City and river port in the central Russian Federation, 375 km/233 mi east of Moscow; population (2002) 1,311,300. The city is situated at the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers, and is a major transportation centre; six railway lines converge here, and large quantities of freight and passengers are carried by river traffic. Motor vehicles, locomotives, aircraft, and ships are manufactured here, making its transport industry the largest in the Russian Federation. There are also diesel motor and machine-tool works, oil processing, glass, woodworking, and various light and food industries. An International Trade Fair is held annually in Nizhniy Novgorod.
Nizhniy Novgorod was founded on the site of a Bulgarian settlement in 1221 by the Grand Prince of Vladimir, as a frontier fortress against the Volga Bulgarians, the Mordva, and the Tatars. In 1932, the city was renamed Gorky, after the writer Maxim Gorky, who was born here in 1868; it reverted to its original name after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The USSR sent political dissidents into internal exile here, and closed the city to foreign visitors; from 1980–86, it was home to the exiled nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov.
Nizhniy Novgorod became the capital of Suzdal-Nizhniy Novgorod principality in 1350, and rivalled the growing influence of Moscow. It was annexed by Muscovy in 1392 and was used as a base for the Russian conquest of Kazan in 1552. In 1611, during the ‘Time of Troubles’ (1604–13), the successful movement for the liberation of Moscow from the Poles began here, instigated by the mayor, Kuzma Minin. The city's annual fair, founded in 1525 to further the economic struggle against Kazan, was one of the biggest in Russia and made Nizhniy Novgorod the country's main commercial centre; it was only abolished in 1929. Major industrial development started early in the 19th century, when flour mills were built here; heavy industry dates from 1849, with the foundation of the Sormovo railway works. Shipping became increasingly important from the mid-19th century. The first Soviet Five-Year Plan (1929–32) brought rapid industrial growth the city, most notably through the construction of the giant GAZ (Gorky Automobile Works) plant. During World War II, it was one of the leading arms bases of the Red Army.
Nizhniy Novgorod has a university (founded in 1918), a polytechnic institute (founded in 1930 as Gorki Industrial University), and several other higher education institutions. The drama theatre, one of the oldest in the country, was formed in 1798. There is a Kremlin (fortress) built in the early 16th century, and interesting churches and other buildings dating from the 17th–19th centuries.