The Dnieper River (or Dnipro River) is the largest river in Ukraine and the third largest in Europe (after the Volga River and the Danube River). From the dawn of history the Dnieper has been closely bound up with the life of the Ukrainian people. It is the ‘holy river’ of Ukraine. Its length is 2,285 km, of which 485 km lie within the Russian Federation, 595 km within Belarus, and 1,095 km within Ukraine. The Dnieper Basin covers 504,000 sq km, of which 289,000 sq km are within Ukraine (48 percent of its area). The basin occupies 42 percent of the territory of the Ukrainian state and 36 percent of Ukrainian ethnic territory.
The Dnieper flows south through the centrw of Ukraine and bisects its natural zones interconnecting them and connecting them with the Black Sea. Travel is easy from the Dnieper Basin to basins northwest of it, the
Vistula River, the Neman River, and the Daugava River—but difficult to other basins, such as the basins of the Dniester River, the Boh River, the Volga River, and the Don River. Easy communications between the Dnieper River, the
Prypiat River, and the Buh River by means of the Vistula facilitated the expansion of Poland into Ukraine. The Dnieper's role as a unifying force and gateway to the sea was, however, weakened by a 70 km stretch of rapids in the steppe belt. In spite of this obstacle, the Dnieper was the main axis of the first Ukrainian state—Kyivan Rus'. The nucleus of a second state,the Zaporozhian
Sich—arose on the Dnieper. The river is the artery of Ukraine, its main highway, and its source of hydroelectric power.
Physical geography. The Dnieper is a typical river of the plains, sloping gently and flowing slowly. The water level varies considerably, and the riverbed is unstable. There are many shallow parts, but relatively few turns. The Dnieper Rapids, which today are submerged, are a peculiar feature of the Dnieper. The river's general southerly flow can be broken up into several sections: from its source to Orsha (Vitsebsk oblast) the Dnieper flows southwest, then south to Kiev, then southeast to Dnipropetrovsk, then south for 90 km as far as Zaporizhia, and finally southwest to the estuary in the . Thus, the Dnieper forms a large open bow to the east, doubling the route from central Ukraine to the Black Sea (to 950 km, although Kiev is only 450 km from the sea in a straight line).
The river can be divided into three sections: the upper Dnieper from the source to Kiev (1,333 km, of which 255 km are within Ukraine); the middle, from Kiev to Zaporizhia (536 km), including the above-mentioned stretch of rapids; and the lower, from Zaporizhia to the sea (331 km).