Coordinates: 46°38′33″N 32°37′30″E / 46.64250°N 32.62500°E / 46.64250; 32.62500
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Clockwise from top: St Catherine's cathedral, Memorial in Park Slavy, view of the Dnieper in Kherson, , clock tower of the Kherson Regional Art Museum, monument to Potemkin in Potomkinskyi Garden Square.
Clockwise from top: St Catherine's cathedral, Memorial in Park Slavy, view of the Dnieper in Kherson, , clock tower of the Kherson Regional Art Museum, monument to Potemkin in Potomkinskyi Garden Square.
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; 32.62500
Country Ukraine
OblastKherson Oblast
RaionKherson Raion
HromadaKherson urban hromada
Founded18 June 1778
 • MayorIhor Kolykhaiev[1][a]
 • Head of the Kherson City Military Administration[3]Halyna Luhova[3][b]
 • Total135.7 km2 (52.4 sq mi)
46.6 m (152.9 ft)
 • TotalDecrease 279,131
Postal code
Area code+380 552
Primary airportKherson International Airport

Kherson (Ukrainian and Russian: Херсон, Ukrainian: [xerˈsɔn] ; Russian: [xʲɪrˈson]) is a port city in Ukraine that serves as the administrative centre of Kherson Oblast. Located by the Black Sea and on the Dnieper River, Kherson is the home to a major ship-building industry and is a regional economic centre.[4] At the beginning of 2022, its population was estimated at 279,131.[4]

From March to November 2022, the city was occupied by Russian forces during their invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian forces recaptured the city on 11 November 2022. In June 2023, the city was flooded following the destruction of the nearby Kakhovka Dam.[5]


As the first new settlement in the "Greek project" of Empress Catherine and her favourite Grigory Potemkin, it was named after the Heraclea Pontic colony of Chersonesus, (Greek: Χερσόνησος, translit. Khersónēsos [kʰer.só.nɛː.sos][c]) which was located on the Crimean Peninsula, meaning 'peninsular shore'.[6][7]


Early days and Russian Empire era (until 1917)

1736 map showing the settlement of Bilschowscei.
1769 map showing Fort St. Alexandre

Before 1774, the area where Kherson is situated today belonged to the Crimean Khanate. A German-language map in 1736 (inset) shows a settlement of Bilschowscei at the site of today's Kherson. A French-language map of the site in 1769 (inset) shows a Russian-built fort or sconce named St. Alexandre. This had been built in 1737 during the Russo-Turkish War and served the Zaporizhian Sich as an administrative center, run by local Cossacks.

The Russian Empire annexed the territory in 1774, and a decree of Catherine the Great on 18 June 1778 founded Kherson on the high bank of the Dnieper as a central fortress of the Black Sea Fleet.

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. Between 1783–1793 Poland's maritime trade via the Black Sea was conducted through Kherson by the 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]

Kherson in 1855

Industry, beginning with breweries, tanneries and other food and agricultural processing, developed from the 1850s.[citation needed] 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.[8] 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.[9]

Soviet era (1917–1991)

Early Bolshevik period

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.[10]

The Bolsheviks dissolved SR-dominated Assembly after its first sitting,[11] 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.[12]

An aerial view of the city in 1918

In March 1919, the Green Army of local warlord Otaman Nykyfor Hryhoriv ousted the French and Greek garrison and precipitated the Allied evacuation from Odesa. In July, the Bolsheviks defeated Hryhoriv who had called upon the Ukrainian people to rise against the "Communist impostors" and their "Jewish commissars,"[13] and had perpetrated pogroms,[13] including in the Kherson region.[14] 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.[citation needed]

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.[15] 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.[16]

World War II and post-War period

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 Bohdan Bandera [uk] (brother of OUN leader Stepan Bandera).[17] The Germans operated a Nazi prison and the Stalag 370 prisoner-of-war camp in the city.[18][19]

In the post-war decades, which saw substantial industrial growth, the population more than doubled, reaching 261,000 by 1970.[20] 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.[20]

In independent Ukraine

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.[21] 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.[22][23]

The 2014 pro-Russian unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine was marked in Kherson by a small demonstration of some 400 persons.[24] Following Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014, Kherson housed the office of the Ukrainian President's representative in Crimea.[25]

In July 2020, as part of the general administrative reform of Ukraine, the Kherson Municipality was merged as Kherson urban hromada into newly established Kherson Raion, one of five raions in the Kherson Oblast of which the city remained the administrative centre.[26][27]

Kherson in 2021

A "City Profile", part of the SCORE (Social Cohesion and Reconciliation)[28] 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".[29]

2020 local election

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:[30]

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,[31] 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.[32][33][34]

The Volodymyr Saldo Bloc dissolved; its deputies in Kyiv joined the newly formed faction "Support to the programs of the President of Ukraine".[35] 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.[36][37]

Russian invasion of Ukraine

Kherson witnessed heavy fighting in the first days of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine (Kherson offensive).[38] As of 2 March the city was under Russian control,[39][40] and as early as 8 March the Russian FSB was reported to be tasked with crushing resistance.[41]

Under the Russian occupation, locals continued to stage street protests against the invading army's presence and in support of the unity of Ukraine.[42][43] 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.[44]

By 26 April 2022, Russian troops had taken over the city's administration headquarters and had appointed both a new mayor,[45] former KGB agent Alexander Kobets, and ex-mayor Volodymyr Saldo as a new civilian-military regional administrator.[46] 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.[45] 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".[47]

On 30 May the Russian-backed occupation authority in Kherson claimed that it had started exporting last year's grain from Kherson to Russia. They would also be working on exporting sunflower seeds.[48]

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.[49] As a Russian election was going to take place on 11 September, the Kherson vote would be scheduled to coincide with that day.[50] 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.[49][51]

Kherson TV Tower blown up by Russian army before retreat
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with soldiers who distinguished themselves during the liberation of Kherson
Kherson after shelling by the Russian army on 15 January 2023

By June, the occupiers were switching Ukrainian schools to their educational curriculum and Russian SIM cards were on the market. Kolykhaiev witnessed the occupiers distributing Russian passports. A cafe frequented by the occupiers was bombed on 7 June and at least four people were injured.[49] 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."[50] 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.[52]

On 18 June it was announced that Russian FSB officers were in the process of moving from hotels to apartments that had been vacated by Ukrainians.[53]

In late June the first Russian bank opened in Kherson,[54] while Oleksii Kovalov, an ex-member of the Ukrainian Servant of the People party, survived an assassination attempt after he had been appointed vice-president.[55]

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.[56]

On 29 June the Ukrainian mayor of Kherson, Kolykhaiev, was detained by Russian security forces.[57]

On 5 July, Volodymyr 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.[54][55]

On 28 August 2022 the vice-president of the occupation administration (Kovalev) was found shot dead inside his own apartment in Zaliznyi Port.[58] His wife was stabbed in the same attack and she died later in the hospital.[59]

On 30 September 2022, the Russian Federation claimed to have annexed Kherson Oblast.[60] The United Nations General Assembly condemned the proclaimed annexations with a vote of 143–5.[61]

Russian forces were ordered to withdraw from the city by defence minister Sergei Shoigu and regroup on the eastern side of the Dnieper on 9 November 2022. Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian troops were destroying bridges connecting the city to the other bank of the river.[62][63] On 11 November, Ukraine announced that its forces had entered the city following the Russian withdrawal.[64][65]

Before retreating, the Russian army destroyed infrastructure facilities of the city (communications, water, heat, electricity, TV tower),[66][67] looted two main museums (Local History Museum and the Art Museum), transporting their items to Crimean museums,[68][69] and took away several monuments to historical figures.[70][71]

On 5 June 2023, Ukraine ordered evacuations after the nearby Kakhovka Dam was destroyed.[72]

On 23 October 2023, online voting concluded on the renamings of numerous streets and localities in Kherson for purposes of decolonization and derussification. Numerous localities named for Russian historical figures - many of whom were perceived to be associated with Russian imperialism - were renamed after Ukrainian and international historical figures who had helped Ukraine and its people. This was in accordance with Law of Ukraine "On Condemnation and Prohibition of Propaganda of Russian Imperial Policy in Ukraine and Decolonization of Toponymy", giving local councils six months to remove problematic toponymy.[73]


Population history
YearPop.±% p.a.
1799 2,000—    
1846 23,650+5.40%
1859 43,900+4.87%
1897 59,100+0.79%
1913 81,000+1.99%
1920 74,500−1.19%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1923 41,300−17.85%
1926 58,800+12.50%
1939 97,200+3.94%
1959 158,000+2.46%
1970 261,000+4.67%
2018 291,428+0.23%
Source: [15]


According to the Ukrainian National Census in 2001, Kherson had a majority population of Ukrainians (76.6%), with a large minority of Russians (20.0%) and 3.4% others.[citation needed]


Languages 1897[74] 2001[75]
Ukrainian 19.6% 73.2%
Russian 47.2% 24.9%
Yiddish 29.1%
Polish 1.7%
German 0.7%

Administrative divisions

There are three city raions:



Under the Köppen climate classification, Kherson has a humid continental climate (Dfa).[77]

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
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 1.4
Daily mean °C (°F) −1.6
Mean daily minimum °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 66 89 142 215 275 301 333 307 233 152 76 49 2,238
Source 1:[78]
Source 2: World Meteorological Organization (humidity 1981–2010, sun 1991-2020)[79] [80]



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


Kherson Railway Station [uk]

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.[81] It operates a 2,500 x 42-meter concrete runway, accommodating Boeing 737, Airbus 319/320 aircraft, and helicopters of all series.[82]


Kherson State Maritime Academy [uk]

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.[83]

Main sights

St. Catherine's Cathedral, Kherson

Notable people

Lev Bronstein (Leon Trotsky), 1924
Ihor Kolykhaiev, 2020
Portrait of Grigory Potemkin
Larisa Latynina, 2010


Twin cities


  1. ^ Kolykhaiev's whereabouts are unknown as of 19 August 2022, on 28 June 2022 he was abducted by Russian forces during the occupation of Kherson[2]
  2. ^ Luhova was appointed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on 21 September 2022 and performs the functions of Mayor[3]
  3. ^ From two Greek words: khersos (χέρσος, "dry") and nesos (νῆσος, "land")


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