Mother Volga, Beloved River of Inspiration

“To know Russia is to know the Volga”
Russian proverb

“The Volga Boatmen’s Song”, performed by the Red Army Choir (courtesy of cortezawwris):

 

“Mighty with water like the sea,
And just as our motherland – free.”
“Song of the Volga”

Courtesy of kirikset:

 

Courtesy of Eagle Eye V&D Studio:

 

The river Volga is of particular interest to me as my great grandfather, Cazimir, settled in a little town on the river’s border while he was a young man just out of engineering college. When his parents’ country house burned down and there was no money to pay university fees, being very mathematically gifted, he went to an engineering college. His tutor recommended him to the head of the steelworks in the town situated on the Volga’s border. I think that the change that occurred in him when he saw ‘the pour’ is worth telling.

‘They left the building and turned into the wide entrance of the steelworks. The courtyard, littered with pieces of broken slag, bits of iron and skeins of wire, led into the hubbub of the workshop. A cacophony of noise hit them. Anton pointed to the huge, high furnace. A gaunt man, in dark glasses and protective clothing, stood several feet from the open furnace doors, stirring the red-hot liquid iron with a long rod, which was shaped like a giant ladle. “Have you noticed what the rod is made of?” shouted Anton through the noise of the huge bellows and the rhythmical beat of the hammers. Cazimir looked closer, the blackened rod was made of wood. He turned to Anton surprised. “Yes, it is wooden. A metal rod would melt in seconds!” Somewhere from behind their backs, a low train of open, metal baskets, full of ore, trundled rustily towards the side of the furnace. Each basket was raised by a special lift to the open mouth of the furnace before being emptied swiftly. Cazimir looked amazed, and Anton could not help a smile. “Wait until the pour – then you will see something to talk about.” A loud bell drowned out their voices. The founder solemnly put on a hat with a wire net, covering his face. Next, went on knee-pads, a thick hide apron and finally, long, wide gloves. Only then did he slowly drill, using an oxyacetylene flame, the opening through which the fluid mass of iron would flow.

Courtesy of Castrads:

 

The semi-darkness around them was suddenly lit up by the flash of a thousand burning stars. From the mouth of the furnace gushed a stream of flame-coloured lava, which glided swiftly through the channels and into waiting containers. The luminous glow, the heat and the sheer brilliance of the oscillating colours took Cazimir completely by surprise. He looked on, spellbound. He felt moved beyond reason and breathlessly light of heart; so much so that when the founder removed his hat and gloves, and came to greet them, Cazimir without a word, shook his hand strongly. He was led further into the workshop. There, shimmering sheets of metal flowed, with a haunting, strange whining, from the rolling-mills onto wide benches. The sound of this alien music made Cazimir come out in goose pimples, and yet he wanted to stay right here in the middle of this workshop.” This is as beautiful as any music, I didn’t know that poetry is not only in flowers and music.” He decided that the steelworks were his future.

Courtesy of triplesrock99:

 

030910-N-9954T-005
As an interesting aside, molten iron has been used for hundreds of years in Nuanquan Town in China as part of its Festival of Lights tradition, Da Shuhua, and to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year (courtesy of Great Big Story):

 

The Volga was then a vastly impressive river, as it is also today. It is the longest river in Europe situated in Russia but then it was partly in Poland. After the Russian Revolution, the part that was Polish became Russian and my great grandfather and his family had to hastily escape to Poland on a train that was driven by armed guards, who would often stop the train and demand any valuables from the passengers if they wanted to continue the journey.  In earlier years my great grandfather’s life close to the Volga was wonderful, full of weekend fishing trips together with a local man called Vasyl.

VolgaMap

RiverVolga

The length of the Volga is 3,531 km and it starts in the Valdai Hills (shown above) in central Russia and flows into the Caspian Sea. The river is regarded as a symbol of Russia and is referred to as the Mother of the Nation.

Courtesy of Вячеслав Григоренко:

 

In 1901 Chekhov took a cruise on the Volga for his honeymoon with his wife Olga Knipper. She was the actress for whom he wrote The Cherry Orchard. At that time he was already suffering from consumption and was prescribed as a cure, kumys.  It was known to all steppe nomads as fermented mare’s milk and is even mentioned in Homer’s Iliad.

ChekhovOlga

Excerpt from “In the Steppes of Central Asia” by Alexander Borodin (courtesy of Gilda Tabarez):

 

Along the Volga, there are situated several great towns and cities, among them the most important city Volgograd.

Timelapse of Volgograd (courtesy of TZRROTORFans):

 

The great city, Volgograd, previously known as Stalingrad, was built by Tsar Peter the Great in 1706.  Famous for its magnificent buildings created in marble and named a Hero City after the unsuccessful siege by Germans during the Second World War, it was a favourite place of Catherine the Great. She created the spectacular art museum, the Hermitage, full of great paintings, and other works of art.

The Hermitage was created by Catherine the Great after she bought a vast collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Emst Gotzkowsky. The anniversary of its founding is on 7th December, St. Catherine’s Day.  The Winter Palace is part of the museum. The Hermitage is the second-largest art museum in the world.

The Hermitage Cats (courtesy of Showcase):

 

HermitageMuseum2

The story behind Europe’s tallest statue, The Motherland Calls (courtesy of National Geographic):

 

The only place in Russia where pelicans, flamingos, and lotuses can be seen is the river Volga. Like most great rivers, the Volga has inspired many Russian folk songs. One of them is popular – ‘Down the River Mother Volga’ (courtesy of Nigel Fowler Sutton):

 

Others include ‘Song about Volga River’, written by Leonid Kharitonov, and the earlier introduced ‘The Song of the Volga Boatmen’ sang by the burlaks or barge-haulers.

Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

Poets were also influenced by the beauty and magnificence of Volga. The 19th-century Russian poet Nikolai Nekrasov wrote:

“I’ve changed a lot,
but you are the same,
so light, so majestic,
as you used to be.”

The poet Edna Dean Proctor in her admiration of the Volga, wrote:

“And still we kept the Volga’s tide,
The Volga rolling grey and wild,
While the gulls of the Caspian over it flew,
A flash of silver and jet in the sun.”

RiverVolgaCruise

“Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor Op. 23 2.” by Tchaikovsky, performed by Martha Argerich and Berliner Philharmoniker:

 

The great Russian poet and translator, Constantine Balmont summed up the significance of the Volga:

“Water is a mirror of beauty, ever creating in our inexhaustible Universe, and glory to that country that has found a mighty river for its face. There is no Egypt without the Nile, there is no India without the Ganges; Russia is among the greatest and most beautiful countries because it has the Volga.”

“Wolgalied” (Volga Song) performed by Andre Rieu (courtesy of Sergei Egorov):

64 thoughts on “Mother Volga, Beloved River of Inspiration

  1. Such an amazing collection of really interesting information. I was astounded by the aside of the Chinese molten iron “fireworks`”. How dangerous it seems. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve always liked “The Song of the Volga Boatmen.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Peter, for your kind comments. Watching pour one cannot be unaffected. And the River Volga is a magnificent river worth reading about.

    Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Liz, for liking a song, very kind.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re welcome, Joanna.

    Like

  6. What is it about Russian choral singing? It’s very special. This is another wonderful piece, so much enjoyed. If there was one more place I could have seen it would have been the steppes of Asia. Thank you for the virtual visit.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thanks, Joanna. I knew almost nothing about the Volga before reading this essay.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for your kind comment, as knowledge is power, I take this as a compliment.
    Thank you, greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Russian singing is famous because the singers are chosen for their beautiful voices and trained to perfection.
    JoannaSteppes have special magic that is experienced by all who visit them.

    Like

  10. such an imposingly wide river

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you, Ananda, for your clever observation.
    Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  12. Wonderful and informative post. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you for your kind comment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So much wonderful information, Joanna.Thank you so much for sharing.I always learn from your posts.💕🙏💕

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you, Grace, for your kind comments. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Very welcome. My pleasure.💕

    Like

  17. The first thing first. I truly loved this post. I could very well relate with Volga, as it’s also considered as the mother of the nation. Like the Ganges, Volga has also inspired many folk songs. The songs like Down the River Volga and Volga Boatmen are mesmerising.

    This post has something personal with the inspiring story of your great grandfather, Cazimir. The intricacies of the iron workshop have been beautifully and elaborately described by you. It was astonishing to note the role of wooden rod. But I liked you comparing the sound of rolling mills with poetry.

    Glad to know that Hermitage and Winter Palace are also in Volvograd, like St Petersburg. Like any other post, this one is also quite informative and interesting. So much learning. Thank you so much, Joanna for your time and efforts. Much much appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The first thing first, Kaushal, please allow me to tell you that I love you as a friend!
    So many feather way friends disappeared but you are always here, always helpful and ready with your analytical, wonderful comments.
    Thank you again, Kaushal. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  19. You’re always welcome. I’m overwhelmed with your lovely words, Joanna. The feeling is mutual.

    Like

  20. Lots of interesting info here, Joanna, punctuated with great illustrations & clips, as always. Nice job! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you, Lisa, for your kind cimment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. what a beautiful collection so near and dear to your heart Ingrid spoken so well in rich history and imagery with fabulous pictures and videos. Each one resonates so deeply and the kitty of course. IO love the dew on the … swan? Thank you for your care and vision of stopping us in our tracks for a moment in time to grow and learn Joanna! 💖🌈

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you, Cindy, for your fabulous comments!! You are so very kind! With the reader like you, Cindy, I am going to bed happy!
    Thank you again. Greatly appreciate.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  24. What a great post, Joanna! Very informative and beautifully described!! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you, Jyothi, for your kind comments! As you are an expert traveler, I thought that you might enjoy the visit to Russia.
    Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hope we will visit some day 🙂 Thanks Joanna.

    Like

  27. I am sure you will!

    Joanna

    Like

  28. You’re so welcome my friend! I’m so glad and you can sleep well knowing how many people you have touched on the count of it. It’s my pleasure always! 💖💖🌈

    Like

  29. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful and informative post Joanna with such rich history. The personal connection about your great grandfather is so amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you, Henrietta, for your wonderful comments. I am glad that you liked the story of my family. In full it is quite riveting.

    Thank you again, Henrietta. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I love this music and beautiful view of this river.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Thank you so much for your kind comments! I am so glad that you found music interesting.

    Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Your posts are true masterpieces!
    A lovely mix of information and emotions, literature, music and images

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Thank you so much, Luisa, for your wonderful comments! Just what I needed!! Everything I write comes from my heart, I am happy that you have noticed.
    Thank you again, Luise. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  35. It’s well deserved praise! 🙏💖🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Hi Joanna,
    Your ability to collect, organize and integrate such lovely video and still imagery with music is a talent to admire. I loved the Volga Boatmen’s Song by the Red Army Choir. You can feel the beat as their rowing rhythm.
    As a retired veterinarian and enthusiastic birder, I always appreciate the avian and animal images you include. The final “Wolgalied” was especially enchanting with the focus going from wildlife to the play of light on snow and ice. Just beautiful!
    From your recent email I assumed you were in the UK and didn’t know about your Russian ancestors. We are all citizens of planet Earth regardless of our ancestor origin. The videos of “the pour” were unusual and the town of Nuanquan in China has a unique take on pyrotechnics.
    It was a great river trip. Thanks for the ride.
    Stewart

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Thank you, Stewart, for your wonderful comments! Just one correction; my ancestors were Polish as at that time this part of the country was Poland. I know my ancestry going back to the 14 century, and I already wrote the first volume of their adventures. starting from the 19 century and I have photographs.
    Thank you again, Stewart. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Joanna, thanks for the clarification, European history is not my strong suit. When will you be sharing your ancestors adventures? Stewart

    Liked by 2 people

  39. I don’t mind explaining. I normally avoid including my personal information in my posts. Steelworks were too interesting not to include.
    Perhaps, I will write a post about my ancestor’s adventures as there were extraordinary.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  40. A well researched post which contains interesting information. Also you made it special by including a part of your family history. Stay blessed.

    Liked by 3 people

  41. Thank you, Rupali, for your kind comment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Thank you for your exceptional comment. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  43. you are very welcome Joanna!

    Liked by 1 person

  44. I think that you should look up the meaning of the word sarcasm! What you wrote was not a comment and it proves that you didn’t read my post.

    Joanna

    Liked by 2 people

  45. sorry you feel the way you feel… for I knew nothing about the River Volga nor had I ever heard the Volga Boatmen’s Song by the Red Army Choir

    Liked by 1 person

  46. so I missed your sarcasm… lol… you need to do a better job… take care and wishing you prolong strength and health…not sarcasm…honesty

    Liked by 1 person

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