There was no indigenous population on the site of the modern city of Volzhsky until the 18th century. The first settlers were fugitives who called themselves bezrodnye (безродные, "without kith or kin") and the village they set up had the name Bezrodnoye. In 1720, Peter the Great, noting the abundance of mulberry forests in the area, ordered the setting up of a state silk factory there.
The settlement of Volzhsky was registered in 1952. It had a population of about 10,000 at that time. In 1954 the settlement was reorganized into the city of Volzhsky. Its biggest upsurge of population came for the construction of the Volga Hydroelectric Station
The city was built by civil convict labour who were rewarded with houses or apartments at end of their sentence, like the older neighbour city of Volgograd rebuilt by German prisoners of war after 1945. Volzhsky was a city planned in a modern style with courtyard apartment blocks angled to deter hot summer winds off the steppes.
The main enterprises in the city are Volga GES (a hydroelectric station), Volzhsky Trubny Zavod (producing steel pipes), Volzhsky Khimvolokno (chemical fibers), Volzhsky Orgsynthese (chemical products), Volzhskrezinotekhnika (resin products), Volzhsky Shinny Zavod (tires), Volzhsky Podshipnikovy Zavod (bearings).