Zaporizhia (transcript. Zaporizhzhia or Zaporizhzhya), or Zaporozhye (transcript. Zaporozh'ye) [formerly Alexandrovsk] is a city in southeastern Ukraine, situated on the banks of the Dnieper River. It is the administrative center of the Zaporizhia Oblast (province). Currently the city is the sixth largest one in Ukraine and has population of 776,000 people (as of 2011).
(see also History of Zaporizhia)
Archaeological finds in the area suggest that Scythian nomads were living there two to three thousand years ago. The Scythians were replaced in time by Khazars, Pechenegs, Cumans, Tatars, and Eastern Slavs. 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 island of Mala Khortytsia in the Dnieper River near Khortytsia island. These fortifications were a prototype of the Zaporizhian Sich. The Sich was a stronghold of the Cossacks who lived south of the rapids of the Dnieper on the border of the Polish–Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita and the Moscow kingdom.
From Fort Alexander to Alexandrovsk City
The city began with a small fortress, built in the steppe in 1775 during the reign of Catherine the Great in order to protect the southern territories from Turkish threats. Fort Alexander, founded in 1770, was only one link in the so-called "Dnieper Fortification Line". The fort was built on the left bank of the Dnieper River across from Khortytsia island. Historians are uncertain when asked in honour of which people the fort was named. Hypotheses were made about the names of Alexander Golitsyn, Alexander Vyazemsky, Alexander Rumyantsev. In 1921 the town was renamed Zaporizhia (Zaporozhye) (literally, "beyond the rapids").
In 1789 Mennonites from Prussia accepted an invitation from Catherine the Great and settled in what became the Chortitza Colony, northwest of Khortytsia island. Mennonite-owned mills and factories were built in Alexandrovsk and later expropriated by the Communist government. After the Russian Revolution many Mennonites emigrated, fled as refugees, or were deported from the area. Currently few Mennonites live in Zaporizhia. Mennonite buildings still exist in the area and in the other main Mennonite colony center, current day Molochansk.
In 1829 it was proposed to build a rope ferry to transport across the Dnieper; this was built to a design that the Tsar had approved for use all over the Russian empire, and could carry a dozen carts. The ferry closed when the Kichkas Bridge replaced it in 1904.
The original railway bridge over the Dnieper was the Kichkas (Кичкасский) Bridge, which was designed by YD Proskuryakov and EO Paton. Construction was supervised by FW Lat. The bridge had a span of 336 m, and crossed the river with single arch of 190 m span. The upper tier carried a double-track railway line, whilst the lower tier was a road bridge with pedestrian walkways either side of the bridge. It was built at the narrowest part of the Dnieper river at Volchʹego Gorla (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 before the communist revolution.
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 (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.
Industrialization in the 1920s and 1930s
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 (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.
The hydro-electric dam, DniproHES
The turning point in the history of the city is 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, the construction manager – A. V. Vinter, 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, 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 has become available for the navigation 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 20-th doctrinaire idealistic enthusiasm of the architects was reflected in the intense debate about the habitation of the socialist community. The architects believed that they create a new society, using new architectural forms. District № 6 was one of the few implementation of urban development concepts. The construction of the district began in 1929 and finished in 1932. The main idea leading the architects was the creation of the garden city, the city of the future. Many storey houses (not more than 4 floors) with large, roomy apartments were built in Sotsgorod. Very comfortable 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 1930s. The architects used the ideas of the constructivist architecture. The known ring house ( "40 years of Soviet Ukraine street #31" 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 the dugouts at 15-th and Aluminum districts. The District border is limited by Verkhnya Ulitsa (Upper st.) in the south and by the hydroelectric power in the north. At the intersection between Lenin ave. and Verkhnya Ulitsa. architect I.L. Kosliner set the tower in 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 (the authors are 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 have only positive feelings like joy, pride and enthusiasm. At the end of the road stands a sculpture of the metallurgist (sculptor – Ivan Nosenko, 1963). 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. Lenin 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.
The District #6 is a small part of the global project called Big Zaporizhia. This project was designed for the city, to enable half million people to live in seven different areas – Voznesenka, Boburka, Kichkas, Alexandrovsk, Pavlo-Kichkas, Island Khortitsa. Each district must be independent from the others and at the same time part of а united city. The city line should be stretched along the banks of the Dnieper River in 22 km.
The Dnieper railway bridges
The location of the Kichkas Bridge was in the flood zone upstream of the hydro-electric dam. Initially it was planned to disassemble it and rebuilt 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 hydro-electric 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 of 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 has a span of 140 m; on left bank, however when the approach spans are included the total length is 715 m. The bridge weighed 8,480 tons. The Old Dnieper was crossed by a single span arch bridge; the bridge had a total length of 370 m; the arch having a span 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 called Konstantinov. The arches were made from 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.
Eastern Front (World War II)
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 of Khortytsia. The Red Army blew a 120m x 10m hole in the Dnieper hydroelectric dam (DniproHES) at 16:00 on 18 August, producing a flood wave that swept from Zaporizhia to Nikopol, killing local residents as well as soldiers from both sides. 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 also 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 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. 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 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.
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 Ordjonikidzevkij and Zhovtnevyj Districts and a memorial in Zhovtnevyj District dedicated to Red Army Lieutenant Yatsenko 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, and the first electricity was produced from the restored dam on 3 March 1947.