Russian Volga, ancient (Greek) Ra, or (Tatar) Itil, or Etil, river of Europe, the continent's longest, and the principal waterway of western Russia and the historic cradle of the Russian state. Its basin, sprawling across about two-fifths of the European part of Russia, contains almost half of the entire population of the Russian Republic. The Volga's immense economic, cultural, and historic importance - along with the sheer size of the river and its basin - ranks it among the world's great rivers.
Rising in the Valdai Hills northwest of Moscow, the Volga discharges into the Caspian Sea, some 2,193 miles (3,530 kilometres) to the south. It drops slowly and majestically from its source 748 feet (228 metres) above sea level to its mouth 92 feet below sea level.
In the process the Volga receives the water of some 200 tributaries, the majority of which join the river on its left bank. Its river system, comprising 151,000 rivers and permanent and intermittent streams, has a total length of about 357,000 miles.