Back to: See Ukraine


Dnieper river

Crossing through three countries, the Dnieper river is the third-longest river in Europe, stretching over a total length of 2201 kilometers. It passes numerous metropolitan areas, creates a number of reservoirs and takes care of providing wide areas with power through hydroelectric stations. For Ukraine, the river is not only a national symbol, it also the country’s most important water transportation channel. The Dnieper’s source lies in the Valdai Hills in Russia, from where it continues north and through Belarus, before the river enters Ukraine north of Kyiv. 1095 kilometers of the river’s total length are in Ukraine, where it finally empties into the Black Sea near Kherson.

Dnieper Cherkasy

Near the Belarusian border, the Dnieper receives the Pripyat River, which would in turn, through the Dnieper-Bug Canal in western Belarus, enable a navigable waterway to Western Europe if not for a natural weir barrier near Brest at the border with Poland. The river’s path through Ukraine begins not far from the Chernobyl disaster area near the city of Slavutych. This town, which today has a population of about 24,000, was newly created in 1986 to become the new home for people relocated from the nuclear accident site as well as for researchers and people engaged in the cleanup works and site monitoring. Slavutych’s founding and maintenance was paid for by the company that owned the reactor, but when the plant was finally closed in 2001, it was confronted with an uncertain future and a high unemployment rate. In this area, countless small islands are located in the river.

Some 100 kilometers to the south, the Dnieper reaches the Kiyv area, where it separates the town into a left and a right bank - a common differentiation made when referring to addresses here. Near the city, a reservoir colloquially called the “Kiev sea” is formed by a dam that used to be the longest in the world with a length of 41 kilometers. The reservoir is used for boating and other activities. Only shortly farter south down the river, near the small city of Ukrainka, yet another reservoir has been created. The Kaniv reservoir was created in 1978 to power a hydroelectric plant and today is often used for fishing. It stretches over some 160 kilometers.

Shortly before Kaniv is reached, the Dnieper passes a town with a name almost impossible to memorize for foreigners. Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi is an ancient town where Ukrainian Cossacks signed a treaty with the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1654. Previously, a fortress to protect the Kievan Rus from raids had been constructed here in 992. Due to the overwhelming historic significance, the city has the status of a history reserve and hosts more than 20 museums. Also, excavated ruins of the fortification structures can be visited here. In Kaniv, the most important sight is the burial site of Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko on a hill overlooking the river. There is also a museum dedicated to the writer on the “Taras hill”. Further places worth seeing in town are St. George’s Cathedral, originally built in 1144 and a state nature preserve along the river bank. The next large city along the Dnieper is the old central stronghold town of the Cossacks, Cherkasy, today having a population of about 285,000. Although the city has a long and significant history, having been founded in 1286, only very few examples of historic architecture have survived in the city. Cherkasy’s main attractions are the beaches along the river, which are well-visited day trip destinations in the summer and its broad cultural offerings which include several theaters and even a philharmonic. Near Cherkasy, there is the last river crossing by bridge until only some 150 kilometers later. 

Kremenchuk ReservoirThere, near Kremenchuk, yet another dam has been constructed in 1961, forming a reservoir of the same name (photo on the left). Kremenchuk used to be an important Cossack town, but today is mostly a city with significant economy, including a truck manufacturing plant and an oil refinery. The city stretches all the way to the next larger agglomeration, Komsomolsk, which was built in the 1960s to accommodate the workers of the nearby iron ore mining business. 

Heavy industries also play a big role for the city of Dniprodzerzhynsk, which has about 240,000 residents and is important for the metallurgy and chemical industries. However, the city also has a number of sights, such as the orthodox St. Nicholas church or a large Prometheus monument. There is another road bridge across the Dnieper here, newly constructed in 1996 and the only river crossing available until the river reaches Dnipropetrovsk some 40 kilometers downstream. This is one of Ukraine’s largest and most significant cities with a population just over 1 million. It stretches along both river banks, with the city center area on the right bank, in a resources-rich area called Upland. The Dnieper describes a big loop here which leads to it changing its direction from a northwestern to a southwestern course. Dnipropetrovsk is a city with a long and interesting history, but after Nazi occupation and as a closed city that produced missiles and other military goods, it is today mainly an example of Stalinist architecture and city planning with a few sights worth visiting, such as the Gorky Theatre or the Transfiguration Cathedral. It is interesting to see how the modern city with its state-of-the-art architecture blends in with structures from the Soviet past.

Some 80 kilometers downstream visitors find the next large city in Zaporizhia with a population of 770,000. The Dnieper separates into two arms here, the “old” and the “new” Dnieper with an island called Khortytsia in between these arms, behind which the two streams reunite. Khortytsia has historic significance as an important Cossack center, but is also notable for its rich and unique variety in flora and fauna. Bearing many historically relevant sites and a renowned museum on Cossack history and culture, the island has received the designation as a national reserve. Next up along the Dnieper are the towns of Marhanets, an important center for manganese iron mining, and Nikopol, a significant port town and water transportation hub for the goods produced in the region. Nikopol has about 118,000 residents and is, ever since the construction of a large dam in 1955, located at the giant Kakhovka reservoir, which is often colloquially referred to as an “ocean” because of its size. There are a number of fish farms located in this section of the river. The medium-sized city of Enerhodar on the left bank of the river was founded in 1970 and fulfills the purpose of hosting Europe’s largest power plant, the Zaporizhzhia thermal power station. The dam to form the Kakhovka reservoir is located near Nova Kakhovka, a town of 72,000 created in a Stalin-era measure called “Great Construction Project of Communism” in the 1950s, aimed at demonstrating the economic capabilities of the Soviet Union. 

The last large city before the Dnieper reaches the Black Sea is Kherson, a town with 358,000 inhabitants founded in 1778 with significant shipbuilding industry. From here, the river travels some 30 kilometers more before it flows into the ocean. Among the attractions in Kherson are the former town hall converted to an art museum, the St. Catherine’s Cathedral containing the tomb of Potemkin and the hyperboloid structure of the Adziogol Lighthouse in the Dnieper estuary.