Rzhev (ərzhĕfˈ) [key], city (1989 est. pop. 70,000), NW European Russia, on the Volga River and on a major rail line to Moscow. It has textile plants and repair shops for railroad equipment. Rzhev, an ancient trade center, was controlled by the Smolensk principality in the 12th cent. and taken by Novgorod in 1216. During World War II it was fortified by the Germans as a major bastion on their northern defense line.