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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 south-west and the Black Sea to the south.

Flag of Ukraine Ukraine: Coat of Arms
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto:
“Freedom, accord, goodness”
Ukrainian: “Воля, злагода, добро”
( ”Volya, zlahoda, dobro” )
Official language Ukrainian
Capital Kiev (officially “Kyiv”)
President Leonid Kuchma
Prime minister Viktor Yanukovych
  % water
ranked 43rd
603,700 km²
  Total (2004)
ranked 24th


  Total (2003)
ranked 53rd
$260.4 billion
from the 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. However, this usage is now deprecated by many media organisations, partly for stylistic reasons (compare "the Lebanon" and "the Sudan") and partly because of its implication that Ukraine is merely a region rather than a country.

The region has also been known as Rus’ or Ruthenia, and in Russian historiography as Little or Lesser Russia (Малороссия, Malorossiya). This gave rise to the formal title of Russia'Tsar" title ="Tsar">Tsar, the "Tsar of all the Russias"—the others being Russia proper and White Russia (now Belarus).

The current name is derived in various ways according to Slavic etymology. It may signify "borderland" or "on the edge"; alternatively, the name may be taken to mean "homeland" or "one's own land"; finally some trace the name to a verb meaning, "to cut", indicating the land the Rus' people (or Ruthenians or Ukrainians) carved out for themselves.


Main article: History of Ukraine

The current territory of Ukraine was a southern part of the first Eastern Slavic state, Kievan Rus'. Its capital was Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine. Kievan Rus'Varangian" title ="Varangian">Varangians, from the area that later became Sweden. Varangians later became assimilated to the local population of Rus' and gave The Rus'Rurik_Dynasty" title ="Rurik Dynasty">Rurik Dynasty. During the 10th and 11th centuries the territory of Ukraine became the center of the most important state in Europe—laying the foundation for Ukrainian national identity through subsequent centuries.

The term "Rus'" referred to many of the purely East Slavic principalities in the region (Rus' Chervona (Red Rus')/Ruthenia, for example). Kiev, and Kievian Rus'Grand_Prince" title ="Grand Prince">Grand Prince of the Rurik Dynasty. The ruler of Kiev was also in effect the ruler of all the Rus' principalities. Kievan Rus'Mongol_invasion_of_Russia" title ="Mongol invasion of Russia">Mongol invasion. This is also the origin of the term "Rus'ki" (today understood as Ukrainians; and "Russki," today understood as 'Russians'). "Rus'" in it's more general secondary meaning was applied to all Rus' principalities (today comprising "Belarus," "Russia", and "Ukraine".

The term "Ukraine" is fairly ancient, and originated some time in the 11th century. It was originally a geographic term meaning "borderland". At that time, Ukraine was synonymous with Rus' proper (Rus' Propria) Malo Rus (lesser Rus). The term, Ruthenian originally meant "Rus'", but later applied only to West Ukrainians (Galicians), originally it was a term often applied to the Rus' by Europeans (Poles, Germans and Turks especially)

Eventually, Kievan Rus'Mongol" title ="Mongol">Mongol and Tatar invasions. On Ukrainian territory (Rus' in the narrow sense), the state of Kievan Rus'Halych" title ="Halych">Halych and Volodymyr-Volynskyi, which were merged into the state of Halych-Volynia, later subjugated by Lithuania and Poland, and after the 1376 marriage of Lithuania'Ladislaus_II_of_Poland" title ="Ladislaus II of Poland">Grand Duke Jagiello to Poland'Jadwiga_of_Poland" title ="Jadwiga of Poland">Queen Jadwiga, ruled by the Poles (see the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). At about this time 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, in central Ukraine, 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 betweeen 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. Soviet Ukraine experienced two famines (192122 and 193233)—the second of which was artificially created by the Soviet government, and termed the "Holodomor"—in which many millions died (scholarly estimates range from 4 to 10 million dead).

At the onset of World War II, in 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland and incorporated Western Ukraine into the Ukrainian SSR. In 1941 the German invaders and their Axis allies crushed the Red Army. In the encirclement battle of Kiev, for the fierce resistance of the Red Army and of the local population, the city was acclaimed by the Soviets as a "Hero City", more than 660,000 Soviet troops were taken captive. Initially, the Germans were received as "liberators" by a small part of the Ukrainian population. It should be noted that this generally stemmed from the ferocious repressions of the landed peasantry (a class that included almost all Ukrainians) by Stalin, and less to a feeling of Ukrainian nationalism. Soon, however, the Germans began their bloody regime of genocide, killing and deporting Jews and Ukrainian civilians and burning down entire villages, leading many Ukrainians to conclude that Nazi rule was just as terrible, or even worse than the Soviet regime which had killed 4 to 10 million of the Ukrainian nation, albeit over a longer period of time. Total civilian losses during the War and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at 7 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 third (2.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians. Thus, the Ukrainian nation is distinguished as the first nation to fight the Axis powers during WW II in Carpatho-Ukraine and one that saw some of the greatest bloodshed during the war.

After WW II, 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'Collapse_of_the_Soviet_Union" title ="Collapse of the Soviet Union">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.


Main article: Politics of Ukraine

Ukraine concluded presidential elections in November, 2004; as of November 26, the results of this election are highly contested, leading to massive street protests in Kiev.

Ukraine is a parliamentary democracy with separate executive, judicial, and legislative branches. The President of Ukraine nominates the prime minister, who must be confirmed by the parliament, Verkhovna Rada.

Ukrainian politics are still troubled by excessive state control, and endemic corruption where the state has relinquished it. This stalls efforts at economic reform, stifles privatization, and endangers civil liberties.

See also: Foreign relations of Ukraine


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

Map of Ukraine
Map 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 down into the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. To the southwest the delta of the Danube forms the border with Romania. Mountains are found only in the western range of the Carpathian Mountains, of which the highest is the Hora Hoverla at 2,061 m, and in the Crimean peninsula in the extreme south along the coast.

Ukraine has a temperate continental climate, though a more mediterranean climate is found on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it's 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, and the lack of significant structural reform have 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 and the legislature soon stalled reform efforts and led to some backtracking. Output by 1999 had fallen to less than 40% 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.


Main article: Demographics of Ukraine

Ethnic Ukrainians make up about 75% of the total population, ethnic Russians number 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 most believers. In addition to these, there also is a Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, as well as smaller Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities.


Main article: Culture of Ukraine

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Wikimedia Commons has multimedia related to Ukraine.

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