Khortytsia island in Ukraine is the largest island on Dnipro River and the largest river island in the whole Europe. Modern Khortytsia, officially listed as one of the seven miracles of Ukraine, is a national natural reserve and a very interesting historical complex. Today guests of this legendary place in Zaporizhzhya city can visit the Museum of History of Ukrainian Zaporozhian Cossack Army, reconstructed capital of Cossacks, stone sanctuaries of Scythians and other ancient tribes. Сultural landmarks surrounded by beautiful nature attract hundreds of tourists who want to feel the breath of history.
The territory of Khortytsia island in Zaporizhzhya embraces approximately 2 500 hectares. The scientists say that the island has appeared in the course of geological fault more than 2 million years ago. Khortytsia is stretched from North West to South East; its length is 12.5 km, width – 2.5 km. The island can boast diverse and picturesque landscapes including fields, cliffs, lakes, leafy and softwood forests. In the ancient times, Khortytsia was an important strategic part of the way from countries of Northern Europe to the Black Sea coastal area – so-called “way from Varangians to Greeks”.
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The first mentioning about Khortytsia was found in a treatise written by Byzantine emperor Konstantine VII in the period between 946 and 953. His treatise “About ruling the Empire” references to the island under the name “St. Gregory`s Island”.
The first dwellers came to the island in Paleolithic and Mesolithic ages. From the VII to the III before Christ, Khortytsia was inhabited by Scythians. Modern visitors of the island still can see mysterious stone sanctuaries, left from that times. These sanctuaries are open-air prototypes of churches and temples. The structure and shape of sanctuaries is related to the cults of life origins, the Sun, calendar cycles. Currently the visitors of Khortytsia island can see cromlech complex of Neolithic age, observatory sanctuary constructed in II century before Christ, stone sanctuary of the Bronze era and round Scythian sanctuary built in the V-IV centuries before Christ.
The history of Khortytsia is inextricably bound up with Kyiv Rus`. The island remembers Kyiv Princes Askold and Dir as well as the famous Princess Olga. One of the theories says that Prince Sviatoslav has died in a battle with Pechenegs on Khortytsia near the Black Cliff in 972. This theory is confirmed by old Rus swords of X century found in the corresponding place of Khortytsia in the course of construction of Dnipro Hydroelectric Station in 1920s–1930s. In 1103, the island was visited by Prince Sviatopolk and his warriors. The information about it can be found in Hypatian Chronicle. In 1223, Khortytsia was the meeting point of Rus princes before the tragic battle with Mongolo-Tatars near Kalka River.
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Talking about the topic of Khortytsia island history, we can surely state that its brightest period is related to Zaporozhian Sich. Zaporozhian Sich was the administrative and military center of Cossack Army that existed on the island from the XVI to the XVIII century. The first Cossack fortification on Khortytsia was built by hetman Dmytro Vyshnevetsky in 1556. Having his base on the island, the hetman organized two military expeditions to Turkish and Crimean lands in the same year. During Russian-Turkish war of 1736–1739, there were many defensive earth walls build on Khortytsia. Rus` army and Cossack military units, who fought together against Ottoman Empire, used the island as their base for a long time. Surprisingly, some fortifications of that time still remain on Khortytsia, attracting many tourists and history fans.
After demolition of Zaporozhian Sich in 1775, the Tsar government gave the ownership of the island to Prince Potemkin. In 1789, Khortytsia became a home for a small colony of Mennonite Germans, who had come from the city of Danzig. In December 1916, the Germans sold the island to the city administration of Alexandrovsk (the old name of Zaporizhzhya).
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In the beginning of Soviet Era (1927–1932), Khortytsia was turned into construction site of Dnipro Hydroelectric Station. During the construction process, the natural landscape of the island was seriously damaged. To protect historical and natural values of the island, on September 18, 1965 Khortytsia was declared as State Historical and Cultural reserve. On April 5, 1993 Khortytsya island received the status of the National reserve and park.
Nowadays, historical and cultural complex “Zaporozhian Sich”, constructed in the beginning of 2000s, is the most popular highlight of the island. The complex, built according to the prototype of real Zaporozhian Sich, revives the authentic atmosphere of Cossack Army capital, presenting the most interesting elements of architecture, culture and life of Zaporozhian Cossacks. Around the complex, guests can see defense fortifications: high earth wall, deep ditch and strong wooden fence. Those who wish to dive deeper into history have a chance to visit the Museum of History of Ukrainian Zaporozhian Cossack Army that is also located on the island. The exhibition of this museum shows original weapons, utensils, coins, clothes and documents from the old times of Cossacks.
In the South Eastern part of the island, guests are welcome to visit folk ethnographic horse riding theater “Zaporozhian Cossacks” and to see horse riding performances and Cossack battles with swords. Those who feel hungry may pay a visit to one of the numerous thematic cafes, located on the island. The lovers of nature will surely appreciate seeing rare plants and old trees such as wild pear, ancient oaks, Tatarian maple, black and silver poplar. Besides, Khortytsia is inhabited by more than 30 kinds of animals and 120 kinds of birds, for example, roe deer, boars, foxes, kites, herons, turtles and many other.
Guests can reach Khortytsia island in Zaporizhzhya by bus or personal vehicle through Preobrazhensky or Arched bridges.
Khortytsia island is the right place to feel the spirit of brave Cossacks, enjoying amazing Dnipro River views.
Photo source: shutterstock.com, website of the Museum of History of Ukrainian Zaporozhian Cossack Army. All photos belong to their rightful owners.