About Ukraine

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Geography
Area: 233,000 sq. mi.
Cities: Capital–Kiev (often transliterated as Kyiv from Ukrainian, pop. 2.8 million). Other cities–Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Odesa, Lviv.
Terrain: A vast plain mostly bounded by the Carpathian mountains in the southwest and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the South.
Climate: Continental temperate, except in southern Crimea, which has a sub-tropical climate.

People
Population (est.): 47.42 million.
Nationality: Noun–Ukrainian(s); adjective–Ukrainian.
Ethnic groups: Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Jews, Poles, Crimean Tatars, and other groups.
Religions: Ukrainian Orthodoxy, Ukrainian Greek Catholicism, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, others.
Languages: Ukrainian (official), Russian, others.
Education: Literacy–98%.
Health: Infant mortality rate–22/1,000; life expectancy–61.6 yrs. males, 72.8 yrs. females.
Work force: 23 million. Industry and construction–32%; agriculture and forestry–24%; health, education, and culture–17%; transport and communication–7%.

Government
Type: Presidential-parliamentary.
Independence: August 24, 1991.
Constitution: First post-Soviet constitution adopted June 28, 1996.
Branches: Executive–president, prime minister, cabinet. Legislative–450-member unicameral parliament, the Supreme Rada (members elected to 4-year terms). Judicial–Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, local courts, and Constitutional Court.
Political parties: Wide range of active political parties and blocs, from leftist to center and center-right to ultra-nationalist.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 24 provinces (oblasts), Crimean autonomous republic, and two cities with special status–Kiev and Sevastopol.

Economy
Nominal GDP (2004 est.): $62.77 billion.
Annual growth rate (2004 gov. est.): 12.5%.
Nominal per capita GDP (2004 est.): $1324.
Natural resources: Vast fertile lands, coal, ironstone, complex ore, various large mineral deposits, timber.
Agriculture: Products–Grain, sugar, sunflower seeds.
Industry: Types–Ferrous metals and products, oil and gas transport, coke, fertilizer, airplanes, turbines, metallurgical equipment, diesel locomotives, tractors.
Trade (2003): Exports–$23.07 billion: Ferrous and nonferrous metals, mineral products, chemicals, energy transport services, machinery, transport equipment, grain, and textiles. Imports–$23.02 billion: Energy, mineral fuel and oil, machinery and parts, transportation equipment, chemicals, textiles, and paper.

PEOPLE
The population of Ukraine is about 47.42 million. Ethnic Ukrainians make up about 73% of the total; ethnic Russians number about 22%, ethnic Belarusians number about 5%. The industrial regions in the east and southeast are the most heavily populated, and the urban population makes up about 67% of the population. Ukrainian and Russian are the principal languages. Although Russian is very widely spoken, in the 1989 census (the latest official figures) 88% of the population identified Ukrainian as their native language. The dominant religions are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (which practices Orthodox rites but recognizes the Pope as head of the Church). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is divided between a Moscow Patriarchy and a separate Kiev Patriarchy, which was established after Ukrainian independence and which declared independence from Moscow. In addition to these, there are also the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

The birth rate of Ukraine is declining. About 70% of adult Ukrainians have a secondary or higher education. Ukraine has about 150 colleges and universities, of which the most important are at Kiev, Lviv, and Kharkiv. There are about 70,000 scholars in 80 research institutes.

HISTORY
The first identifiable groups to populate what is now Ukraine were Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, and Goths, among other nomadic peoples who arrived throughout the first millennium B.C. These peoples were well known to colonists and traders in the ancient world, including Greeks and Romans, who established trading outposts that eventually became city-states. Slavic tribes occupied central and eastern Ukraine in the sixth century A.D. and played an important role in the establishment of Kiev. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kiev quickly prospered as the center of the powerful state of Kievan Rus. In the 11th century, Kievan Rus was, geographically, the largest state in Europe. Christian missionaries, Cyril and Methodius, propagated the Christian faith and the Cyrillic alphabet. Kievan Rus Prince Volodymyr converted the Kievan nobility and most of the population to Christianity in 988. Conflict among the feudal lords led to decline in the 12th century. Mongol raiders razed Kiev in the 13th century.

Most of the territory of what is modern Ukraine was annexed by Poland and Lithuania in the 14th century, but during that time, Ukrainians began to conceive of themselves as a distinct people, a feeling that survived subsequent partitioning by greater powers over the next centuries. Ukrainian peasants who fled the Polish effort to force them into servitude came to be known as Cossacks and earned a reputation for their fierce martial spirit and love of freedom. In 1667, Ukraine was partitioned between Poland and Russia. In 1793, when Poland was partitioned, much of modern-day Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire.

The 19th century found the region largely agricultural, with a few cities and centers of trade and learning. The region was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the extreme west and the Russian Empire elsewhere. Ukrainian writers and intellectuals were inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring other European peoples existing under other imperial governments and were determined to revive Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions and reestablish a Ukrainian state. Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), national hero of Ukraine, presented the intellectual maturity of the Ukrainian language and culture through his work as a poet and artist. Imperial Russia, however, imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate Ukrainian culture, even banning the use and study of the Ukrainian language.

When World War I and the Russian revolution shattered the Habsburg and Russian empires, Ukrainians declared independent statehood. In 1917 the Central Rada proclaimed Ukrainian autonomy and in 1918, following the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd, the Ukrainian National Republic declared independence under President Mykhaylo Hrushevsky. After three years of conflict and civil war, however, the western part of Ukrainian territory was incorporated into Poland, while the larger, central and eastern regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922 as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The Ukrainian national idea persevered during the twenties, but with Stalinís rise to power and the campaign for collectivization, the Soviet leadership imposed a campaign of terror that ravaged the intellectual class. Stalin also created an artificial famine (called the Holodomor in Ukrainian) as part of his forced collectivization policies, which killed millions of previously independent peasants and others throughout the country. Estimates of deaths from the 1932-33 famine alone range from 3 million to 7 million.

When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, some Ukrainians, particularly in the west, welcomed what they saw as liberation from Communist rule, but this did not last as they quickly came to understand the nature of Nazi rule. Nazi brutality was directed principally against Ukraine’s Jews (of whom an estimated 1 million were killed), but also against many other Ukrainians. Babyn Yar in Kiev was the site of one of the most horrific Nazi massacres of Ukrainian Jews, ethnic Ukrainians, and many others. Kiev and other parts of the country were heavily damaged.

After the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland in 1939, the western Ukrainian regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Armed resistance against Soviet authority continued as late as the 1950s. During periods of relative liberalization–as under Nikita Khrushchev from 1955 to 1964 and during the period of “perestroika” under Mikhail Gorbachev — Ukrainian communists pursued nationalist objectives. The 1986 explosion at the Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian) nuclear power plant, located in the Ukrainian SSR, and the Soviet Governmentís initial efforts to conceal the extent of the catastrophe from its own people and the world, was a watershed for many Ukrainians in exposing the severe problems of the Soviet system. Ukraine became an independent state on August 24, 1991, and was a co-founder of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, although it has not officially joined the organization.

Information obtained from the U.S. State Department website.