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Located in western European Russia, Rybinsk Reservoir is as large and impressive as Russia itself. Rybinsk Reservoir sits on the Volga River as part of an expansive system of canals and reservoirs connecting Moscow through St. Petersburg, all the way to the Baltic Sea. As early as the ninth century, portions of these waterways formed the historic Baltic-Volga trade route. Today, the Rybinsk Sea and waterways serve as major commercial and industrial centers for the Russian Federation and recreational centers for the country's Northern and Central Regions.
Construction of Rybinsk Reservoir marks a dark moment in Russia's history. As World War II approached, energy was required for the defense of Moscow. The Rybinsk Hydropower Station was built to provide that energy. Beginning in 1941, Rybinsk Reservoir started to provide hydropower while destroying hundreds of villages, monasteries and historic sites as it filled. The demand for water power was so great that Rybinsk Reservoir did not reach its final 20 billion acre-foot capacity until 1947. Today, with an average depth of 18.39 feet, the flooded villages, monasteries and forests can still be seen below the surface of Rybinsk Reservoir.
Once considered the world's largest reservoir, the lake, also known as the Rybinsk Sea, continues to rank among the largest artificial waterways with a surface area of more than one million acres. Formed by the Rybinsk dam, Rybinsk Reservoir is part of the Volga-Kama cascade of dams. Located between the Uglich and Sheksna dams, this massive reservoir receives water from 64 different rivers and sits in the territories of Yaroslavl, Vologda and Tver Oblasts. The major tributaries -- Volga, Mologa and Sheksna -- divide Rybinsk Reservoir into four parts: the Volga Reach, Sheksna Reach, Mologa Reach, and Main Reach.
The modern Volga-Baltic Waterway, formerly known as the Mariinsk Canal System, starts at Rybinsk Reservoir. As part of this extensive chain of reservoirs, locks and dams, Rybinsk Reservoir has had a major impact on the habitat of fish and other water life. At one time, the Volga served as the migration and spawning route for almost 90% of the world's sturgeon. Today they have all but disappeared from the rivers feeding Rybinsk Reservoir.
A second threat to the habitat of fish and wildlife is farm runoff and pollution from industrial cities that dot the reservoir's shoreline. The impact of dams and pollution on fisheries, water quality and tourism has not escaped the attention of the Russian people. Because Rybinsk Reservoir serves as a main source of drinking water, water quality issues are being addressed. Commercial sturgeon fishing has been banned along the Volga and Rybinsk Reservoir rivers to protect the prized beluga sturgeon. A tourism development plan implemented by Russia's Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in coordination with Moscow's Tourism Committee has brought an increase in tourists from Europe and the United States.
To see the Volga basin and Rybinsk Reservoir is to see Russia's rich cultural heritage. With a length of more than 300 miles, the Volga-Baltic Waterway is best seen by boat. Popular with both national and international travelers, river-cruise lines sail Rybinsk Reservoir as they move from the museums of Moscow to the great art and architecture of St. Petersburg.
For those who prefer land accommodations, fishing camps and vacation rentals (often called holiday accommodations) can be found around Rybinsk Reservoir. Recreational opportunities include hunting in the surrounding pine forests, boating on the expansive Rybinsk Sea and fishing along the islands, channels and bays that form along the waterway. Forty-six fish species can be found in Rybinsk Reservoir, including large zander (related to the walleye), bream, small pike-perch and Caspian kilka.
More than 60 million people live along the Volga River and over 500,000 people live around Rybinsk Reservoir in the cities of Cherepovets, Vesyegonsk and Rybinsk. Their tragic history can be seen beneath the shallow depths of Rybinsk Reservoir but their promising future is seen above the surface where culture, commerce and recreation thrive.
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