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Mariupol – a heroic city of martyrs

Mariupol – a heroic city of martyrs

How Mariupol flourished under the Ukrainian flag and became ruins under the Russian.

The Ukrainian city of Mariupol has become one of the symbols of the brutality of Russia’s military invasion. The city has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since the first days of the full-scale war, Mariupol was surrounded by Russian troops.

For more than 80 days, the Ukrainian military heroically defended Mariupol. Despite numerous Russian attacks, the city and its defenders resisted until the last possible moment.

Today there is little left of ‘old’ Mariupol. The city, which was a showcase of the restored Ukrainian Donbas, turned into ruins. Due to Russia’s shelling, over 90% of the city’s buildings have been destroyed.

To show you what the city once was, and what it came to be after the Russian invasion, we’ve collected some key facts from the city’s history before the full-scale invasion and what’s left of it now. 

The history of Mariupol starts with the founding of a Cossack settlement in the 16th century, which was used as a guard post. The official date of the city’s founding, however, is recorded as 1778. This gap is believed to be related to the ban on Cossacks in the Russian Empire. At that time, many Greeks and other minorities were deported from Crimea and resettled in Mariupol. As result, the population of the city grew rapidly. 

In the 19th century, Mariupol developed as a major port for the Donets Basin. At that time, Mariupol stayed as a local trading center. However, following the construction of two steel plants, the city became a powerful center of metallurgy in Eastern Ukraine. 

The city first learned what life is like under Russian occupation in 2014 when Mariupol spent a month under the occupation of terrorists of the self-proclaimed Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic. On June 13, 2014, the city was liberated by the Ukrainian army along with the National Guard and volunteer battalions.

The Azov Regiment, a structural unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, played a particularly important role in the liberation of Mariupol in 2014. After participating in the liberation of the city, Azov established a strong reputation among the Ukrainian public and those based in the city.

After Mariupol’s liberation, massive reconstruction began. The city started renovating buildings, developing businesses, and upgrading urban infrastructure. Soon, Mariupol became a showcase of the restored Ukrainian Donbas and an example of rapid development. 

In 2021, Mariupol was among the top 10 Ukrainian cities in terms of quality of life. In this list, the city was ahead of Kyiv and Odesa.

As the city’s infrastructure transformed, so did the cultural sphere. After the occupation of Donetsk, Mariupol became the cultural center of eastern Ukraine. Numerous cultural centers and initiatives were developed, new educational spaces were opened and festivals of all kinds were held in the city. In 2021, Mariupol even received the status of “A big cultural capital of Ukraine”.

Everything changed on February 24, 2022. Front-line Mariupol was one of the first to come under Russian strikes, which continued every day. Mariupol subsequently became one of the most heavily bombed and damaged cities in Russia’s war against Ukraine. 90% of the city’s infrastructure was damaged as a result of the fighting. 

The consequences of the Russian occupation have been no less devastating. Most of the population in Mariupol, temporarily captured by the Russian forces, survives in conditions outside of all humanitarian norms. Lack of medical care, unsanitary conditions, lack of the normal supply of electricity, water, and gas are the city’s current reality. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly warned that the city is threatened by an environmental disaster and an outbreak of infectious diseases.

According to preliminary estimates, the restoration of the city will cost at least $14.5 billion. Meanwhile, Mariupol’s renewal strategy is already being worked out. Renovation of the city after its liberation will be the largest project in Europe to revive the city since World War II. Several countries of the European Union, particularly Italy, Poland, Greece and organizations such as USAID, EBRD, and the World Bank have agreed to support the initiative. 

Text: Diana Matviiv
Design: Anastasiia Dorofeieva

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