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The Volga The Volga is the longest river in Europe. It belongs to the cloced basin of the Casian Sea. Rising in the Valdai Hills 225 meters (738 ft) above sea level northwest of Moscow and about 320 kilometers (200 mi) southeast of Saint Petersburg, the Volga heads east past Lake Sterzh, Tver Dubna, Rybinsk, Yaroslavl,Nizhnu Novgorod, and Kazan. From there it turns south, flows past Ulyanovsk,Tolyatti, Samara,Saratov and Volgograd, and discharges into the Caspian Sea below Astrakhan at 28 meters (92 ft) below sea level. At its most strategic point, it bends toward the Don ("the big bend"). Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, is located there. The Saratov Bridge, running across the Volga, used to be the longest in Europe 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 flows through an area of about 1.35 million square kilometers in the most heavily populated part of Russia. The Volga Delta has a length of about 160 kilometers and includes as many as 500 channels and smaller rivers. The largest estuaru in Europe, it is the only place in Russia where pelicans, flamingos, and lotuses may be found. The Volga freezes for most of its length for three months each year. The Volga drains most of Western Russia. Its many large reservoirs provide irrigation and hydroelectric power. The Moscow Canal, the Volgs-Don Canal, and the Volga-BalticWaterway form navigable 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 have adversely affected the river and its habitats. The fertile river valley provides large quantities of wheat, and also has many mineral riches. A substantial petroleum industry centers on the Volga valley. Other resources include natural gas, salt, and potash. The Volga Delta and the nearby Caspian Sea offer superb fishing grounds. Astrakhan, at the delta, is the center of the caviar industry.