The Kievan state, Moscow, and Novgorod all became rich and politically powerful because of river trade. Every major city in imperial Russia and in the Soviet Union was initially located on a river or another major body of water. The Volga River system opened the way to the riches of the Middle East, central Asia, and China. It also led to the Urals, to Siberian furs, and to Imperial Russia's first major ironworks. St. Petersburg was founded as a port city. The tsarist government devoted centuries to creating man-made water links between the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Baltic Sea, and White Sea. Until about a century ago, the great bulk of commercial traffic moved by rivers.
Unfortunately, some Russian rivers are frozen over for at least six months of the year. Spring flooding and low water levels in late summer or early fall also reduce transportation efficiency. It is likely that future economic development will include further expansion of waterway transportation. This is the cheapest means of transportation, which is especially significant for a country of this enormous size. Sooner rather than later, one may assume, the vast areas east of the Ural Mountains will experience population growth, because of their immeasurable economic potential. When market forces collide and Siberia becomes economically attractive, people will begin to move into this now-remote region.