The first settlement in the Mid Volga Region was recorded in the Upper Paleolithic, but the larger-scale settlement started in the Mesolithic, around 10,000-5,000 BC. The traces of the Mesolithic dwellings were found in the upper Vysha river in Zemetchino, areas around Penza, along the rivers Sura, Moksha and Khoper.
The new settlers-herdsmen arrived in 4,000 BC in the south of the current Penza region from the steppes of the Volga Region. It was established that tribes of Volosovo and Imerka pre-historic cultures inhabited the arearound 3,000 BC. In 2,000 BC the area witnessed the migration of cattle breeding tribes who were acquainted with bronze implements.
In the Iron Age the current Penza region was inhabited by cultures that later formed the basis of the dominant Mordva (Finno-Ugric people) and the Burtas. Both the Mordva and the Burtas became subjects of the Khazar Khaganate in 7th-10th cc AD. The region served as one of the major trade routes.
The chronicles of the 11th c testify the development and growth of the Mordva, subdivided into two ethnic groups - the Moksha and the Erzya. The former became the basis of the large proportion of the population of the current Penza oblast.
The state feudal system began to be established in the 11th c.
In 1223 the region suffered the Mongol invasion, in 1239 the Mordva fought back which resulted in a new wave of Mongol military advances. In 1242 the territories of Mid and Low Volga region were under the rule of the Golden Horde.
After the decline of the Golden Horde and the appearance of the Khanate of Kazan in 1438 the Mid Volga region became part of it untill 1552. After that the Penza region became a Russian subject and was its south-eastern borderline territory.
Due to its strategic location, Penza region entered the abatis network. The system of abatis protection was widely used in the 16th-17th cc in southern and south-eastern borders of Russia. In the second half of the 17th c extensive abatis lines were built near the main towns and settlements of the region: Kerensk, Verkhny Lomov, Nizhny Lomov, Insar, Saransk, Atemar, Mokshan, Ramzai Ostrog, The fortifications in Penza were built in 1676-1680, and were later extended further to the west.
The building of these fortification lines encouraged the development of these towns and settlement and further reclamation of the lands.
The second major period in the region’s growth is linked to Peter the Great policy in building the Black Sea fleet. Economically it meant high demand of shipbuilding timber which was provided, among others, by Penza timber cutters. The region continued to grow as an agricultural province of the great Empire.
Administratively, Penza region was a separate Penza Governorate within the Russian Empire, then it was a part of other administrative divisions in Soviet Russia until 1939, when it acquired the name Penza Oblast and its current borders.