Volga-Don Canal: construction history, today, locks, cost

FOUR CENTURIES AND FORTY MONTHS IN FOUR HALLS

The Volga-Don Canal stretches for 101 kilometers and includes 15 locks, as well as three pumping stations, 22 navigable canals, three dams and 17 levees. The average duration of navigation on the Volgo-Donskoy channel is 211 days. During this time passes up to 5000 ships. Traffic of vessels with carrying capacity up to 7 thousand tons is allowed. The throughput capacity of the canal is estimated at 16.5 million tons of cargo per year.

And each structure, each worker has its own history and uniqueness. Therefore, besides the main museum, which is located in Krasnoarmeisky district of Volgograd near lock #1, there is a branch in Pyatimorsk, where the two great rivers meet, and in Volzhsky, where the locks adjoin the HPP.

The VDSC history museum itself consists of four halls of historical documents, photos, dioramas, awards and personal belongings of the builders. In the history room is everything about how for four centuries people dreamed and planned to connect the Volga and the Don. Relief maps, artifacts, and even a 14th-century anchor… The hall of the history of construction is a shrine to the builders of the canal. Forty months of construction were underway. Forty months were spent on the construction of the canal. A million people were engaged, 150 million cubic meters of earth were dug and 3 million cubic meters of concrete was poured. In the operating room, you can spend hours looking at a model of the VDSC, how the ships move along the canal, how the traffic lights are lit on the way, how the locks are opened… And in the demonstration room you can watch a film about the Volgo-Don. In general, there are more than ten of them, and they are available on the museum website. There is no sense to retell what you have seen and heard in the museum, you must come here!

Volgograd, 35a Fadeeva str.

Phone: (8442) 69-57-44.

Opening hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10.00 to 16.30. Lunch from 12.00 to 13.00.

AT THE TURN OF THE FIVE SEAS

It is 70 km from Volgograd to Pyatimorsk. Here the Volga-Don Canal ends with Lock No. 13, crowned by a triumphal arch. Lace “beads” at the eaves, bas-reliefs on the walls and ceremonial banners on top – believe me, it looks no worse than the Arch in Paris. In the center of the village there is a branch of the museum of history of the Volga-Don Canal. Here, as well as in Volgograd, four halls of unique exhibits and amazing stories of the creation of the canal.

Piatimorsk. 40 B, Lenina str.

Working hours: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. Weekends: Saturday and Sunday. By prior appointment by phone 8-961-674-86-52.

The cost of adult ticket – 100 rubles, children’s ticket – 50.

ON THE WATER, AS ON STEPS

We came to the locks of the Volga river in autumn, but even a cold wind and gray sky did not spoil our impressions. There you will be offered not only an excursion to the Museum of Volgograd State Water Management University, which building, by the way, is made in the form of a romantic ship, but you will also see the gateways’ work. – Will you also take me inside? – my eyes lit up at the invitation. It turns out that recently a museum was opened in Volgograd RGSiS (locks near Volzhsky, not to be confused with the Volzhskaya HPP, these are two different objects). And now everyone is allowed to come here. They even hold excursions.

– You’re just in time – a tanker is approaching the sluice gates. You will see how it ascends to the upper level”, Anna Kuksa, engineer of the hydroscheme and keeper of the history of this facility, greeted me. My first discovery here: the difference from the Volga in the Caspian depression (where Astrakhan is located) to the level of the Volgograd reservoir is about forty meters. It is in the locks that the ships are lifted. Unlike other Volga locks, the Volgograd hydroelectric complex has two chambers. That is, the ships go through two steps up, as if on a ladder. A tanker enters the first chamber of the lock and presses against the wall. – It has to be anchored tightly behind the buoy so that the ship does not ripple when the water starts to arrive,” explains Anna.

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– You are just in time as the tanker is approaching the locks’ gates. You will see how it rises to the upper level”, the engineer of the hydrounit and keeper of the history of the object Anna Kuksa meets me. My first discovery here: the difference from the Volga in the Caspian depression (where Astrakhan is located) to the level of the Volgograd reservoir is about forty meters. It is in the locks that the ships are lifted. Unlike other Volga locks, the Volgograd hydroelectric complex has two chambers. That is, the ships go through two steps up, as if on a ladder. A tanker enters the first chamber of the lock and presses against the wall. – It always has to be tightly moored by the buoy so that the ship does not ripple when the water starts to arrive,” explains Anna. After that, the gates (one wing of which, by the way, weighs 200 tons) close the tanker in the chamber, and water begins to rush into this enormous “bath” (300 meters long and 30 meters wide). In eight minutes, the water level rises almost fourteen meters together with the ship. – Where do you think the water comes from in the chamber? – Anna jogs my memory in the course of school physics. – Apparently, from the upper chamber – on the principle of communicating vessels, – I assume. – Exactly. There are galleries under the chambers, through which the water from the upper part flows into the lower part. When the level between the lower and upper chambers is equalized, the gates open and the ship moves to the next “stage. According to the same scheme, the tanker is lifted once again – in the second chamber – to the level of the reservoir,” says an engineer of the hydroelectric facility.

Discovery two: approximately at the level of the upper chamber of the lock is the zero of the Baltic system. Further the level of the Volga has a positive value. The locks have two “strings” located parallel to each other. Between them there is an inter lock hydroelectric power plant. Electricity, which it generates, is fully enough for the needs of the hydroelectric complex. The hydroelectric power station was under construction for almost five years, since 1954. On April 17, 1959 the first vessels passed through here: “Penza”, “Kuban” and “Fourteenth”. And today the lock looks like a busy highway. Vessels come one after another. But as soon as the river is covered with ice, the waterworks will be closed for wintering. During this time the locks will be repaired and renovated for the next navigation season. All this beauty at the junction of nature and civilization is impossible to describe in words: the power of the wild Volga flow makes your knees quiver, you gasp when you walk through the multi-ton camera gates, the roar of water, the rainbow of small sprays… You have to see and feel it! Inspired, but chilled, another surprise was waiting for me – the museum. It is unique not only from the outside, but also inside. Anna is the granddaughter of Vadim Vinogradov, the famous director of the Volgo-Don Waterworks Administration. She was the one, who collected photos and things and made the chronicle of the unique building. It turned out very interesting and entertaining.

Where is Volgo-Donskoy channel on a map of Russia

Connecting the two great Russian rivers, the Volga and the Don, the Volga-Don Canal combines the qualities of a unique technical object and an attractive tourist route.

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The history of the creation of the Volga-Don Canal is perceived in different ways. On the one hand it is an achievement of engineering. On the other hand – thousands of victims.

In the history books of the Soviet Union wrote that St. Petersburg was built by Peter the Great on the bones of the serfs. About the Volga-Don Canal, we can say that it was built on the bones of the workers. But the cynicism of history is that people do not matter to it. People died at the construction sites of the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China and St. Peter’s Cathedral. The dead are forgotten immediately, and in the memory of mankind remained only the rulers and the structures created by their order.

History of the Volga-Don Canal from its ancient times to the present day.

The idea to connect the five seas has been floating in history for a very long time, since the time when salt was incredibly expensive, and the Byzantine merchants sold it for the price of gold to the peoples who lived in the Volga and Don Region.

Gateway #14

Ancient History

Merchant carts, wandering all over Eurasia with bales of Caspian salt, Chinese silk and Siberian furs, tried every way to facilitate their way and often complained of the creator, who did not provide for a dam between the Volga and the Don at the place of their extreme convergence. Perhaps the river overflows made the way easier for them sometimes, but in general it was very difficult. It went so far that the merchants’ guilds had to maintain two fleets – the Caspian and the Black Sea. After reaching the shores of the Caspian Sea with their goods, the merchants crossed the sea and moved further along the Volga. Then they unloaded the goods, loaded them into carts and dragged them over a hundred kilometers to the Don, where they were met by the ships of the Black Sea Fleet. We have to think that the overland road between the Volga and the Don was well-trodden and equipped for many reasons:

  1. Goods had to be delivered quickly.
  2. Robber nomadic tribes, of course, did not slumber, waiting for the arrival of merchant ships as a holiday, which means that merchants should have some outposts in case of attack.
  3. An unsettled road could have caused the deaths of slaves, servants, or horses, and merchants didn’t want any losses.

Thus, this merchant crossing can be safely called the prototype of the modern Volga-Don Canal.

Middle Ages

The Internet parable of how Sultan Selim II sent the Turks to dig a water canal between the Volga and the Don tells of the complete failure of the operation. In doing so, the Turks right into the ears of ancient Russian chroniclers profanely cussed out, stating that the entire Golden Porte would not be able to dig the canal. Most likely, there is not a word of truth in the parable, although it was replicated by Wikipedia, which, incidentally, is not in favor of the latter. Firstly, the ancient chroniclers were separated from Selim II by at least 400 years, and secondly, there are no chronicles on this subject, and therefore Wikipedia modestly silent about the source of its information.

USSR, 1952

New History

The first documented attempt to build a navigable canal between the Volga and the Don dates back to Peter I, when he sent Dutch specialists to start measuring the shortest route for the waterway. As on a sin, at that time there was a war with the Swedes, which distracted the autocrat’s attention from the digging of the canal. In the future Peter never returned to this idea, limiting himself to creation of the so-called Petrovskaya Perevozka – a well-built road, along which the goods were transported from the Volga to the banks of the Don.

Interesting! One of the projects of the Volga-Don Canal was created by Frenchman Leon Drew in collaboration with Alexander Eiffel, designer of the famous Eiffel Tower.

But the idea lived on, and from time to time one or another Russian engineer submitted his project for the imperial court to create a canal. They say that they have accumulated at least 30, and they were all studied and taken into account only in the 20th century.

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In place of the Peter’s coup was created horse-railroad, and in 1862 – the railroad, which for a time solved the transport problems of cereals and Donbass coal. And since the Russian Empire by that time held a leading position in world exports of wheat, the delivery of grain by the shortest route from the Volga to the Baltic Sea (and further to England, France and Germany) was extremely important.

Kazakai, Lock No.15 of the Lenin Volga-Don Canal

Recent history

The October Revolution broke out, and V.I. Lenin proclaimed one of his main slogans: “We must not wait for nature’s mercy – it is our task to take it from nature”. Nature, of course, was not asked, and we must admit, it has suffered a lot from people during the implementation of Lenin’s proclamation.

The history of the construction of the Volga-Don Canal began in 1918, when engineer Anatoly Aksamitny developed the project. Unfortunately, Aksamitny’s name has been forgotten, and all the laurels went to Sergei Zhuk, although he took Aksamitny’s project as a basis.

In the midst of the civil war, A. Aksamitny was allocated funds to develop the project. The project was completed by the year 30, and Aksamitny began the direct work. However, Stalin’s fight against “pests” led to the arrest of the engineer. The NKVD found that “the construction of the canal undermined the economy of socialism. The curtain was lowered over the Volgo-Donskoy channel for almost twenty years. The fate of Anatoly Aksamitny and his family is still unknown. Most likely they were executed.

Beginning of the works

In 1948, the Council of Ministers approved the Volga-Don Canal construction project. The scheme included:

  1. Ship Canal.
  2. The Tsimlyansk junction.
  3. Irrigation canals.

The shortest straight line between the Volga and the Don has just under 58 km. However, it was unsuitable for canal construction because it would have required a large number of locks and a huge amount of excavation. Therefore, a more curved canal with a length of about 101 km was planned. Although the length was thus increased, construction was nevertheless simplified. There was no need for blasting, the canal passed through a number of reservoirs, and the actual excavation was to be only 56 km long. The canal itself is, in fact, a system of locks, compensating 88 meters difference in height between the Volga and the Don.

The project was headed by the hydrographer Sergey Zhuk, who was on trial for sabotage in the Aksamitny case, but avoided trial. The work began the following year.

Construction of the Volga-Don Canal route

Construction of Communism

The total number of workers involved in the construction of the Volga-Don Canal is still not exactly known. There are various numbers, but who in those troubled times really counted the people. It is known that tens of thousands of German prisoners of war worked, not less political and criminal prisoners, as well as deportees. Soldiers returning from the war, volunteers and peasants whose villages were subject to flooding worked on an equal footing with them.

The working conditions were absolutely equal for all categories, and there were no indulgences for the volunteers. And what kind of volunteerism could one speak of, if at that time there were a huge number of repressive laws. Collecting spikelets, selling things, or not going to work were grounds for arrest. Of course, neither forced laborers nor volunteers had the right to leave the workplace.

To S. Zhuk’s credit, the work was clearly organized. The drudgery, and as a consequence, the overwork and death of people were kept to a minimum. In total, during the construction, according to the recollections of the participants of the events, not more than a thousand and a half people died. It is paltry in comparison with Belomorskiy channel. The length of service was calculated for all categories of workers. The prisoners counted one year of work for two years of serving their sentence. And people worked to their hearts’ content. The prisoners received a salary on a par with the volunteers.

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The prisoners of war were not mocked. It could even be said that they had the most acceptable working conditions. One of the prisoners, Erwin Franz, who worked on the digging of the canal, later, when he retired, came from the FRG to see Volgodon. In his memoirs he wrote that he saw the barracks where the German prisoners had lived. He was most struck by the fact that people still lived in the barracks, even though he thought the barracks were totally unsuitable for people.

Construction of a pumping station

Mechanization

Machinery headed by the symbol of the Volga-Don Canal – a walking excavator, designed and manufactured at Uralmash came to help people. There was a catastrophic lack of equipment. During the construction, a total of 174 million cubic meters of soil and stones were excavated and moved. And from them only 3-4 million with the help of excavators.

Scheme of flooded villages

The fate of people and villages

The construction zone took over huge territories. 1,400 farmsteads and settlements were flooded or evicted. In 1949 an order was given to relocate the people living in the areas to be flooded. Their houses, buildings, cemeteries and all kinds of vegetation were to be destroyed or relocated. It was ordered to leave “a completely clean bottom. People were moved to uninhabited territories, often without any water supply. At first they had to live in dugouts or mud huts.

Since Comrade Stalin was planning a visit to the great construction site, the farmstead of Tsimlyansky was erected in a hurry. The peasants were obliged to plant fruit trees, furnish alleys and build a house with an observation deck and rotundas as soon as possible. The idea is that with this platform Stalin was to review the scope of construction. The house was built, but Stalin did not come.

The meeting of two rivers, the Volga and the Don.

Launch

In September 1951, the Don was closed and the filling of the Tsimlyanskoye water reservoir began, and 7 months later the Volga and the Don were connected.

At 12:40 p.m. on May 31, 1952 the Don water reached the gates of the second sluice. At 1:35 p.m. the gates were opened, and at the same time the cofferdam of the first lock was removed. The waters of the Volga and the Don rushed toward each other.

Ceremonial opening of the canal was a few days earlier, since the act of completion was signed.

Interesting! It is considered that it was the ship “I. Stalin” that was the first to ply the Volga-Don water. It belongs to the Soviet mythology. In fact “Stalin” had already fired up all its furnaces to start sailing, when an unforeseen situation occurred. The writer Boris Polevoy, who was on board, accidentally started a fire in his cabin. The fire quickly spread, consuming half of the ship. The ship had to be launched. Kirov”. Of course, the leader of all nations was not informed about the incident, reporting that the ship with his name on it sailed successfully. So the lie became the truth.

 The Joseph Stalin steamship enters the Volga-Don Canal

 The steamship Josef Stalin enters the Volga-Don Canal from another perspective

The Volga-Don Canal today

The importance of the Volga-Don Canal is hard to overestimate. While many of the great construction sites of communism are slowly becoming overgrown with feather grass and burdock, the canal continues to operate at full capacity, providing a cheap and efficient transportation and tourism system.

The Volgodon has long compensated the country and the people for the gigantic sacrifices made in its construction. By flooding vast areas of fertile land, the canal brought water to previously arid areas, making them fertile. The Volgodon irrigation canals are still in operation today.

The size of the canal is impressive. Its length is 101 km, its depth reaches 3.5 m, the number of locks is 13. The infrastructure of the Volgodon includes three reservoirs – Varvarinskoye, Berezlavskoye and Karpovskoye. On both sides of the canal are workers’ settlements, where the waterway service personnel live.

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Man-made attractions

On the canal there are a fairly large number of cruise ships. Tourists are offered fascinating tours along the routes passing through the Volga-Don Canal:

  1. From Moscow to the Caspian, Black and Azov Seas.
  2. Volga-Baltic cruises.

Along the way, tourists have the opportunity to see all the sights of Volgodonsk.

Sarepta Lighthouse

Installed in 1953 designed by architect R. Yakubov. The lighthouse is equipped with all the pomp of the Stalinist era. The lighthouse is decorated with rostra – cast-iron copies of the bows of ancient ships and is a very majestic sight.

Lenin Monument

In 1952, during the opening ceremony of the Volga-Don Canal, the world saw a monument to Stalin. In accordance with the directive of the CPSU to denounce the Stalinist cult of personality, the monument was torn down, but the pedestal remained. Since nature does not tolerate emptiness, a new monument soon appeared on the pedestal. This time it was Lenin. This monument has been preserved to this day. The height of the leader together with the pedestal is 27 meters and is second in size only to the Brazilian monument of Christ the Savior.

The first gateway

Another creation of the Stalinist era is the triumphal arch of the first gateway, made on the classic model of ancient Roman triumphal arches. Only instead of the defeated Gauls, Dacians and Germans, the arch is decorated with Soviet attributes in the form of banners, sickle and hammer. The height of the arch is 40 meters. You can get to the lock from Volgograd railway station by bus to Yubileiny. Stop – the Canal them. Lenin Canal.

Tsimlyanskoe Reservoir

The reservoir, under which buried the ancient Khazar fortress Sarkel, built in the middle of the 1st millennium BC. It was excavated by workers while digging a pit during construction of Volgodon. Urgent archeologists tried to salvage what could be salvaged. The salvaged objects are now stored in the Hermitage. The 3-meter walls of the fortress themselves were flooded by the waters of the Tsimlyanskoye Reservoir.

Also Tsimlyanskoye water reservoir is a paradise for fishermen. They come to the reservoir in thousands to fish in abundance pike, carp, roach and pikeperch.

Volgodonsk Information Center

A kind of museum, where on weekdays from 8:00 to 17:00 guided tours and lectures on nuclear topics are held for tourists.

Volgodonsk Museum of Folk Culture History

The museum introduces tourists to the history, architecture and trades of the Don Cossacks. The expositions are very extensive and really interesting. As exhibits, authentic items of everyday life and culture of a century ago – carpets, weaving looms, spinners, weapons and many other things are on display.

Volgodonsk Museum of Ecology and History

The museum is very large and consists of 12 halls, each of which has a separate exhibition. The museum holds more than 70000 exhibits – ancient icons, weapons, rare books. One of the peculiarities of the museum is its excursions. You can go fishing or take a boat trip as part of the excursions.

Lock number 13

Located near the village of Pyatimorsk, Volgograd district, between Karpovsky and Tsimlyansky reservoirs. The second of the locks of Volgodon, decorated with a triumphal arch. The arch is a twin arch of the first gateway and thus completes a single architectural solution.

In addition there is a monument “Joining Fronts” near lock 13.

The Volgo-Donskoy channel has few sights. And it is not created to attract tourists, for a long time it remains a secure facility. However, like any truly great structure, the canal easily serves many functions, including tourism.

In addition, it still raises in the Russian soul the eternal question of Dostoyevsky – is it possible to complete harmony, if at least one tortured baby at its core.

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