The largest country on Earth, Russia accounts for at least an eighth of the planet’s inhabited landmass. It straddles the continents of Europe and Asia, extending across 11 time zones and encompassing all manner of landscapes, from the desert of the Chara Sands to a vast arctic stretch.
It’s home to Europe’s highest mountain and the world’s biggest lake, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that, when it comes to rivers, it has some of the longest on the planet. So, what are the longest rivers in Russia? And what is the biggest river in Russia? You can bank on finding out as we explore the lengthiest rivers Russia has to offer.
The Great Siberian Rivers
The so-called “sleeping land” of Siberia is a geographical area that covers nearly nine percent of the world’s landmass. And, through its enormous, sparsely populated wilderness, run three of the longest rivers Russia has to offer. This sprawling trio flows south to north, emptying into the Arctic. These are the Ob, the Lena and the Yenisei.
Length: 3,442 miles
Whether it’s Yenisei, Yenisey or Enisei, there are numerous versions of the name of the great river that cuts through the middle of Siberia. There are also several classifications of its length, depending on where one identifies its source.
While the Yenisei “proper” is usually cited as 2,167 miles long, its full river system, beginning in Mongolia, runs for 3,442 miles, draining an area of 996,000 square miles. It’s cited as one of the longest rivers of Russia, Asia and the world, and is often said to be the sixth largest river on earth in terms of the amount of water flowing through it per second.
Along its northward journey through taiga, tundra and a hugely varied landscape, it flows through Siberia’s second largest city, Krasnoyarsk and the world’s largest lake, Lake Baikal.
Length: 1,577 miles / 3,360 miles
Russia’s third largest city, Novosibirsk, rests along the banks of the Ob as it zigzags its way northward through western Siberia. Like the Yenisei, the Ob flows into the Kara Sea. Depending on where one puts its source, it can be measured as between 1,577 and 3,360 miles in length, the latter measurement incorporating the full Ob-Irtysh river system. Not only does the Ob provide a home for over fifty fish species, but it’s a source of water for drinking, irrigation and hydroelectric power.
Length: 2,668-2,734 miles
It’s the easternmost of the great Siberian rivers and, at a length of roughly 2,700 miles, the Lena is the longest Russian river entirely within the country’s borders. Draining an area roughly one and a half times the size of Alaska, it’s considered the biggest river in Russia by volume. Beginning in the Baikal Mountains, it runs north to the Arctic Ocean’s Laptev Sea, where it empties. Its delta, the area in which its sediment collects near its mouth, spans an area of over 12,000 square miles, and is said to be the largest arctic delta.
Length: 2,290 miles
Flowing for almost 2,300 miles – from its source in the Valdai Hills to its mouth in the Caspian Sea – “Mother Volga” is one of the longest rivers in Russia, and arguably its most iconic. Along its journey, the famous Volga River passes through several large cities, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Kazan. The Volga River is an important transportation artery for Russia and is also used for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and fishing.
Length: 3,416 miles
The Amur River, known in China as Heilong Jiang, stretches over 3,400 miles across parts of Mongolia, China and Russia. It’s one of the longest rivers in Russia and China, flowing through the Strait of Tartary to empty into the Pacific. Along its journey, the Amur River flows through a diverse range of landscapes, from forests and meadows to deserts and mountains.
The Amur River is an important part of the region’s ecosystem, supporting a variety of plant and animal life. It’s home to around 130 fish species, including the world’s biggest sturgeon. Its banks meanwhile host a range of mammals, including the endangered Amur leopard. The river also provides a vital lifeline for the people who live along its banks, with many relying on it for drinking water, irrigation, and transportation.
The Longest Russian Rivers
As we’ve seen, the longest rivers of Russia are ex-stream-ly long. So much so, they make up some of the world’s longest rivers.