Smolensk is a port on the Dnieper River. It is an important rail junction, a distribution point for the region's agricultural products, a commercial, cultural and educational center. Smolensk is the head of navigation on the Dnieper. The city, a major linen producer, has one of Russia's largest flax-processing mills. Other industries include metalworking, machine building, flour milling, food processing, and the manufacture of textiles.
One of Russia's oldest cities, Smolensk derived its name from the resin [Rus., smola] extracted from the surrounding pine trees. The city was already a commercial center in the late 9th cent., when it was the capital of the Krivichi tribe and a fortress and settlement for traders and artisans. It then fell under Kiev's rule.