Located close to Kherson, Zmievka is the only Swedish village in Eastern Europe. This peculiar settlement is called the Little Europe in southern Ukraine, and it is known as a center of national and cultural diversity. Besides Swedes, representatives of 15 cultural heritages live here, including Germans, Finns, Poles, and Jews.
The history of this unusual village began in the late 18th century, when the first Swedish immigrants appeared in Kherson. According to one story, Russian empress Catherine the Great exiled to this region those Swedes who were unhappy with the outcome of the Northern War. According to another version of the tale, the empress sent Scandinavians to Kherson’s steppes to cultivate the land, which was recently won from Turkey.
One way or another, in 1781, 1,200 Swedes were sent to the south of the Russian Empire. Only the half of them reached their destination: others died en route. During the first winter, the number of settlers, who were descendants of the Vikings, shrank in half once again. Those who survived founded a village on the deserted bank of the Dnieper River. Soon, other foreign settlers, mostly Germans, appeared nearby. In the early 20th century, the settlements merged into the village of Zmievka.
Nowadays two and a half thousand people live here. There are very few Ethnic Swedes, the descendants of the founders, who have remained. Nevertheless, the village is under special patronage of the Swedish Embassy in Ukraine. Thousands of tourists from Europe, mostly Swedes, visit this picturesque village in the south of the country. And several years ago, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden came here with his wife Queen Silvia.
Getting here: The best way to see this village is to take a bus to Nova Kakhovka (hour and a half, 22 UAH), and then transfer to a taxi going to Zmievka (around 20 minutes, 80 UAH).