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Location of Ukraine within the continent of Europe
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Map of Ukraine
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Flag Description of Ukraine: two equal horizontal bands of azure (top) and golden yellow represent grain fields under a blue sky
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Official name Ukrayina (Ukraine)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with a single legislative house (Verkhovna Rada1 [450])
Head of state President: Petro Poroshenko
Head of government Prime Minister: Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Capital Kiev (Kyiv)
Official language Ukrainian
Official religion none
Monetary unit hryvnya (UAH)
Population (2013 est.) 45,523,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 233,062
Total area (sq km) 603,628
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2013) 68.9%
Rural: (2013) 31.1%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2012) 66.1 years
Female: (2012) 76 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: not available
Female: not available

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 3,960

1Translated as Supreme Council.

Background of Ukraine

Ukraine was the center of the first eastern Slavic state, Kyivan Rus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kyivan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The cultural and religious legacy of Kyivan Rus laid the foundation for Ukrainian nationalism through subsequent centuries. A new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. Despite continuous Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate managed to remain autonomous for well over 100 years. During the latter part of the 18th century, most Ukrainian ethnographic territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to achieve a short-lived period of independence (1917-20), but was reconquered and forced to endure a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died.

In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 to 8 million more deaths. Although final independence for Ukraine was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, democracy and prosperity remained elusive as the legacy of state control and endemic corruption stalled efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil liberties. A peaceful mass protest "Orange Revolution" in the closing months of 2004 forced the authorities to overturn a rigged presidential election and to allow a new internationally monitored vote that swept into power a reformist slate under Viktor YUSHCHENKO.

Subsequent internal squabbles in the YUSHCHENKO camp allowed his rival Viktor YANUKOVYCH to stage a comeback in parliamentary (Rada) elections and to become prime minister in August of 2006, and to be elected president in February 2010. In October 2012, Ukraine held Rada elections, widely criticized by Western observers as flawed due to use of government resources to favor ruling party candidates, interference with media access, and harassment of opposition candidates. President YANUKOVYCH's backtracking on a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU in November 2013 - in favor of closer economic ties with Russia - led to a three-month protest occupation of Kyiv's central square. The government's eventual use of force to break up the protest camp in February 2014 led to all out pitched battles, scores of deaths, international condemnation, and the president's abrupt departure to Russia. An interim government scheduled new presidential elections for 25 May 2014.

On 1 March 2014, one week after the overthrow in Kyiv, Russian President PUTIN ordered the invasion of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula claiming the action was to protect ethnic Russians living there. On 16 March 2014, a "referendum" was held regarding the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation. The "referendum" was condemned as illegitimate by the Ukrainian Government, the EU, the US, and the UN General Assembly. Russian forces now occupy Crimea and Russian authorities claim it as Russian territory. The Ukrainian Government asserts that Crimea remains part of Ukraine.


Geography of Ukraine

Land

Ukraine is bordered by Belarus to the north, Russia to the east, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea to the south, Moldova and Romania to the southwest, and Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland to the west. In the far southeast, Ukraine is separated from Russia by the Kerch Strait, which connects the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

  • Relief

Ukraine occupies the southwestern portion of the Russian Plain (East European Plain). The country consists almost entirely of level plains at an average elevation of 574 feet (175 metres) above sea level. Mountainous areas such as the Ukrainian Carpathians and Crimean Mountains occur only on the country’s borders and account for barely 5 percent of its area. The Ukrainian landscape nevertheless has some diversity: its plains are broken by highlands—running in a continuous belt from northwest to southeast—as well as by lowlands.

The rolling plain of the Dnieper Upland, which lies between the middle reaches of the Dnieper (Dnipro) and Southern Buh (Pivdennyy Buh, or the Boh) rivers in west-central Ukraine, is the largest highland area; it is dissected by many river valleys, ravines, and gorges, some more than 1,000 feet (300 metres) deep. On the west the Dnieper Upland is abutted by the rugged Volyn-Podilsk Upland, which rises to 1,545 feet (471 metres) at its highest point, Mount Kamula. West of the Volyn-Podilsk Upland, in extreme western Ukraine, the parallel ranges of the Carpathian Mountains—one of the most picturesque areas in the country—extend for more than 150 miles (240 km). The mountains range in height from about 2,000 feet (600 metres) to about 6,500 feet (2,000 metres), rising to 6,762 feet (2,061 metres) at Mount Hoverla, the highest point in the country. The northeastern and southeastern portions of Ukraine are occupied by low uplands rarely reaching an elevation of 1,000 feet (300 metres).

Among the country’s lowlands are the Pripet Marshes (Polissya), which lie in the northern part of Ukraine and are crossed by numerous river valleys. In east-central Ukraine is the Dnieper Lowland, which is flat in the west and gently rolling in the east. To the south, another lowland extends along the shores of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov; its level surface, broken only by low rises and shallow depressions, slopes gradually toward the Black Sea. The shores of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are characterized by narrow, sandy spits of land that jut out into the water; one of these, the Arabat Spit, is about 70 miles (113 km) long but averages less than 5 miles (8 km) in width.

The southern lowland continues in the Crimean Peninsula as the North Crimean Lowland. The peninsula—a large protrusion into the Black Sea—is connected to the mainland by the Perekop Isthmus. The Crimean Mountains form the southern coast of the peninsula. Mount Roman-Kosh, at 5,069 feet (1,545 metres), is the mountains’ highest point.

  • Drainage

Almost all the major rivers in Ukraine flow northwest to southeast through the plains to empty into the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Dnieper River, with its hydroelectric dams, huge reservoirs, and many tributaries, dominates the entire central part of Ukraine. Of the total course of the Dnieper, 609 miles (980 km) are in Ukraine, making it by far the longest river in the country, of which it drains more than half. Like the Dnieper, the Southern Buh, with its major tributary, the Inhul, flows into the Black Sea. To the west and southwest, partly draining Ukrainian territory, the Dniester (Dnistro) also flows into the Black Sea; among its numerous tributaries, the largest in Ukraine are the Stryy and the Zbruch. The middle course of the Donets River, a tributary of the Don, flows through southeastern Ukraine and is an important source of water for the Donets Basin (Donbas). The Danube River flows along the southwestern frontier of Ukraine. Marshland, covering almost 3 percent of Ukraine, is found primarily in the northern river valleys and in the lower reaches of the Dnieper, Danube, and other rivers.

The rivers are most important as a water supply, and for this purpose a series of canals has been built, such as the Donets–Donets Basin, the Dnieper–Kryvyy Rih, and the North Crimea. Several of the larger rivers are navigable, including the Dnieper, Danube, Dniester, Pripet, Donets, and Southern Buh (in its lower course). Dams and hydroelectric plants are situated on all the larger rivers.

Ukraine has a few natural lakes, all of them small and most of them scattered over the river floodplains. One of the largest is Lake Svityaz, 11 square miles (28 square km) in area, in the northwest. Small saltwater lakes occur in the Black Sea Lowland and in Crimea. Larger saline lakes occur along the coast. Known as limans, these bodies of water form at the mouths of rivers or ephemeral streams and are blocked off by sandbars from the sea. Some artificial lakes have been formed, the largest of which are reservoirs at hydroelectric dams—e.g., the reservoir on the Dnieper upstream from Kremenchuk. The Kakhovka, Dnieper, Dniprodzerzhynsk, Kaniv, and Kiev reservoirs make up the rest of the Dnieper cascade. Smaller reservoirs are located on the Dniester and Southern Buh rivers and on tributaries of the Donets River. Small reservoirs for water supply also are found near Kryvyy Rih, Kharkiv, and other industrial cities. Three large artesian basins—the Volyn-Podilsk, the Dnieper, and the Black Sea—are exceptionally important for municipal needs and agriculture as well.

  • Soils

From northwest to southeast the soils of Ukraine may be divided into three major aggregations: a zone of sandy podzolized soils; a central belt consisting of the black, extremely fertile Ukrainian chernozems; and a zone of chestnut and salinized soils.

The podzolized soils occupy about one-fifth of the country’s area, mostly in the north and northwest. These soils were formed by the extension of postglacial forests into regions of grassy steppe; most such soils may be farmed, although they require the addition of nutrients to obtain good harvests.

The chernozems of central Ukraine, among the most fertile soils in the world, occupy about two-thirds of the country’s area. These soils may be divided into three broad groups: in the north a belt of the so-called deep chernozems, about 5 feet (1.5 metres) thick and rich in humus; south and east of the former, a zone of prairie, or ordinary, chernozems, which are equally rich in humus but only about 3 feet (1 metre) thick; and the southernmost belt, which is even thinner and has still less humus. Interspersed in various uplands and along the northern and western perimeters of the deep chernozems are mixtures of gray forest soils and podzolized black-earth soils, which together occupy much of Ukraine’s remaining area. All these soils are very fertile when sufficient water is available. However, their intensive cultivation, especially on steep slopes, has led to widespread soil erosion and gullying.

The smallest proportion of the soil cover consists of the chestnut soils of the southern and eastern regions. They become increasingly salinized to the south as they approach the Black Sea.

  • Climate

Ukraine lies in a temperate climatic zone influenced by moderately warm, humid air from the Atlantic Ocean. Winters in the west are considerably milder than those in the east. In summer, on the other hand, the east often experiences higher temperatures than the west. Average annual temperatures range from about 42–45 °F (5.5–7 °C) in the north to about 52–55 °F (11–13 °C) in the south. The average temperature in January, the coldest month, is about 26 °F (−3 °C) in the southwest and about 18 °F (−8 °C) in the northeast. The average in July, the hottest month, is about 73 °F (23 °C) in the southeast and about 64 °F (18 °C) in the northwest.

Precipitation is uneven, with two to three times as much falling in the warmer seasons as in the cold. Maximum precipitation generally occurs in June and July, while the minimum falls in February. Snow falls mainly in late November and early December; accumulation varies in depth from a few inches in the steppe region (in the south) to several feet in the Carpathians. Western Ukraine, notably the Carpathian Mountains area, receives the highest annual precipitation—more than 47 inches (1,200 mm). The lowlands along the Black Sea and in Crimea, by contrast, receive less than 16 inches (400 mm) annually. The remaining areas of Ukraine receive 16 to 24 inches (400 to 600 mm) of precipitation.

In contrast to the rest of Ukraine, the southern shore of Crimea has a warm, gentle, Mediterranean-type climate. Winters are mild and rainy, with little snow, and the average January temperature is 39 °F (4 °C). Summers are dry and hot, with an average July temperature of 75 °F (24 °C).

  • Plant and animal life

Though much of Ukraine’s original plant cover has been cleared for cultivation, three main zones of natural vegetation are still distinguishable. From north to south, they are the Polissya (woodland and marsh), the forest-steppe, and the steppe.

The Polissya zone lies in the northwest and north. More than one-third of its area—about 44,000 square miles (114,000 square km)—is arable land. Nearly one-quarter of it is covered with mixed woodland, including oak, elm, birch, hornbeam, ash, maple, pine, linden, alder, poplar, willow, and beech. About 5 percent is peat bog, a substantial portion is marshland, and the river valleys are floodplains. The Polissya contains the southernmost portions of the Pripet Marshes, and Ukraine has undertaken major efforts to drain these swamplands and reclaim the land for agriculture.

The forest-steppe, which covers an area of about 78,000 square miles (202,000 square km), extends south from the Polissya. About two-thirds of this agricultural region is arable land; forests take up only about one-eighth of the area.

Farther south, near the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and Crimean Mountains, the forest-steppe joins the steppe zone, which is about 89,000 square miles (231,000 square km) in area. Many of the flat, treeless plains in this region are under cultivation, although low annual precipitation and hot summers make supplemental irrigation necessary. Remnants of the natural vegetation of the steppe, including its characteristic fescue and feather grasses, are protected in nature reserves.

Other natural regions are found near the borders of the country. Most of the country’s rich forestlands are in the Carpathian region of western Ukraine. The lower mountain slopes are covered with mixed forests and the intermediate slopes with pine forests; these give way to Alpine meadows at higher altitudes. Along the southern coast of the Crimean Peninsula, a narrow strip of land, only about 6 miles (10 km) wide, constitutes a unique natural region where both deciduous and evergreen grasses and shrubs grow.

The animal life of Ukraine is diverse, with about 350 species of birds, more than 100 species of mammals, and more than 200 species of fish. The most common predators are wolves, foxes, wildcats, and martens, while hoofed animals include roe deer, wild pigs, and sometimes elk and mouflons (a species of wild sheep). The wide variety of rodents includes gophers, hamsters, jerboas, and field mice. The major bird species are black and hazel grouse, owls, gulls, and partridges, as well as many migrating birds, such as wild geese, ducks, and storks. Among the fish are pike, carp, bream, perch, sturgeons, and sterlets. Introduced and well-acclimatized wildlife includes muskrats, raccoons, beavers, nutrias, and silver foxes.

Numerous nature and game reserves reflect Ukraine’s commitment to the conservation of its biological heritage. The country’s first nature reserve, Askaniya-Nova, began as a private wildlife refuge in 1875; today it protects a portion of virgin steppe. Some 40 different mammals, including the onager and Przewalski’s horse, have been introduced there as part of a successful program of breeding endangered species; ostriches also have been successfully introduced. The separate sections of the Ukrainian Steppe Reserve also preserve various types of steppe. The Black Sea Nature Reserve shelters many species of waterfowl and is the only Ukrainian breeding ground of the Mediterranean gull (Larus melanocephalus). Also located on the Black Sea, the Danube Water Meadows Reserve protects the Danube River’s tidewater biota. Other reserves in Ukraine preserve segments of the forest-steppe woodland, the marshes and forests of the Polissya, and the mountains and rocky coast of Crimea.

  • Environmental concerns

During the Soviet period, rapid industrialization, intensive farming, and a lack of effective pollution controls combined to seriously degrade the environment in Ukraine. Some of the most polluted areas in the world are now found there.

The coal-burning industries of eastern Ukraine, which emit high levels of sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and dust, have created severe air pollution throughout the region. Air quality is particularly poor in the cities of Dnipropetrovsk, Kryvyy Rih, and Zaporizhzhya. Lightly industrialized cities in the west, such as Uzhhorod and Khmelnytskyy, face air pollution caused by the prevalence of inefficient automobiles burning leaded gasoline.

Major rivers, including the Dnieper, Dniester, Inhul, and Donets, are seriously polluted with chemical fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural runoff and with poorly treated or untreated sewage. Coastal water pollution in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea has necessitated the closing of beaches and has led to a dramatic reduction in fish catches. The freshwater flow into the Sea of Azov has been largely diverted for irrigation purposes, leading to a sharp increase in salinity.

The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant created severe environmental problems in northwestern Ukraine (see Chernobyl accident). Vast areas of land are contaminated by dangerous short- and long-lived radioactive isotopes, notably strontium-90, which can replace calcium in foods and become concentrated in bones and teeth. Contaminated agricultural lands near Chernobyl will be unsafe for thousands of years, though some of these areas continue to be occupied and farmed. Several thousand premature deaths from cancer are expected over the long term.


Demography of Ukraine

People

  • Ethnic groups

When Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union, a policy of Russian in-migration and Ukrainian out-migration was in effect, and ethnic Ukrainians’ share of the population in Ukraine declined from 77 percent in 1959 to 73 percent in 1991. But that trend reversed after the country gained independence, and, by the turn of the 21st century, ethnic Ukrainians made up more than three-fourths of the population. Russians continue to be the largest minority, though they now constitute less than one-fifth of the population. The remainder of the population includes Belarusians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Roma (Gypsies), and other groups. The Crimean Tatars, who were forcibly deported to Uzbekistan and other Central Asian republics in 1944, began returning to the Crimea in large numbers in 1989; by the early 21st century they constituted one of the largest non-Russian minority groups.

Historically, Ukraine had large Jewish and Polish populations, particularly in the Right Bank region (west of the Dnieper River). In fact, in the late 19th century slightly more than one-fourth of the world’s Jewish population (estimated at 10 million) lived in ethnic Ukrainian territory. This predominantly Yiddish-speaking population was greatly reduced by emigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and by the devastation of the Holocaust. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, large numbers of Ukraine’s remaining Jews emigrated, mainly to Israel. At the turn of the 21st century, the several hundred thousand Jews left in Ukraine made up less than 1 percent of the Ukrainian population. Most of Ukraine’s large Polish minority was resettled in Poland after World War II as part of a Soviet plan to have ethnic settlement match territorial boundaries. Fewer than 150,000 ethnic Poles remained in Ukraine at the turn of the 21st century.

  • Languages

The vast majority of people in Ukraine speak Ukrainian, which is written with a form of the Cyrillic alphabet. The language—belonging with Russian and Belarusian to the East Slavic branch of the Slavic language family—is closely related to Russian but also has distinct similarities to the Polish language. Significant numbers of people in the country speak Polish, Yiddish, Rusyn, Belarusian, Romanian or Moldovan, Bulgarian, Crimean Turkish, or Hungarian. Russian is the most important minority language.

During the rule of imperial Russia and under the Soviet Union, Russian was the common language of government administration and public life in Ukraine. Although Ukrainian had been afforded equal status with Russian in the decade following the revolution of 1917, by the 1930s a concerted attempt at Russification was well under way. In 1989 Ukrainian once again became the country’s official language, and its status as the sole official language was confirmed in the 1996 Ukrainian constitution.

In 2012 a law was passed that granted local authorities the power to confer official status upon minority languages. Although Ukrainian was reaffirmed as the country’s official language, regional administrators could elect to conduct official business in the prevailing language of the area. In the Crimea, which has an autonomous status within Ukraine and where there is a Russian-speaking majority, Russian and Crimean Tatar are the official languages. In addition, primary and secondary schools using Russian as the language of instruction still prevail in the Donets Basin and other areas with large Russian minorities. The Crimean parliament moved to rescind the minority language law in February 2014, after the ouster of pro-Russian Pres. Viktor Yanukovych, but interim Pres. Oleksandr Turchynov declined to sign the bill into law.

  • Religion

The predominant religion in Ukraine, practiced by almost half the population, is Eastern Orthodoxy. Most of the adherents belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Kiev Patriarchate, though the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate is important as well. A smaller number of Orthodox Christians belong to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. In western Ukraine the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church prevails. Minority religions include Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Islam (practiced primarily by the Crimean Tatars), and Judaism. More than two-fifths of Ukrainians are not religious.

  • Settlement patterns

More than two-thirds of the population lives in urban areas. High population densities occur in southeastern and south-central Ukraine, in the highly industrialized regions of the Donets Basin and the Dnieper Bend, as well as in the coastal areas along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Portions of western Ukraine and the Kiev area are also densely populated. Besides the capital, major cities in Ukraine include Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Odessa, Zaporizhzhya, Lviv, and Kryvyy Rih. Of the rural population, more than half is found in large villages (1,000 to 5,000 inhabitants), and most of these people are employed in a rural economy based on farming. The highest rural population densities are found in the wide belt of forest-steppe extending east-west across central Ukraine, where the extremely fertile soils and balanced climatic conditions are most favourable for agriculture.

  • Demographic trends

Ukraine’s population increased steadily throughout the Soviet era, peaking at over 50 million as the country transitioned to independence. However, a low birth rate, coupled with an aging population and low rates of migration into the country, contributed to a sharp population decline that extended into the 21st century. Millions of Ukrainians—especially those from the western part of the country—sought employment abroad, and by 2010, roughly one in seven Ukrainians was residing outside the country for work purposes. These labour migrants most often sought work in Russia and the EU, and they predominantly found employment in the fields of construction and domestic service. Aware of Ukraine’s net loss of workers to immigration and a fertility rate that was far below replacement level, Ukrainian policy makers recognized the burden that would be placed on the country’s old age pension system. In 2011 the retirement age for men was raised from 60 to 62 and women’s retirement age was raised from 55 to 60.

Economy of Ukraine

Ukraine’s modern economy was developed as an integral part of the larger economy of the Soviet Union. Yet, while receiving a smaller share (16 percent in the 1980s) of the Soviet Union’s investment funds and producing a greater proportion of goods with a lower set price, Ukraine was still able to produce a larger share of total output in the industrial (17 percent) and especially the agricultural (21 percent) sectors of the Soviet economy. In effect, a centrally directed transfer of wealth from Ukraine, amounting to one-fifth of its national income, helped to finance economic development in other parts of the Soviet Union, notably Russia and Kazakhstan.

By the late Soviet period, however, the Ukrainian economy was under severe strain, and it contracted sharply early in the independence era. A period of extreme currency inflation in the early 1990s brought great hardship to most of the population. Despite early hopes that Ukrainian economic independence—with the concomitant end to the transfer of funds and resources to other parts of the Soviet Union—would alleviate the declining economy and standard of living, Ukraine entered a period of severe economic decline. Daily life in Ukraine became a struggle, particularly for those living on fixed incomes, as prices rose sharply. Citizens compensated in a number of ways: more than half grew their own food, workers often held two or three jobs, and many acquired basic necessities through a flourishing barter economy. By 1996, however, Ukraine had achieved a measure of economic stability. Inflation dropped to manageable levels, and the economy’s decline slowed considerably. At the turn of the 21st century the economy finally began to grow, at least partially as a result of increased ties with Russia. In the early 21st century many young Ukrainians, particularly residents of the country’s rural west, sought employment opportunities abroad. Although such migration sometimes led to localized labour shortages within Ukraine, remittances from the Ukrainian diaspora amounted to some 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

  • Agriculture and fishing

Partly because of rich soils and a favourable climate, Ukraine’s crop production is highly developed. Its output of grain and potatoes is among the highest in Europe, and it is among the world’s largest producers of sugar beets and sunflower oil. Ukraine’s livestock sector lags behind the crop sector, but its total output is still considerably larger than that of most other European countries.

A considerable amount of the world’s black soils are found in Ukraine’s forest-steppe zone. These soils are exceptionally well suited for the cultivation of sugar beets, an important industrial crop, and wheat. Besides wheat (almost all of it fall-sown), Ukraine produces such grains as barley (mostly for animal feed), corn (maize, for feed), leguminous grains (also feed), oats, rye, millet, buckwheat, and rice (irrigated, in Crimea). Potatoes are a major crop in the cooler regions in the north and in the Carpathian foothills. Sunflower seeds, the principal oil crop, are most common in the steppe zone, where castor beans, mustard, rape, flax, hemp, and poppy seeds also are grown for oil. In the southern steppes, especially where irrigation is used, tomatoes, peppers, and melons are grown as well. Truck farming or market gardening is particularly notable on the outskirts of such large cities as Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, and the conurbation of the Donets Basin. Fruit is grown throughout Ukraine, notably in the forest-steppe, Transcarpathia (in southwestern Ukraine), and especially Crimea. Vineyards are common in the southern part of Ukraine, particularly in Transcarpathia and Crimea.

Cattle and pigs are raised throughout Ukraine. Concentrations of dairy herds occur primarily in the forest-steppe, especially in the vicinity of large cities, while beef cattle are more common in areas of natural pastures and hay fields, as in the Polissya and the Carpathian foothills. Sheep and goats are raised in the Carpathian Mountains and in parts of the southern steppe and Crimea. Chickens, geese, and turkeys are kept throughout Ukraine for meat and egg production, but large-scale broiler and egg-laying operations are concentrated close to the large cities. Bees are kept in all parts of Ukraine for pollination and the production of honey and wax; silkworm raising occurs in Transcarpathia.

Whereas field-crop production and large-scale livestock and poultry operations were developed on collective and state farms in the Soviet period, small-scale gardening, fruit growing, and livestock raising traditionally have been carried on by private households. With the agricultural restructuring initiated by Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s, the theretofore small private plots were allowed to expand, while collective and state farms were allowed to undergo some reorganization on the basis of group or family contract farming. Since independence, the declared intent of the Ukrainian government has been to bring about a gradual privatization of farming, but the agricultural infrastructure, which developed around collective and state farms, made the conversion difficult and costly. In December 1999 the collective farm system was abolished by presidential decree, and land reform remained a subject of concern for subsequent leaders. One of the most politically divisive aspects of privatization, however, was the proposed sale of agricultural land. The practice, prohibited by law in 1992, was seen by many as a crucial step in the liberalization of the agricultural sector.

The majority of Ukraine’s woodlands are managed by the State Forest Resources Agency. Although efforts to improve the country’s growing stock were hampered by contamination from the Chernobyl accident of 1986, Ukraine’s economically productive forested areas expanded dramatically in the years following independence and in the early 21st century. The Black Sea estuaries and the Sea of Azov are Ukraine’s main fishing grounds. Among the major rivers for fishing are the Dnieper, Danube, Dniester, Southern Buh, and Donets. Fish catches have declined because of heavy pollution.

  • Resources and power

Ukraine has extremely rich and complementary mineral resources in high concentrations and close proximity to each other. Rich iron ore reserves located in the vicinity of Kryvyy Rih, Kremenchuk, Bilozerka, Mariupol, and Kerch form the basis of Ukraine’s large iron-and-steel industry. One of the richest areas of manganese-bearing ores in the world is located near Nikopol. Bituminous and anthracite coal used for coke are mined in the Donets Basin. Energy for thermal power stations is obtained using the large reserves of brown coal found in the Dnieper River basin (north of Kryvyy Rih) and the bituminous coal deposits of the Lviv-Volyn basin. The coal mines of Ukraine are among the deepest in Europe. Many of them are considered dangerous because their depth contributes to increased levels of methane; methane-related explosions have killed numerous Ukrainian miners.

Ukraine also has important deposits of titanium ore, bauxite, nepheline (a source of soda), alunite (a source of potash), and mercury (cinnabar, or mercuric sulfide) ores. A large deposit of ozokerite (a natural paraffin wax) occurs near the city of Boryslav. Subcarpathia possesses potassium salt deposits, and both Subcarpathia and the Donets Basin have large deposits of rock salt. Some phosphorites as well as natural sulfur are found in Ukraine.

The three major areas producing natural gas and petroleum in Ukraine are the Transcarpathian region, exploited since the late 19th–early 20th centuries, and the Dnieper-Donets and Crimean regions, both developed since World War II. Following World War II, the extraction of natural gas in Ukraine soared until it accounted for one-third of the Soviet Union’s total output in the early 1960s. Natural gas production declined after 1975, however, and a similar pattern of growth and exhaustion occurred with Ukraine’s petroleum, ultimately making the republic a net importer of these fuels.

The exploitation of petroleum and natural gas in Ukraine necessitated the creation of an extensive pipeline transport system. One of the first natural gas pipelines in the region opened in the 1920s, linking Dashava (in Transcarpathia) to Lviv and then to Kiev. As a result of the Soviet Union’s commitment to major gas exporting in the late 1960s and early ’70s, two trunk pipelines were laid across Ukraine to bring gas to eastern and western Europe from Siberia and Orenburg in Russia. Petroleum from the Dolyna oil field in western Ukraine is piped some 40 miles (65 km) to a refinery at Drohobych, and oil from fields in eastern Ukraine is piped to a refinery in Kremenchuk. Subsequently, larger petroleum trunk lines were added (some 700 miles [1,100 km]) to supply petroleum from western Siberia to refineries at Lysychansk, Kremenchuk, Kherson, and Odessa, as well as a 420-mile (675-km) segment of the Druzhba (“Friendship”) pipeline, which crosses western Ukraine to supply Siberian oil to other European countries. The pipelines connecting the Siberian oil and gas fields with Europe are a major economic asset for Ukraine, as their importance to Russia gives Ukraine leverage in negotiations over oil and gas imports. However, disputes between Ukraine and Russia have in the past led the latter to cut off its supply temporarily—negatively affecting Ukraine as well as the European Union, which depends on gas and oil from these pipelines.

Ukraine is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear power for its energy needs. Hydroelectricity accounts for less than 10 percent of the country’s electricity production, and the contribution of other renewable sources is negligible. Although coal production is substantial, Ukraine relies on imported oil and natural gas to satisfy its energy requirements. Thermal power stations are found in all parts of the country, though the largest are in the Donets Basin and along the Dnieper. A third electric energy–producing area is in the vicinity of the Lviv-Volyn coal basin, and in the Transcarpathian region there is a group of several power stations. Nuclear power stations are located near the cities of Khmelnytskyy, Rivne, and Zaporizhzhya, as well as along the Southern Buh River. The severe nuclear accident at one of the Chernobyl reactors in 1986 triggered a powerful environmental movement in Ukraine and spurred the drive toward political independence from the Soviet Union. The last working reactor at Chernobyl was closed in 2000.

  • Manufacturing

Manufacturing is an extremely important sector of the Ukrainian economy, in terms of productivity and revenue earned. Products manufactured in the country include ferrous metals, transportation equipment and other types of heavy machinery, a variety of chemicals, food products, and other goods.

Ukraine has a major ferrous metals industry and ranks among the top steel producers in the world. Cast iron, rolled steel, and steel pipe are produced mainly in the Donets Basin, which is the industrial heartland of the country.

The country’s heavy industries produce trucks, other automobiles, railway locomotives and freight cars, seagoing vessels, hydroelectric and thermal steam and gas turbines, and electric generators. In addition, residential and industrial construction demands hoisting and transportation equipment and other machinery for the building trades. Dozens of factories, found chiefly in Kharkiv, Odessa, Lviv, and Kherson, produce a wide range of agricultural equipment as well. During the Soviet period, plants in Ukraine assembled rockets and constructed naval vessels, including aircraft carriers. Subsequently, Ukraine emerged as an arms producer in its own right, although efforts have been made since 1991 to convert defense facilities to nonmilitary production. For instance, the Yuzhmash manufacturing concern, which once operated the world’s largest missile plant, in Dnipropetrovsk, now produces civilian agricultural machinery and aerospace technology as well as strategic missile systems.

The Ukrainian chemical-equipment industry, accounting for one-third of former Soviet production, is mainly concentrated in Kiev, Sumy, Fastiv, and Korosten. The chemical industry includes coking and the manufacture of coke products, as well as the manufacture of mineral fertilizers, sulfuric acid, synthetic fibres, caustic soda, petrochemicals, photographic chemicals, and pesticides.

One of the most important products of the Ukrainian food-processing industry is sugar (from sugar beets). The production of vegetable oil, mainly from sunflower seeds, is significant as well. Other processed foods include meat, grain, fruit, and dairy products; local fish-processing industries are found in the coastal cities, such as Odessa. Wine comes from the Transcarpathian region and Crimea, where the vintners of the Massandra group are established near Yalta. Ukraine also produces vodka, beer, and other beverages.

Some of the principal products of light industry are textiles (both knitted and woven), ready-to-wear garments, and shoes. In addition, such consumer goods as television sets, refrigerators, and washing machines are produced. Machine-tool and instrument-manufacturing industries also have been developed.

  • Finance

The National Bank of Ukraine serves as the country’s central bank. It works to ensure the stability of the national currency, the hryvnya, which was introduced in 1996. A number of commercial banks provide financial services to companies and individuals, and securities are traded at Ukrainian stock exchanges. Legislation passed since independence encourages foreign investment, but complex business regulations and corruption problems have kept the level of investment relatively low.

  • Trade

Russia remains Ukraine’s most important trade partner. Ukraine also conducts a significant volume of trade with Germany, Italy, and Poland. Other trade partners include Turkmenistan, China, Turkey, and the United States. From Russia, Ukraine imports petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas, as well as fabrics, footwear, printed matter, and many other products. Machinery, transportation equipment, and chemicals are both imported and exported. By sea, Ukraine exports its grain, sugar, iron ore, coal, and manganese.

  • Services

Service industries constitute an increasingly important portion of the economy; their value accounts for more than half of Ukraine’s GDP. Among the leading service industries are those dealing with transportation and communications. Ukraine also exports certain services, particularly those related to transportation. Tourism has long been a key service industry on the southern shore of Crimea. The beautiful environment and warm climate have attracted vacationers and health seekers for more than a century. Perhaps the country’s most unorthodox tourist destination was the area affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Beginning in 2011, the Ukrainian government allowed visitors to tour the abandoned city of Pryp’yat and the “exclusion zone” around the failed Unit 4 reactor.

  • Labour and taxation

Services now employ the largest number of Ukrainian workers, though a significant number of labourers continue to work in agriculture and manufacturing. Nearly half the women are economically active; however, employer discrimination against women has been a problem. More than half of all workers belong to trade unions, many of which are grouped into large labour federations.

The Ukrainian government levies corporate and individual income taxes. It also collects value-added tax and excise taxes. In an effort to simplify and improve a taxation system that had been criticized by international financial professionals as confusing and opaque, Ukrainian legislators unveiled a new unified tax code in December 2010. The new code, which was implemented in 2011, was designed to boost foreign investment, make revenue collection more efficient, and spark growth in targeted industries.

  • Transportation and telecommunications

The flat relief of most of Ukraine presents few obstacles to transportation. Although by European standards the density of the country’s hard-surface road network is low, asphalt-paved highways connect all the regions and large industrial centres. The links between Kiev and Moscow, Odessa–Kiev–St. Petersburg, Moscow–Kharkiv–Simferopol, Uzhhorod–Lviv–Rivne–Kiev, and Kiev–Kharkiv–Rostov-na-Donu (Russia) are highways of particular importance.

The heaviest concentration of railroad trackage is in the Donets Basin and near the Dnieper River, especially its west bank. The largest railroad centres are Kharkiv, Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Bakhmach, Yasynuvata, Debaltseve, Lviv, Kovel, and Kup’yansk-Vuzlovyy.

Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are found at Odessa, Illichivsk, Mykolayiv, Kherson, Feodosiya, Kerch, and Mariupol. River shipping is conducted primarily on the Dnieper and its tributaries (the Pripet and Desna), on the Southern Buh, and on the Danube, which is important in trade with other European countries. Ships on the Danube call at the port of Izmayil, which is accessible to oceangoing freighters and passenger liners. Through the Dnieper-Bug Canal, in Belarus, the inland waterways of Ukraine are joined to the Vistula River basin of Poland and to the Baltic Sea. Efforts to transform the Dnieper into a continuous deep waterway have been furthered by the creation of large reservoirs at hydroelectric stations. The largest ports on the Dnieper are Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson.

Kiev is connected by air with all the regional centres of the country and with major cities throughout Europe and Asia, as well as with cities in North America and Australia. International airports in Ukraine include Boryspil near Kiev and those at Kharkiv, Lviv, and Odessa.

Since independence, Ukraine has worked to improve its inadequate Soviet-era telephone system. The country is now linked to international fibre-optic and satellite systems. Meanwhile, cellular telephone usage has risen dramatically, and by 2010, cellular subscriptions outnumbered people in Ukraine by almost 20 percent. The rates of Internet use and personal computer ownership lagged behind those of neighbouring countries.

Government and politics of Ukraine

Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Ukraine in 2006 underwent an extensive constitutional reform that has changed the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches and their relationship to the president. A reform to local self-government has been suggested, but is yet to be formally approved.

According to the constitution, the president is the head of state, and is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The last presidential elections were held in 2004. Viktor Yushchenko has been president since January 23, 2005. Although the constitutional reform substantially reduced presidential authority, the president continued to wield significant power, partially due to a strong tradition of central authority in the country.

The Verkhovna Rada, a unicameral parliament of 450 seats amends the Constitution of Ukraine, drafts laws, ratifies international treaties, appoints a number of officials, and elects judges. Members are allocated on a proportional basis to those parties that gain three percent or more of the national electoral vote, to serve five-year terms. Elections were last held on March 26, 2006. 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. Suffrage is universal to those aged 18 years and over.

The Verkhovna Rada is primarily responsible for the formation of the executive branch, the cabinet of ministers, which is headed by the prime minister, who is head of government. Viktor Yanukovych has been prime minister since August 4, 2006. The prime minister selects the cabinet of ministers. Constitutional reform has increased the authority of the Verkhovna Rada over the selection and oversight of the executive branch.

The judiciary comprises a constitutional court, a supreme court, a high arbitration court, a high administrative court, regional, military, and specialized courts of appeal, local district courts, and military garrison courts. The constitution provides for trials by jury, although by 2007, this had not been implemented. The legal system is based on civil law system.

Local self-government is officially guaranteed. Local councils and city mayors are popularly elected and exercise control over local budgets. The president appoints the heads of regional and district administrations. Ukraine is subdivided into 24 oblasts (provinces) and one autonomous republic (avtonomna respublika), Crimea. Additionally, two cities (misto), Kiev and Sevastopol, have a special legal status. The oblasts are subdivided into 494 raions (districts).

Reform fall-out

A substantial constitutional reform introduced in the beginning of 2006 was meant to transform the Ukrainian state from a presidential republic to a mixed parliamentary-presidential republic. However, the amendments created an environment for conflict between the president and the parliamentary coalition. The political life of Ukraine during the 2006-2007 year was a constant power struggle between the president and the prime minister, aggravated by the fact that the president and the prime minister represent opposite ends of the political spectrum and differ on foreign and internal policy. The president Yushchenko accuses the coalition of trying to usurp the powers he preserved in the reform, while the coalition alleges the president is unwilling to accept the consequences of the reform and is trying to regain his former powers.

Crowds of about 70,000 gathered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kiev, and supported the dismissal of parliament, with 20,000 supporting Yanukovych's plan to keep the parliament together. On April 3, 2007, President Yushchenko dissolved the Ukrainian parliament and ordered an election to be held May 27, 2007. The Verkhovna Rada called an emergency session and voted against Yuschenko's decree (255 votes in favor; opposition didn't participate). A group of members of the parliament took the case to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, challenging the validity of the president's decree, but the court closed the case without opinion. A political struggle ensued between the parliamentary coalition and the opposition. Yushchenko and Yanukovych agreed to reschedule parliamentary elections for September 30, 2007.

International relations

Ukraine considers Euro-Atlantic integration its primary foreign policy objective, but in practice balances its relationship with Europe and the United States with strong ties to Russia. The European Union's Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Ukraine went into force in 1998. The EU Common Strategy toward Ukraine, issued in 1999, recognizes Ukraine's long-term aspirations but does not discuss association. In 1992, Ukraine joined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe—OSCE), and the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Ukraine also has a close relationship with NATO and has declared interest in eventual membership. It is the most active member of the Partnership for Peace (PfP). President Yushchenko said he wants Ukraine to join the EU.

Relations with Russia, complicated by energy dependence and by payment arrears, improved with the 1998 bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. Agreements on the division and disposition of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet that have helped to reduce tensions. Ukraine became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1991, but in 1993 it refused to endorse a draft charter strengthening political, economic, and defense ties among CIS members. Ukraine was a founding member of GUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova).

In 1999-2001, Ukraine served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Soviet Ukraine joined the United Nations in 1945 as one of the original members following a Western compromise with the Soviet Union, which had asked for seats for all 15 of its union republics. Ukraine has consistently supported peaceful, negotiated settlements to disputes. Ukraine has made a substantial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations since 1992.

Military

After the collapse of Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited a one-million-man military force, equipped with the third largest nuclear weapon arsenal in the world. In May of 1992, Ukraine signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) agreeing to give up all nuclear weapons, and join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Ukraine signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, reduced the army to 300,000 soldiers, and plans to convert the mostly conscript army into a professional army.

Upon independence, Ukraine declared itself a neutral state. The country had a limited military partnership with Russia and other CIS countries, and established a partnership with NATO. A NATO-Ukraine Action Plan signed in 2002 led to deeper cooperation, although in 2006, the leading political parties agreed that the question of joining NATO should be answered by a national referendum.

Culture Life of Ukraine

History of Ukraine

Early History In ancient times a major part of present-day Ukraine was inhabited by the Scythians (see Scythia), who were later displaced by the Sarmatians (see Sarmatia). Early in the Christian era, a series of invaders (Goths, Huns, Avars) overran the Ukrainian steppes, and in the 7th cent. the Khazars included much of Ukraine in their empire. The Ukrainians themselves can be traced to Neolithic agricultural tribes in the Dnieper and Dniester valleys.

The Antes tribal federation (4th–7th cent.) represented the first definitely Slavic community in the area. In the 9th cent., a Varangian dynasty from Scandinavia established itself at Kiev. Having freed the Slavs from Khazar domination, the Varangians united them in the powerful Kievan Rus. The land and people of Ukraine formed the core of Kievan Rus.

Following Yaroslav's reign (1019–54), which marked the zenith of Kiev's power, Kievan Rus split into principalities, including the western duchies of Halych (see Galicia) and Volodymyr (see Volodymyr-Volynskyy and Volhynia). These and the rest of the western region, which included Podolia, had separate histories after the conquest of Kievan Rus (13th cent.) by the Mongols of the Golden Horde.

In the mid-14th cent. Lithuania began to expand eastward and southward, supplanting the Tatars in Ukraine. The dynastic union between Poland and Lithuania in 1386 also opened Ukraine to Polish expansion. Ukraine had flourished under Lithuanian rule, and its language became that of the state; but after the organic union of Poland and Lithuania in 1569, Ukraine came under Polish rule, enserfment of the Ukrainian peasants proceeded apace, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church suffered persecution. In 1596 the Ukrainian Orthodox bishops, confronted with the power of Polish Catholicism, established the Uniate, or Greek Catholic, faith, which recognized papal authority but retained the Orthodox rite. Meanwhile, the Black Sea shore, ruled by the khans of Crimea, was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1478.

  • The Struggle for Autonomy

The term Ukraine, which may be translated as "at the border" or "borderland," came into general usage in the 16th cent. At that time, Poland-Lithuania and the rising principality of Moscow, or Muscovy, were vying for control of this vast area south of their borders. The harsh conditions of Polish rule led many Ukrainians to flee serfdom and religious persecution by escaping beyond the area of the lower Dnieper rapids. There they established a military order called the Zaporizhzhya Sich ("clearing beyond the rapids"). These fugitives became known as Cossacks or Kozaks, an adaptation of the Turkic word kazak, meaning "outlaw" or "adventurer." In 1648 the Cossacks, led by Hetman Bohdan Chmielnicki, successfully waged a revolution against Polish domination.

Ukraine, however, was too weak to stand alone, and in 1654 Chmielnicki recognized the suzerainty of Moscow in the Treaty of Pereyaslavl. By the terms of the treaty, Ukraine was to be largely independent; but Russia soon began to encroach upon its rights (the czars contemptuously referred to the Ukrainians as "Little Russians," as contrasted with the "Great Russians" of the Muscovite realm). Through a treaty with Poland in 1658, Ukraine attempted to throw off Russian protection. The ensuing Russo-Polish war ended in 1667 with the Treaty of Andrusov, which partitioned Ukraine.

Russia obtained left-bank Ukraine, east of the Dnieper River and including Kiev; Poland retained right-bank Ukraine. Hetman Ivan Mazepa, presiding over a diminished Cossack state, sought once again to free Ukraine from Russian domination; he thus joined Sweden against Russia in the Northern War, but their defeat at Poltava by Czar Peter I in 1709 sealed the fate of Ukraine. Mazepa's fall crushed the last hopes for Ukrainian independence and further curtailed Ukrainian autonomy.

The last of Ukraine's hetmans was forced by Empress Catherine II to resign in 1764; the Zaporizhzhya Sich was razed by Russian troops in 1775, and Ukraine, its political autonomy terminated, was divided into three provinces. In 1783, Russia annexed the khanate of Crimea. The Polish partition treaties of 1772, 1793, and 1795 (see Poland, partitions of) awarded Podolia and Volhynia to Russia, thus reuniting left-bank and right-bank Ukraine; E Galicia went to Austria.

Colonization of the steppes proceeded apace in the 19th cent., and in the 1870s the great Ukrainian coal and metallurgical industrial region was established. Despite a Russian ban on use of the Ukrainian language in the schools and in publications, a movement for Ukrainian national and cultural revival blossomed in the late 19th cent. There was also renewed agitation for Ukrainian independence and for the union of all Ukrainian lands, including those of Austria-Hungary–Galicia, Bukovina, and Ruthenia (see Transcarpathian Region) under a single state. The Galician Ukrainians, who emerged as a political nationality during the 1848 Austrian revolution, made Galicia a haven abroad for the nationalist movement in Russian Ukraine. This movement was spearheaded by secret educational groups called hromadas, that were repeatedly suppressed by the czar.

Following the overthrow of the czarist regime in 1917, a Ukrainian central council was set up with Mikhailo Hrushevsky as president; in June, 1917, it formed a government with Vladimir Vinnichenko as premier and Simon Petlura as war minister. Originally declaring itself a republic within the framework of a federated Russia, Ukraine proclaimed complete independence in Jan., 1918, after the Bolshevik Revolution.

Soviet troops were sent into Ukraine, but the Central Powers, having acknowledged Ukrainian independence, then overran the territory with their own soldiers and forced the Red Army, through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Mar., 1918) to withdraw. The World War I armistice of Nov., 1918, in turn forced the withdrawal from Ukraine of the Central Powers. Meanwhile, with the disintegration of Austria-Hungary, an independent republic in W Ukraine had been proclaimed in Lviv. In Jan., 1919, the union of the two Ukraines was proclaimed; however, Soviet troops immediately occupied Kiev. A four-cornered struggle ensued among Ukrainian forces, the counterrevolutionary army of Denikin, the Red Army, and the Poles. Soviet troops eventually regained control of Ukraine, which in 1922 became one of the original constituent republics of the USSR.

  • Ukraine and the USSR

Lenin's attempts to assuage Ukrainian nationalism through a measure of cultural autonomy were abandoned by Stalin, who also imposed agricultural collectivization on Ukraine and requisitioned all grain for export. Millions of Ukrainians died in the resulting famine. Mykola Skrypnyk and other Ukrainian Communist leaders who opposed Stalinist measures were purged and executed. During World War II, many Ukrainians at first welcomed the Germans as liberators and collaborated with them against the USSR. However, the Nazis' scorn for all Slavs and their harsh occupation (1941–44) of Ukraine turned many Ukrainians into anti-German guerrilla fighters.

The republic suffered severe wartime devastation, esp. as a battleground both in 1941–42 (the German advance) and 1943–44 (the Russian advance). Most of Ukraine's 1.5 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the war; many were shot outright in 1941, at such sites as Babi Yar (Ukr. Babyn Yar ), outside Kiev. During the war Ukrainian guerrillas fought against both Soviet and German forces, and some anti-Soviet resistance continued until 1953.

Several major territorial changes occurred in Ukraine during and after the war. South Bessarabia, recovered from Romania in 1940, was incorporated into Ukraine, while the former Moldavian ASSR was detached from the republic and merged with central Bessarabia as the Moldavian SSR. The northern parts of Bukovina and Bessarabia were added to Ukraine, as was E Galicia, including Lviv, formally ceded by Poland in 1945. Transcarpathian Region, which had been part of Czechoslovakia since 1919, was also ceded in 1945, thus completing the process by which all Ukrainian lands were united into a single republic. Crimea was annexed to Ukraine in 1954. Although Russification intensified in Ukraine (as in other Soviet republics) after World War II, Ukrainian nationalism remained strong.

During the 1960s, Ukrainians emerged as tacit junior partners of the Russians in governing the Soviet Union. Leonid Brezhnev was born in Ukraine and held important party posts there before being called to Moscow. Former Soviet ruler Nikita Khrushchev, although a Russian by birth, served as first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist party during the 1930s and carried out the Stalinist purges in Ukraine. In 1986 one of the reactors of the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded, contaminating a wide area of Ukraine.

  • An Independent Nation

The Ukrainian parliament passed a declaration of sovereignty in July, 1990, and in Aug., 1991, declared Ukraine independent of the Soviet Union. Ukraine became a charter member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Dec., 1991. Leonid Kravchuk, a former Communist turned nationalist, became Ukraine's first president. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held in 1994, and Kravchuk was defeated by Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma.

Kuchma implemented a few market reforms, but the economy remained dominated by huge, inefficient state-run companies and did not improve significantly. Ukraine, briefly the world's third largest nuclear power, also ratified the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1994) and turned its nuclear arsenal over to Russia for destruction (completed 1996); in return, Ukraine received much-needed fuel for its nuclear power plants. The country's economic reforms and cooperation in disarmament helped it gain substantial Western aid and loans.

Tensions continued over the Crimean peninsula, a former Russian territory with a majority Russian population that was ceded to Ukraine in 1954. In 1995, after Crimea challenged the Ukrainian government's sovereignty and threatened to secede, Ukraine placed Crimea's government under national control; its regional assembly, however, was retained. Another contentious issue was the division between Russia and Ukraine of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet, based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. A basic agreement, under which four fifths of the fleet would fall under Russian control, was reached in 1995, and in 1997 it was agreed that Russia would be allowed to base its fleet at Sevastopol for 20 years.

Communists won the most seats in the 1998 legislative elections. Kuchma was reelected in 1999 after defeating the Communist candidate, Petro Symonenko, in a runoff, and in December Viktor Yushchenko, the central bank chairman and an advocate of market reforms, was chosen as prime minister. In Apr., 2000, voters in a referendum approved constitutional changes that increased the president's powers over parliament.

In Sept., 2000, a muckraking opposition journalist was murdered. When tape recordings implicating Kuchma in his murder and other abuses of power subsequently were aired, Kuchma's support in parliament eroded, and there were demonstrations in early 2001 calling for his resignation. The government refused to investigate the journalist's death and was accused of suppressing press coverage of the incident. The dismissal of Prime Minister Yushchenko in Apr., 2001, by parliament was a blow to reformers; he was succeeded by Anatoliy Kinakh, an ally of President Kuchma. In the Mar., 2002, parliamentary elections Yushchenko supporters won roughly a quarter of the seats, as did supporters of the president. In November, Kuchma dismissed Kinakh as prime minister and appointed Viktor Yanukovych to the post.

Ukraine and Russia signed a treaty in Jan., 2003, that defined their common borders everywhere except in the Sea of Azov. In September, Russia began building a sea dike toward Ukraine's Tuzla island in the Kerch Strait (which provides access to the sea), provoking a crisis; a subsequent accord allowed for joint use of the strait, declared Azov an internal body of water, and called for the delimiting of the Russian-Ukrainian border. Also in September, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia signed an agreement to create a common economic space, but by the time an accord was signed (2009) to establish a customs union Ukraine's relations with Russia had soured and it did not participate.

In Dec., 2003, the Ukrainian supreme court ruled that Kuchma could run for a third term because the election for his first term had occurred before the current constitution took effect. The parliament also approved a constitutional change allowing it, rather than the voters, to elect the president, but opposition and international protests led the legislators to reverse their decision two months later.

The 2004 presidential election appeared to mark a significant turning point for Ukraine, and led to the events known as the "Orange Revolution." The government candidate, Prime Minister Yanukovych, advocated close ties with Russia (and his candidacy was supported by Russian president Putin) while the opposition candidate, former Prime Minister Yushchenko, called for closer ties with the European Union and benefited from increased disillusionment with Kuchma. The October vote resulted in a narrow victory for Yushchenko, who had been poisoned by an unknown assailant during the campaign, but he failed to win a majority, forcing a runoff with Yanukovych. The November balloting was declared a victory for Yanukovych, but both it and the first round were denounced by most observers, who accused the government of holding an undemocratic election. Yushchenko's supporters mounted protests in the streets of Kiev and other W Ukraine cities, where his support was strong. Yushchenko also challenged the results in court. Meanwhile, Yanukovych and his supporters, who were more concentrated in the more heavily Russian east, denounced these moves, and the situation threatened to split Ukraine. Parliament narrowly declared the results invalid, an act with no legal significance, but in December the supreme court annulled the vote due to fraud and called for the runoff to be rerun. Subsequently, the constitution was amended to reduce the president's power to appoint the prime minister and most of the cabinet as part of an electoral reform package.

In late December a new vote resulted in a solid margin of victory for Yushchenko, but the result was not finalized until mid-Jan., 2005, because of legal challenges mounted by Yanukovych. In February Yushchenko appointed Yulia V. Tymoshenko, an outspoken political ally, as prime minister. Seven months later, however, Yushchenko dismissed Tymoshenko's government after conflicts between the cabinet and the presidency and accusations that the president tolerated corruption. The moderate economist Yuriy Yekhanurov succeeded Tymoshenko, but only after the president secured the support of Yanukovych's party by making concessions on investigations into electoral fraud in 2004 presidential election.

A dispute over the price of natural gas purchased from Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, led to a stalemate in late 2005. Ukraine had been purchasing gas at very favorable rates under a contract signed before Yushchenko won the presidency, and Gazprom now demanded a higher, market rate. In Jan., 2006, Gazprom halted its Ukrainian shipments, a move that also partially affected some downstream European customers. Although the dispute was soon resolved, the episode was generally regarded as a heavy-handed Russian response to Yushchenko's victory a year before. Opposition parties subsequently won a no-confidence vote against the cabinet over the agreement, but constitutional ambiguities made it unclear whether the vote had any validity or not.

Parliamentary elections in Mar., 2006, resulted in a setback for President Yushchenko, whose Our Ukraine party placed third, behind Yanukovych's Party of the Regions and the Tymoshenko bloc. In April the three former parties of the Orange Revolution—the Tymoshenko bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist party—agreed to form a coalition government, but the agreement shattered in July as both sides disrupted sessions of parliament and the Socialists bolted for a coalition with the Party of the Regions and the Communists. The three parties nominated Yanukovych as prime minister, but the president initially refused to recognize the new coalition on the grounds that, under the law, it had been formed too soon after the Socialists left their previous coalition. Yushchenko and Yanukovych subsequently signed a unity pact, and Our Ukraine joined the three party coalition led by Yanukovych, who became prime minister in August. In October, however, Our Ukraine left the governing coalition and went into opposition. The same month Ukraine signed a deal with Gazprom to import natural gas at below market-rate prices. In December the president and prime minister became locked in disputes over the budget and foreign minister. The president vetoed the budget several times, and after parliament sacked the foreign and interior ministers, the president issued a decree calling on the foreign minister to stay in office. Parliament responded by passing (Jan., 2007) legislation giving it the right to appoint the foreign minister, which the president contested in court.

The struggle between the prime minister and president reached new crisis point in April when the president dissolved parliament and called for new elections. The previous month a number of deputies allied with the president had joined Yanukovych's coalition, despite legal and constitutional provisions that appeared to forbid such a move (only parties are allowed to form coalitions in parliament), but it also represented a threat to the president's power. The prime minister refused to recognize the president's decree, and appealed it to the constitutional court. The events led the parties on both sides to mount a number of large demonstrations. After the president fired several constitutional court judges for misconduct and after mounting tensions, both sides agreed in late May to September elections, but squabbling continued in months preceding the elections.

Although Yanukovych's party won plurality of the seats in the new parliament, the Tymoshenko bloc and the president's bloc together secured a narrow majority. The president's bloc, however, received less than 15% of the vote and less than half the seats of the Tymoshenko bloc, a significant blow to Yushchenko. The Socialist party, which previously had held the balance of power between the president's supporters and opponents failed to receive enough votes to be awarded any seats. In December, the Tymoshenko and presidential blocs formed a coalition government, with Tymoshenko as prime minister, but the subsequent months often saw Tymoshenko and Yushchenko at odds and tensions in parliament between supporters of the two.

The government's desire to begin the process of joining NATO led in early 2008 to confrontations in parliament with the Party of Regions and also provoked strong opposition from Russia. Both reactions contributed to NATO's decision to postpone (Apr., 2008) establishing an action plan for Ukraine's admission. Ukraine again confronted threatened cuts in its natural gas supplies when Gazprom demanded payment of its debts in Feb., 2008; although cuts were averted then, the following month supplies were reduced for several days when the issue again required resolution. In May, Ukraine became a member of the World Trade Organization.

In Sept., 2008, the governing coalition broke up after Tymoshenko's bloc and the Party of Regions joined together to reduce presidential powers; disagreements between the governing parties concerning how to respond to Russia's invasion of Georgia also led to the collapse. After attempts to reestablish the coalition failed, Yushchenko, despite his relative unpopularity, called for early elections, a move that was actively opposed in parliament and the courts in subsequent weeks by Tymoshenko. Ukraine secured a $16.4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund in November; the money was needed to help stabilize Ukraine's currency and private banking system. Some of the disbursements of the loan subsequently were delayed, however, by the parliament's failure to pass the required budget legislaton. The country's industrial sector, especially in E Ukraine, was also hit hard by the global recession. In December, the governing coalition was finally re-formed, this time with the addition of a third, smaller party.

In Jan., 2009, Gazprom again cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine; the issues were largely the same as those three years earlier. The cutoff eventually also led to the stoppage of the flow of gas shipped through Ukraine to other European countries, for which Russia and Ukraine each blamed the other. Central and SE European nations mainly were affected by the stoppage. After three weeks and pressure from the European Union a new, ten-year agreement was reached in which Ukraine secured lower current gas prices in exchange for higher future ones; the EU subsequently agreed to make significant investments in Ukraine's gas infrastructure, prompting a negative response from Russia. A drop in energy needs as a result of a slowing economy led Ukraine in late 2009 to seek modifications in its energy agreement with Russia.

Continuing tensions between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko led to the ouster of the foreign minister in Mar., 2009, and the defense minister in June; both posts are presidential appointments. In April, the parliament set the presidential election for Oct., 2009, but Yushchenko challenged the date as too early, and the constitutional court ruled for the president. In June, the vote was rescheduled for Jan., 2010. Also in June, ongoing negotiations between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych finally ended without an agreement. Relations with Russia remained largely sour, with Russian President Medvedev in August denouncing Yushchenko as anti-Russian, an act seen as an attempt to influence the upcoming presidential election. In Sept., 2009, however, Tymoshenko and Putin agreed in principle to reduce, in light of the recession, Ukraine's required gas purchases under the January agreement.

In the first round (January) of the 2010 presidential election, Yanukovych placed first, with Tymoshenko second, but no candidate won a majority, forcing a runoff (February) that Yanukovych won by a small margin (but he again gained less than 50% of the vote). The vote also evidenced Ukraine's continuing divisions, with Yanukovych winning in the predominantly Russian-speaking east and south, while Tymposhenko ran strongly in the Ukrainian-speaking west and center. Tymoshenko subsequently lost a confidence vote in parliament, and Yanukovych's Party of Regions formed a governing coalition with Mykola Azarov, a former finance minister, as prime minister.

In April, in a rapprochement with Russia, Ukraine agreed to extend Russia's lease on the Sevastopol naval base until 2042 in exchange for what were said to be discounts on Russian natural gas, but in 2012 Azarov acknowledged that the deal did not result in discounts. The new government also rejected pursuing NATO membership while seeking to speed progress toward joining the European Union. In Oct., 2010, the constitutional amendments adopted in Dec., 2004, were overturned on the grounds that they had not been approved by the constitutional court; the decision strengthened the powers of the president.

Later in 2010 Tymoshenko and several other members of her former government were arrested and charged with a variety of criminal offenses, leading the European Union enlargement commissioner to warn (Jan., 2011) Ukraine not to use criminal law for political ends. Additional charges were brought in 2011, and in Oct., 2011, Tymoshenko was convicted of abuse of power and imprisoned. In Mar., 2011, former president Kuchma—Yanukovych's one-time political patron—was charged with abuse of office in the 2000 disappearance and murder of an opposition journalist, but the charges were dismissed in Dec., 2011. Tymoshenko's case directly affected relations with the EU in December when the EU held off signing a cooperation agreement with Ukraine because of the belief that the charges against her were politically motivated; increased cooperation with the EU continued to be stymied by the political situation in Ukraine in subsequent months.

During early 2012 there were natural gas transshipment problems from Russia to Europe, and Russia's Gazprom blamed Ukraine; negotiations in 2011 between the two nations over the price of gas and transshipment issues had been inconclusive. Gazprom subsequently rerouted a significant amount of transshipped gas through Belarus, where it controlled the pipelines. In Feb., 2012, Russia banned cheese imports from several major Ukrainian producers, allegedly over adulteration, but the dispute was seen as an attempt to apply political pressure on Ukraine similar to Russian food-related bans involving other nations. In mid-2012 the government enacted a bill making Russian an official regional language in Russian-speaking areas of the country; the law was denounced by the opposition and by advocates of Ukrainian.

In the Oct., 2012, parliamentary elections the Party of Regions won a plurality of the seats, with Tymoshenko's party second. European and other monitors criticized the election campaign as being less fair than previous ones, the voting was married by irregularities, and the vote count took weeks to complete, leading some monitors and opposition figures to charge the government with attempting to steal elections. The Party of Regions formed a coalition government; Azarov again became prime minister (Dec., 2012). In Apr., 2013, two cabinet members under Tymoshenko who had been convicted of abuse of office were pardoned, but the former prime minister was not.

Trade tensions again flared with Russia in Aug., 2013, over Ukraine's trade negotiations with the European Union, but Ukraine ultimately rejected an agreement with the EU and won improved gas rates and loans from Russia. The failure to sign an EU agreement led in Nov., 2013, to antigovernment demonstrations by protesters who favored joining the EU. The protests, which were marked at times by clashes with security forces, renewed in intensity after so-called antiprotest laws were passed in Jan., 2014.

Disclaimer

This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.