Ukraine is a sovereign state in Eastern Europe, bounded on the east and northeast by Russia, on the northwest by Belarus, on the west by Poland and Slovakia, on the southwest by Hungary, Romania, and Moldova, and on the south and southeast by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Ukraine and Russia are presently engaged in a territorial dispute over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014 but which Ukraine and the majority of the international community see as Ukrainian. Ukraine’s total size, including Crimea, is 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the biggest nation completely inside Europe and the 46th largest in the world. It has a population of about 44.5 million, making it the world’s 32nd most populated nation.
Since 32,000 BC, the present Ukrainian region has been populated. Throughout the Middle Ages, the region was a vital center of East Slavic culture, with the strong kingdom of Kievan Rus’ serving as the foundation for Ukrainian identity. Following the territory’s disintegration in the 13th century, it was disputed, controlled, and partitioned by a number of countries, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. During the 17th and 18th centuries, a Cossack republic developed and flourished, but its territory was ultimately divided between Poland and the Russian Empire, and finally absorbed entirely by Russia. During the twentieth century, two short periods of independence occurred, one at the conclusion of World War I and another during World War II. However, both instances resulted in the consolidation of Ukraine’s borders into a Soviet republic, a position that lasted until 1991, when Ukraine achieved independence from the Soviet Union after the Cold War’s conclusion. Prior to independence, Ukraine was often referred to in English as “The Ukraine,” but sources have subsequently moved to exclude the prefix “the” from all usage of the term.
Ukraine proclaimed itself a neutral state after independence. Nonetheless, in 1994, it established a limited military cooperation with the Russian Federation and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations, as well as a collaboration with NATO. In the 2000s, the government started to gravitate toward NATO, and the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan signed in 2002 laid the groundwork for further collaboration with the alliance. Later, it was agreed that the issue of NATO membership should be decided by a public vote at some time in the future. Former President Viktor Yanukovych deemed the existing level of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO adequate and opposed Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Protests against President Yanukovych’s administration erupted in downtown Kiev in 2013, after the government’s decision to suspend the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement in favor of stronger economic relations with Russia. This sparked a several-month-long wave of rallies and protests known as the Euromaidan, which eventually culminated in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, which saw President Yanukovych and his cabinet deposed and a new government formed. These actions laid the groundwork for Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the outbreak of the Donbass War in April 2014. Both of these projects are currently underway as of August 2016. Ukraine implemented the economic component of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union on 1 January 2016.
Ukraine has long been a worldwide breadbasket due to its vast, rich farmlands, and it continues to be one of the biggest grain exporters in the world. Ukraine’s diverse economy is anchored on a sizable heavy industry sector, most notably in aircraft and industrial equipment.
Ukraine is a unitary country with a semi-presidential system with three distinct departments of government: legislative, executive, and judiciary. Kiev is the capital and biggest city. Ukraine has the second-largest military in Europe, behind Russia, when reserves and paramilitary troops are included. The nation has a population of 42.5 million people (excluding Crimea), with Ukrainians constituting 77.8 percent of the population, followed by a sizable minority of Russians (17.3 percent), Romanians/Moldovans, Belarusians, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, and Hungarians. Ukrainian is Ukraine’s official language; it uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Eastern Orthodoxy is the country’s main religion, and it has had a significant impact on Ukrainian architecture, literature, and music.
After the October Revolution and the Civil War, the whole nation, known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, became a member of the Soviet Union. Ukraine is Europe’s second-largest nation, despite having one of the fastest-declining populations of any major country owing to high emigration, limited immigration, early deaths (especially among males), and a decreasing birthrate that was already below replacement levels.
Every year, Ukraine used to draw more than 20 million international residents (23 million in 2012). However, after 2014, this figure has dropped to about 10 million. Visitors are mainly from Eastern Europe, although they also come from Western Europe, Turkey, and Israel.
Ukraine is a location located at the crossroads of central and eastern Europe, as well as the north and south hemispheres. It shares a border with Russia and is not distant from Turkey. It contains mountain ranges, including the Carpathian Mountains, which are ideal for skiing, trekking, fishing, and hunting. The Black Sea shoreline is a popular summer holiday location for tourists. Ukraine features vineyards where local wines are produced, old castle remains, historical parks, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches, as well as a few mosques and synagogues. Kiev, the country’s capital city, is home to numerous distinctive buildings, including the Saint Sophia Cathedral and wide boulevards. Other popular tourist destinations include the port city of Odesa and the ancient city of Lviv in the west. The majority of Western Ukraine, which was formerly part of the Republic of Poland before World War II, is a favorite tourist destination for Poles. With its warm climate, rugged mountains, plateaus, and ancient ruins, Crimea, a little “continent” of its own, had been a popular vacation destination for tourists for swimming or sun tanning in the Black Sea, though the tourist trade has been severely impacted by Russia’s occupation and annexation of the territory in 2014. Cities there include Sevastopol and Yalta, which hosted the World War II peace conference. Visitors may also take ship cruises down the Dnieper River from Kiev to the Black Sea shore. Ukrainian cuisine has a lengthy history and a broad range of unique dishes.
The country’s tourist sector is often seen as undeveloped, yet it is critical to Ukraine’s economy. Ukraine does offer certain benefits, including much cheaper prices than other European locations and visa-free entry for most individuals from Europe, the former Soviet Union, and North America. Citizens of the European Union and EFTA, the United States, Canada, Japan, and South Korea have not needed a visa to visit Ukraine for tourist reasons since 2005. In addition, nationals of Russia and other CIS nations are not needed to get a visa (except Turkmenistan).
Ukraine is the 46th-largest nation in the world, with a land area of 603,628 square kilometers (233,062 square miles) and a coastline of 2,782 kilometers (1,729 miles) (after South Sudan, before Madagascar). It is the biggest fully European nation and the second largest country in Europe (after the European part of Russia, before metropolitan France). It is located between latitudes 44° and 53° N and longitudes 22° and 41° E.
Ukraine’s environment is dominated by rich plains (or steppes) and plateaus cut 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 Danube delta marks the boundary with Romania. Its different areas have a variety of geographical characteristics spanning from the mountains to the plains. The only mountains in the nation are the Carpathian Mountains in the west, with the highest peak, Hora Hoverla, at 2,061 meters (6,762 feet), and the Crimean Mountains in Crimea, in the extreme south along the shore. However, Ukraine contains a number of highland areas, including the Volyn-Podillia Upland (in the west) and the Near-Dnipro Upland (on the right bank of the Dnieper); to the east are the south-western spurs of the Central Russian Uplands, which form the boundary with the Russian Federation. The Donets Ridge and the Near Azov Upland may be found near the Sea of Azov. The snow melt from the mountains feeds the rivers, and natural variations in height provide a rapid decrease in elevation, creating many chances for waterfalls to develop.
Iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulphur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, wood, and an abundance of fertile land are among Ukraine’s significant natural resources. Despite this, the country confronts a number of significant environmental problems, including insufficient drinkable water supplies, air and water pollution, and deforestation, as well as radioactive poisoning in the north-east from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. Recycling hazardous home trash is still in its infancy in Ukraine.
With the exception of the southern coast of Crimea, which has a subtropical climate, Ukraine has a mainly temperate climate. The climate is affected by the Atlantic Ocean’s fairly warm, humid air. Average yearly temperatures in the north vary from 5.5–7 °C (41.9–44.6 °F) to 11–13 °C (51.8–55.4 °F) in the south. Precipitation is abnormally distributed, with the west and north receiving the most and the east and southeast receiving the least. Western Ukraine, especially the Carpathian Mountains, gets about 1,200 millimetres (47.2 in) of precipitation each year, whereas Crimea and the Black Sea coast receive approximately 400 mm (47.2 in) (15.7 in).
Ukrainians account for 77.8 percent of the population, according to the 2001 Ukrainian Census. Other significant groups have identified as Russians (17.3 percent), Belarusians (0.6 percent), Moldovans (0.5 percent), Crimean Tatars (0.5 percent), Bulgarians (0.4 percent), Hungarians (0.3 percent), Romanians (0.3 percent), Poles (0.3 percent), Jews (0.2 percent), Armenians (0.2 percent), Greeks (0.2 percent ), and Tatars (0.2 percent ).The industrial districts in the east and southeast are the most densely inhabited, with urban areas housing about 67.2 percent of the population.
According to estimates collected by the independent Razumkov Centre in a national poll conducted in 2006, 75.2 percent of respondents believe in God, while 22 percent do not. 37.4 percent indicated they go to church on a regular basis.
The most common religion in Ukraine among Ukrainians who are affiliated with an organized religion is Eastern Orthodoxy, which is currently divided into three Church bodies: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autonomous church body under the Patriarch of Moscow, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
The Eastern Rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which practices a similar liturgical and spiritual tradition to Eastern Orthodoxy but is in communion with the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church and recognizes the primacy of the Pope as head of the Church, is a distant second in terms of number of followers.
In addition, there are 863 Latin Rite Catholic communities and 474 clergy members in Ukraine, serving about one million Latin Rite Catholics. The group accounts for 2.19 percent of the population and is mostly made up of ethnic Poles and Hungarians who reside primarily in the country’s western areas. In Ukraine, Protestants account for about 2.19 percent of the population. Smaller groupings may also be found.
There are about 500,000 Muslims in Ukraine, with approximately 300,000 of them being Crimean Tatars.
There are 487 recognized Muslim communities in Crimea, with 368 of them located on the island. In addition, about 50,000 Muslims, the most of whom are foreign-born, reside in Kiev.
The Jewish population is a sliver of what it was before WWII. Ukraine was a part of the Pale of Settlement during the Tsarist era, and Jews were severely limited throughout the Russian Empire. In 1926, the biggest Jewish communities were in Odessa, with 154,000 people, or 36.5 percent of the total population, and Kiev, with 140,500 people, or 27.3 percent. Orthodox Judaism is the most prevalent religion in Ukraine. There are also smaller Reform and Conservative (“Masorti”) Jewish communities.
According to one 2006 poll, the number of non-religious people in Ukraine was about 11.1 percent of the total population.
Famines and migration
The 1930s famines, followed by the destruction of World War II, resulted in a demographic catastrophe. In 1933, females had a life expectancy of 10 years and men had a life expectancy of seven years. By 1941–44, females had a life expectancy of 25 years and males had a life expectancy of 15 years. “Over 7 million Ukrainians, more than one-sixth of the pre-war population, were murdered during the Second World War,” according to The Oxford Companion to World War II.
Significant migration occurred during Ukraine’s first years of independence. In 1991–92, over one million individuals migrated to Ukraine, the majority of them came from other former Soviet republics. Between 1991 and 2004, 2.2 million people immigrated to Ukraine (including 2 million from other former Soviet Union countries), while 2.5 million left the country (among them, 1.9 million moved to other former Soviet Union republics). Currently, immigrants account for an estimated 14.7 percent of the overall population, or 6.9 million people; this is the world’s fourth highest number. In 2006, an estimated 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage lived in Canada, making it the world’s third-largest Ukrainian community after Ukraine and Russia. In addition, there are significant Ukrainian immigrant populations in the United States, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina.
Ukraine’s economy was the second biggest in the Soviet Union during the Soviet era, with a significant industrial and agricultural component of the country’s planned economy. With the demise of the Soviet regime, the nation transitioned from a planned to a market economy. The bulk of the people, which had fallen into poverty, found the changeover process tough. Ukraine’s economy suffered greatly in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Life was difficult for the ordinary Ukrainian citizen on a daily basis. A large proportion of people in rural Ukraine lived by producing their own food, often working two or more jobs, and purchasing essentials via the barter economy.
To address severe commodity shortages, the government liberalised most pricing in 1991, and was effective in doing so. Simultaneously, the government continued to subsidize state-run businesses and agriculture via unreported monetary emission. The early 1990s’ lax monetary policy drove inflation to hyperinflationary heights. Ukraine set the world record highest inflation in a calendar year in 1993. Those on fixed incomes were hit the worst. Prices did not stabilize until 1996, when a new currency, the hryvnia, was introduced. In addition, the government was sluggish to undertake fundamental changes. Following the country’s independence, the government established a legislative framework for privatization. However, strong opposition to changes inside the administration and from a sizable portion of the public quickly stymied reform attempts. Many state-owned businesses were exempted from the privatization process.
Meanwhile, by 1999, the GDP had dropped to fewer than 40% of its 1991 level. It rebounded significantly in the years that followed, but has yet to reach its historical peak as of 2014. In the early 2000s, the economy saw significant export-based growth of 5 to 10% each year, with industrial output increasing by more than 10% per year. Ukraine was affected by the 2008 economic crisis, and the IMF authorized a $16.5 billion stand-by loan for the nation in November 2008.
According to the CIA, Ukraine’s GDP (PPP) in 2010 was $305.2 billion, ranking 38th in the world. According to the CIA, its GDP per capita in 2010 was $6,700 (in PPP values), ranking it 107th in the world. Nominal GDP (in US dollars, estimated at the market exchange rate) was $136 billion, ranking the country 53rd in the world. By July 2008, the average nominal monthly wage in Ukraine had reached 1,930 hryvnias. Despite being lower than in neighboring Central European nations, wage growth in 2008 was 36.8 percent.
Ukraine manufactures almost every kind of transportation vehicle and spacecraft. Many nations import Antonov aircraft and KrAZ vehicles. The bulk of Ukrainian exports are sold to the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Ukraine has had its own space agency, the National Space Agency of Ukraine, since its independence (NSAU). Ukraine has been a key player in scientific space research and remote sensing missions. Ukraine deployed six self-built satellites and 101 launch vehicles between 1991 and 2007, and it continues to develop spacecraft.
The nation imports the majority of its energy sources, particularly oil and natural gas, and is heavily reliant on Russia as an energy provider. While 25 percent of natural gas in Ukraine originates from domestic sources, approximately 35 percent comes from Russia, and the remaining 40 percent comes from Central Asia through transit routes controlled by Russia. At the same time, Ukraine transports 85 percent of Russian gas to Western Europe.
The Ukrainian economy’s fastest expanding sector is the information technology (IT) market, which surpassed all other Central and Eastern European nations in 2007, increasing by 40%. Ukraine ranked fourth in the world in terms of certified IT experts in 2013, behind only the United States, India, and Russia.
According to the World Bank, Ukraine’s GDP in 2010 was approximately $136 billion, $163 billion in 2011, $176.6 billion in 2012, and $177.4 billion in 2013. In 2014 and 2015, the Ukrainian currency was the world’s worst performing currency, having lost 80% of its value since April 2014, after the Donbass War and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine is classified as a middle-income country by the World Bank. Significant problems include poor infrastructure and transportation, as well as corruption and bureaucracy. The people’s determination to confront corrupt politicians and corporate elites resulted in a large wave of public protests against Victor Yanukovych’s government in November 2013. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine remains the most corrupt nation in Europe, ranking 142nd out of 175 countries in the globe in the 2014 CPI report. In 2007, the Ukrainian stock market had the world’s second-highest growth rate of 130 percent. According to the CIA, the Ukrainian stock market had a market value of $111.8 billion in 2006.
Ukraine has made some progress in terms of decreasing absolute poverty, providing access to basic and secondary education, improving maternal health, and lowering child mortality. The absolute poverty rate (share of the population whose daily consumption is less than US$5.05 (PPP)) fell from 11.9 percent in 2000 to 2.3 percent in 2012, while the relative poverty rate (share of the population below the national poverty line) decreased from 71.2 percent to 24.0 percent.