Dnipropetrovsk (Ukrainian: Дніпропетровськ [ˌdɲiprope̝ˈtrɔu̯sʲk]) or Dnepropetrovsk (Russian: Днепропетровск) formerly Yekaterinoslav (Russian: Екатеринослав, Ukrainian: Катеринослав, translit. Katerynoslav) is Ukraine’s fourth largest city, with about one million inhabitants. It is located southeast of Ukraine’s capital Kiev on the Dnieper River, in the south-central part of the country. Dnipropetrovsk is the administrative centre of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
Within the Dnipropetrovsk Metropolitan area the population is about 1,004,000 to 1,360,000 people.
A vital industrial centre of Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk was one of the key centres of the nuclear, arms, and space industries of the former Soviet Union. In particular, it is home to Yuzhmash, a major space and ballistic missile design bureau and manufacturer. Because of its military industry, Dnipropetrovsk was a closed city until the 1990s.
After the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago) the settling of the Prydniprovia area began more intensely. In c.3500–2700 BC the first farmers lived here (people of the so-called Cucuteni-Trypillia culture).
The Cimmerians, ancient equestrian nomads who bred cattle, occupied the North Pontic steppe zone including Prydniprovye; their culture and civilization flourished between about 1000 and 800 BC The Cimmerians were driven out by the nomadic Scythians (700 BC), who in turn were overcome by the Sarmatians from the East (200 BC).
The mighty, broad Dnieper River (Greeks called it the Borysthenes, ‘Borysphen’ in local pronunciation) with its picturesque islands and peaceful backwaters, lush flood-meadows and shadowy oak woods stretches along river valleys and ravines. Abundant game and fish in local forests and waters are a result of good climate and vast fertile land. All this attracted hunters, fishers, cattle-breeders and land-tillers to these parts.
In the 3rd and 4th century, about 40 km south of the modern city, the village of Bashmachka (Башмачка) was one of the centres of the Goths. A little later their place was taken by first the Huns, the Avars, the Bulgars, and the Magyars. After them the Slavs began to settle in the area.
Kipchak statues near the Historical Museum, Karla Marksa Prospekt
A monastery was founded by Byzantine monks on Monastyrsky Island, probably in the 9th century (870 AD). The Dnipropetrovsk area was ruled by a steppe nomadic people called the Cumans or Kipchaks who ruled this area until the Mongol invasions. The Tatars destroyed the monastery in 1240.
At the beginning of the 15th century, Tatar tribes inhabiting the right bank of the Dnieper were driven away by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Unfortunately, by the mid-15th century, the Nogai (who lived north of the Sea of Azov) and the Crimean Khanate invaded these lands. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crimean Khanate agreed to a border along the Dnieper, and further east along the Samara River, i.e. through what is today the city of Dnipropetrovsk. It was in this time that there appeared a new force – the free people – Cossacks. They later became known as Zaporozhian Cossacks (Zaporizhia – the lands south of Prydniprovye, translate as «The Land Beyond the Weirs [Rapids]»). This was a period of raids and fighting causing considerable devastation and depopulation in that area; the area became known as the ‘Wilderness’ (Russian Дикое поле) (Ukrainian Дике Поле).
Map of Kodak fortress, which was constructed in 1635.
The first fortified town in what is now Dnipropetrovsk was probably built in the mid-16th century, and is now referred to as «Stari Kodaky» [Old Kodaky]. In 1635, the Polish Government built the Kodak fortress above the Dnieper Rapids at Kodaky (on the south-eastern outskirts of modern Dnipropetrovsk), partly as a result of rivalry in the region of Poland, Turkey and Russia, and partly to maintain control over Cossack activity (i.e. to suppress the Cossacks raiders and to prevent peasants moving out of the area). On the night of 3/4 August 1635, the Cossacks of Ivan Sulyma captured the fort by surprise, burning it down and butchering the garrison of about 200 West European mercenaries under Jean Marion. The fort was rebuilt by French engineer Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan for the Polish Government in 1638, and had a mercenary garrison.Kodak was captured by Zaporozhian Cossacks on 1 October 1648, and was garrisoned by the Cossacks until its demolition in accordance with the Treaty of the Pruth in 1711. The ruins of the Kodak are visible now. There is a currently a project to restore it and create a tourist centre and park-museum.
Under the Treaty of Pereyaslav of 1654, the territory became part of the Russian Empire. For practical purposes, the Prydniprovye lands remained a self-governing border area until the destruction of the Zaporizhian Sich in 1775.
The Zaporozhian village of Polovytsia was founded in the late-1760s, between the settlements of Stari (Old) and Novi (New) Kodaky. It was located at the present centre of the city to the West to district of Central Terminal and the Ozyorka farmers market.
The city that is now called Dnipropetrovsk was founded as part of the expansion of the Russian Empire into the lands North of the Black Sea, known as the Novorossiysk gubernia. The city was originally known as Yekaterinoslav, which translates in English to «The glory of Yekaterina» (Catherine the Great). It became the administrative centre of the Yekaterinoslav Governorate.
Cossack and Russian armies fought against the Ottoman Empire for control of this area in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774). The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca ended this war in July 1774; and in May 1775 the Russian army destroyed the Zaporozhian Sich, thus eliminating the political independence of Cossacks. In 1774 Prince Grigori Potemkin was appointed governor of Novorossiysk gubernia, and after the destruction of the Zaporozhian Sich, he started founding cities in the region and encouraging foreign settlers. The city of Yekaterinoslav was founded in 1776, not in the current location, but at the confluence of the River Samara with the River Kil’chen’ at Loshakivka, north of the Dnieper. By 1782, the city population was 2,194. However the site had been badly chosen because spring waters were transforming the city into a bog. The settlement was later renamed Novomoskovsk. In 1783, Yekaterinoslav was refounded on its current site, on the south bank of the Dnieper, near the Zaporozhian village of Polovytsia. The population of Yekaterinoslav-Kil’chen’ were (according to some sources) transferred to the new site. Potemkin’s plans for the city were extremely ambitious. It was to be about 30 km by 25 km in size, and included:
The site for the Potemkin palace was bought from retired Cossack yesaul (colonel) Lazar’ Globa, who owned much of the land near the city. Part of Lazar’ Globa’s gardens still exist and are now called Globa Park.
A combination of Russian red tape, defective workmanship, and theft resulted in what was built being less than originally planned. Construction stopped after the death of Potemkin and his sponsor, Empress Catherine. Plans were reconsidered and scaled back. The size of the cathedral was reduced, and it was completed in 1835. From 1797 to 1802 the city was called Novorossiysk.
Despite the bridging of the Dnieper in 1796 and the growth of trade in the early 19th century, Yekaterinoslav remained small until the 1880s, when the railway was built and industrialization of the city began. The boom was caused by two men: John Hughes, a Welsh businessman who built an iron works at what is now Donetsk in 1869–72, and developed the Donetsk coal deposits.; and Alexandr Pol’, a Ukrainian who accidentally discovered the Kryvyi Rih iron ores in 1866, during archaeological research.
The Donetsk coal was necessary for smelting pig-iron from the Kryvyi Rih ore, producing a need for railway to connect Donetsk with Kryvyi Rih. Permission to build the railway was given in 1881, and it opened in 1884. The railway crossed the Dnieper at Yekaterinoslav. The city grew quickly; new suburbs appeared: Amur, Nyzhnodniprovsk and the factory areas developed. In 1897, Yekaterinoslav became the third city in the Russian Empire to have electric trams. The Higher Mining School opened in 1899, and by 1913 it had grown into the Mining Institute.
Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 resulted in revolts against the Tsar in many places including Yekaterinoslav. Tens of people were killed and hundreds wounded. There was a wave of anti-Semitic attacks.
From 1902 to 1933, the famous historian of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, Dmytro Yavornytsky, was Director of the Dnipropetrovsk Museum, which was later named after him. Before his death in 1940, Yavornytsky wrote a History of the City of Yekaterinoslav, which lay in manuscript for many years. It was only published in 1989 as a result of the Gorbachev reforms.
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After the Russian February revolution in 1917 Yekaterinoslav became a city within autonomy of Ukrainian People’s Republic under Tsentralna Rada government. In November 1917 the Bolsheviks led a rebellion and got power for a short time. The city experienced occupation of German and Austrian-Hungarian armies that were allies of Ukrainian Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi and helped him to keep authority in the country.
In the time of the Ukrainian Directorate government, with its dictator Symon Petlura, the city had periods of uncertain power. At times the anarchists of Nestor Makhno held the city, and at others Denikin’s Volunteer Army. Military operations of the Red Army, which came in from the North, captured the city in 1919, and despite attempts by Russian General Wrangel in 1920, he was unable to reach Yekaterinoslav. The War ended the following year.
The remains of Dnipropetrovsk’s Mining Institute, which was burnt-out by German forces during the Second World War.
The city was renamed after the Communist leader of Ukraine Grigory Petrovsky in 1926.
During the past century, the economic activity of the city has defined its political importance. Dnipropetrovsk and the surrounding oblast are the birthplace of the «Dnipropetrovsk Faction», an influential informal political group inside the CPSU, members of which were the industrial and party elite. Leonid Brezhnev, a native of the nearby city of Dniprodzerzhyns’k and later the Communist Party General Secretary, assured members of this group of a prominent place in Soviet society and politics. Members of this group are believed by many political scientists to have ruled not only the Ukrainian SSR but also the entire Soviet Union up to the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev to the position of CPSU General Secretary and President of the Soviet Union.
1944–1987: as a closed city in the Soviet Union
As early as July 1944, the State Committee of Defense in Moscow decided to build a large military machine-building factory in Dnipropetrovsk on the location of the pre-war aircraft plant. In December 1945, thousands of German prisoners of war began construction and built the first sections and shops in the new factory. This was the foundation of the Dnipropetrovsk Automobile Factory. In 1947 and 1948 this factory produced the first cars and special military automobiles.
The city’s ‘Gorky’ Theatre of Russian Drama was constructed during the Stalinist period.
Joseph Stalin suggested special secret training for highly qualified engineers and scientists to become rocket construction specialists. He recommended introducing a new college degree at Dnipropetrovsk State University: a master of sciences in rocket construction.
In the early 1950s, during the ongoing industrialisation of the city, much of Dnipropetrovsk’s centre was rebuilt in the Stalinist style of Socialist Realism.
In 1954 the administration of this automobile factory opened a secret design office with the name “Southern” (konstruktorskoe biuro Yuzhnoe – in Russian) to construct military missiles and rocket engines. Hundreds of talented physicists, engineers and machine designers moved from Moscow and other large cities in the Soviet Union to Dnipropetrovsk to join this “Southern” design office. In 1965, the secret Plant #586 was transferred to the Ministry of General Machine-Building of the USSR. The next year this plant officially changed its name into “the Southern Machine-building Factory” (Yuzhnyi mashino-stroitel’nyi zavod) or in abbreviated Russian, simply Yuzhmash.
The first “General Constructor” and head of the “Southern” design office was Mikhail Yangel’, a prominent scientist and outstanding designer of space rockets, who managed not only the design office, but the entire factory from 1954 to 1971. Yangel’ designed the first powerful rockets and space military equipment for the Soviet Ministry of Defense. Moscow sent specialists and invested money into Yangel’ and his colleagues’ projects. Yangel’ collaborated with talented engineers who later became the leaders of military production in Dnipropetrovsk and the official directors of Yuzhmash. Two close collaborators of Yangel and of his successor V. Utkin (1971–1990) were the Yuzhmash directors Leonid Smirnov (1952–1961) and Aleksandr Makarov (1961–1986).
In 1951 the Southern Machine-building Factory began manufacturing and testing new military rockets for the battlefield. The range of these first missiles was only 270 kilometers. By 1959 Soviet scientists and engineers developed new technology, and as a result, the “Southern” design office (KBYu – as abbreviated in Russian) started a new machine-building project making ballistic missiles. Under the leadership of Yangel’, KBYu produced such powerful rocket engines that the range of these ballistic missiles was practically without limits. During the 1960s, these powerful rocket engines were used as launch vehicles for the first Soviet space ships. During Makarov’s directorship, Yuzhmash designed and manufactured four generations of missile complexes of different types. These included space launch vehicles Kosmos, Interkosmos, Tsyklon -2, Tsyklon-3 and Zenith. Under the leadership of Yangel’s successor, V. Utkin, the KBYu created a unique space-rocket system called Energia-Buran. Yuzhmash engineers manufactured 400 technical devices that were launched in artificial satellites (Sputniks). For the first time in the world space industry, the Dnipropetrovsk missile plant organised the serial production of space Sputniks. By the 1980s, this plant manufactured 67 different types of space ships, 12 space research complexes and 4 defense space rocket systems.
These systems were used not only for purely military purposes by the Ministry of Defense, but also for astronomic research, for global radio and television network and for ecological monitoring. Yuzhmash initiated and sponsored the international space program of socialist countries, called Interkosmos.
The Dnipropetrovsk Conservatoire is a good example of late Soviet-era architecture.
On the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union, KBYu had 9 regular and corresponding members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, 33 full professors and 290 scientists holding a Ph.D. They awarded scientific degrees and presided over a prestigious graduate school at KBYu, which attracted talented students of physics from all over the USSR. More than 50,000 people worked at Yuzhmash. At the end of the 1950s, Yuzhmash became the main Soviet design and manufacturing centre for different types of missile complexes. The Soviet Ministry of Defense included Yuzhmash in its strategic plans. The military rocket systems manufactured in Dnipropetrovsk became the major component of the newly born Soviet Missile Forces of Strategic Purpose.
The unfinished ‘Parus’ hotel on the embankment has become a symbol of poor economic planning in the Soviet era.
According to contemporaries, Yuzhmash was separate entity inside the Soviet state. After a long period of competition with the Moscow centre of rocket construction of V. Chelomei (a successor of Koroliov) Yuzhmash rocket designs won in 1969. Since that time leaders of the Soviet military industrial complex preferred Yuzhmash rocket models. By the end of the 1970s, this plant became the major centre for designing, constructing, manufacturing, testing and deploying strategic and space missile complexes in the Soviet Union. The general designer and director of Yuzhmash supervised the work of numerous research institutes, design centres and factories all over the Soviet Union from Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, to Voronezh and Yerevan. The Soviet state provided billions of Soviet rubles to finance Yuzhmash projects.
Officially, Yuzhmash manufactured agricultural tractors and special kitchen equipment for everyday needs, such as mincing-machines or juicers for peaceful Soviet households. In official reports for the general audience there was no information about the production of rockets or spaceships. However, hundreds of thousands of workers and engineers in the city of Dnipropetrovsk worked in this plant and members of their families (up to 60% of the city population!) knew about the “real production” of Yuzhmash. This missile plant became a significant factor in the arms race of the Cold War. This is why the Soviet government approved of the KGB’s secrecy about Yuzhmash and its products. According to the Soviet government’s decision, the city of Dnipropetrovsk was officially closed to foreign visitors in 1959. No citizen of a foreign country (even of the socialist ones) was allowed to visit the city or district of Dnipropetrovsk. After the late 1950s ordinary Soviet people called Dnipropetrovsk “the rocket closed city.”
Only during perestroika was Dnipropetrovsk opened to foreigners again in 1987. (see in detail in Sergei I. Zhuk, Rock and Roll in the Rocket City: The West, Identity, and Ideology in Soviet Dniepropetrovsk, 1960-1985 (Baltimore, MD: the Johns Hopkins University Press & Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2010), 18-28.
In June 1990, the women’s department of Dnipropetrovsk preliminary prison was destroyed in prison riots. In the ten years that followed, women under investigation (i.e. not convicted) in Dnipropetrovsk oblast were either held in Preliminary Prison 4 in Kryvyi Rih or in «detention blocks» in Dnipropetrovsk; this contravened Ukrainian Law «On preliminary incarceration». Journeys from Kryviy Rih took up to six hours in special railway carriages with grated windows. Some prisoners had to do this 14 or 15 times. After complaints by the ombudsman (Nina Karpacheva) the head of the State prison department of Ukraine (Vladimir Levochkin) arranged that finances were given for the provision of women cells in Dnipropetrovsk Preliminary Prison, making the lives of the 15,000 unconvicted women-detainees easier from August 2000.
In 2005, the most powerful representative of the «Dnipropetrovsk Faction» in Ukrainian politics was Leonid Kuchma, the former President of Ukraine and former senior manager of Yuzhmash.
In June and July 2007, Dnipropetrovsk experienced a wave of serial killings that were dubbed by the media as the work of the Dnipropetrovsk maniacs. In February 2009, three youths were sentenced for their part in 21 murders.
On 27 April 2012, four bombs exploded near four tram stations in Dnipropetrovsk, injuring 26 people.