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Flag of Ukraine Ukraine: Coat of Arms
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto: none
Official language Ukrainian
Capital Kiev (Ukrainian: Kyiv)
President Viktor Yushchenko
Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov
  % water
ranked 43rd
603,700 km²
  Total (2004)
ranked 25th
GDP (2004)
 - Total (PPP)
 - Total (Nominal)
 - GDP/capita (PPP)
 - GDP/capita (Nominal)
$339.7 billion (27th)
$82.7 billion (53rd)
$6,182 (90th)
$1,748 (107th)
From Soviet Union
August 24, 1991
Currency Hryvnia
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem Shche ne vmerla Ukraina
Internet TLD .ua
Calling Code 380

Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, Ukrayina, /ukraˈjina/) is a country in Eastern Europe. It borders Russia to the northeast, Belarus to the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest and the Black Sea to the south. The territory of present-day Ukraine was a key centre of East Slavic culture in the Middle Ages, before being divided between a variety of powers, notably Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Austria, Romania and the Ottoman Empire. A brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917 was ended by Ukraine's absorption into the Soviet Union and the republic's present borders were only established in 1954. It became independent once more following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.



Various Slavic etymologies have been suggested for the name. Most translate it as "borderland" or "frontier" (compare Окраина (Okraina, "Outskirts") in Russian) and also "country" (compare Krayina in Ukrainian and Kraina in Belarusian). Other etymologies trace the name directly to the verb "krayaty" meaning, "to cut", indicating the land the Rus' people (or Ruthenians or Ukrainians) carved out for themselves; some take it to mean "homeland" or "one's own land" ("Kray").


Main article: History of Ukraine

Human settlement in the territory of Ukraine has been documented into distant prehistory. The late neolithic Trypillian culture flourished from ca. 4500 BC to 3000 BC.

In antiquity, the southern and eastern parts of modern Ukraine were populated by Iranian nomads called Scythians. The Scythian Kingdom existed in Ukraine between 700 BC and 200 BC. In the third century, the Goths arrived, calling their country Oium, and formed the Chernyakhov culture before moving on and defeating the Roman empire.

Later the first Eastern Slavic state, Kievan Rus' occupied much today's Ukraine and southern Russia. Its capital was Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine, ruled by Askold and Dir in the late 800s. According to the Primary Chronicle the Kievan Rus' elite initially consisted of Varangians, Scandinavians, from present-day Sweden. The Varangians later became assimilated into the local population of Rus' and gave the Rus' its first powerful dynasty, the Rurik Dynasty.

In the seventh century the Khazars (a Turkic semi-nomadic people from Central Asia who adopted Judaism) founded the independent Khazar kingdom in the southeastern part of today's Europe, near the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. In addition to western Kazakhstan, the Khazar kingdom also included territory in what is now eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, southern Russia, and Crimea.

During the tenth and eleventh centuries the territory of Ukraine became the center of important state in Europe— 'Kievan Rus' laying the foundation for national identity of Ukrainians, as well as other East Slavic nations, through subsequent centuries.

Yaroslav I the wise
Yaroslav I the wise
Vladimir and Rogneda
Vladimir and Rogneda

The term "Rus'" referred to many of the East Slavic principalities in the Ukrainian regions (Rus' Chervona, Red Rus'/Ruthenia, for example). Kiev and Kievian Rus' were the seat of the Grand Prince of the Rurik Dynasty. The ruler of Kiev was also in effect the ruler of all the Rus' principalities. Kievan Rus', the root of the term "Rusychi", declined during the Mongol invasion. The term "Rus'" was originally applied to the inhabitants of all Rus' principalities, today comprising Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. After the fall of Kiev, and until the eighteenth century, the term "Rus" was self-applied by the members of all three East Slavic nations, but the latinized version, "Ruthenian", was used to designate inhabitants of Ukraine and Belarus only; while the ancestors of modern Russians were usually referred to as Muscovites or Muscovite Russians by the name of their state that Europe called Muscovy.

"Ukraine", originally a geographic term, dates to the eleventh century. At that time, Ukraine was synonymous with Rus' proper (Rus' Propria). "Ruthenian" originally meant "Rus'", then Ukraine and Belarus, but later became limited to Ukraine alone, and then solely to West Ukrainians (Galicians). Originally it was a term applied to the Rus' by other Europeans (Poles, Germans, and Turks, especially).

Kievan Rus' became weakened by internal quarrels and was destroyed by Mongol and Tatar invasions. On Ukrainian territory, the state of Kievan Rus' was succeeded by the principalities of Halych and Volodymyr-Volynskyi, which were merged into the state of Halych-Volynia. In the mid 14th century it subjugated by Kazimierz IV of Poland, and after the 1386 marriage of Lithuania's Grand Duke Jagiello to Poland's Queen Jadwiga, was ruled by the Lithuanians as part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. After the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was formed in 1569 Union of Lublin, significant part of Ukraine was moved under the Polish administration, as it was transferred to the Polish Crown.

Under the cultural pressure of polonization much of the Ukrainian (or rather Ruthenian) upper class converted to Catholicism gradually abandoning the culture and even the language of their forefathers, as such transitions was beneficial for achieving the political influence within the state, e.g. one of the Wiśniowiecki's, even became king of Poland. At the same time the common people (peasants) retained their old ways (including the Orthodox religion), which led to the increasing social tensions, visible in such events as the 1596 Union of Bresc (Brest), created by Zygmunt III, who attempted to bring the Orthodox population closer to Catholicism. This move failed to acieve its goals. The new "intermidiate" religion was unnecessary for the upper class, much of whom turned directly towards Catholicism. Thus, the Ukrainian commoners were deprived of their native protectors and turned for the protection to the Cossacks who remained fiercely Orthodox at all times.

In the mid of the 17th century, a Cossack state, the Zaporozhian Host, was established by Ukrainians and others fleeing Polish serfdom which formally belonged to Poland. Located in central Ukraine, it was an autonomous military state, initially allied with the Commonwealth. However the suppression of the Ukrainian free farmers by the Polish nobility, further imposition of serfdom and the suppression of the Orthodox church pushed the allegiances of Cossacks away from Poland and towards Orthodox Russia, which was one reason for the later downfall of the Polish-Lithuanian state. In 1648 Bogdan Khmelnytsky organized the largest of the Cossacks upprising, against the Commonwealth and the Polish king Jan II Kazimierz. This uprising finally lead to a partition of Ukraine between Poland and Russia. Eastern Ukraine was eventually integrated into Russia as the Cossack Hetmanate, as a consequence of the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1667. After the partitions of Poland by Prussia, Austria, and Russia at the end of the eighteenth century, Western Ukraine (Galicia) was taken over by Austria, while the rest of Ukraine was progressively incorporated into the Russian Empire. Ukrainians played an important role in the frequent wars between East European monarchies and the Ottoman Empire, however much of the Cossack culture and identity was supressed by Tsarist Russia, which had as little use for independent - or autonomous - Cossack state as previously Commonwealth did.

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, Ukraine was briefly independent in two states, then united by cruel war, in 1920. By 1922 Ukraine was split between Poland and the Soviet Union. Also in 1922, most of Central and Eastern Ukraine became a constituent republic of the USSR as the Ukrainian SSR.

To satisfy the state's need for increased food supplies, the Soviet industrialization program called for the collectivization of agriculture, which had a profound effect on Ukraine, the nation's breadbasket (see Collectivization in the USSR). In the late 1920s and early 1930s the state compounded the peasants' lands and animals into collective farms and state farms. Although the program was designed to affect all peasants, the plan met particularly heavy resistance from the wealthiest peasants, the kulaks, and a desperate struggle of the peasantry against the authorities ensued. Peasants slaughtered their cows and pigs rather than turn them over to the collective farms, especially in Ukraine, with the result that livestock resources remained below the 1929 level for years afterward. The state in turn forcibly collectivized reluctant peasants and deported kulaks and active rebels to Siberia. Within the collective farms, the authorities in many instances exacted such high levels of procurements that starvation was widespread. In some places, famine was allowed to run its course; and millions of peasants in Ukraine starved to death in a famine, called the Holodomor in Ukrainian.

During World War II, some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground fought both Nazi and Soviet forces, while others collaborated with the Nazis. In 1941 the German invaders and their Axis allies initially advanced against desperate but unsuccessful efforts of the Red Army. In the encirclement battle of Kiev, the city was acclaimed by the Soviets as a "Hero City", for the fierce resistance of the Red Army and of the local population. More than 660,000 Soviet troops were taken captive.

Initially, the Germans were received as "liberators" by many Ukrainians. However, German rule in the occupied territories eventually aided the Soviet cause. Nazi administrators of conquered Soviet territories made little attempt to exploit the population's dissatisfaction with Soviet political and economic policies. Instead, the Nazis preserved the collective-farm system, systematically carried out genocidal policies against Jews, and deported others (mainly Ukrainians) to work in Germany. Under these circumstances, the great majority of the Soviet people fought and worked on their country's behalf, thus ensuring the regime's survival. Total civilian losses during the war and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated between five and seven million, including over half a million Jews shot and killed by the Einsatzgruppen, often with the help of Ukrainian collaborators. Of the estimated eleven million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, about a quarter (2.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians. Ukraine is distinguished as one of the first nations to fight the Axis powers in Carpatho-Ukraine, and one that saw some of the greatest bloodshed during the war.

After the Second World War, the borders of then-Soviet Ukraine were extended to the West (as stipulated in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, see also Curzon line), uniting most Ukrainians under one political state. The expellation of the Poles began in 1944 with the massakers of Wolynia, where more than 40.000 people where killed. Other one million Poles were expelled from Ukraine. In 1954, Crimea was transferred from the RSFSR to Ukraine. This decision of Nikita Khrushchev, intended to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, seen in Soviet historiography as the 'union of two fraternal peoples', led to tensions between Russia and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Independence was achieved in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Ukraine was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Government and Politics

Ukrainian election, 2004
Ukrainian election, 2004
Parliament of Ukraine, Kiev
Parliament of Ukraine, Kiev
Main article: Government of Ukraine
Main article: Politics of Ukraine

Ukraine is a democracy under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The President of Ukraine (elected by popular vote) nominates the Prime Minister, who must be confirmed by the 450-seat parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. The President (on advice and consent of the Prime Minister) appoints members of the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as heads of all central agencies and regional and district administrations.

Laws, acts of the parliament and the Cabinet, presidential edicts, and acts of the Crimean parliament (Autonomous Republic of Crimea) may be nullified by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, when they are found to violate the Constitution of Ukraine. Other normative acts are subject to judicial review. The Supreme Court of Ukraine 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. In practice, the scope of local self-government is limited.

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 blocks) for the purpose of participating in parliamentary elections.

See also:


Main article: Subdivisions of Ukraine

Ukraine is subdivided into twenty-four oblasts (provinces) and one autonomous republic (Crimea). Additionally, two cities have a special legal status.

See also regions of Ukraine.


Main article: Geography of Ukraine
Map of Ukraine
Map of Ukraine

The Ukrainian landscape consists mostly of fertile plains, or steppes, and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dnieper, Seversky Donets, Dniester and the Southern Bug 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, and those in the Crimean peninsula, in the extreme south along the coast.

Ukraine has a mostly temperate continental climate, though 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. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. Summers are warm across the greater part of the country, but generally hot in the south.


20 Hryvnia
20 Hryvnia
10 Hryvnia
10 Hryvnia
Donezk industry
Donezk industry
Main article: Economy of Ukraine

Formerly an important agricultural and industrial region of the Soviet Union, Ukraine now depends on Russia for most energy supplies, especially natural gas, although lately it has been trying to diversify its sources. The lack of significant structural reform has made the Ukrainian economy vulnerable to external shocks. After 1991 the government liberalised most prices and erected a legal framework for privatisation, but widespread resistance to reform within the government soon stalled reform efforts and led to some backtracking. Output by 1999 had fallen to less than 40% of the 1991 level. Loose monetary policies pushed inflation to hyperinflationary levels in late 1993.

The current government has pledged to reduce the number of government agencies, streamline the regulatory process, create a legal environment to encourage entrepreneurs, and enact a comprehensive tax overhaul. Reforms in the more politically sensitive areas of structural reform and land privatisation are still lagging. Outside institutions—particularly the IMF—have encouraged Ukraine to quicken the pace and scope of reforms and have threatened to withdraw financial support.

The GDP in 2000 showed strong export-based growth of 6%—the first growth since independence—and industrial production grew 12.9%. The economy continued to expand in 2001, as real GDP rose 9% and industrial output grew by over 14%. Growth was undergirded by strong domestic demand and growing consumer and investor confidence. Rapid economic growth in 2002 - 2004 is largely attributed to a surge in steel exports to China.


main square of Kiev
main square of Kiev
Shopping in Odessa.
Shopping in Odessa.
Main article: Demographics of Ukraine

Ethnic Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population, ethnic Russians 17.3%, Ruthenians (in Transcarpathia) some 0.9%. The industrial regions in the east and south-east are the most heavily populated, and about 70% of the population lives in urban areas.

Other minorities include significant groups of Romanians (with Moldovans, 1%), Belarusians (0.6%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), Bulgarians (0.4%),Poles (0.4%) and Jews (0.3%).

Ukrainian is the only official state language. Russian, which was the official language in the Soviet Union, is still used by many people, especially in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian and Russian are spoken by 55% and 45% respectively, but considered to be a native language by 67.5% and 29.6% of population, according to the 2001 census. It is sometimes difficult to determine the extent of the two language, since many people use a mixed language (Surzhyk) containing elements of both, while thinking they speak Russian or Ukrainian. Standard literary Ukrainian is mainly spoken in western and central Ukraine. In western Ukraine, Ukrainian is also the dominant language in cities (e.g. Lviv). In central Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian are both equally used in cities (including Kiev), while Ukrainian is the dominant language in rural communities. In eastern Ukraine mainly Russian and Surzhyk are used. In the Autonomous Republic of Crimea practically all of the population speaks Russian and Ukrainain is virtually unused. Both languages are official within the autonomous republic.

The share of students receiving their education in Russian has significantly declined from 41% in 1995 to 24% in 2004, in favour of Ukrainian-language education. Still, many urban Ukrainian schools are de facto Russian-speaking, especially in the east and south. Russian continues to be the language of international communication for many Ukrainians and is generally understood throughout the country.


Main article: Minorities in Ukraine

The most important and minorities include significant groups of Romanians (with Moldovans, 1%), Belarusians (0.6%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), Bulgarians (0.4%),Poles (0.4%) and Jews (0.3%).


Yuzhnyj fasad cerkvi Rozhdestva Bogorodicy, Ukraine
Yuzhnyj fasad cerkvi Rozhdestva Bogorodicy, Ukraine
Main article: History of Christianity in Ukraine
Main article: Muslims in Ukraine

The dominant religion in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is currently split between three Church bodies. The distant second is the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which practices similar Liturgical rite to Eastern Orthodoxy, but is in communion with the Catholic see and recognises the primacy of the Roman Pope as head of the Church. There are also smaller Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities.


Main article: Culture of Ukraine

"the" Ukraine

The country is often referred to as the Ukraine in English. This usage is now deprecated by many media organizations, partly for stylistic reasons (compare "the Lebanon" and "the Sudan") and partly because of its possible implication that Ukraine is merely a region rather than an independent state. There was, however, no change in Ukrainian or Russian usage with Ukraine's independence, as there are no articles, definite or indefinite, in either language. However there is a parallel in concerning the usage of the preposition "на" (na) or "в" (v) with "Ukraine", both in Ukrainian and in Russian. Traditional usage is "на", but recently Ukrainian authorities have been pushing the usage of "в", as this preposition is used with most other country names. While in Ukrainian the newly introduced usage of "в" took hold, the usage in Russian varies. Russian language media from within Ukraine are increasingly using "в". However, the media in Russia mostly uses traditional "на" maintaining that it remains a proper usage and questioning the authority of Ukrainian government over the Russian language. (See also, Kiev or Kyiv for a similar debate).

Miscellaneous topics

Street musician playing the bandura, a Ukrainian zither
Street musician playing the bandura, a Ukrainian zither


External links

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