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Ukraine’s tenth-largest city with a population of 460,000 was once primarily known for its busy port at the Sea of Azov, its big and important steel and iron factories and for being a gateway to Crimea, once the country’s main tourism draw. However, the city’s close proximity to the Russian border has made it a primary target for the neighbor’s invasion forces. In the war, the city has been held by the Ukrainian government’s troops except for one short period in May 2014, but it is nevertheless currently unsafe to travel to the area as the city and the region have repeatedly been under heavy fire.

Mariupol lies in a strategically important location at the mouth of the Kalmius river, which flows through the Donbass area, takes in the Kalchik river and then continues on to the Azov Sea. A part of the Donetsk Oblast (province), Mariupol has been made the oblast’s temporary administrative center as the original one, Donetsk, remains under control of insurgents under Russian command.

From 1948 to 1989, the city’s name was Zhdanov, so named by the Soviets in honor of a politician born in town who had died in 1948.   


Quick facts Mariupol


Southeastern Ukraine




Founding year


Due to ongoing clashes between peoples of the extended region, the area where Mariupol is located today remained thinly populated in the early Middle Ages. It remained an area often shaken by conflicts later on, although the Cossacks used it for hunting and agriculture. After a few more disputes between the Turks and Tatars on one side and Russian forces on the other, the area came under New Russia’s rule in 1775, with a city by the name of Marianopol founded in 1779. The new town developed into a trade center and transportation hub over the next decades. For almost two years from October 1941 on, the city was occupied by the Germans.

Following the purpose-bound further development of the city under Soviet rule, the architecture is mostly unremarkable. Nevertheless, there are a number of attractions in town, including several urban parks and gardens as well as the city beach, historic church buildings and the large port area. There is also an amusement park in town, a small zoo and a museum dedicated to the Greek heritage of the area.

However, Mariupol primarily remains a city that is notable for its industrial base. In a dedicated free trade zone at the port and within the Mariupol cityscape, there are stell mills, iron works, manufacturing industries and shipyards. While the ecology around town has suffered from these heavy industries for many years, those corporations provide employment for a large part of the city’s population. In a survey taken in 2002, it was shown that Ukrainian and Russian ethnicities each make up about 45% of the population and Russian is the most widely-used language in the city.