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The Volga River (Rivers Special I)


Today is the first in a special series on rivers.  We are looking not just at the rivers, but also some of the stories of the people who live and have lived along them. I hope these stories excite curiosity not just about large river systems, but also how the flow of history connects societies.  For the first article in our series we are viewing Europe's largest river - the Volga.
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Inspiration from the Volga 
Europe's longest river (over 2,200 miles long) and the national river of Russia.  For centuries the Volga has served as the lifeblood of Europe's far east.  It has inspired masterful art pieces; such as Repin's Bargemen on the Volga and Markov-Grinberg's Old Man of the Volga, as well as one of Russian folk music's most recognizable tunes: The Song of the Volga Boatmen.  (If you've ever played Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, Soda Popinski's theme is based on the song.)

Industry and Destruction along the Volga
During Stalin's regime, numerous projects were undertaken to increase the Volga's impact on the Russian economy.  Dams and canals were built to increase the river's uses in irrigation and shipping. The projects lead to the deaths and displacement of thousands.  In terms of industrial growth, the projects achieved their goals as the Volga and its drainage system is home to over 25% of Russia's industry and agriculture. The river has also served as the caviar capital of the world; at least until over-fishing and other human activities damaged the river's ecosystem and the region's economy

Civilizations on the Volga
Many civilizations have called the Volga region home, which demonstrates the importance the river has serve both past and present.  The lower region was once a part of the Scythian Empire.  For a time the region was home to the Huns and later the Tatars (the Mongol Golden Horde) centered their empire along the river.  Some of the unique groups along the river today include the Mari people, who are one of the last remaining European groups to practice polytheism.  Another group, the Udmurts, have been called the"most red-headed people" in the world. There are many other fascinating civilizations that have lived along the Volga and tomorrow we will look at one specifically - the Volga Germans. 

NPR took a deep look into the Volga River and its importance on Russia's history and present.  The five-part series is both interesting and informative.

Remember to check out new articles everyday this week and as always - Thanks for reading!


Map Copyright: CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1122527

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