 90 km3. The left bank of the Volga, which has 4 million hectares of land suitable for irrigation, is supplied with water from the Kuibyshev and Volgograd reservoirs. Work will be carried out on the flooding of 9 million hectares and the irrigation of 1 million hectares between the Volga and Ural rivers. Construction began in 1971 on the Volga-Ural Canal, 425 km long with a water flow of about 400 m3/sec. The river system includes more than 41,000 km of floatable and about 14,000 km of navigable waterways.

The Volga is linked with the Baltic Sea by the V. I. Lenin Volga-Baltic Waterway and the Vyshnevolotsk and Tikhva systems; with the White Sea by the Sever-Dvina system and the Belomor-Baltic Canal; and with the Black Sea and Sea of Azov by the V. I. Lenin Volga-Don Canal. In the basin of the upper Volga there are large forests, and in the middle and partially in the lower Volga regions there are large areas given over to grain and industrial crops. Viticulture and horticulture are well developed. The Volga-Ural region has rich deposits of oil and gas. Near Solikamsk there are large deposits of potassium salts. In the lower Volga region (Baskunchak and El’ton lakes) there is table salt. About 70 species offish, 40 of which are commercially important (the most important include the Caspian roach, herring, bream, pike perch, sazan, sheatfish, pike, sturgeon, and sterlet) inhabit the Volga.


Sokolov, A. A. Gidrografiia SSSR (vody sushi). Leningrad, 1964.
Ginko, S. S. Pokorenie rek. Leningrad, 1965.
Strazhevskii, A., and A. Shmelev. Leningrad-Astrakhan’-Rostov na-Donu (guidebook). Moscow, 1968.
Rossiiskaia Federatsiia. Evropeiskii Iugo-Vostok. Moscow, 1968. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
Chernetsov, G. G., and N. G. Chernetsov. Puteshestvie po Volge. Moscow, 1970.




a passenger car with medium engine displacement, manufactured by the Gorky Automobile Works. Production was begun in 1956 with the GAZ-21 model. Subsequently the plant continued to modernize this model, and in 1969 it began production of the new model GAZ-24. The Volga GAZ-24 car has space for five passengers. The body is of the closed sedan type, with an all-metal supporting structure. It has a four-cycle, four-cylinder 72-kilowatt (kW) (98-hp) engine, which drives the rear wheels. Maximum speed is 145 km/hr, and fuel consumption is 11 to 13 liters per 100 km.

In comparison with the GAZ-21 model, the design changes in the new car resulted in the elimination of some servicing operations, a reduction in the amount of lubricating and adjusting work, and an increase in the service life of parts. The number of moving parts requiring adjustment and lubrication has been reduced. The car’s interior finish has been considerably improved and made more comfortable. Improved air circulation is provided by exhaust ventilation. The suspension, which ensures an extremely smooth ride, adds to the comfort of the car.

Active and passive safety features have been incorporated into the car’s construction. The active safety elements include ease of control, increased maneuverability and stability, and highly effective brakes with hydro-vacuum booster and separate front and rear wheel brake systems. Among the passive safety features are increased rigidity of the passenger compartment, semirigid elbow rests, soft interior roof lining, safe door hinges and locks, recessed interior door lock handles, and a recessed steering wheel hub.



a river in W Russia, rising in the Valdai Range and flowing through a chain of small lakes to the Rybinsk Reservoir and south to the Caspian Sea through Volgograd: the longest river in Europe. Length: 3690 km (2293 miles)
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