Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine

Zaporizhzhia, or Zaporizhia, or even Zaporozhye, is a city in Eastern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Zaporizhia Oblast region. Zaporizhzhia is a key river port for the country, a longstanding industrial center and energy supplier, and a cultural hub. In addition to the many names of the city, it is also known as the "Cossacks' Motherland" - a designation that captures the history and ideals of freedom that spans the Dnieper riverbank and Khortytsia Island. With a population of around 780,011, Zaporizhzhia is the 6th most populated city in Ukraine. 

Geography And Climate Of Zaporizhzhia

The Dneiper River flowing past Zaporizhzhia

Zaporizhzhia spans both sides of the Dnieper River, which is a vital waterway spanning South to the Black Sea and North to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. The city is about 340 miles southeast of Kyiv and a similar distance journey northeast from the seaport city of Odessa. 

The region of Zaporizhzhia experiences an average annual temperature of 51 degrees Fahrenheit, which ranges from a low of 19 degrees, typically in January, to a high of 87 degrees, usually reached in July and August. The average humidity rating is 71%, and the average annual precipitation is 18.7 inches. 

History Of Zaporizhzhia

Soborny Avenue and Shevchenko Square in center in Zaporozhye, Ukraine
Soborny Avenue and Shevchenko Square in center in Zaporozhye, Ukraine.

In the 16th century, the Cossacks settled near present-day Zaporizhzhia. It was initially named Zaporizhian Sich but was later changed to the Free Cossack Republic. In 1775, Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, ordered the settlement's destruction and for the lower banks of the Dnieper river to be assimilated with Russia. The conquered town was renamed Alexandrovsk but later changed to Zaporizhia, which means "beyond the rapids." 

Though the 1770s is generally recognized as the city's founding date, the city council of Zaporizhzhia recently recognized the year 952 as the earliest founding date due to historical mention of a settlement on the Dnieper river and Khortytsia Island. It remains a matter of ongoing dispute. 

Throughout the early 20th century, Zaporizhzhia built ironworks factories and a hydroelectric power station that is still the second largest in Ukraine. These developments made Zaporizhzhia a vital industrial and power center for the Soviet Union. 

Today, Zaporizhia is an energy center, largely owing to its six-reactor nuclear power plants. It is the 2nd largest nuclear plant in Europe, the 10th largest globally, and supplies roughly one-quarter of Ukraine's electricity. 

On February 24, 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukraine from all angles. In the time since, a missile struck a post in Zaporizhzhia, and armed clashes occurred in Dnipro, which is also on the Dnieper river, roughly 50 miles North. 

Visiting Zaporizhzhia

Though the current situation in Ukraine is unstable, Zaporizhzhia has a lot to offer in tourism during normal circumstances. Here are some highlights to take stock off.

A museum inside the Khortytsia National Reserve.
A museum inside the Khortytsia National Reserve. Editorial credit: Multipedia / Shutterstock.com
  • Spend a day at the beautiful Khortytsia National Reserve, deemed one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine. The river island is the largest in Europe, stretching for nearly 7.5 miles along the Dnieper river. The Reserve is complete with beaches, museums, educational walking paths, and of course, protected wildlife. 
  • Visit the Dnieper hydroelectric station. See what catalyzed the city's growth as you marvel at one of many renowned architectural projects of the former Soviet Union
  • Cruise down Soborny Avenue (also known as Lenin Avenue) in the heart of the city. At almost 7 miles, this is one of the longest streets in Europe. 
  • Tour one of the many Museums, most notably, the History of Weapons Museum and The Retro Car Museum. 
  • Cross the double-decker ​​Preobrazhensky Bridge - the highest in Ukraine and another masterful feat of engineering. 
The Preobrazhensky Bridge.
The Preobrazhensky Bridge. Editorial credit: LeManilo / Shutterstock.com

Current Events And The Russian Invasion

Early in the morning of February 24th, 2022, Russia's military invaded Ukraine, launching assaults by land, sea, air, and with disruptive cyber attacks. Ukraine declared a state of emergency and President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for all citizens who are willing to defend the country to step forward. Since then, heavy fighting has ensued around the country, particularly in Kyiv. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled to the neighboring countries of Poland and Romania

One missile strike was reported in Prymorskyi Posad in Zaporizhzhia. It resulted in an unconfirmed number of casualties. It is believed that Zaporizhzhia could become a target because of its sizable nuclear power plant on which much of Ukraine relies for electricity. The station is particularly vulnerable as it operates only 120 miles from the separatist-controlled area of Donbass, which is composed of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 

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