Peter I had an idea to make a waterway from Moscow to the Baltic Sea, as it could be quite reliable and cheap. For this purpose he used to go to the town of Dmitrov to research the future water route. However, the real potential for linking the Volga and the Moskva River was talked about quite seriously only 100 years later.
A great volume of work was planned, but all kinds of activities at the canal ended, because of construction of the railway line between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Only at the beginning of the 1930s did the idea of linking the Volga with the Moskva occur again. The canal was created in unprecedented time, 4 years and 8 months, and it was put into operation on 15 July 1937. Its total length is 128 km, of which 19 km are taken up by reservoirs. The Canal of Moscow is 47 km longer than the Panama Canal, 29 km longer than the Kyl Canal and 71 km longer than Manchester’s.
For short periods builders have erected 240 large structures including 11 locks, 11 dumps, 19 bridges, 3 river ports, a passenger terminal and other structures. Currently all activities conducted here are taking place due to the need to supplement the available water resources in the reservoir for eventual transfer to the Greater Moscow city water-supply.
In the process of construction 202 million cubic meters of ground works have been carried out. By comparison, the volume of ground works at the Suez Canal accounted for 75 million cubic meters, 2.7 times less. Furthermore, it was completed in only 10 years. If we could load all the ground displaced during the construction into rail vans, the giant train would go around the equator 5.5 times.
The canal was mainly built by political prisoners who worked in terrible conditions. In 1947 when the capital was celebrating its 800th anniversary and the canal its 10th anniversary, it was named after Moscow.
It serves various purposes. Historically plagued by short water supply, Moscow by the 1930s urgently needed a link to a major water source. Well water utilized in the 1700s had long dried up; spring water used in the 1800s had also been exhausted. A 1904 pipeline to the Moscow River provided relief for only about 25 years, after which the river became so depleted that it could be crossed on foot in front of the Kremlin. The channel made the water level much higher, which has enabled navigation, and new ports have been opened. The banks of the channel are a popular pleasure resort for Muscovites.
Moscow became the port of five seas. Currently this route annually carries about 1 million tons of cargo for the ports of the Baltic, White, Caspian, Azov and Black seas.
In the shortest time, builders have erected a marvelous monument – one of the best and largest navigation canals of the world.