Ukraine (Україна, Ukrayina in Ukrainian; Украина in Russian) is a republic in eastern Europe which 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 to the south.
A nation of mostly steppes first inhabited by a succession of local tribes, Ukraine was consolidated by invaders from Scandinavia who founded the state of Kievan Rus in the 10th century. Their dynasty was weakened by Asian invaders, and the area subsequently came to be ruled by Lithuania and Poland. Eastern part of central Ukraine effectively merged with Russia in 1654, beginning three centuries of domination by Russia and its successor, the Soviet Union.
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Ukraine suffered greatly during the Russian Revolution, the Russian Civil War, forced starvation under Stalin, and World Wars I and II. Its people persevered, and the Ukrainian language and culture emerged largely intact from the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
|National motto: Воля, злагода, добро |
(transliteration: Volya, zlahoda, dobro)
(Ukrainian: Freedom, accord, goodness)
|Official language ||Ukrainian |
|Capital ||Kiev (Kyiv in Ukrainian) |
|President ||Viktor Yushchenko |
|Prime Minister ||Yuliya Tymoshenko |
|ranked 43rd |
|ranked 25th |
|ranked 53rd |
|From Soviet Union |
August 24, 1991
|Currency ||Hryvnia |
|Time zone ||UTC +2 |
|National anthem ||Shche ne vmerla Ukraina |
|Internet TLD ||.ua |
|Calling Code ||380 |
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 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 is no definite article (the) in either language.
Various Slavic etymologies have been suggested for the name. It may signify "borderland" or "on the edge" (compare Krajna, Krajina). Other more legendary ethymologies trace the name to a verb 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".
Main article: History of Ukraine
In the antiquity the current territory of Ukraine was populated by the Iranian nomads called Scythians. Kingdom of Scythia existed in Ukraine between 700 and 200 B.C. At the beginning of the second millennium BCE, the speakers of the Proto-Iranian language moved from Ukraine to the southeast but many also remained.
Later the area of today's Ukraine encompassed the central portion (Rus' propria), and formed the southern part of the first Eastern Slavic state, Kievan Rus'. Its capital was Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine. Kievan Rus' was founded by Varangians, Scandanavian tribes 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 7th century C.E. 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 10th and 11th centuries the territory of Ukraine became the center of important state in Europe— 'Kievan Rus' laying the foundation for Ukrainian national identity through subsequent centuries.
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 "Rus'ki" (today 'Russians'), declined during the Mongol invasion. The term "Rus'" is applied to the inhabitants of all Rus' principalities, today comprising Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. Until well into the 19th century, there has been no perception of a "national" (as opposed to regional) difference between these tribes.
"Ukraine", originally a geographic term, dates to the 11th century. At that time, Ukraine was synonymous with Rus' proper (Rus' Propria) or Malo Rus' (lesser Rus'). "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 Europeans (Poles, Germans, and Turks, especially).
Kievan Rus' became weakened by internal quarrels and was destroyed by Mongol and Tatar invasions. On Ukrainian territory (Rus' in the narrow sense), the state of Kievan Rus' was succeeded by the principalities of Halych and Volodymyr-Volynskyi, which were merged into the state of Halych-Volynia. This was later subjugated by Lithuania and Poland, and after the 1376 marriage of Lithuania's Grand Duke Jagiello to Poland's Queen Jadwiga, was ruled by the Poles (see the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). Although locally defeated, the Rurik Dynasty continued, first in Novgorod, and then in Moscow.
During the mid-17th century, the Cossack Hetmanate was established by Ukrainians fleeing from Polish serfdom. Located in central Ukraine, it was an autonomous military state, initially independent. Ukraine was eventually integrated into Russia as a consequence of the controversial Treaty of Pereyaslav. After the partitions of Poland by Prussia, Austria and Russia at the end of the 18th century, Western Ukraine (Galicia) was taken over by Austria, while Eastern Ukraine was progressively assimilated into the Russian Empire. Ukrainians played an important role in continuous wars between East European monarchies and the Ottoman Empire. Since then, the territory of Ukraine has become a bridge between Europe and Asia (Russia).
Many Ukrainians played important roles in the Russian civil war. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, Ukraine was briefly independent in two states, then united, in 1920. By 1922 Ukraine was split between Poland and the Soviet Union. Also in 1922, 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 collectization 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 crushed 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 some 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. Of the estimated 11 million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, about a fourth (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. In 1954, Crimea was transferred from the RSFSR to Ukraine (Crimea has no continuous land bridge to the Russian Federation.) This decision of Nikita Khrushchev, intended to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the controversial 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. Despite the Soviet hegemony during most of the 20th century, Ukraine has been a member of the United Nations since the latter's inception in 1945.
Government and Politics
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 general public. Small parties often join in multi-party coalitions (electoral blocks) for the purpose of participating in parliamentary elections.
Main article: Subdivisions of Ukraine
Ukraine is subdivided into 24 regions (oblasti, singular oblast), 1 autonomous republic (avtonomna respublika) in the Crimea, and 2 municipalities (mista, singular misto) with special legal status, marked by a *:
Main article: Geography of Ukraine
The Ukrainian landscape consists mostly of fertile plains, or steppes, and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dniepr, Donets, Dnister 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 countries 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.
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. 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 article: Demographics of Ukraine
Ethnic Ukrainians make up about 75% of the total population; ethnic Russians about 20%. The industrial regions in the east and southeast are the most heavily populated, and about 70% of the population live in an urban environment. Ukrainian (the official state language) and Russian are the principal languages, and although Russian is very widely spoken most of the population identifies Ukrainian as their native language. Other minorities include small groups of Romanians (with Moldovans, 0.8%), Belarusians (0.6%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), Bulgarians (0.4%), Hungarians, Poles (0.4%) and Jews (0.3%).
The dominant religions are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, an Eastern Orthodox church, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which practices eastern Christian rites but recognises the Roman Pope as head of the church. Most of the authority and property of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church belongs to the Moscow Patriarchy, while a separate Kiev Patriarchy declared independence from Moscow (after Ukraine declared independence) and attracted the majority of believers. There is also a Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, as well as smaller Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities.
Main article: Culture of Ukraine
- Government Portal (http://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/en)—Official governmental portal
- Official presidential site of Ukraine (http://www.president.gov.ua/eng/)
- Verkhovna Rada (http://www.rada.gov.ua)—Official parliamentary site (in Ukrainian)
- Web cam shots for selected cities across Ukraine (http://www.ukrtelecom.ua/en/offers/web_cam/)
- Infoukes (http://www.infoukes.com)—General info on Ukraine's History and Politics
- Kyiv Post (http://www.kyivpost.com)—Kyiv News in English
- Ukraine News (http://news.org.ua/main/)—In English
- Ukraine-visa.com (http://www.ukraine-visa.com)—Ukraine visa online
- Ukraina.at (http://www.ukraina.at)—Ukraine Fanpage from Mr. Bartosch in German]