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Volkhov ( ) is a river in Novgorod Oblast and Leningrad Oblastmarker in northwestern Russiamarker.


The Volkhov flows out of Lake Ilmenmarker north into Lake Ladogamarker, the largest lake of Europe. It is the second largest tributary of Lake Ladoga. It is navigable over its whole length. Discharge is highly variable depending primarily on the level of Lake Ilmen. The Volkhov is reported to reverse the direction of its flow in its upper section in exceptional circumstances. The river freezes up in late November, and breaks up in early April.

The level of water is regulated by the dam of the Volkhov hydroelectric plantmarker (the first Sovietmarker regional hydroelectric dam opened on December 19, 1926 in the framework of the GOELRO plan) situated 25 km upstream from the mouth of the river. Apart from hydroelectric generating purposes, the dam serves to facilitate navigation in the lower part of the river previously known for its rapids.

The upstream part of the Volkhov is connected to the Msta River by the Siversov Canal bypassing Lake Ilmen. The downstream part is connected with the Neva, the Syas River, and the Svir River by the New Ladoga Canal bypassing Lake Ladoga.

Main tributaries are: Vishera (right), joins the Maly Volkhovets armlet; Kerest (left); Oskuya (right); Pchezhva (right); Tigoda (left); Chyornaya (right); Vloya (left); Olomna (left)


Despite its relatively small size, Volkhov has played a large role in Russian history and economy. In recognition of that, a figure representing the Volkhov appears among the allegorical monuments to the four major rivers of Russia on the rostral columns in the ensemble of the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columnsmarker.

In the mid-9th century, the Volkhov was a heavily populated trade artery of the Varangian-dominated Rus' Khaganate. It was a vital part of the most important trade route connecting Northern Europe to the Orient, by way of the Volga (Volga trade route) and Dnieper (trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks). The ancient Russian capital Staraya Ladogamarker and one of the principal Russian medieval cities Velikiy Novgorodmarker are located along the Volkhov.

After entering the Volkhov near Gorchakovshchina and Lyubsha, commercial vessels of the Vikings cast anchor at the major trade emporium of Aldeigjamarker (Ladoga). Then they rowed upstream past a series of rapids, guarded by the fortified settlements at Novye Duboviki and Gorodishche. There was another outpost at Kholopy Gorodok, 13 km north of present-day Velikiy Novgorod, or rather Holmgard, which was founded near the point where the Volkhov flows from Lake Ilmen.

"Most of these were initially small sites, probably not much more than stations for re-fitting and resupply, providing an opportunity for exchange and the redistribution of items passing along the river and caravan routes". It seems on the whole likely that such pre-urban settlements gave the country its Norse name of Gardariki.


  1. A Comparative Study of Thirty City-state Cultures (ed. by Mogens Herman Hansen). Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 2000. Page 266.

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