The Volga River is the longest river in Europe.
The river is 3,692 kilometers (2,294 miles) long and is located entirely in Russia.
It is also Europe’s largest river in terms of discharge and watershed.
The average flow rate of the Volga River is 8,060 cubic meters (284,636 cubic feet) per second.
The Volga river drains most of the western region of Russia.
Its basin area or watershed is 752,443 square kilometers (532,821 square miles), stretching from the Valdai Hills and Central Russian Upland in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east and narrowing sharply at Saratov in the south.
From its source in the Valdai Hills north east of Moscow the river flows east and south east to the Caspian Sea.
The river drops slowly and majestically from its source 225 meters (738 feet) above sea level to its mouth 28 meters (92 feet) below sea level.
The course of the Volga is divided into three parts: the upper Volga (from its source to the confluence of the Oka), the middle Volga (from the confluence of the Oka to that of the Kama), and the lower Volga (from the confluence of the Kama to the mouth of the Volga itself).
The Volga has more than 200 tributaries, most importantly the rivers Kama, the Oka, the Vetluga, and the Sura.
Nearly 40% of the Russian population lives near the Volga River basin, and half of the country’s farmers practice agriculture along this river. A large number of industries are also based on the banks of this river.
Major cities that the Volga passes through include Astrakhan, Volgograd, Saratov, Samara, Ulyanovsk, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavi, and Tver.
Many Orthodox shrines and monasteries are located along the banks of the Volga.
Some of the largest reservoirs in the world can be found along the Volga. Its many large reservoirs provide irrigation and hydroelectric power.
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 potash.
The Volga Delta has a length of about 160 kilometers (99 miles) and includes as many as 500 channels
and smaller rivers.
The Volga offer some superb fishing grounds. There are 127 fish species in the river including several kinds of sturgeons, Volga lampreys, Crucian carp, sazan, vobla, pike, perch, catfish and whitefish. The largest sturgeon on record was a Beluga female captured in the Volga estuary in 1827, weighing 1,571 kg (3,463 lb) and 7.2 m (24 ft) long.
Astrakhan, at the Volga Delta, is the center of the caviar industry.
The Volga 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.
The Volga freezes for most of its length for three months each year.
The river is referred to as Mother Volga by Russians, who also believe this river is the life blood of the country.
The word “Volga” is derived from early Slavic language roots meaning “wetness” or “moisture.”
The Volga River’s shoreline has been home to many different ethnic groups, including the Scythians, Huns and Turks in the first millennium A.D.
Subsequently, the river basin played an important role in the movements of peoples from Asia to Europe.
The river served as an important trade route connecting Scandinavia, Rus’, and Volga Bulgaria with Khazaria and Persia.
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.
In the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Russians managed to claim their control over most parts of the Volga River Basin.
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, 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.
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 Mologa was flooded for the purpose of constructing the Rybinsk Reservoir (then the largest artificial lake in the world).
The Volga’s immense economic, cultural, and historic importance — along with the sheer size of the river and its basin — ranks it among the world’s great rivers.
Today, pollution is the main threat for this river.