Kherson (Ukrainian: Херсо́н, pronounced [xerˈsɔn] (listen)) is a port city in the south of Ukraine that serves as the administrative centre of Kherson Oblast. Located on the Black Sea and on the Dnieper River, Kherson is the home of a major ship-building industry and is regional economic centre. In 2021, the city had an estimated population of 283,649.[4]

Будинок колишньої Херсонської міської думи (мур.).jpg
Катерининський собор (Херсон) 1.jpg
Морехідне училище (мур.).jpg
Херсонський окружний суд 1.jpg
(Top-to-bottom and left-to-right):
Flag of Kherson
Coat of arms of Kherson
Kherson is located in Kherson Oblast
Location of Kherson
Kherson is located in Ukraine
Kherson (Ukraine)
Coordinates: 46°38′33″N 32°37′30″E / 46.64250°N 32.62500°E / 46.64250; 32.62500Coordinates: 46°38′33″N 32°37′30″E / 46.64250°N 32.62500°E / 46.64250; 32.62500
Country Ukraine
OblastKherson Oblast
City RaionsKherson Raion
Dniprovski Raion
Suvorovski Raion
Komsomolski Raion
Founded18 June 1778
Control Russia[1]
 • Mayor de jureIhor Kolykhaiev[2]
 • Mayor de factoOleksandr Kobets[3]
 • Total135.7 km2 (52.4 sq mi)
46.6 m (152.9 ft)
 • TotalDecrease 283,649
Postal code
Area code+380 552
Primary airportKherson International Airport

Since March 2022, the city has been occupied by Russian forces during their invasion of Ukraine after the Battle of Kherson.[5] As of 25 May 2022, the Ukrainian authorities estimated that 45% of its inhabitants had fled the city.[6] Kherson has been the centre of the 2022 Ukrainian southern counteroffensive.[7]


As first new settlement in the "Greek project" of Empress Catherine and her favorite Grigory Potemkin, it was named after the ancient Greek city-colony of Chersonesus in Crimea. In Greek, Χερσόνησος (chersonesos) means "peninsular shore".[8][9]


Russian Empire era (1783-1917)Edit

Kherson in 1855

The city was founded by decree of Catherine the Great on 18 June 1778 on the high bank of the Dnieper as a central fortress of the Black Sea Fleet after the Russian annexation of the territory in 1774.

1783 saw the city granted the rights of a district town and the opening of a local shipyard where the hulls of the Russian Black Sea fleet were laid. Within a year the Kherson Shipping Company began operations. By the end of the 18th century, the port had established trade with France, Italy, Spain and other European countries. In 1783–1793 also Poland's maritime trade via the Black Sea was conducted through Kherson by Kompania Handlowa Polska. In 1791, Potemkin was buried in the newly built St. Catherine's Cathedral. In 1803 the city became the capital of the Kherson Governorate.[4]

Industry, beginning with breweries, tanneries and other food and agricultural processing, developed from the 1850s.

In 1897 the population of the city was 59,076 of which, on the basis of their first language, almost half were recorded as Great Russian, 30% as Jewish, and 20% Ukrainian.[10]

During the revolution of 1905 there were workers' strikes and an army mutiny (an armed demonstration by soldiers of the 10th Disciplinary Battalion) in the city.[11]

Soviet era (1917-1991)Edit

Early Bolshevik periodEdit

In the Russian Constituent Assembly election held in November 1917—the first and last free election in Kherson for 70 years—Bolsheviks who had seized power in Petrograd and Moscow received just 13.2 percent of the vote in the Governorate. The largest electoral bloc in the district, with 43 percent of the vote, was an alliance of Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), Russian Socialist Revolutionaries and the United Jewish Socialist Workers Party.[12]

The Bolsheviks dissolved SR-dominated Assembly after its first sitting,[13] and proceeded to force from Kiev the Central Council of Ukraine (Tsentralna Rada) whose response to the Leninist coup had been to proclaim the independence of the Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR). But before the Bolsheviks could secure Kherson, they were obliged to cede the region under the terms of the March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to the German and Austrian controlled Ukrainian State. After the withdrawal of German and Austrian forces in November 1918, the efforts of the UPR (the Petluirites) to assert authority were frustrated by a French-led Allied intervention which occupied Kherson in January 1919.[14]

Aerial view of the city in 1918

In March 1919, the Green Army of local warlord Ataman Nikifor Grigoriev ("Matviy Hryhoriyiv") ousted the French and Greek garrison and precipitated the Allied evacuation from Odesa. In July, the Bolsheviks defeated Grigoriev who had called upon the Ukrainian people to rise against the "Communist imposters" and their "Jewish commissars,"[15] and had perpetrated pogroms,[15] including in the Kherson region.[16] Kherson itself was occupied by the counter-revolutionary Whites before finally falling to the Bolshevik Red Army in February 1920.[4] In 1922 the city and region was formally incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR a constituent republic of the Soviet Union.

The population was radically reduced from 75,000 to 41,000 by the famine of 1921–3, but then rose steadily, reaching 97,200 in 1939. In 1940, the city was one of the sites of executions of Polish officers and intelligentsia committed by the Soviets as part of the Katyn massacre.[17]

World War II and post-War periodEdit

Further devastation and population loss resulted from the German occupation during the Second World War. The German occupation, which lasted from August 1941 to March 1944, contended with both Soviet and Ukrainian nationalist (OUN) underground cells. The Kherson district leadership of the OUN was headed by Bogdan Bandera (brother of OUN leader Stepan Bandera).[18] The Germans operated a Nazi prison and the Stalag 370 prisoner-of-war camp in the city.[19][20]

In the post-war decades, which saw substantial industrial growth, the population more than doubled, reaching 261,000 by 1970.[21] The new factories, including the Comintern Shipbuilding and Repairs Complex, the Kuibyshev Ship Repair Complex, and the Kherson Cotton Textile Manufacturing Complex (one of the largest textile plants in the Soviet Union), and Kherson's growing grain-exporting port, drew in labour from the Ukrainian countryside. This changed the city's ethnic composition, increasing the Ukrainian share from 36% in 1926 to 63% in 1959, while reducing the Russian share from 36 to 29%. The Jewish population never recovered from the Holocaust visited by the Germans: accounting for 26% of residents in 1926, their number had fallen to just 6% in 1959.[21]

In independent UkraineEdit

With a turnout of 83.4% of eligible voters, 90.1% of the votes cast in Kherson Oblast affirmed Ukrainian independence in the national referendum of 1 December 1991.[22] With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kherson and its industries experienced severe dislocation. Over the following three decades, the population of both the city and the region declined, reflecting both a significant excess of deaths over live births and persistent net-emigration from the area.[23][24]

The 2014 pro-Russian unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine was marked in Kherson by a small demonstration of some 400 persons.[25] Following Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014, Kherson housed the office of the Ukrainian President's representative in Crimea.[26]

In July 2020, as part of the general administrative reform of Ukraine, the Kherson Municipality was merged as an urban hromada into newly established Kherson Raion, one of five raions in the Kherson Oblast of which the city remained the administrative centre.[27][28]

A "City Profile", part of the SCORE (Social Cohesion and Reconciliation)[29] Ukraine 2021 project funded by USAID, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the European Union, concluded that "more than 80% of citizens in Kherson city feel their locality is a good place to live, work, and raise a family". This was despite a low level of trust in the local authorities in whom corruption was perceived to be high. It also found that, while more inclined to express support for co-operation with Russia than for membership of the EU, "citizens in Kherson feel attached to their Ukrainian identity".[30]

2020 local electionEdit

In the last free elections before the 2022 Russian invasion, the Ukrainian local elections held on 25 October 2020, the results of Kherson City Council elections were as follows:[31]

Kherson City Council election, 2020
Party Percentage of Vote Seats
We have to live here! 23.10% 17 seats
Opposition Platform — For Life 14.51% 11 seats
Servant of the People 13.01% 10 seats
Volodymyr Saldo Bloc 11.76% 9 seats
European Solidarity 8.59%

The parties widely perceived as pro-Russian, and Euro-skeptic,[32] Opposition Platform, Volodymyr Saldo Bloc, and Party of Shariy (3.89%) had a combined vote of just over 30% of the total, and secured 20 out of the 54 seats on the city council. In the wake of the invasion, the Opposition Platform and the Party of Shariy were banned by the National Security Council for alleged ties to the Kremlin.[33][34][35]

The Volodymyr Saldo Bloc dissolved; its deputies in Kyiv joined the newly formed faction "Support to the programs of the President of Ukraine".[36] From 26 April 2022, Volodymyr Saldo himself, who had been mayor of Kherson from 2002 to 2012, went on to serve the Russian occupiers, as head of the Kherson military–civilian administration.[37][38]

2022 Russian occupationEdit

Kherson witnessed heavy fighting in the first days of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine (Kherson offensive).[39] As of 2 March the city was under Russian control,[40][41] and as early as 8 March the Russian FSB was reported to be tasked with crushing resistance.[42]

Under the Russian occupation, locals continued to stage street protests against the invading army's presence and in support of the unity of Ukraine.[43][44] According to the Ukrainian government, the Russian military sought to create a puppet Kherson People's Republic in the style of the Russian-backed separatist polities in the Donbas region and tried to coerce local councillors into endorsing the move, detaining those activists and officials who opposed their design.[45]

By 26 April 2022, Russian troops had taken over the city's administration headquarters and had appointed both a new mayor,[46] former KGB agent Alexander Kobets, and ex-mayor Volodymyr Saldo as a new civilian-military regional administrator.[47] The next day, Ukraine's Prosecutor General said that troops used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a further pro-Ukraine rally in the city centre.[46] In an indication of an intended split from Ukraine, on the 28th the new administration announced that from May it would switch the region's payments to the Russian ruble. Citing unnamed reports about alleged discrimination of Russian speakers, its deputy head, Kirill Stremousov said that "reintegrating the Kherson region back into a Nazi Ukraine is out of the question".[48]

On 30 May the Russian-backed occupation authority in Kherson claims that it has started exporting last year's grain from Kherson to Russia. They are also working on exporting sunflower seeds.[49]

On 6 June it was reported by the Ukrainian mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhaiev, that the occupiers had conducted a meeting of more than 70 Russian sympathizers aimed at conducting a referendum on the region integrating the occupied areas into Russia. His sources told him that the dates discussed were two: in September or at the end of 2022.[50] A Russian election happens on 11 September and the Kherson vote would be scheduled to coincide that day.[51] An elected official in Russia named Igor Kastyukevich had discussed this plan on 7 June, following the visit to Kherson of Sergei Kiriyenko, the deputy chief of staff of the Russian presidential administration.[50][52] By June, the occupiers were switching Ukrainian schools to their educational curriculum and Russian SIM cards were on the market. Kolykhaev witnessed the occupiers distributing Russian passports. A cafe frequented by the occupiers was bombed on 7 June and at least four people were injured.[50] Stremousov said on 29 June that "The Kherson region will decide to join the Russian Federation and become a full-fledged subject as one unified state."[51] On the same visit, Kiriyenko spoke at the United Russia party's humanitarian aid center in Kherson: "The Kherson region's admission into Russia will be complete, similar to Crimea,” recalling the 2014 Crimean status referendum.[53]

On 18 June it was announced that Russian FSB officers were in process of moving from hotels to apartments that had been vacated by Ukrainians.[54]

In late June the first Russian bank opened in Kherson,[55] while Oleksii Kovalov, an ex-member of the Ukrainian Servant of the People party, survived an assassination attempt after he was appointed vice-president.[56]

On 24 June Dmytro Savluchenko, who led the Directorate for Family, Youth, and Sports of the Russian occupation administration, was assassinated by the explosion of a car bomb.[57]

On 29 June the Ukrainian mayor of Kherson, Kolykhaev, was detained by Russian security forces.[58]

On 5 July, Vladimir Saldo announced that the former deputy head of government in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Sergei Yeliseyev, a graduate of the FSB Academy, was to assume the presidency of the oblast.[55][56]

On 28 August 2022 the vice-president of the occupation administration (Kovalev) was found shot dead inside his own apartment.[59] His wife was stabbed in the same attack and she died later in the hospital.[60]



As of Ukrainian National Census in 2001, the ethnic groups living within Kherson included:


Languages 1897[61] 2001[62]
Ukrainian 19.6% 53.4%
Russian 47.2% 45.3%
Yiddish 29.1%
Polish 1.7%
German 0.7%


Year Population
1790 24,000
1926 58,000
1939 97,000
1959 158,000
1981 361,000
2004 354,000
2007 329,000
2020 283,338

Administrative divisionsEdit

There are three city raions.

  • Suvorov Raion, central and oldest district of the city, named after the Russian General Suvorov. Includes departments: Tavrіjs'kij, Pіvnіchnij and Mlini.
  • Dnipro Raion, named after the Dnieper river. Includes departments: HBK, Tekstilny, Sklotara, Slobіdka, Voyenka, Skhіdny.
  • Korabelny Raion. Includes departments: Shumensky, Korabel, Zabalka, Sukharne, Zhitloselishche, Selishche — 4, Selishche — 5.


Under the Köppen climate classification, Kherson has a humid continental climate (Dfa).[63]

Climate data for Kherson (1991–2020, extremes 1955–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.2
Average high °C (°F) 1.4
Daily mean °C (°F) −1.6
Average low °C (°F) −4.4
Record low °C (°F) −26.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 33
Average extreme snow depth cm (inches) 2
Average rainy days 9 7 9 12 11 11 9 6 9 9 12 10 114
Average snowy days 11 10 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.3 4 8 39
Average relative humidity (%) 85.5 82.1 77.1 68.5 64.8 65.3 62.1 60.7 68.4 76.4 84.9 86.8 73.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 63.7 82.7 134.2 193.3 275.8 294.7 318.5 301.5 228.4 153.8 77.6 50.1 2,174.3
Source 1:[64]
Source 2: World Meteorological Organization (humidity and sun 1981–2010)[65]



Kherson has both a seaport, Port of Kherson and a river port, Kherson River Port.


Kherson is connected to the national railroad network of Ukraine. There are daily long-distance services to Kyiv, Lviv and other cities.


Kherson is served by Kherson International Airport.[66] It operates a 2,500 x 42-meter concrete runway, accommodating Boeing 737, Airbus 319/320 aircraft, and helicopters of all series.[67]


There are 77 high schools as well as 5 colleges. There are 15 institutions of higher education, including:

The documentary Dixie Land was filmed at a music school in Kherson.[68]

Main sightsEdit

Notable peopleEdit

Portrait of Grigory Potemkin


Twin citiesEdit


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External linksEdit