Until 1921 the city carried the name of Aleksandrovsk after the name of a fortress that was part of the Dnieper Defense Line.
After the establishment of the Soviet regime in Ukraine, in 1921 the name was changed to Zaporizhia (Zaporozhye), after the historical region Zaporizhia.
Itself Zaporizhia literally means Trans-Rapids or beyond the rapids, alluding to the rapids which used to exist on the Dnieper River (Dnieper Rapids) at the time, before the construction of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station in 1932.
Archaeological finds in the area indicate that Scythian nomads were living there two to three thousand years ago. After the Scythians the Khazars, Pechenegs, Cumans, Tatars, and Eastern Slavs came in the lands. The trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks passed through Khortysia island in old times.
In 1552 Dmytro Vyshnevetsky erected wood-earth fortifications on the small island Little Khortytsia which is near the western shore of the Khortytsia island. The scientists consider that these fortifications were a prototype of the Zaporizhian Sich. The Sich was a stronghold of the Cossacks (the paramilitary persants) who lived to the south from the rapids of the Dnieper on the border of the Polish–Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita and the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
1770 year is considered as a year of the foundation of Zaporozhia. This year the fortress of Aleksandrovskaya (Александровская) was erected. As a part of the Dnieper Defense Line the fortress should protect the southern territories of Russian Empire from Turkish invasions. It is uncertain in whom honor the fortress was named, some believe that it was the general Aleksander Golitsyn, others - Prince Aleksandr Vyazemskiy or Alexander Rumyantsev. In 1775 the Russia and the Ottoman Empire signed the Küçük Kaynarca peace treaty, according to which the southern lands of Russian Plain and Crimean peninsula became the Russian Empire governed territories. As a result, the Aleksandrovskaya Fortress lost its military significance and converted into a small provincial rural town, known from 1806 under the name Alexandrovsk (Александровск)
In 1789, Mennonites from Danzig, (Prussia) accepted the invitation from Catherine the Great to settle several colonies in the area of the nowadays city. The Khortitza island was gifted to them for "perpetual possession" by the Russian government. In the 1914 year, the Mennonites sold the island back to the city. The Mennonite built mills and agriculture factories in Alexandrovsk After the Russian Revolution and, specially, during the WWII most of the Mennonites returned to Germany. At present, few Mennonites live in Zaporozhye, although in the area many industrial buildings and houses built by Mennonites are saved.
In the 1829, it was proposed to build a cable ferry for crossing the Dnieper. The ferry could carry a dozen carts. The project was approved by Tsar and later was used in other parts of the Russian Empire. In the 1904 the ferry was replaced by the Kichkas Bridge, which was built in the narrowest part of the river called "Wolf Throat", near to the northern part of the Khortitza Island.
The first railway bridge over the Dnieper was the Kichkas (Кичкасский) Bridge, which was designed by Y.D. Proskuryakov and E.O. Paton. the construction works were supervised by F.W. Lat. The total bridge length was 336 meters. It crossed the river with single arch of 190 m span. The upper tier carried a double-track railway lane, whilst the lower tier was used for other types of vehicles, both sides of the bridge were assigned as the pedestrian sidewalks. It was built at the narrowest part of the Dnieper river known as Wolf Throat. Construction started in 1900, and it opened for pedestrian traffic in 1902. The official opening of the bridge was 17 April 1904; though railway traffic on the bridge only commenced on 22 January 1908. The opening of the Kichkas Bridge led to the industrial growth of Alexandrovsk.
During the World War I in 1916 from Saint Petersburg was transferred the aviation engines plant of DEKA Stock Association that today is better known as the Motor Sich.
The Kichkas Bridge was of strategic importance during the Russian Civil War, and carried troops, ammunition, the wounded and medical supplies. Because of this bridge, Alexandrovsk and its environs was the scene of fierce fighting from 1918 to 1921 between the Red Army and the White armies of Denikin and Wrangel, Petliura and German-Austrian troops, and after their defeat, the struggle with insurgents led by Grigoriev, and Makhno. The bridge was closed a number of times because of damage. The most serious damage was inflicted by Makhno's troops when they retreated from Alexandrovsk in 1920 and blew a 40 m wide gap in the centre of the bridge.
People's Commissar of Railways Dzerzhinsky ordered the repair of the bridge. The metallurgic plant of Bryansk joint-stock company(RU) (Petrovsky plant at present) in Dnipropetrovsk built a replacement section, which was raised into place. The Kichkas Bridge reopened on 14 September 1921. On 19 October 1921, the Soviet Council of Labour and Defence (chaired by Lenin) awarded the Yekaterininsky railroad the Order of the Red Banner of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic for the early restoration of the Kichkas Bridge.
In the early 20th century, Zaporizhia was a small unremarkable town of the Russian Empire, which acquired industrial importance during the socialist industrialization of the 1930s.
In the 1929–1932 master plan for city construction was developed. At 10 km from the old town Alexandrovsk at the narrowest part of the Dnieper river was planned to build the hydroelectric power station, the most powerful in Europe at that time. Close to the station should be a new modern city and a giant steel and aluminum plants. Later the station was named "DnieproHES", the steel plant – "Zaporizhstal'" (Zaporizhia Steel Plant), and the new part of the city – "Sotsgorod". (Socialist city) Production of the aluminum plant ("DAZ"- Dnieper Aluminium Plant) according to the plan should exceed the overall production of the aluminum all over Europe at that time.
State Institute for Design of Metallurgical Plants(RU) (GIPROMEZ) developed a project of creation of the Dnieper Industrial Complex. GIPROMEZ consulted with various companies, including the Freyn Engineering Company of Chicago (USA), which participated in the design and construction of the blast furnaces.
In the 1930s the American United Engineering and Foundry Company built a strip mill, which produced hot and cold rolling steel strip. This was a copy of the Ford River Rouge steel mill. Annual capacity of the mill reached 600,000 tons. Strip width was 66 inches. There was a second section that used a Soviet copy of the Demag AG strip mill that produced 45 inch wide strip steel.
The turning point in the history of the city was the construction of the hydro-electric dam (DniproHES), which began in 1927 and completed in 1932. The principal designer of the project was I. G. Alexandrov(RU), the construction manager – A. V. Vinter(RU), the chief architect – V. A. Vesnin and the chief American advisor – Hugh Cooper. According to the project, the installed generating capacity was 560 megawatts, the length of a convex dam was 760 m, the width was 56 m, the height was 60 m. Eight water turbines and five generators were designed and manufactured in the United States; the other three generators were made at the Leningrad factory Electrosila. As a result of commissioning of the station the Dnieper rapids were flooded and the river became navigable from Kiev to Kherson. In 1980, DniproHES power was increased to 1,388 megawatts.
Between the hydroelectric dam and industrial area in 10 km from the center of the old Alexandrovsk was established residential district #6, which was named "Sotsgorod". In 20th doctrinaire idealistic enthusiasm of the architects was reflected in the intense debate about the habitation of the socialist community. The architects believed that by using new architectural forms they could create a new society. District #6 was one of the few implementations of urban development concepts. The construction of the district began in 1929 and finished in 1932. The main idea guiding the architects was the creation of the garden city, the city of the future. Multi-storey houses (not more than 4 floors) with large, roomy apartments were built in Sotsgorod with spacious yards planted with grass and trees around the buildings. Nikolai Kolli, V.A.Vesnin, G.M.Orlov, V.G.Lavrov and others designed the DniproHES and SotsGorod. Le Corbusier visited the town few times in the 1930s. The architects used the ideas of the constructivist architecture.
The known ring house (at #31 "40 years of Soviet Ukraine" Street) was designed by V.G. Lavrov. Families of the Soviet and American engineers, advisers, and industry bosses lived in Sotsgorod at that time. Most of the workers during the construction of the hydro-power station and plants lived in dugouts at 15th and Aluminum districts. The district border is limited by Verkhnya Ulitsa (Upper Street) on the south and by the hydroelectric power on the north. At the intersection between Sobornyi Avenue and Verkhnya Street, architect I.L. Kosliner set a tower with seven stories. The tower supposedly indicates the entrance in the Sotsgorod from the south (from Alexandrovsk). Closer to the dam, the second tower was raised (architects I.L. Kosliner and L.Ya. Gershovich). These two towers point out a straight line of the central street of the district.
The names of the streets have changed several times. The original name of Metallurgist Avenue was Enthusiasts Alley. This road leads to the factories. At that time, they believed that people going to the plant had only positive feelings like joy, pride, and enthusiasm. At the end of the road stands a 1963 sculpture of the metallurgist by sculptor Ivan Nosenko. During the German occupation, it was named Shevchenko Avenue. Later it was renamed Stalin Avenue; and after his death, it got present name of Metallurgist Avenue. Sobornyi Avenue originally had the name Libkhnet Avenue. "Forty Years of Soviet Ukraine" Street was once called Sovnarkomovska Street and during the German occupation Hitler Alley.
District #6 is a small part of the global project called Big Zaporizhia. This project was designed for the city, to enable a half-million people to live in seven different areas: Voznesenka, Boburka, Kichkas, Alexandrovsk, Pavlo-Kichkas, Island Khortitsa, and (omitted). Each district must be independent of the others and yet part of а united city. The city line should be stretched along the banks of the Dnieper River for 22 km.
The location of the Kichkas Bridge was in the flood zone upstream of the hydroelectric dam. Initially, it was planned to disassemble it and rebuild it in another location. But expert advice was that this was not cost-effective as it was cheaper to build a new bridge.
The building of the hydroelectric dam meant that a new bridge was required to take the railway over the Dnieper. Instead of having a single bridge, as before, it was decided to take the railway over the island Khortytsia. The wide part of the river between Khortytsia and the city is known as the New Dnieper, and the narrower part between Khortytsia and the suburbs on the right bank of the river is known as the Old Dnieper. The New Dnieper was crossed by a three-arch two-tier bridge. Each of the arches spans 140 m. When the approach spans are included the total length is 715 m weighing 8,480 tons. The Old Dnieper was crossed by a single-span arch bridge with a total length of 370 m; the arch spans of 224 m and was then the largest single-span bridge in Europe. This bridge weighed 5,220 tons. Both bridges were designed by Professor Streletsky. They were made of riveted steel, and had two tiers: the upper tier for rail traffic and the lower tier for road traffic and pedestrians. They were assembled by a combination of Czechoslovakian and Soviet workers under the direction of a Soviet engineer named Konstantinov. The arches are steel made by the Vitkovetskom steel plant in Czechoslovakia, other steelwork was made at the Dnipropetrovsk Metallurgical Plant. The new bridges opened on 6 November 1931. The Kichkas Bridge was demolished afterwards.
The war (World War II) between the USSR and Germany began on 22 June 1941. In the USSR this war was called the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945.
After the outbreak of the war, the Soviet government started evacuating industrial equipment from the city to Siberia before the Germans reached the city. The NKVD shot political prisoners in the city. On 18 August 1941, elements of the German 1st Panzergruppe seized the outskirts of Zaporizhia on the right bank and the island Khortytsia.
The Red Army blew a 120m x 10m hole in the Dnieper hydroelectric dam (DniproHES) at 16:00 on 18 August 1941, producing a flood wave that swept from Zaporizhia to Nikopol, killing local residents as well as soldiers from both sides. "Since no official death toll was released at the time, the estimated number of victims varies widely. Most historians put it at between 20,000 and 100,000, based on the number of people then living in the flooded areas". After two days, the city defenders received reinforcements, and held the left bank of the river for 45 days. During this time people dismantled heavy machinery, packed and loaded them on the railway platform, marked and accounted for with wiring diagrams. Zaporizhstal alone exported 9,600 railway cars with the equipment. Zaporizhia was taken on 3 October 1941.
The German occupation of Zaporizhia lasted 2 years and 10 days. During this time the Germans shot over 35,000 people, and sent 58,000 people to Germany as forced labour. The Germans used forced labor (mostly POWs) to try to restore the Dnieper hydroelectric dam and the steelworks. Local citizens established an underground resistance organisation in spring 1942.
The Donbass – Stalingrad and Moscow – Crimea railway lines through Zaporizhia were an important supply line for the Germans in 1942–43, but the big three-arch Dnieper railway bridge at Zaporizhia was blown up by the retreating Red Army on 18 August 1941, with further demolition work done during September 1941. and the Germans did not bring it back into operation until summer 1943. "As a result all goods had to be reloaded and tank-wagons carrying petrol could not go through to the front."
When the Germans reformed Army Group South in February 1943, it had its headquarters in Zaporizhia. The loss of Kharkiv and other cities caused Adolf Hitler to fly to this headquarters on 17 February 1943, where he stayed until 19 February and met the army group commander Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, and was persuaded to allow Army Group South to fight a mobile defence that quickly led to much of the lost ground being recaptured by the Germans in the Third Battle of Kharkov. Hitler visited the headquarters in Zaporizhia again on 10 March 1943, where he was briefed by von Manstein and his air force counterpart Field Marshal Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen. Hitler visited the headquarters at Zaporizhia for the last time on 8 September 1943. In mid-September 1943 the Army Group moved its headquarters from Zaporizhia to Kirovograd (now called Kropyvnytskyi).
Both the big railway bridge over the New Dnieper and the smaller one over the Old Dnieper were damaged in an air raid by a group of eight Ilyushin Il-2s led by Lieutenant A Usmanov on 21 September 1943.
In mid-August 1943, the Germans started building the Panther-Wotan defence line along the Dnieper from Kiev to Crimea, and retreated back to it in September 1943. The Germans held the city as a bridgehead over the Dnieper, with elements of 40th Panzer and 17th Corps. The Soviet Southwestern Front, commanded by Army General Rodion Malinovsky, attacked the city on 10 October 1943. Whilst the defenders held against the attacks, the Red Army reinforced its troops and launched a surprise night attack at 22:00 on 13 October, "laying down a barrage of shellfire bigger than anything... seen to date (it was here that entire 'divisions' of artillery appeared for the first time) and throwing in no fewer than ten divisions strongly supported by armour", the Red Army broke into the bridgehead forcing the Germans to abandon it on 14 October. The retreating Germans destroyed the Zaporizhstal steel plant almost completely; they demolished the big railway bridge again, and demolished the turbine building and damaged 32 of the 49 bays of the Dnieper hydro-electric dam. The city has a street between Voznesenskyi and Oleksandrivskyi Districts and a memorial in Oleksandrivskyi District dedicated to Red Army Lieutenant Yatsenko(RU) who commanded the tank, which first entered the city; he and his crew were killed in the battle for the city.
The Red Army did not recapture the parts of the city on the right bank until 1944.
The rebuilding of the Dnieper hydro-electric dam commenced on 7 July 1944; the first electricity was produced from the restored dam on 3 March 1947.
During the 2014 Euromaidan regional state administration occupations protests against President Viktor Yanukovych were also held in Zaporizhia. On 23 February 2014 Zaporizhia's regional state administration building was occupied by 4,500 protesters, Mid-April 2014 there were clashes between Ukrainian activists and pro-Russians. The Ukrainian activists outnumbered the pro-Russian protesters.
The city is located in south-eastern Ukraine and lies along banks of the Dnieper river now. The city covers 334 km2 at an elevation of 50 m above sea level.
In the middle of the city there is the 12 km × 2 km (7.5 mi × 1.2 mi) island of Khortytsia, which splits the river into two streams called the New and Old Dnieper. The New Dnieper is about 800 m (2600 feet) wide and the Old Dnieper is about 200 m (650 feet). There are also several small rivers in the city, which enter the Dnieper: Sukha and Mokra Moskovka, Kushuhum, and Verkhnia Khortytsia.
The flora of Khortytsia island is unique and healthy because of dry steppe air and a lot of fresh water around which protects the island from the polluted air of the heavy industrial city. Khortytsia Island is a national park with a large number of large ravines called "balka", hiking routes and historical monuments. The island is a very popular recreational area for both kids and adults and has a large number of sanatoriums, resorts and health centers. There are comfortable sand beaches for swimming and other water activities here as well: RU
Zaporizhia is a regional seat of Zaporizhia Oblast and a city of regional significance meaning that it has a form of self-rule within the oblast (region).
The city is divided into 7 administrative raions.
Zaporizhia residents speak mostly in Russian. For official government business Ukrainian is used.
The following religious denominations are prominent within Zaporizhia:
Most citizens are Orthodox Christians, either under the Moscow Patriarchate or the Kiev Patriarchate. The main Orthodox church in the city is the Church of the Intercession (under the Moscow Patriarchate).
Among the other Orthodox churches in the city are St. Nicholas Church and St. Andrew's Cathedral.
Protestantism is represented by:
Catholicism is represented by:
The biggest catholic church is Church of God, the Father of Mercy
Orthodox Judaism is represented by one union and six communities.
In the Zaporizhia district there are five communities which are part of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine and four independent Muslim communities.
The city hosts a branch of the Vedic Academy.
Zaporizhia is an important industrial center of Ukraine, the country's main car manufacturing company, the Motor-Sich world-famous aircraft engine manufacturer. Well supplied with electricity, Zaporizhia forms, together with the adjoining Donets Basin and the Nikopol manganese and Kryvyy Rih iron mines, one of Ukraine's leading industrial complexes.
The city is also a home of the Ukraine's main automobile production center which is based at the Zaporizhia Automobile Factory ZAZ producing such Ukrainian car brands like Zaporozhets and Tavria.
After the end of the Russian Revolution, the city became an important industrial center. The presence of cheap labor and the proximity of deposits of coal, iron ore, and manganese created favorable conditions for large-scale enterprises of the iron and mechanical engineering industries. Today Zaporizhia is an important industrial center of the region with heavy industry (particularly metallurgy), aluminium, and chemical industry. In the city cars, avia motors, radioelectronics are manufactured. The port of Zaporizhia is an important place of transshipment for goods from the Donbas.
Zaporizhstal, Ukraine's fourth largest steel maker, ranks 54th in the world and is based in the city.
Zaporizhia has a big electricity generating complex catering to industrial demand. The city is a home for the hydroelectric power plant known as "DniproHES" Dnieper Hydroelectric Station located inside the city. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant is located near the Enerhodar, around 60 km from Zaporizhia. Also there are the biggest thermal power station in Ukraine. Zaporizhia generates about 25% of the whole Ukrainian electricity.
The cultural background of Zaporizhia is creating by philharmonic, a number of museums, theaters, libraries. Among them are:
There are a number of small amateur groups, folk music and song bands, art galleries in Zaporizhia. The city regularly holds festivals and feasts, competitions of the Cossack martial arts and art exhibitions.
Zaporizhia has an open-air exhibition-and-sale of Zaporizhzhia city association of artists «Kolorit» near the 'Fountain of Life' at the Mayakovskoho square. A daily exhibition of artists' organizations of the city is a unique place in Zaporizhzhia, where people can communicate with craftsmen and artists, watch classes of carving, embroidery, beading and other creative works, receive lessons from professional artists, designers, and cartoonists.
The 12 km (7.5 mi) x 2 km (1.2 mi) island Khortytsia is located in the geographical center of the city. The city embraces the island by banks of the New and Old Dnieper streams. Two concrete bridges connect the Island to the city. They have been designed and constructed by the engineer Boris N. Preobrazhensky in 1952. Two level bridges have height about 54 meters. High level of the bridges is intended for rail and bottom – for cars and pedestrians.
The historical and cultural museum "Zaporizhian Sich" is placed on the northern rocky part of the island Khotritsa. The museum is the reconstructed stronghold of the Zaporizhian Cossacs. All features of the military cossack's camp life and their lifestyle are presented in the museum.
The smaller islands are located between the dam and the island Khortytsia. Each of these islands has its own legend. On one of them named Durnya Scala (Rock of the Fool) Tzar Peter the Great punished the Cossacks by flogging for their betrayal on the side of Charles XII of Sweden during the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden.
The another small island, named Stolb (Pillar), has a geological feature, which looks like a large bowl in granite slabs, its diameter equals 1,4 м, the depth – 1 м. This bowl is named Cossack's bowl. People say that in summer days under the hot sun, it is easy to boil water in this "bowl" and the Cossacks used it for cooking galushki (boiled dough in a spicy broth)
The panoramic view of the DnieproHES from Khortytsia island is very impressive. The straight and long Sobornyi avenue (10 km) ends in the SotsGorod near the Dam, which built up of the constructivist architecture of the 20th century.
The city of Zaporizhia is an important transportation hub in Ukraine and has deeply developed transportation system that includes roadway, rail, river and air options for passenger, freight as well as public utilities transit. Public city transport includes buses, minivans, trams, trolleybuses and railways.
On the eastern outskirts of Zaporizhia passes a major national highway M-18 that connects Kharkiv with Simferopol. Three other national highways terminate in Zaporizhia, one H-23 which starts in Kropyvnytskyi and through Kryvyi Rih ends in Zaporizhia; the second H-08 which starts in Kiev and travels along Dnieper all the way south passing through number of important cities such as Kremenchuk, Kamianske, Dnipro, and others; and the other highway H-15 which arrives to Zaporizhia from Donetsk.
There are four road bridges over Dnieper and two rail bridges. All bridges but one connect the city with Khortytsia island. The other bridge goes over the river dam of DniproHES.
The Zaporizhia city has two railway stations, Zaporizhia-the-First and Zaporizhia-the-Second. The First is the central station. It is located in the southern part of the city and is a part of the "north-south" transit route Simferopol-Kharkiv. The line of the Zaporizhia-the-Second station connects the Donbas coalfield with Kryvyi Rih iron ore site.
The city's two river ports are part of the national water transportation infrastructure that connects Kiev to Kherson along Dnieper river and utilizes some freight ships as well as cutter boats to travel between Zaporizhia and nearby villages. The big Khortytsia island splits river Dnieper into two branches (channels) the main branch that passes the island on its eastern side and the alternative branch also known as Startyi Dnipro (Old Dnieper) that passes the island on its western side.
The city's sole airport that is located to the east of the city (left-bank of Dnieper) includes both domestic and international flights. To the west of the city (right-bank of Dnieper) is located smaller airfield Shyroke.
Zaporizhia is an important setting in two Axis victory in World War II short fictions by Harry Turtledove: "Ready for the Fatherland" (1991) and "The Phantom Tolbukhin" (1998). Turtledove always uses the Zaporozhye spelling.
In addition, in 1969 the city renamed one of its streets "Wrocław", the Wrocław communist government acknowledging that they should honour the Ukrainian city in a similar way and a part of the Sudecka – Grabiszyńska street towards the square of the Silesian Insurgents – was renamed to Zaporoska street. It is about 1.3 km long.