(vŏlˈgə, Rus. vôlˈgə) [key
], river, c.2,300 mi (3,700 km) long, central and E European Russia. It is the longest river of Europe and the principal waterway of Russia, being navigable (with locks bypassing the dams) almost throughout its course. Its basin forms about one third of European Russia. The Volga has played an important part in the life of the Russian people, and it is characteristically named in Russian folklore "Mother Volga." For centuries it has served as the chief thoroughfare of Russia and as the lifeline of Russian colonization to the east. It carries one half of the total river freight of Russia and irrigates the vast steppes of the lower Volga region. Grain, building materials, salt, fish, and caviar (from the Volga delta and the Caspian Sea) are shipped upstream; lumber is the main commodity shipped downstream.
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