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16 January 2006

The Great Volga River Route: Historical Data
[...] The 16th century witnessed a kind of the centralization of the Russian waterways around Moscow which became an important transit point. At that time the voyage from Moscow to the Sea of Azov took over a month.
The unification of the lands around Moscow brought forth the question of the Volga. The Kazan Khanate interfered with the free sailing along this river. It held prisoners 60,000 Russians in some way connected with the river. Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan and four years later added Astrakhan to his state without battle. The whole of the Volga became Russian. This opened up the ways to the Caspian and Central Asia. Large boats (strugs), carrying over 250 tons of cargo, began to sail along the Moskva, Oka and Volga rivers. Sometimes they moved in huge caravans of 500-600 vessels. [...]

... in the 18th century the navigation developed mostly on the Volga, the country's main waterway, which in the absence of roads connected all of it. Here the ship called "rasshiva", the most advanced for its time, appeared. It was ideal for sailing along the Volga with its numerous shoals and rapids. It combined lightness with high carrying capacity and the simplicity of construction with durability. It was capable of covering 80 kilometres a day down the river. It was dragged back by barge haulers [aka 'burlaki' (pl.), 'burlak' (s.)] of which there were over 600,000 in the Volga basin. On the Oka [river] ships were dragged with the help of horses. [...]

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