Ukraine

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Europe; European Countries

Україна
Ukrayina
Ukraine
Flag of Ukraine Coat of arms of Ukraine
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Ще не вмерла України ні слава, ні воля  ( Ukrainian)
Shche ne vmerla Ukrayiny ni slava, ni volya  ( transliteration)
Ukraine's glory has not yet perished, nor her freedom

Location of Ukraine
Location of  Ukraine  (orange)

on the European continent  (white)

Capital
(and largest city)
Kiev (Kyiv)
Official languages Ukrainian
Demonym Ukrainian
Government Semi-presidential unitary state
 -  President Viktor Yushchenko
 -  Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
 -  Speaker of the Parliament Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Independence from the Soviet Union 
 -  Declared August 24, 1991 
 -  Referendum December 1, 1991 
 -  Finalized December 26, 1991 
Area
 -  Total 603,628 km² ( 44th)
233,090  sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 7%
Population
 -  2008 estimate 46,372,700 ( 27th)
 -  2001 census 48,457,102 
 -  Density 77/km² ( 115th)
199/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $399.866 billion ( 29th)
 -  Per capita $8,624 ( 83rd)
GDP (nominal) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $140.5 billion  ( 45th)
 -  Per capita $3,061 ( 88th)
Gini (2006) 31 
HDI (2005) 0.788 (medium) ( 76th)
Currency Hryvnia ( UAH)
Time zone EET ( UTC+2)
 -  Summer ( DST) EEST ( UTC+3)
Internet TLD .ua
Calling code +380

Ukraine ( English pronunciation /juːˈkreɪn/; Ukrainian: Україна, Ukrayina, /ukrɑˈjinɑ/) is a country in Eastern Europe. It borders Russia to the east, Belarus to the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south. The city of Kiev (Kyiv) is both the capital and the largest city of Ukraine.

The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs. From at least the 9th century, the territory of Ukraine was a centre of the medieval Varangian dominated East Slavic civilization forming the state of Kievan Rus', which disintegrated in the 12th century. From the 14th century on, the territory of Ukraine was divided among a number of regional powers and by the 19th century the largest part of Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire with the rest under Austro-Hungarian control. After a chaotic period of incessant warfare and several attempts at independence (1917–21) following the Great War and the Russian civil war, Ukraine emerged in 1922 as one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic's territory was enlarged westward shortly before and after the second World War, and again in 1954 with the Crimea transfer. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the co-founding members of the United Nations. Ukraine became independent again after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. This began a transition period to a market economy, in which Ukraine was stricken with eight straight years of economic decline. But since then the economy has been experiencing a stable increase, with real GDP growth averaging seven percent annually.

Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 24 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic ( Crimea), and two cities with special status: Kiev, its capital, and Sevastopol, which houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement. Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Being the second largest country in Europe, Ukraine also posses the second largest military on the continent. The country is home to some 46.4 million people, 77.8 percent of them are ethnic Ukrainians, with sizable minorities of Russians, Belarusians and Romanians. The Ukrainian language is only official language in Ukraine, while Russian is also widely spoken and is known to most Ukrainians as a second language. The dominant religion in the country in Christianity, which has heavily influenced Ukrainian architecture, literature and music.

Etymology

"Ukraine" is from Old East Slavic ukraina meaning "borderland". It derives from u "by, at" and the Slavic root kraj "edge; region". The territory was called this because it was the borderland or "frontier zone" of medieval Russia at the time of the Tatar invasion in the 13th century. It was also known as " Little Russia", so called by contrast with " Great Russia", when the medieval principality here became separated from "mainstream" tsarist Russia as a result of the Mongol invasion. In the Ukrainian language krayina simply means "country." In English, the country is referred to without the definite article, conforming to the usual English grammar rules for names of countries. Before the country's independence in 1991, the country was often referred to as The Ukraine. The term Ukraine rather than The Ukraine is now predominant in diplomacy and journalism.

History

Early history

Human settlement on the territory of Ukraine dates back to at least 4500 BC, when the Neolithic Cucuteni culture flourished in a wide area that covered parts of modern Ukraine including Trypillia and the entire Dnieper- Dniester region. During the Iron Age, the land was inhabited by Cimmerians, Scythians, and Sarmatians. Between 700 BC and 200 BC it was part of the Scythian Kingdom, or Scythia. Later, colonies of Greece">Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Byzantine Empire, such as Tyras, Olbia, and Hermonassa, were founded starting from the 6th century BC on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea, and thrived well into the 6th century AD. In the 7th century AD the territory of eastern Ukraine was part of Old Great Bulgaria. At the end of the century the majority of Bulgar tribes migrated in different directions and the land fell into the Khazars' hands.

Golden Age of Kiev

Map of the Kievan Rus', 11th century. During the Golden Age of Kiev the lands of Rus' covered much of present day Ukraine, as well as western Russia and Belarus.
Map of the Kievan Rus', 11th century. During the Golden Age of Kiev the lands of Rus' covered much of present day Ukraine, as well as western Russia and Belarus.

During the 10th and 11th centuries, much of modern-day Ukraine was populated by the Rus' people who formed the largest and most powerful European polity, called the Kievan Rus'. This nation laid the foundation for the national identity of Ukrainians, as well as other East Slavic nations, through subsequent centuries. Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine, became the most important city of the Rus'. According to the Primary Chronicle, the Rus' elite initially consisted of Varangians from Scandinavia. The Varangians later became assimilated into the local Slavic population and became part of the Rus' first dynasty, the Rurik Dynasty.

Kievan Rus' was composed of several principalities ruled by the interrelated Rurikid Princes. The seat of Kiev, the most prestigious and influential of all principalities, became the subject of many rivalries among Rurikids as the most valuable prize in their quest for power. These were sometimes contested through intrigue, but more often through bloody conflicts. The Golden Age of Kievan Rus' began with the reign of Vladimir the Great (Volodymyr, 980–1015), who turned Rus' toward Byzantine Christianity. During the reign of his son, Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054), Kievan Rus' reached the zenith of its cultural development and military power. This was followed by the state's increasing fragmentation as the relative importance of regions rose again. After a final resurgence under the rule of Vladimir Monomakh (1113–1125) and his son Mstislav (1125–1132), Kievan Rus' finally disintegrated into separate principalities following Mstislav's death. The 13th century Mongol invasion devastated Kievan Rus'. Kiev was totally destroyed in 1240.

On the Ukrainian territory, the state of Kievan Rus' was succeeded by the principalities of Galich ( Halych) and Volodymyr-Volynskyi, which were merged into the state of Galicia-Volhynia.

Under foreign domination

Lithuania (from the 14th century on) and since the Union of Lublin (1569) by Poland, as seen at this outline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as of 1619.">In the centuries following the Mongol invasion, much of Ukraine was controlled by Lithuania (from the 14th century on) and since the Union of Lublin (1569) by Poland, as seen at this outline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as of 1619.
In the centuries following the Mongol invasion, much of Ukraine was controlled by Lithuania (from the 14th century on) and since the Union of Lublin (1569) by Poland, as seen at this outline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as of 1619.
Map of the Russian Empire, 1682–1762
Map of the Russian Empire, 1682–1762

In the mid-14th century, Galicia-Volhynia was subjugated by Casimir the Great of Poland, while the heartland of Rus', including Kiev, fell under the Gediminids of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Following the 1386 Union of Krevo, a dynastic union between Poland and Lithuania, most of Ukraine's territory was controlled by the local as well as increasingly Ruthenized Lithuanian nobles as part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At this time, the term Ruthenia and Ruthenians as the Latinized versions of "Rus'", became widely applied to the land and its people, respectively.

By 1569 the Union of Lublin formed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and a significant part of Ukrainian territory was moved from largely Ruthenized Lithuanian rule to the Polish administration, as it was transferred to the Polish Crown. Under the cultural and political pressure of Polonization much of the Ruthenian upper class converted to Catholicism and became indistinguishable from the Polish nobility. Thus, the Ukrainian commoners, deprived of their native protectors among Ruthenian nobility, turned for protection to the Cossacks, who remained fiercely orthodox at all times and tended to turn to violence against those they perceived as enemies, particularly the Polish state and its representatives.

"Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire." Painted by Ilya Repin from 1880 to 1891.
" Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire." Painted by Ilya Repin from 1880 to 1891.

In the mid-17th century, a Cossack military quasi state, the Zaporozhian Host, was established by the Dnieper Cossacks and the Ruthenian peasants fleeing Polish serfdom. Poland had little real control of this land, although at times, the cossacks allied with the Commonwealth in military campaigns. However, the continued enserfment of peasantry by the Polish nobility emphasized the Commonwealth's fierce exploitation of the workforce and, and most importantly, the suppression of the Orthodox Church pushed the allegiances of Cossacks away from Poland. Their aspiration was to have representation in Polish Sejm, recognition of Orthodox traditions and the gradual expansion of the Cossack Registry. These were all vehemently denied by the Polish kings. The Cossacks eventually turned for protection to Orthodox Russia, a decision which would later lead towards the downfall of the Polish-Lithuanian state, and the preservation of the Orthodox Church and in Ukraine.

In 1648, Bohdan Khmelnytsky led the largest of the Cossack uprisings against the Commonwealth and the Polish king John II Casimir. Left-bank Ukraine was eventually integrated into Russia as the Cossack Hetmanate, following the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav and the ensuing Russo-Polish War. After the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century by Prussia, Habsburg Austria, and Russia, Western Ukrainian Galicia was taken over by Austria, while the rest of Ukraine was progressively incorporated into the Russian Empire. Despite the promises of Ukrainian autonomy given by the treaty of Pereyaslav, the Ukrainian elite and the Cossacks never received the freedoms and the autonomy they were expecting from Imperial Russia. However, within the Empire, Ukrainians rose to the highest offices of Russian state, and the Russian Orthodox Church.

At a later period, the tsarist regime carried the policy of Russification of Ukrainian lands, suppressing the use of the Ukrainian language in print, and in public.

World War I and revolution

Ukraine entered World War I on the side of both the Central Powers, under Austria, and the Entente, under Russia.

During the war, Austro-Hungarian authorities established the Ukrainian Legion, along with the Polish Legion, to fight against the Russian Empire. These legions were the foundations of the interwar Polish Army and the Ukrainian Galician Army that fought against the Bolsheviks and Poles in the post World War I period (1919–23). Those suspected of the Russophile sentiments in Austris were treated harshly. Up to 20,000 supporters of the Russian Empire from Galicia were detained and placed in Austrian internment camps in Talerhof, Styria, and in a fortress at Terezín (now in the Czech Republic).

Soldiers of the Ukrainian People's Army
Soldiers of the Ukrainian People's Army

With the collapse of the Russian and Austrian empires following World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917, a Ukrainian national movement for self-determination reemerged. During 1917–20, several separate Ukrainian states briefly emerged: the Ukrainian People's Republic, the Hetmanate, the Directorate and the pro-Bolshevik Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (or Soviet Ukraine) successively established territories in the former Russian Empire; while the West Ukrainian People's Republic emerged briefly in the former Austro-Hungarian territory. In the midst of the civil war, a Ukrainian anarchist movement called the Black Army led by Nestor Makhno also developed. However with Western Ukraine's defeat in the Polish-Ukrainian War followed by the failure of the further Polish invasion that was repelled by the Russian and Ukrainian pro-Soviet forces, Ukraine lost its initial independence. According to the Peace of Riga concluded between Soviet Russia, Soviet Ukraine and Poland western Ukraine was split-off and incorporated into Poland while the larger central and eastern parts formed a Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in March 1919, that later became a founding republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Soviet Union in December, 1922.

Interwar Soviet Ukraine

The revolution that brought the Soviet government to power devastated Ukraine. It left over 1.5 million people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. Seeing the exhausted society, the Soviet government remained very flexible during the 1920s. Thus, the Ukrainian culture and language enjoyed a revival, as Ukrainization became a local implementation of the Soviet-wide Korenization (literally indigenization) policy. The Bolsheviks were also committed to introducing universal health care, education and social-security benefits, as well as the right to work and housing. Women's rights were greatly increased through new laws aimed to wipe away centuries-old inequalities. Most of these policies were sharply reversed by the early-1930s after Joseph Stalin gradually consolidated power to become the de facto communist party leader and a dictator of the Soviet Union.

DniproGES hydroelectric power plant under construction circa 1930
DniproGES hydroelectric power plant under construction circa 1930

Starting from the late 1920s, Ukraine was involved in the Soviet industrialization and the republic's industrial output quadrupled in the 1930s. However, the industrialization had a heavy cost for the peasantry, demographically a backbone of the Ukrainian nation. To satisfy the state's need for increased food supplies and to finance industrialization, Stalin instituted a program of collectivization of agriculture as the state combined the peasants' lands and animals into collective farms and enforcing the policies by the regular troops and secret police. Those who resisted were arrested and deported and the increased production quotas were placed on the peasantry. The collectivization had a devastating effect on agricultural productivity. As the members of the collective farms were not allowed to receive any grain until the unachievable quotas were met, starvation in the Soviet Union became widespread. In 1932–33, millions starved to death in a man-made famine known as Holodomor. Scholars are divided as to whether this famine fits the definition of genocide, but the Ukrainian parliament and more than a dozen other countries recognize it as the genocide of the Ukrainian people.

The times of industrialization and Holodomor also coincided with the Soviet assault on the national political and cultural elite often accused in "nationalist deviations". Two waves of Stalinist political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union (1929–34 and 1936–38) resulted in the elimination some 681,692 people; this included four-fifths of the Ukrainian cultural elite and three quarters of all the Red Army's higher-ranking officers.

World War II

Soviet soldiers preparing rafts to cross the Dnieper (the sign reads "To Kiev!") in the 1943 Battle of the Dnieper
Soviet soldiers preparing rafts to cross the Dnieper (the sign reads "To Kiev!") in the 1943 Battle of the Dnieper

Following the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, German and Soviet troops divided the territory of Poland. Thus, Eastern Galicia and Volhynia with their Ukrainian population became reunited with the rest of Ukraine. This unifications of Ukraine achieved for the first time in its history was a decisive event in the history of the nation.

After France surrendered to Germany, Romania ceded Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to Soviet demands. The Ukrainian SSR incorporated northern and southern districts of Bessarabia, the northern Bukovina, and the Soviet-occupied Hertsa region. But it ceded the western part of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to the newly created Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. All these territorial gains were internationally recognized by the Paris peace treaties of 1947.

German armies invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, thereby initiating four straight years of incessant total war. The Axis allies initially advanced against desperate but unsuccessful efforts of the Red Army. In the encirclement battle of Kiev, the city was acclaimed as a " Hero City", for the fierce resistance by the Red Army and by the local population. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers (or one quarter of the Western Front) were killed or taken captive there. Although the wide majority of Ukrainians fought alongside the Red Army and Soviet resistance, some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground created an anti-Soviet nationalist formation in Galicia, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (1942) that at times engaged the Nazi forces; while another nationalist movement fought alongside the Nazis. In total, the number of ethnic Ukrainians that fought in the ranks of the Soviet Army is estimated from 4.5 million to 7 million. The pro-Soviet partisan guerrilla resistance in Ukraine is estimated to number at 47,800 from the start of occupation to 500,000 at its peak in 1944; with about 48 percent of them being ethnic Ukrainians. Generally, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army's figures are very inaccurate, ranging anywhere from 15,000 to as much as 100,000 fighters.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Kiev
Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Kiev

Initially, the Germans were even received as liberators by some western Ukrainians, who had only joined the Soviet Union in 1939. However, brutal German rule in the occupied territories eventually turned its supporters against the occupation. Nazi administrators of conquered Soviet territories made little attempt to exploit the population of Ukrainian territories' dissatisfaction with Stalinist political and economic policies. Instead, the Nazis preserved the collective-farm system, systematically carried out genocidal policies against Jews, deported others to work in Germany, and began a systematic depopulation of Ukraine to prepare it for German colonization, which included a food blockade on Kiev. Under these circumstances, people that remained in the occupied territory either passively or actively opposed the Nazis.

The total losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian population during the war are estimated between five and eight million, including over half a million Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen, sometimes with the help of local collaborators. Of the estimated 8.7 million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, 1.4 million were ethnic Ukrainians.

Postwar

Sergey Korolyov, the head Soviet rocket engineer and designer during the Space Race
Sergey Korolyov, the head Soviet rocket engineer and designer during the Space Race

The republic was heavily damaged by the war, and it required significant efforts to recover. More than 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages were destroyed. The situation was worsened by a famine in 1946–47 caused by the drought and the infrastructure breakdown that took away tens of thousand lives.

The nationalist anti-Soviet resistance lasted for years after the war, chiefly in Western Ukraine, but also in other regions. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, continued to fight the USSR into the 1950s. Using guerilla war tactics, the insurgents targeted for assassination and terror of those who they perceived as the representing, or cooperating at any level with, the Soviet state.

The Chernobyl reactor #4
The Chernobyl reactor #4

Following the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the new leader of the USSR. Being the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukrainian SSR in 1938-49, Khrushchev was intimately familiar with the republic and after taking power union-wide, he began to emphasize the friendship between the Ukrainian and Russian nations. In 1954, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav was widely celebrated, and in particular, Crimea was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.

Already by the 1950s, the republic fully surpassed pre-war levels of industry and production. It also became an important centre of the Soviet arms industry and high-tech research. Such an important role resulted in a major influence of the local elite. Many members of the Soviet leadership came from Ukraine, most notably Leonid Brezhnev who would later oust Khrushchev and become the Soviet leader from 1964 to 1982, as well as many prominent Soviet sportsmen, scientists and artists.

On April 26, 1986 a reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history. At the time of the accident seven million people lived in the contaminated territories, including 2.2 million in Ukraine. After the accident, a new city, Slavutych, was built outside the exclusion zone to house and support the employees of the plant, which was decommissioned in 2000. Around 150,000 people were evacuated from the contaminated area, and 300,000–600,000 took part in the cleanup. As of 2000, about 4,000 Ukrainian children have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer caused by radiation released by this incident.

Independence

The first launch of a Ukrainian rocket at the Sea Launch complex
The first launch of a Ukrainian rocket at the Sea Launch complex

On July 16, 1990, the new parliament adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine. The declaration established the principles of the self-determination of the Ukrainian nation, democracy, political and economic independence, and the priority of Ukrainian law on the Ukrainian territory over Soviet law. A month earlier, a similar declaration was adopted by the parliament of the Russian SFSR. This started a period of confrontation between the central Soviet, and new republican authorities. In August 1991, the conservative Communist leaders of the Soviet Union attempted a coup to remove Gorbachev and to restore the Communist party's power. After the attempt failed, on August 24, 1991 the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence in which the parliament declared Ukraine as an independent democratic state. A referendum and the first presidential elections took place on December 1, 1991. That day, more than 90 percent of the Ukrainian people expressed their support for the Act of Independence, and they elected the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk to serve as the first President of the country. At the meeting in Brest, Belarus on December 8, followed by Alma Ata meeting on December 21, the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Ukraine was initially viewed as a republic with favorable economic conditions in comparison to the other regions of the Soviet Union. However, the country experienced deeper economic slowdown than some of the other former Soviet Republics. During the recession, Ukraine lost 60 percent of its GDP from 1991 to 1999, and suffered five-digit inflation rates. Dissatisfied with the economic conditions, as well as crime and corruption, Ukrainians protested and organized strikes.

Orange-clad demonstrators gather in the Independence Square in Kiev on November 22, 2004
Orange-clad demonstrators gather in the Independence Square in Kiev on November 22, 2004

The Ukrainian economy stabilized by the end of the 1990s. A new currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in 1996. Since 2000 the country has enjoyed steady economic growth averaging about seven percent annually, which is one of the highest growth rates in Europe and the world. A new Constitution of Ukraine was adopted in 1996, which turned Ukraine into a semi-presidential republic and established a stable political system. Kuchma was, however, criticized by opponents for concentrating too much of power in his office, corruption, transferring public property into hands of loyal oligarchs, discouraging free speech, and electoral fraud. In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, then Prime Minister, was declared the winner of the presidential elections, which had been largely rigged, as the Supreme Court of Ukraine later ruled. The results caused a public outcry in support of the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who challenged the results and led the peaceful Orange Revolution. The revolution brought Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to power, while casting Viktor Yanukovych in opposition.

Since independence, Ukraine has maintained its own space agency, the National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU). The first astronaut of the NSAU to enter space under the Ukrainian flag was Leonid Kadenyuk on May 13, 1997. Ukraine became an active participant in scientific space exploration and remote sensing missions. Between 1991 and 2007, Ukraine has launched six self made satellites and 101 launch vehicles, and continues to design spacecraft. So to this day, Ukraine is recognized as a world leader in producing missiles and missile related technology.

Government and politics

Verkhovna Rada, the Parliament of Ukraine
Verkhovna Rada, the Parliament of Ukraine

Ukraine is a republic under a mixed semi-parliamentary semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is the formal head of state.

Ukraine's legislative branch includes the 450-seat unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. The parliament is primarily responsible for the formation of the executive branch and the Cabinet of Ministers, which is headed by the Prime Minister.

Laws, acts of the parliament and the cabinet, presidential decrees, and acts of the Crimean parliament may be abrogated by the Constitutional Court, should they be found to violate the Constitution of Ukraine. Other normative acts are subject to judicial review. The Supreme Court is the main body in the system of courts of general jurisdiction. Local self-government is officially guaranteed. Local councils and city mayors are popularly elected and exercise control over local budgets. The heads of regional and district administrations are appointed by the president.

Ukraine has a large number of political parties, many of which have tiny memberships and are unknown to the general public. Small parties often join in multi-party coalitions (electoral blocs) for the purpose of participating in parliamentary elections.

Military

Ukrainian army soldiers aboard a BTR-80 in Iraq
Ukrainian army soldiers aboard a BTR-80 in Iraq

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited a 780,000 man military force on its territory, equipped with the third-largest nuclear weapon arsenal in the world. In May 1992, Ukraine signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in which the country agreed to give up all nuclear weapons to Russia for disposal and to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state. Ukraine ratified the treaty in 1994, and by 1996 the country became free of nuclear weapons. Currently Ukraine's military is the second largest in Europe, after that of Russia.

Ukraine also took consistent steps toward reduction of conventional weapons. It signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which called for reduction of tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles (army forces were reduced to 300,000). The country plans to convert the current conscript-based military into a professional volunteer military not later than in 2011.

Ukraine has been playing an increasingly larger role in peacekeeping operations. Ukrainian troops are deployed in Kosovo as part of the Ukrainian-Polish Battalion. A Ukrainian unit was deployed in Lebanon, as part of UN Interim Force enforcing the mandated ceasefire agreement. There was also a maintenance and training battalion deployed in Sierra Leone. In 2003–05, a Ukrainian unit was deployed in Iraq, as part of the Multinational force in Iraq under Polish command. The total Ukrainian military deployment around the world is 562 servicemen.

Following independence, Ukraine declared itself a neutral state. The country has had a limited military partnership with Russia, other CIS countries and a partnership with NATO since 1994. In the 2000s, the government was leaning towards the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and a deeper cooperation with the alliance was set by the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan signed in 2002. It was later agreed that the question of joining NATO should be answered by a national referendum at some point in the future.

Administrative divisions

The system of Ukrainian subdivisions reflects the country's status as a unitary state (as stated in the country's constitution) with unified legal and administrative regimes for each unit.

Ukraine is subdivided into twenty-four oblasts ( provinces) and one autonomous republic (avtonomna respublika), Crimea. Additionally, the cities of Kiev, the capital, and Sevastopol, both have a special legal status. The 24 oblasts and Crimea are subdivided into 490 raions ( districts), or second-level administrative units. The average area of a Ukrainian raion is 1,200 kilometres² (460 sq mi), the average population of a raion is 52,000 people.

Urban areas (cities) can either be subordinated to the state (as in the case of Kiev and Sevastopol), the oblast or raion administrations, depending on their population and socio-economic importance. Lower administrative units include urban-type settlements, which are similar to rural communities, but are more urbanized, including industrial enterprises, educational facilities, and transport connections, and villages.

In total, Ukraine has 457 cities, 176 of them are labeled oblast-class, 279 smaller raion-class cities, and two special legal status cities. These are followed by 886 urban-type settlements and 28,552 villages.

Geography

A topographic map of Ukraine
A topographic map of Ukraine

At 603,700 kilometres² (233,074 sq mi) and with a coastline of 2,782 kilometres (1,729 mi), Ukraine is the world's 44th-largest country (after the Central African Republic, before Madagascar). It is the second largest country in Europe (after the European part of Russia, before metropolitan France).

The Ukrainian landscape consists mostly of fertile plains (or steppes) and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dnieper (Dnipro), Seversky Donets, Dniester and the Southern Buh as they flow south into the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. To the southwest, the delta of the Danube forms the border with Romania. The country's only mountains are the Carpathian Mountains in the west, of which the highest is the Hora Hoverla at 2,061 m (6,762  ft), and those on the Crimean peninsula, in the extreme south along the coast.

Ukraine has a mostly temperate continental climate, although a more Mediterranean climate is found on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it is highest in the west and north and lesser in the east and southeast. Western Ukraine, receives around 1,200 mm (47 in) of precipitation, annually. While Crimea, receives around 400 mm (15.4 in) of precipitation. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. Average annual temperatures range from 5.5–7 °C (42–45 °F) in the north, to 11–13 °C (52–55.4 °F) in the south.

Economy

The building of the National Bank of Ukraine
The building of the National Bank of Ukraine
Ukrainian oblasts (provinces) by monthly salary
Ukrainian oblasts (provinces) by monthly salary

In Soviet times, the economy of Ukraine was the second largest in the Soviet Union, being an important industrial and agricultural component of the country's planned economy. With the collapse of the Soviet system, the country moved from a planned economy to a market economy. The transition process was difficult for the majority of the population which plunged into poverty. Ukraine's economy contracted severely following the years after the Soviet collapse. Day to day life for the average person living in Ukraine was a struggle. A significant number of citizens in rural Ukraine survived by growing their own food, often working two or more jobs and buying the basic necessities through the barter economy.

In 1991, the government liberalized most prices to combat widespread product shortages, and was successful in overcoming the problem. At the same time, the government continued to subsidize government-owned industries and agriculture by uncovered monetary emission. The loose monetary policies of the early 1990s pushed inflation to hyperinflationary levels. For the year 1993, Ukraine holds the world record for inflation in one calendar year. Those living on fixed incomes suffered the most. Prices stabilized only after the introduction of new currency, the hryvnia, in 1996.

The country was also slow in implementing structural reforms. Following independence, the government formed a legal framework for privatization. However, widespread resistance to reforms within the government and from a significant part of the population soon stalled the reform efforts. A large number of government-owned enterprises were exempt from the privatization process. In the meantime, by 1999, the output had fallen to less than 40 percent of the 1991 level, but recovered to slightly above the 100 percent mark by the end of 2006.

A Ukrainian-made Antonov An-148.
A Ukrainian-made Antonov An-148.

Ukraine's 2007 GDP ( PPP), as calculated by the IMF, is ranked 29th in the world and estimated at $399.866 billion. Nominal GDP (in U.S. dollars, calculated at market exchange rate) was $140.5 billion, ranked 41st in the world.

In the early 2000s, the economy showed strong export-based growth of 5 to 10 percent, with industrial production growing more than 10 percent per year. Ukraine produces nearly all types of transportation vehicles and spacecraft. Antonov airplanes and KrAZ trucks are exported to many countries. The majority of Ukrainian exports are marketed to the European Union and CIS.

The World Bank classifies Ukraine as a middle-income state. Significant issues include underdeveloped infrastructure and transportation, corruption and bureaucracy. The Ukrainian stock market recorded 130 percent growth in 2007, for second highest in the world. According to the CIA, in 2006 the market capitalization of the Ukrainian stock market was $42.87 billion. Growing sectors of the Ukrainian economy include the IT Outsourcing market, which was expected to grow over 25 percent in 2007.

By December 2007 the average nominal salary in Ukraine reached 1,774 hryvnias per month. Despite remaining lower than in neighboring central European countries, the annual growth of average salary income in real terms is about 20 percent for several years (2001–06) in a row.

The country imports most energy supplies, especially oil and natural gas, and to a large extent depends on Russia as an energy supplier. While 25 percent of the natural gas in Ukraine comes from internal sources, about 35 percent comes from Russia and the remaining 40 percent from Central Asia through transit routes that Russia controls. At the same time, 85 percent of the Russian gas is delivered to Western Europe through Ukraine.

Culture

A collection of traditional pysanky from Volyn
A collection of traditional pysanky from Volyn

Ukrainian customs are heavily influenced by Christianity, which is the dominant religion in the country. Gender roles also tend to be more traditional, and grandparents play a greater role in raising children than in the West. The culture of Ukraine has been also influenced by its eastern and western neighbors, which is reflected in its architecture, music and art.

The Communist era had quite a strong effect on the art and writing of Ukraine. In 1932, Stalin made socialist realism state policy in the Soviet Union when he promulgated the decree "On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations". This greatly stifled creativity. During the 1980s glasnost (openness) was introduced and Soviet artists and writers again became free to express themselves as they wanted.

The tradition of the Easter egg, known as pysanky, has long roots in Ukraine. These eggs were drawn on with wax to create a pattern; then, the dye was applied to give the eggs their pleasant colours, the dye did not affect the previously wax-coated parts of the egg. After the entire egg was dyed, the wax was removed leaving only the colourful pattern. This tradition is thousands of years old, and precedes the arrival of Christianity to Ukraine.

The traditional Ukrainian diet includes chicken, pork, beef, fish and mushrooms. Ukrainians also tend to eat a lot of potatoes, grains, fresh and pickled vegetables. Popular traditional dishes include varenyky (boiled dumplings with mushrooms, potatoes, sauerkraut, cottage cheese or cherries), borsch (soup made of beets, cabbage and mushrooms or meat) and holubtsy (stuffed cabbage rolls filled with rice, carrots and meat). Ukrainian specialties also include Chicken Kiev and Kiev Cake. Ukrainians drink stewed fruit, juices, milk, buttermilk (they make cottage cheese from this), mineral water, tea and coffee, beer, wine and horilka.

Language

Percentage of native Ukrainian speakers by subdivision (in Ukrainian)
Percentage of native Ukrainian speakers by subdivision (in Ukrainian)

According to the Constitution, the state language of Ukraine is Ukrainian. Russian, which was the de facto official language of the Soviet Union, is widely spoken, especially in eastern and southern Ukraine. According to the 2001 census, 67.5 percent of the population declared Ukrainian as their native language and 29.6 percent declared Russian. Most native Ukrainian speakers know Russian as a second language.

It is sometimes difficult to determine the extent of the two languages. Many people use a Surzhyk (a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian where the Russian vocabulary is often combined with Ukrainian grammar and pronunciation) while claiming in surveys that they speak Russian or Ukrainian (though most can speak both literary languages). Some ethnic Ukrainians, while calling Ukrainian their native language, use Russian more frequently in their daily lives.

These details result in a significant difference across different survey results, as even a small restating of a question switches responses of a significant group of people. Ukrainian is mainly spoken in western and central Ukraine. In western Ukraine, Ukrainian is also the dominant language in cities (such as Lviv). In central Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian are both equally used in cities, with Russian being more common in Kiev, while Ukrainian is the dominant language in rural communities. In eastern and southern Ukraine, Russian is primarily used in cities, and Surzhyk is used in rural areas.

Percentage of native Russian speakers by subdivision[f]
Percentage of native Russian speakers by subdivision

For a large part of the Soviet era the number of Ukrainian speakers was declining from generation to generation and by the mid-1980s the usage of the Ukrainian language in public life decreased significantly. Following independence, the government of Ukraine began following a policy of Ukrainization, to increase the use of Ukrainian, while discouraging Russian, which has been banned or restricted in the media and films.This means that Russian-language programmes need a Ukrainian translation or subtitles.

According to the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukrainian is the only state language of the republic. However, the republic's constitution specifically recognizes Russian as the language of the majority of its population and guarantees its usage 'in all spheres of public life'. Similarly, the Crimean Tatar language (the language of a sizable 12 percent minority of the republic) is guaranteed a special state protection as well as the 'languages of other ethnicities'. Russian speakers constitute an overwhelming majority of the Crimean population (77 percent), with Ukrainian speakers comprising just 10.1 percent, and Crimean Tatar speakers 11.4 percent. But in everyday life the majority of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea use Russian.

Literature

Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861)
Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861)

The history of Ukrainian literature dates back to the 11th century, following the Christianization of the Kievan Rus’. The writings of the time were mainly liturgical and were written in Old Church Slavonic. Historical accounts of the time were referred to as chronicles, the most significant of which was the Primary Chronicle. Literary activity faced a sudden decline during the Mongol invasion of Rus'.

Ukrainian literature again began to develop in the 14th century, and was advanced significantly in the 16th century with the introduction of print and with the beginning of the Cossack era, under both Russian and Polish dominance. The Cossacks established an independent society and popularized a new kind of epic poems, which marked a high point of Ukrainian oral literature. These advances were then set back in the 17th and early 18th centuries, when publishing in the Ukrainian language was discouraged. But by the late 18th century modern literary Ukrainian finally emerged.

The 19th century initiated a vernacular period in Ukraine, lead by Ivan Kotliarevsky’s work Eneyida, the first publication written in modern Ukrainian. By the 1830s, Ukrainian romanticism began to develop, and the nation’s most renowned cultural figure, romanticist poet-painter Taras Shevchenko emerged. Where Ivan Kotliarevsky is considered to be the ‘father’ of literature in the Ukrainian vernacular; Shevchenko is the father of a national revival. Then, in 1863, use of the Ukrainian language in print was effectively prohibited by the Russian Empire. This severely curtained literary activity in the area, and Ukrainian writers were forced to either publish their works in Russian or release them in Austrian controlled Galicia. The ban was never officially lifted, but it became obsolete after the revolution and the Bolsheviks’ coming to power.

Ukrainian literature continued to flourish in the early Soviet years, when nearly all literary trends were approved. These policies faced a steep decline in the 1930s, when Stalin implemented his policy of socialist realism. The doctrine didn’t necessarily repress the Ukrainian language, but it required writers to follow a certain style in their works. Literary activities continued to be somewhat limited under the communist party, and it was not until Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 when writers were free the express themselves as they wished.

Sport

Olympic stadium in Kiev
Olympic stadium in Kiev

Ukraine greatly benefited from the Soviet emphasis on physical education. Such policies left Ukraine with hundreds of stadiums, swimming pools, gymnasiums, and many other athletic facilities. The most popular sport is football. The top professional league is the Vyscha Liha, also known as the Ukrainian Premier League. The two most successful teams in the Vyscha Liha are rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Although Shakhtar is the reigning champion of the Vyscha Liha, Dynamo Kyiv has been much more successful historically, winning two UEFA Cup Winners' Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, a record 13 USSR Championships and a record 12 Ukrainian Championships; while Shakhtar only won four USSR championships and four Ukrainian championships. Many Ukrainians also played for the Soviet national football team, most notably Igor Belanov and Oleg Blokhin, winners of the prestigious Golden Ball for the best football player of the year. This award was only presented to one Ukrainian after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Andriy Shevchenko, the current captain of the Ukrainian national football team. The national team made its debute in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and reached the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champions, Italy. Ukrainians also faired well in boxing, where the brothers Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko have dominated for almost a decade.

Ukraine made its Olympic debut at the 1994 Winter Olympics. So far, Ukraine has been much more successful in summer Olympics (69 medals in three appearances) than in the winter Olympics (five medals in four appearances). Ukraine is currently ranked 36th by number of gold medals won in the All-time Olympic Games medal count, with every country above them, except for Russia, having more appearances.

Demographics

Ethnic composition of Ukraine
Ukrainians
  
77.8%
Russians
  
17.3%
Moldovans & Romanians
  
0.8%
Belarusians
  
0.6%
Crimean Tatars
  
0.5%
Bulgarians
  
0.4%
Hungarians
  
0.3%
Poles
  
0.3%
Jews
  
0.2%
Armenians
  
0.2%
Source: Ethnic composition of the population of Ukraine, 2001 Census

According to the Ukrainian Census of 2001, ethnic Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population. Other significant ethnic groups are Russians (17.3%), Belarusians (0.6%), Moldovans (0.5%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), Bulgarians (0.4%), Hungarians (0.3%), Romanians (0.3%), Poles (0.3%), Jews (0.2%), Armenians (0.2%), Greeks (0.2%) and Tatars (0.2%).

Ukraine is considered to be in a demographic crisis due to its high death rate and a low birth rate. In 2007, the country's population was declining at the fourth fastest rate in the world. The demographic trend is showing signs of improvement, as the birth rate has been growing for several consecutive years. Net population growth over the first nine months of 2007 was registered in five provinces of the country (out of 24), and population shrinkage was showing signs of stablising nationwide. The highest birth rates were in Western provinces. Immigrants constitute an estimated 14.7 percent of the total population, or 6.9 million people; this is the fourth largest figure in the world.

The industrial regions in the east and southeast are the most heavily populated, and about 67.2 percent of the population lives in urban areas.

Number of inhabitants in millions (1990–2007)
Number of inhabitants in millions (1990–2007)

Romanians and Moldavians are another significant minority in Ukraine, concentrated mainly in the Chernivtsi, Odessa, Zakarpattia and Vinnytsia oblasts. Gagauzians are another minority, concentrated mainly in Budjak.

Jews played a very important role in Ukrainian cultural life, especially in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Today Yiddish, the Ukrainian Jews' traditional language, is only used by a small number of older people.

Significant migration took place in the first years of Ukrainian independence. More than one million people moved into Ukraine in 1991-1992, mostly from the other former Soviet republics. In total, between 1991 and 2004, 2.2 million immigrated to Ukraine (among them, 2.0 million came from the other former Soviet Union states), and 2.5 million emigrated from Ukraine (among them, 1.9 million moved to other former Soviet Union republics).

Rank City Division Pop. Rank City Division Pop.

View of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra
Kiev
Kharkiv's Freedom Square
Kharkiv

1 Kiev Kiev 2,611,327 11 Luhansk Luhansk 463,097
2 Kharkiv Kharkiv 1,470,902 12 Makiivka Donetsk 389,589
3 Dnipropetrovsk Dnipropetrovsk 1,065,008 13 Simferopol Crimea 358,108
4 Odessa Odessa 1,029,049 14 Vinnytsia Vinnytsia 356,665
5 Donetsk Donetsk 1,016,194 15 Sevastopol Sevastopol 342,451
6 Zaporizhia Zaporizhia 815,256 16 Kherson Kherson 328,360
7 Lviv Lviv 732,818 17 Poltava Poltava 317,998
8 Kryvyi Rih Dnipropetrovsk 668,980 18 Chernihiv Chernihiv 304,994
9 Mykolaiv Mykolaiv 514,136 19 Cherkasy Cherkasy 295,414
10 Mariupol Donetsk 492,176 20 Sumy Sumy 293,141
2001 Census

Religion

The Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The dominant religion in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is currently split between three Church bodies: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autonomous church body under the Patriarch of Moscow, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

A distant second by the number of the followers is the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which practices a similar liturgical and spiritual tradition as Eastern Orthodoxy, but is in communion with the See of Rome (Roman Catholic Church) and recognizes the primacy of the Pope as head of the Church.

Additionally, there are 863 Roman Catholic (Latin or Western Rite) communities, and 474 clergy members serving some one million Roman Catholics in Ukraine. The group forms some 2.19 percent of the population and consists mainly of ethnic Poles, who live predominantly in the western regions of the country.

Islam in Ukraine and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.">The Crimean Khan's palace in Bakhchisaray is the center of Islam in Ukraine and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Crimean Khan's palace in Bakhchisaray is the centre of Islam in Ukraine and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Protestant Christians also form around 2.19 percent of the population. Protestant numbers have grown greatly since Ukrainian independence. The Evangelical Baptist Union of Ukraine is the largest group, with more than 150,000 members and about 3000 clergy. The second largest Protestant church is the Ukrainian Church of Evangelical faith ( Pentecostals) with 110000 members and over 1500 local churches and over 2000 clergy, but there also exist other Pentecostal groups and unions and together all Pentecostals are over 300,000, with over 3000 local churches. Also there are many Pentecostal high education schools such as the Lviv Theological Seminary and the Kiev Bible Institute. Other groups include Calvinists, Lutherans, Methodists and Seventh-day Adventists. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also present.

There are an estimated 500,000 Muslims in Ukraine, and about 300,000 of them are Crimean Tatars. There are 487 registered Muslim communities, 368 of them on the Crimean peninsula. In addition, some 50,000 Muslims live in Kiev; mostly foreign-born.

The Jewish community is a tiny fraction of what it was before World War II. Jews form 0.63 percent of the population. A 2001 census indicated 103,600 Jews, although community leaders claimed that the population could be as large as 300,000. There are no statistics on what share of the Ukrainian Jews are observant but the Orthodox Judaism has a stronger presence in Ukraine, than a smaller Reform denomination. Additionally, there is a presence of the middle-ground sect, Conservative Judaism (aka Masorti Judaism) as well. As of January 1, 2006 there were 35 Krishna Consciousness and 53 Buddhist registered communities in the country.

Education

Ukraine produces the fourth largest number of tertiary graduates in Europe, while being ranked seventh in population.
Ukraine produces the fourth largest number of tertiary graduates in Europe, while being ranked seventh in population.

According to the Ukrainian constitution, access to free education is granted to all citizens. Complete general secondary education is compulsory in the state schools which constitute the overwhelming majority. Free higher education in state and communal educational establishments is provided on a competitive basis. There is also a small number of accredited private secondary and higher education institutions.

Due to the Soviet Union's emphasis and total access of education for all citizens, which continues today, the literacy rate is an estimated 99.4 percent. Since 2005, an eleven-year school program has been replaced with a twelve-year one: primary education takes four years to complete (starting at age six), middle education (secondary) takes five years to complete. There are then three years of upper secondary school. In the 12th grade, students take the Government Tests or school-leaving exams. The Government tests act as both school-leaving exams and university admission tests.

The Ukrainian higher education system comprises higher educational establishments, scientific and methodological facilities under federal, municipal and self-governing bodies in charge of education. The organization of higher education in Ukraine is built up in accordance with the structure of education of the world's higher developed countries, as is defined by UNESCO and the UN.

Infrastructure

Ukraine's road Network
Ukraine's road Network

Although the Ukrainian road system covers all major populated centers, it is considered to be by European standards, of low quality. In total, Ukrainian paved roads stretch for 164,732 kilometres (102,401 mi). Rail transport in Ukraine plays the role of connecting all major urban areas, port facilities and industrial centers with neighboring countries. The heaviest concentration of railroad track is located in the Donbas region of Ukraine. Although the amount of freight transported by rail fell by 7.4 percent in 1995 in comparison with 1994, Ukraine is still one of the world's highest rail users. The total amount of railroad track in Ukraine extends for 22,473 kilometres (13 970 mi), of which 9,250 kilometres (5750 mi) is electrified.

Ukraine is one of Europe’s largest energy consumers, it consumes almost double the energy of Germany, per unit of GDP. A great share of energy supply in Ukraine comes from nuclear power, with the country receiving most of its nuclear fuel from Russia. The remaining oil and gas, is also imported from the former Soviet Union. Ukraine is heavily dependent on its nuclear energy. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, is located in Ukraine. In 2006, the government planned to build 11 new reactors by the year 2030, in effect, almost doubling the current amount of nuclear power capacity. Ukraine's power sector is the twelfth-largest in the world in terms of installed capacity, with 54 gigawatts (GW). Renewable energy still plays a very modest role in electrical output, and in 2005 energy production was met by the following sources: nuclear (47 percent), thermal (45 percent), hydro and other (8 percent).

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