Zaporizhia — the heart of Ukraine’s Rust Belt
Zaporizhia is a city 0f 800,000 people on the Dnipro River in the heart of Ukraine’s Rust Belt, where fuming smokestacks and black dust are common sights. It is famous for two things: heavy industry and the Zaporizhian Cossacks.
But while Cossacks are past, large-scale industrial production is the city’s present.
Zaporizhia produces significant amounts of metal, electricity, aircraft engines, cars, and other large-scale goods. In fact, along with Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih, today the city is a center of heavy industry in Ukraine.
The Soviet Union industrialized Zaporizhia at the beginning of the 20th century. The city was built around the plants like Zaporizhstal and Dneprospetsstal. Even the city’s mayor, Volodymyr Buryak, used to be an engineer at Zaporizhstal.
Later other critical factories opened in the city: ZAZ — famous for its Zaporozhets and Tavria cars — and aircraft engine manufacturer Motor Sich.
Hence, most of the jobs available for graduates of Zaporizhia’s five local universities are blue collar. Together, Zaporizhstal and Motor Sich employ over 35,000 people. The city is also home to facilities of international firms Carlsberg, Coca Cola, Konecranes, and IVECO.
Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin famously stated that communism was Soviet government plus electrification. Unsurprisingly, while industrializing Zaporizhia, the Soviets wanted to ensure a consistent electricity supply.
As a result, they erected a dam on the Dnipro — the DniproHES hydropower plant — and built a nuclear power plant in a nearby town called Enerhodar (“Energygiver”) — it is now Europe’s largest and the world’s fifth largest nuclear power plant, as it generates 6,000 megawatts annually.
This outdated but still functional Soviet legacy — along with four solar and three wind power stations, all newly built — produces 25 percent of Ukraine’s electricity.
In total, Zaporizhia Oblast is responsible for 7.4 percent of Ukraine’s total exports. Among the most important goods are base metals ( 56 percent), machinery and electrical equipment (19 percent).
It takes only 7 hours to get from Kyiv to Zaporizhia by train, but the change of political mood is palpable: some 30 percent of locals supported pro-Russian presidential candidates Yuriy Boyko and Oleksandr Vilkul during the election on March 31.