The Volga River enters the northernmost tip of the Caspian Sea, its delta system comprising of hundreds of narrow channels which lie 28 metres below sea level. This connection to the Caspian has, over the centuries, proved one of Russia’s most significant and influential trade links, affording passage to the instrumental east-west trade route of the Great Silk Road.
For centuries, Russia’s leaders, both imperial and communist, have sought to exploit the passage of the Volga. This has led to the creation of a vast network of canals which link the river and its tributaries to other Russian waterways, including the Neva River, which flows from Lake Ladoga to Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland, and the Moskva River, which cuts through the heart of the Russian capital. Such links have made the Volga Delta one of the most well-connected river basins on Earth – facilitating simple passage from Saint Petersburg to Moscow, and on to the shores of the Caspian.
Not only is the Volga impressive in length, but also in scale. Along its route lie some of the largest lakes on the continent, the greatest of which could be described as inland seas. While some of these water bodies are natural, others are manmade, the outcome of centuries of rerouting and damming of the river’s course.
From art and music to literature and folklore, the Volga has influenced many aspects of Russian culture, mythology and tradition. Located entirely within the Russian Federation, Mother Volga is viewed as the lifeblood of the nation, and this collective love and appreciation for the river is tangible along its course.