The Construction of the First Volga-Don Canal of Peter the Great




Peter I, Johann Bröckell, navigable canals, Volga, Don, Kamyshinka, Ilovlya


This article studies the history behind the construction of a navigable canal meant to connect the Volga and the Don through their tributaries, the Kamyshinka and the Ilovlya, in 1697–1698. The authors aim to clarify the history of the first project of Peter the Great to modernise the country’s transport infrastructure and analyse it in the context of the events of the initial stage of the Petrine era. The study refers to maps and plans of the area, materials of office work – documents that both have been previously published and are introduced into scholarly circulation for the first time and come from the funds of the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts, as well as the results of archaeological exploration carried out at the Selimov Val cultural heritage site in the village of Petrov Val in Kamyshin district of Volgograd Region. The study demonstrates that the period of 1697–1698 saw the construction of a structure meant to perform both fortification and hydraulic functions in the interfluve of the Kamyshinka and the Ilovlya. B. A. Golitsyn and E. I. Ukraintsоv controlled the construction, while Prince A. F. Shakhovsky directly supervised it. The project was authored by engineer J. Bröckell, and Peter I attached great importance to it, repeatedly discussing it with European statesmen and scientists during the Great Embassy. Pososhniye lyudi (people in sokha-based military service) were recruited in the settlements and districts of the Volga cities and did the construction work on the Kamyshinka. Logging was carried out along the River Sura in Alatorsky and Yadrinsky uyezds. By the end of 1697, a fortification was built where the Kamyshinka and the Ilovlya were closest to each other, the remains of the fortification perfectly preserved to this day. However, it turned out impossible to build a navigable canal. Having received news of the departure of J. Bröckell, the author of the first project, from the country in the winter of 1698, Peter I and other members of the Great Embassy began to look for and invite “sluice masters”, i. e. specialists in the construction of navigable canals. Thus, the first unsuccessful attempt to connect the Volga and the Don was why the tsar paid close attention to the theoretical and practical issues of building navigable canals as a significant area of science and technology.

Author Biographies

Yakov Kiyashko

Senior Lecturer, Volgograd State University, Head of the General Department, Volgograd Regional Research and Production Center for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments.

100, Universitetsky Ave., 400062, Volgograd, Russia.

19, Kommunisticheskaya Str., 400005, Volgograd, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-5529-8375

Alexander Kleitman

Dr. Hab. (History), Leading Researcher, S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Volgograd Regional Research and Production Center for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments.

14, Baltiiskaya Str., 125315, Moscow, Russia.

19, Kommunisticheskaya Str., 400005, Volgograd, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0003-4779-0321


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How to Cite

Kiyashko, Y., & Kleitman, A. (2023). The Construction of the First Volga-Don Canal of Peter the Great. Quaestio Rossica, 11(3), 805–820.



Problema voluminis