Khortytsia (Хортиця) is the largest island on the river Dnieper. It is located within the limits of Zaporizhia in the southeastern part of Ukraine. Total area of Khortytsya is more than 23 km2, length – 12,5 km, width 2,5 km. The island is famous for its unique nature and important historical findings. Today it has a status of national cultural reserve.
In 2007 Khortytsya Island got the status of one of seven wonders of Ukraine. In 2015 BBC launched series about islands of the world. The first program is dedicated to Khortytsya.
Every year Khortytsia is visited by hundreds of tourists from all over the world. It is one of the most interesting places of Zaporozhye region and one of the worthy places to see in Ukraine.
The name of the island derives from the name of the river Khortytsia flowing not far from the island. Khortytsya (from ‘khort-’ – ‘fast’) means ‘fast water’. Another explanation – the word ‘Khortytsya’ derives from Turkic word ‘ort’ meaning ‘middle’ – the island is located in the middle of the river Dnieper.
The advantage ground of the island resulted into its rich historical past. Some archeologists believe that human settlements existed there more than thirty thousand years ago (Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods). First archeological finds date back to X-VI millennia BC.
Many different tribes inhabited island territory. First significant settlements date back to the Bronze Age (III-II millennia BC). Famous ancient settlement ‘Sovutyn Cliff’ is a significant site of Scythian period (VII-III centuries BC). The Scythians left numerous burial mounds important for contemporary archeologists.
The Sarmatians (II century BC – III century) left several burial places and coins.
Khortytsya was first mentioned in the treatise of Emperor Constantine VII named ‘De Administrando Imperio’ as the island of St. George (X century, Early Middle Ages). In those times the island was a center of the trade route from the Vangarians to Greeks (connecting Byzantine Empire, Kievan Rus’ and Scandinavia).
According to the legend Kievan Rus’ Prince Svyatoslav was killed during his attempt to cross the rapids of the river Dnieper nearby Khortytsia Island in 972.
Khortytsya and Zaporizhian Cossacks
In XV century Small Khortytsya Island (island between Khortytsya and right bank of contemporary Zaporizhia city) became a stronghold for Zaporozhian Cossacks. Prince Dmytro Vyshnevetsky established Zaporizhian Sich there. First Sich existed from 1552 till 1558. Then the strongholds was relocated downstream the river Dnieper.
In 1596-1648 a permanent post of Registered Cossacks was located on Khortytsya Island.
After Zaporizhian Sich liquidation Khortytsya Island was given as a gift to Prince Grigory Potemkin from Catherine the Great. In 1789 Potemkin signed it away to State treasury.
In 1789 a Mennonite colony was settled on the left bank of the island. Eighteen families came from Danzig, Germany. They were given state-owned land plots and grants in aid, exempted from taxes for 30 years. Men also were overslaughed. By the end of XIX century the colony numbered 3000.
The most profitable item of income for colonists was lumber-trade. In 1880s illegal coupes became uncontrolled. Mennonites couldn’t protect forest area and in 1916 sold Khortytsya Island to Olexandrivsk (now Zaporizhia) city government.
In 1927-1928 engineering structures were built on Khortytsya as a part of Dnieper Hydroelectric Station.
In 1931 bridges by architect M. Streletskiy were constructed.
In September 1965 Khortytsia Island was declared a national historical-cultural sanctuary.
Museum of Zaporizhian Cossacks
Today a large part of sanctuary is covered by Zaporizhian Sich Complex. The complex was built in 2007, it includes many objects typical for Zaporizhian Sich times. It is opened to the public, every year it is visited by thousands of tourists.
Museum of Zaporozhian Cossacks is also opened for visitors. The expositional area of museum is about 1600 m2. Several themes are portrayed there: Khortytsya Island in ancient times, history of Cossacks, history of Zaporizhia at Soviet times. There are also four dioramas representing Khortytsya at different times.
Khortytsya Island is an integrated part of Zaporizhia structure. Three road bridges connect the island with the right and the left banks of the city. There are several housing estates; the number of inhabitants is about 2000. Dozens of holiday camps, health camps, rest houses function in summer (some of them are opened all year round).
Khortytsia Island in Zaporizhia is one of the most visited sights in Ukraine. In 2010 250 thousand people came there to see its beauty.