The Volga is the longest river in Europe. It belongs to the closed basin of the Caspian Sea. Rising in the Valdai Hills 225 meters (738 ft) above sea level . Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, is located there.
The Volga has many tributaries, most importantly the Kama, the Oka, the Vetluga, and the Sura rivers. The Volga and its tributaries form the Volga river system, which drains an area of about 1.35 million square kilometres in the most heavily populated part of Russia. The Volga Delta has a length of about 160 kilometres and includes as many as 500 channels and smaller rivers. The largest estuary in Europe, it is the only place in Russia where pelicans, flamingoes, and lotuses may be found. The Volga freezes for most of its length during three months of each year.
The Volga drains most of Western Russia. Its many large reservoirs provide irrigation and hydroelectric power. Waterways connecting Moscow to the White Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. High levels of chemical pollution currently give cause for environmental concern.
The fertile river valley provides large quantities of wheat, and also has many mineral riches. A substantial petroleum industry centres on the Volga valley. Other minerals include natural gas, salt, and potash. The Volga Delta and the nearby Caspian Sea offer superb fishing grounds. Astrakhan, at the delta, is the centre of the caviar industry.