1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dnieper
DNIEPER, one of the most important rivers of Europe (the Borysthenes of the Greeks, Danapris of the Romans, Uzi or Uzu of the Turks, Eksi of the Tatars, Elice of Visconti’s map (1381), Lerene of Contarini (1437), Luosen of Baptista of Genoa (1514), and Lussem in the same century). It belongs entirely to Russia, and rises in the government of Smolensk, in a swampy district (alt. 930 ft.) at the foot of the Valdai Hills, not far from the sources of the Volga and the Dvina, in 55° 52’ N. and 33° 41’ E. Its length is about 1410 m. and it drains an area of 202,140 sq. m. In the first part of its course, which may be said to end at Dorogobuzh, it flows through an undulating country of Carboniferous formation; in the second it passes west to Orsha, south through the fertile plain of Chernigov and Kiev, and then south-east across the rocky steppe of the Ukraine to Ekaterinoslav. About 45 m. S. of this town it has to force its way across the same granitic offshoot of the Carpathian mountains which interrupts the course of the Dniester and the Bug, and for a distance of about 25 m. rapid succeeds rapid. The fall of the river in that distance is 155 ft. The Dnieper, having got clear of the rocks, continues south-west through the grassy plains of Kherson and Taurida, and enters the Black Sea, or rather a liman or bay of the Black Sea, by a considerable estuary in 46° 30′ N. and 32° 20′ E. On this ramifying liman, into which the Bug also pours its waters, stand Nikolaiev and the fortified town of Ochakov. Navigation extends as far up as Dorogobuzh, where the depth is about 12 ft., and rafts are floated down from the higher reaches. The banks are generally high, more particularly the left bank. About the town of Smolensk the breadth is 455 ft., at the confluence of the Pripet 1400, and in some parts of the Ekaterinoslav district more than 1¼ m. In the course above the rapids the channel varies very greatly in nature and depth, and it is not infrequently interrupted by shallows. The rapids, or porogs, form a serious obstacle to navigation; it is only for a few weeks when the river is in flood that they are passable, and even then the venture is not without risk and can only be undertaken with the assistance of special pilots. It is from these falls that the Cossacks of the Ukraine came to be known as Zaporogian Cossacks. As early as 1732 an attempt was made to improve the channel. A canal, which ultimately proved too small for use, was constructed at Nenasitets in 1780 at private expense; blastings were carried out in 1798 and 1799 at various parts; in 1805 a canal was formed at Kaindatski, and the channel straightened at Sursk; by 1807 a new canal was completed at Nenasitets; in 1833 a passage was cleared through the Staro-kaindatski porog; and in the period 1843 to 1853 numerous ameliorations were effected. The result has been not only to diminish greatly the dangers of the natural channel, but also to furnish a series of artificial canals by which vessels can make their way when the river is low. Of the tributaries of the Dnieper the following are navigable,—the Berezina and the Pripet from the right, and the Sozh and the Desna from the left. By means of the Dnieper-Bug (King’s) canal, and the Berezina and Oginski canals, this river has a sort of water connexion with the Baltic Sea. In the estuary the fisheries give employment to large numbers of people. At Kiev the river is free from ice on an average of 234 days in the year, at Ekaterinoslav 270 and at Kherson 277.