River rising in the Valdai Hills west of Moscow, in the Smolensk region of the Russian Federation, and flowing south through Belarus and Ukraine to enter the Black Sea near Kherson; total length 2,250 km/1,400 mi. The Dnieper is the third longest European river (after the Volga and Danube).
The main tributaries of the Dnieper are the Berezina and Prypyat on the west bank, and the Sozh and Desna on the east. The Dnieper is largely a lowland river with a wide valley, which flows very sluggishly but is liable to extensive spring flooding. It is ice-bound from December to March or April. The treacherous rapids that once lay between Dnipropetrovs'k and Zaporizhzhya have been submerged by the construction of the Dneproges dam and hydroelectric scheme.
On its meandering course, the Dnieper passes through the forested regions of Smolensk oblast, and then enters Belarus. Here, there are peat and phosphate deposits, flax and potato cultivation, and dairy farming. In its lower reaches, it crosses the Ukrainian wooded steppe with its large iron and manganese ore deposits, and diverse agricultural activity (cultivation of wheat, sugar beet, and cotton). It is navigable for almost 2,000 km/1,243 mi (from Dorogobuzh). The main goods transported downstream are minerals, building materials, and timber, while commodities carried upstream include grain, oil products, and coal. The chief ports are Kiev, Dnipropetrovs'k, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson. There are a number of hydroelectric plants along its length.
In the Middle Ages, the river formed part of the principal trade route from Scandinavia to Byzantium, and played a great role in the history of Kievan Rus. Its middle and lower reaches are the traditional home of the Ukrainian Cossacks.