Volga Economic Region

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Volga Economic Region


one of the major economic regions of the USSR, including the Tatar, Bashkir, and Kalmyk ASSR’s and Ul’ianovsk, Penza, Kuibyshev, Saratov, Volgograd, and Astrakhan oblasts. Area, 680,000 sq km.

The Volga Economic Region had a population of 18.8 million at the beginning of 1974. The mean density is 27.7 persons per sq km. The central part is the most densely populated (Kuibyshev Oblast, 55.1 persons per sq km), and the south is the most sparsely populated (Kalmyk ASSR, 3.5 persons per sq km). Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and Jews live throughout the region. Tatars, Bashkirs, Chuvash, Mordovians, Mari, and Udmurts live chiefly in the north but also in the central part. Kalmyks and Kazakhs inhabit the south. Some 62 percent of the population lives in urban areas.

Industrial development has been accompanied by the rapid growth of cities. Of the region’s 101 cities, 63 have been founded since the Great October Socialist Revolution. The nine largest cities are Kuibyshev, Kazan, Volgograd, Ufa, Saratov, Astrakhan, Penza, Ul’ianovsk, and Tol’iatti.

Occupying the middle and lower parts of the Volga-Kama basin, the Volga Economic Region includes the Volga Upland in the west, part of the Southern Urals in the east, and the Caspian Lowland in the south. The Volga is the heart of the region, which lies in forest, forest-steppe, steppe, and semidesert zones. The climate is continental, with long, hot summers, frequent severe droughts, and hard winters with a variable snow cover in the south. Of the region’s diverse resources, those of national significance are the farmlands and the commercial reserves of oil, natural gas, common salt, native sulfur, carbonate raw materials for the chemical and cement industries and complex copper pyrite ores.

In terms of its natural history and economy, the Volga Economic Region is heterogeneous. It may be divided into two distinct parts: the Middle Volga Region, comprising the Tatar and Bashkir ASSR’s and Ul’ianovsk, Penza, and Kuibyshev oblasts, and the Lower Volga Region, including Saratov, Volgograd, and Astrakhan oblasts and the Kalmyk ASSR. The region accounts for 3 percent of the USSR’s territory, 7.5 percent of its population, 8.6 percent of its industry (1973), and 8-9 percent (depending on weather conditions) of its agricultural output.

Of national significance are the extraction and refining of petroleum, electric-power production, petrochemistry, and diverse machine building, particularly motor-vehicle construction. The rapid development of these branches of the economy accounts for the higher growth rate of the region’s industry. Between 1960 and 1973 the share of electric power production, machine building, chemistry, and petrochemistry in the region’s gross industrial output rose from 30 to 47 percent. In 1973 the Volga Economic Region produced 10 percent of the electricity generated in the USSR (including 16 percent of the hydroelectric power), 62 percent of the country’s polyethylene, 44 percent of its soda ash, 19 percent of its chemical fibers, 49 percent of its oil equipment, and 11 percent of its cement. The region also accounted for a significant share of the country’s primary oil refining and output of synthetic rubber, polyvinyl chlorides, copolymers, bearings, and tractors.

Of great significance for the nation was the discovery in the early 1930’s of the very rich oil deposits located fo the most part in the Tatar and Bashkir ASSR’s and Kuibyshev Oblast. The deposits at Romashkino, Tuimazy, Shkapovo, Bavleny, Mu-khanovo, Kuleshovo and Arlanovo as well as other deposits in the Volga-Ural Oil-Gas Region, were rapidly developed between 1945 and 1960. Petroleum production rose from 2.4 million tons in 1945 and 10.5 million tons in 1950 to 101 million tons in 1960 and 188 million tons in 1973. With the development of oil production in other parts of the country, particularly in Western Siberia, the Volga Economic Region’s share in national production declined from 66 to 44 percent between 1965 and 1973. However, in terms of absolute output, the region still holds first place. The region’s share of the output of natural gas, whose production has declined, has dropped from 17 to 6 percent. The mining of coal (Bashkir ASSR) and oil shales (Kuibyshev Oblast) is of local significance. Part of the oil is refined locally (Ufa, Salavat, Ishimbai, Kuibyshev, Novokuibyshevsk, Syzran’, Saratov, and Volgograd), and most of the rest is sent westward.

The building of large hydroelectric power plants on the Volga and Kama with a total capacity of 7,300 megawatts (MW) has made iit possible to regulate the flow of the rivers and create a unified deep-water system. It has contributed to the creation of a unified power grid in the Europesn USSR, has provided cheap electric power to the power-short adjacent regions and to the Volga Economic Region itself, and has established the preconditions of irrigating enormous tracts of land in the arid Lower Volga Region. The V. I. Lenin Volga Hydroelectric Power Plant, the Twenty-second Congress of the CPSU Volga Hydroelectric Power Plant, and the Saratov Hydroelectric Power Plant are currently in operation, and the Nizhniaia Kama Hydroelectric Power Plant (1,248 MW) is under construction at Naberezhnye Chelny. The large Zai state regional electric power plant has been built in the Tatar ASSR, and the Karmanovo state regional electric power plant in the Bashkir ASSR is being expanded to 3,400 MW. There are huge heat and electric power plants in Tol’iatti. Novokuibyshevsk, Sterlitamak, Nizhnekamsk, Ufa, Volgograd, and Volzhskii, and another one is being built at Naberezhnye Chelny. In 1965 one of the first nuclear power plants in the USSR went into operation at Dimitrovgrad.

The chemical and petrochemical industry, contributing 11 percent of the region’s industrial output, makes use of the area’s rich local raw materials, particularly the hydrocarbon raw materials and salt, its water resources, and its extensive electric-power and fuel base. The chemical and petrochemical centers are Kazan, Kuibyshev, Ufa, Saratov, Volgograd, Syzran’, Novokuibyshevsk, Tol’iatti, Salavat, Sterlitamak, Balakovo, En-gel’s, Nizhnekamsk, and Volzhskii.

The various sectors of machine building, particular motor-vehicle construction, have been developing at a rapid pace. The growing automotive industry has required ever larger metal deliveries and cooperation with many related enterprises in other parts of the country and in the COMECON countries. In 1972 the Volga Automobile Works was operatieg at full capacity. A huge heavy-truck plant (KamAZ) is being built at Naberezhnye Chelnys, and a dump truck plant is under construction at Neftekamsk. The Ul’ianovsk Automobile Plant is being expanded and reconstructed, and the output of engines is increasing at the Ufa Motor Plant.

A large number of auxilliary enterprises are being built. The major ones are a generator and starter plant in Tol’iatti, the Avtonormal’ Plant in Belebei (Bashkir ASSR), a plant producing car-borne equipment in Dimitrovgrad, a tire plant in Nizh-ekamsk, a wheel plant in Zainsk, and an industrial rubber products plant in Balakovo. The largest bearing plants are in Kuibyshev, Saratov, and Volzhskii. Also manufactured are metal-cutting machines, automatic instruments and equipment, oil equipment, chemical equiment and spare parts, power transformers (the electrical engineering plant in Tol’iatti), and tractors (Volgograd).

Agriculture is oriented toward the growing of grain and oil crops and livestock raising for meat and wool. Of the region’s 47.9 million hectares (ha) or arable land (70 percent of the total area), 29.7 million ha were occupied by plowed land and 15.3 million ha by pastures as of November 1973. Some two-thirds of the plowed land was sown to cereals. Between 1966 and 1970 the region accounted for 12–22 percent of the state grain purchases in the USSR, including 10–18 percent of the wheat purchases. At the beginning of 1974 livestock numbered 9.6 million head of cattle and 17.7 million sheep and goats (9.0 and 11.9 percent, respectively, of the country’s total number).

As of November 1973 the region had 613,000 ha of irrigated land. The Kuibyshev and Saratov irrigation canals and the Volga-Ural Irrigation and Water-Supply Canal are under constructin. Work is under way to develop the Volga-Akhtuba Floodplain as a national base for vegetable raising, rice growing, and melon cultivation. In 1974 construction was completed on a water divider for regulating flooding in the Volga Delta. A series of measures are being carried out in the Volga Economic Region to protect the Volga-Kama basin against pollution by untreated waste water, to replenish the fish resources of the Volga and Caspian Sea and to control the level of the Caspian.

The extensive Volga-Kama system of waterways is highly important for shaping the region’s economy and for its territorial organization, particularly for developing the transportation network. The region accounts for approximately one-quarter of the cargo turnover of the nation’s river transport. The railroad system consists of five main east-west routes (through Kazan, Bu-gul’ma, Kuibyshev, Saratov, and Astrakhan) linked by the Sviiazhsk-Volgograd north-south trunk line, which extends as far as the Northern Caucasus and has numerous branches and connections. In 1973 the Volga Economic Region had 9,400 km of railroad tracks.

The region’s rapidly developing oil pipeline system extends westward beyond the frontiers of the country (the Druzhba Oil Pipeline, about 5,000 km long), eastward as far as Baikal with the possibility of an extension to the Pacific Ocean, northwestward to Kirishi, and southward to Mangyshlak (Uzen’). The completion in 1973 of the first stage (2,200 km) of the oil pipeline from Western Siberia, connecting Samotlor, Tyumen’, Kurgan, Ufa, and Al’met’evsk, provided an outlet for the rapidly increasing flow of Siberian oil to the European USSR. The large system of gas pipelines between Soviet Middle Asia and the Central Zone crosses the region, which accounts for one-fifth of the nation’s pipeline network. In 1973 the region had 29,800 km of paved roads.

The region’s transportation network handles the growing transit shipments between the western and eastern parts of the country. The outbound shipments include oil and oil refining products, grain, building materials, including cement, and diverse products of the chemical industry and machine building. Most of the incoming shipments bring ferrous and nonferrous metals, lumber and coal. Outbound shipments exceed incoming cargo, and shipments to other parts of the country predominate over shipments within the economic region.

The national specialization of the Volga Economic Region is best reflected in the Middle Volga Region, which produces and refines 90 percent of the economic region’s petroleum and has most of the manufacturing industries, particularly machine building. Here are found the automotive plants and their auxiliary enterprises. In contrast, the Lower Volga Region produces more than 80 percent of the economic region’s natural gas. Its industrial-agricultural cycle is based on the irrigation of the arid Trans-Volga Region and the economic development of the Volga-Akhtuba Floodplain. The Lower Volga Region is also noted for its fishing industry.


Povolzh’e: Ekonomiko-geographicheskaia kharakteristika. Moscow, 1957.
Dolgopolov, K. V., and E. F. Fedorova. Povolzh’e: Ekonomiko-geografi-cheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1967.
RossiiskaiaFederatsiia. EwopeiskiiIugo-Vostok. Povolzh’e. SevernyiKavkaz. Moscow, 1968. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
Problemy razvitüa i razmeshcheniiaproizvoditel’nykh sil Povolzh ‘ia. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Kazan is one of the major economic, political, scientific, cultural, tourist and sports centres in Russia and the second largest city of the Volga economic region. It is also the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan.