Zaporizhia is one of the largest regional centers of Ukraine – a remarkable industrial and cultural center, and an important river port. It is known across the world as the Cossacks’ motherland. The history of the city is intertwined with the famous Dnipro rapids and the Khortytsia Island. In the 16th century, the Cossacks – who were mainly peasants escaping from feudal oppression – founded the country known as Zaporizhian Sich here, which later came to be called the Free Cossack Republic.
The Cossacks held off the Tatars’ advance on Zaporizhian lands, and guided merchant ships down the Dnipro River. They also actively participated in the national struggle against Polish occupiers. Not long after that, the freedom-loving Zaporizhian Cossacks began to worry the Russian Empire. In 1775, Catherine the Great ordered the Zaporizhian Sich to be destroyed, and the lands of the Lower Dnipro were merged with Russia.
To save the empire's southern borders from the Crimean Khanate, Catharine decided to build Fort Alexander not far from Khortytsia. A settlement was formed near the fortress, where the Zaporizhian Cossacks settled. The population of this small town, called Alexandrovsk at the time, slowly grew. Soon, the town turned into an important trade and traffic center. However, over the next century the town’s development slowed.
Only in the early 20th century Alexandrovsk, by then renamed Zaporizhzhia (which means "beyond the rapids"), began to greatly increase its production. The most powerful hydroelectric power station in Europe - "DnieproGES" - was constructed there. Iron works factories were built. In the 1920s and 1930s, Zaporizhzhia became one of the most important centers of industry and power engineering in the Soviet Union.
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