On May 31, 1952, a significant event took place in the Soviet Union: at 13.55 pm, the construction of the Volga-Don Canal, which connected two great rivers, was completed. Now ships could easily, along the Volga and Don, pass from the southern seas (Black, Caspian and Azov) to the north of the Soviet Union - to the Baltic and White seas. Interestingly, the very idea of building such a canal appeared 400 years earlier - back in the 16th century.
The Volga, as you know, flows into the Caspian Sea, which is a huge lake, it is closed, therefore, it is impossible to pass from it to any other sea. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire ruled the Balkans and Asia Minor. Sultan Selim II decided that for the convenience of his ships leaving the Black Sea to the Caspian, it was necessary to build a canal between the Volga and Don.
More than 20, 000 people were sent to the construction of the canal, all of whose simple equipment consisted only of shovels and hoes. The grandiose plan was never implemented, the builders were dying from overwhelming labor in huge numbers, and there were interruptions in the supply of food. The work was stopped, the mighty sultan failed to connect the two rivers.
More than 100 years later, the young Russian Tsar Peter the Great tried to build a canal again. Peter tried to gain a foothold on the shores of the Azov Sea, in 1696 he issued a decree - the Volga and Don must be connected.
The German Johann Breckel was entrusted with leading the construction, and the project was drawn up by the Norwegian Cornelius Cruis, who later became the admiral of the Russian fleet.
Peter, like Sultan Selim II, failed to complete the construction. The reasons were the same - too difficult working conditions and high mortality among workers. Even Johann Breckel broke down and fled to Europe. The Englishman Perry was appointed in his place, but the Great Northern War began and there were no funds left for the construction of the canal.
By the way, Prince Boris Alekseevich Golitsyn, who held the post of Governor-General of Astrakhan at that time, spoke out quite harshly about the construction of the canal: "If God, creating rivers, gave them a natural flow, then it would be unreasonable arrogance on the part of man to direct them in the other direction." ... As you can see, even one of Peter's associates was skeptical about his plan.
After the October Revolution, in 1918, an expedition was sent to the south of Russia to conduct research work at the site of the canal construction. But, at that difficult time, the construction was not started, it was implemented only after the end of the Great Patriotic War.
Unlike the times of Selim II and Peter the Great, the builders were armed not only with shovels, but thousands of pieces of equipment worked here. In addition, prison labor was widely used. A monument to the leader of the peoples - Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was erected next to the gateway number 1. Already on June 1, 1952, the next day after the completion of the work, the first ship passed through the Volga-Don Canal - the tug boat No. 306.
The Volga-Don Canal is still in operation, but the monument to Stalin is no longer here - the monument was dismantled on November 20, 1961. The average annual navigation time of the channel is about 211 days. During this time, up to 5, 000 ships pass through it.