The Zaporozhye/Zaporizhye Question

If you take the time to delve into the situation currently centred on Ukraine, and I suggest that you should do that because it is the only way that you will gain any real intimation as to what that is all about and the crucial role it plays in the modern world (whether that is apparent yet or not). Taking what is said in or by almost any published media, will only serve to confuse and misguide your thoughts on that.

When reading around the Ukraine thing, one sooner or later becomes aware of the Zaporozhye/Zaporizhye question. On a superficial level it has similarities to the Lugansk/Luhansk question, but it goes much deeper that that simple transliteration of individual letters. I have spotted a number of cases where the letters ‘g’ and ‘h’ – which only appear in anglicised versions of Russian words – appear to be interchangeable. In other words, such as the Zaporozhye/Zaporizhye case, it is the interchangeability of certain occurrences of the letters ‘i’ and ‘o’. Now, not being an expert in cyrillic or the anglicising of cyrillic words, I don’t pretend to have any idea why this could be. Maybe it is a difference between Russian and Ukrainian or maybe it is simply colloquial usage and both are acceptable alternatives. I don’t know. It is the general situation around that which is of more interest to me, though I have to admit that I find these more background things quite intriguing.

Anyway, that is not the real Zaporozhye/Zaporizhye question I want to talk about.

I have noticed what are, on the face of it, conflicting reports, particularly concerning the administrative region of Ukraine bearing that name – or one of those names. There is only one such region and it has a regional capital or administrative centre in the quite large city of the same name. The region is located mostly to the east of the Dnieper river, with the city partly straddling it and connected by a number of bridges. It includes a large, mainly rural area extending south to the Black Sea [correction: Azov Sea] coast between the Donetsk and Kherson regions with a few scattered minor cities.

The population of the Zaporizhye region for 2021 was a little under 1.7 million and the city population was almost 703,000. Ukraine has long seen a declining population, which has in recent years been said to be decreasing at a rate of -0.59% annually. Though of course there has been a massive exit of people from all areas of the country since February of 2022.

The Russian forces quickly liberated approximately a little over two thirds of the Zaporizhye region before the end of February 2022, but still does no control the upper third – including the main urban centre, the city of Zaporizhye. Though, given the importance of that area – without control of which the water supply to Crimea and in fact the security of the whole landbridge Russia has created across almost the whole of southern Ukraine seaboard, could not be guaranteed – the liberation of Zaporizhye will soon become a priority for the Russians I am sure. Russian forces do, thankfully, control the Zaporizhye nuclear power station – one of the largest in Europe – but not the hydro-electric power facility situated within the city.

What the current regional situation means is that almost half of the population of the Zaporizhye region is still living under Ukraine authority – or at least in areas still occupied by Ukrainian military. This leads to a number of apparent contradictions.

Firstly, it is said that the people of the Zaporizhye region are asking to become part of the Russian Federation. How can this be determined with half the people not yet consulted?

It has also been announced that the region is switching to the Russian time system (no adjustment for daylight saving) – Zaporozhye region announced the transition to Moscow time – RIA Novosti. Can that work, with only half the population, the mainly rural half, involved?

The claim made by NewsFront on the basis of a statement by the Deputy Head of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Zaporozhye region, that – ‘The Russian army saved the lives of a significant part of the population of the Zaporozhye region is true, including for the smaller cities of Energodar, Melitopol and Berdyansk, but how can it be said that “Peaceful life here is getting better” when only half of the regional population has been liberated?

There is an insignificant little rural hamlet (population can’t be more than a few hundred) called Zaporizhye situated west of Mariupol and slightly northeast of Melitopol which was liberated in late February along with the surrounding areas by Russian troops from Crimea and is right in the middle of the liberated zone.  See satellite image – which incidentally is from this useful zoomable map which has a time slider marking the progress of the Russian special operation across the whole of Ukraine –    That hamlet (you might call it a small town – 2 roads in, 2 roads out) is obviously a small agricultural centre.  So, someone may, perhaps be mistaking this for the bigger regional city, making something out of what is not much at all – though I’m sure those rural folks were very happy to be liberated.

A place called Zaporizhye (obviously not a regional centre) – image from 

Finally, Zaporizhye is, I think, of far greater importance than all but a few commentators have so far indicated. It is a centre that the west dearly wants to cling on to, so there may be quite a fight for its control. One of the major reasons for that is, I think, the presence of the Motor Sich aircraft engine plant situated within the city. This is of global significance. To explain, better than I can, here is a 2021 western appraisal of the value of the Motor Sich asset by Global Security –

Russian interests have of course long known of the value of this facility and have siphoned off most of the experts, plans and knowledge base for duplication of the plant elsewhere (I read that somewhere but cannot now find the source), leaving the working precision machinery of the plant (since they don’t yet control the city). But the west it seems has now been denied the production of the plant, which has large back orders for its products from around the world (mainly helicopter and drone engines – including Turkey’s Bayraktar drones), by a precision missile attack which, given the success of previous such attacks elsewhere, I feel sure will have been completely effective – but not perhaps more destructive than necessary. (Sputnik:  Watch Russian Precision Missiles Blast Off for Ukraine’s Motor Sich Aircraft Engine Plant) This could well reduce the appetite for already demoralised Ukraine forces to find the city a place worth dying for – if indeed there is still a cohesive Ukraine army by the time the Russian forces get around to liberating it. This may well have been factored into the Russian decision not to push for an earlier drive on this particular city (and other important urban areas).

And so the Zaporozhye/Zaporizhye question is still unresolved. That situation will not remain so for much longer.

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