Penza pyĕn´zə [key], city (1991 est. pop. 551,000), capital of Penza region, S central European Russia, on the Sura River. It is a large railroad junction and the center of an extensive and fertile black-earth district. There are machine, engineering, paper, and food-processing industries. Founded in 1666 as a fortress, Penza was occupied by Stenka Razin in 1670, by the Tatars in 1717, and by Pugachev in 1774. Before the Bolshevik revolution, Penza was a major agricultural trading center. A hilltop city, it has since spread to the lowlands around the Sura.
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