The Volga River, Russia

The Volga River

Flowing from Russia’s northwest to the Caspian Sea in the south, and measuring 3,530 m, the Volga river is the longest river in Europe. The Volga has throughout its history become an integral part of the identity of the Russian people, who affectionately call the river “Volga Matuska” or Mother Volga. Together with its tributaries, such as the Kama, Oka or Vetluga, the Volga forms the arterial network that comprises the Russian heartland, with 11 of Russia’s 20 largest cities and half of Russia’s population located around the vast Volga basin. Together with an intricate system of canals and waterways, the Volga connects the White, Baltic, Caspian and Black Seas into a vast commercial network that transports much of Russia’s inland freight.

History

Historically the Volga basin has been host to a number of civilizations, including the Golden Horde and Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan, in its early history the lower Volga region has even been speculated to be the original cradle of proto-Indo-European civilization. Following the conquest of the region in the 16th century by the Ivan the Terrible, leading the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, the Volga basin became integrated into the burgeoning Russian Empire, connecting Russian cities throughout the region and allowing trade to flourish. In its modern history the Volga-Don region played host to the bloodiest battle in the history of WWII , and of all mankind, Stalingrad (now Volgograd), with Soviet troops crossing the Don in countless waves that extracted an incalculable toll in human lives. Today this sacrifice is memorialized with the iconic “The Motherland Calls” statue, the largest statue in all of Europe.

Motherland monument in Stalingrad. February 23, May 9, Victory Day

Traveling the Volga

One of the best ways to experience the Russia’s beautiful landscapes is by boat, with a Volga river cruise being one of the more scenic ways to travel between St Petersburg and Moscow, with the added benefit of some shore excursions along the way. A tour of Moscow will generally take you to iconic sites like the Kremlin and Red Square, as well as St Basil’s Cathedral, the magnificent orthodox church famous for its bright colours and onion domes, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1990. Further up the river the city of the Russian Tsars, Saint Petersburg is another unmissable destination, with a city tour likely to visit buildings and monuments such as Peterhof Palace, Kazan Cathedral and the Winter Palace, also known as the Hermitage. It is important to note when planning a visit or Volga river cruise, that it is best to do so in the warmer months of the year, as in the coldest three months of winter much of the river will be frozen over.

View of the Peterhof Grand Palace - Russia
View of the Peterhof Grand Palace in St Petersburg, Russia

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