Ukraine is a country in eastern Europe which borders the Black Sea to the south, the Russian Federation to the east, Belarus to the north and Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova to the west.
|National motto: "Volja, Zlagoda, Dobro"|
(Ukrainian: Freedom, Accord, Goodness)
|Prime minister||Viktor Yanukovych[?]|
- % water
|Ranked 43rd |
- Total (2002)
|From the Soviet Union
August 24, 1991
|Time zone||UTC +2|
|National anthem||Shche ne vmerla Ukraina|
Ukraine was the centre of the first Slavic state, Kievan Rus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest and most powerful state in Europe and laid the foundation for Ukrainian nationalism through subsequent centuries. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kievan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth[?].
During the mid-17th century an autonomous Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate[?], was established that remained for well over a century despite continuous Muscovite pressure. During the latter part of the 18th century, central and eastern parts of Ukrainian ethnographic territory were absorbed by the Russian Empire, with the west becoming part of Austria-Hungary. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, Ukraine was briefly independent until 1920.
The country was reconquered and experienced a Soviet rule that engineered two artificial famines (1921-1922 and 1932-1933) in which over 8 million died. In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 million more deaths. Renewed independence was achieved in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Ukraine is a parliamentary democracy with separate executive, judicial, and legislative branches. The president, elected by popular vote for a five-year term, nominates the prime minister as well as the rest of the cabinet, who must be confirmed by the parliament.
The Ukrainian parliament is the unicameral Supreme Council or Verkhovna Rada which holds 450 seats, 225 of which are allocated on a proportional basis to those parties that gain 4% or more of the national electoral vote; the other 225 members are elected by popular vote in single-mandate constituencies. All members serve four-year terms and the parliament initiates legislation, ratifies international agreements, and approves the budget.
The national flag of Ukraine represents the blue sky over the wheat fields of the steppes. The two colours have long been used as banners for the Ukrainian people.
Ukraine is subdivided into 24 regions (oblasti, singular - oblast), 1 autonomous republic (avtomnaya respublika) in the Crimea, and 2 municipalities (mista, singular - misto) with regional status, marked by a *:
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 clime 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.
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.
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 is urban. 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 Belarussians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles and Jews.
The dominant religions are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church[?], an Eastern Orthodox church, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church[?], which practices Orthodox rites but recognises the Pope as head of the church. The largest part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church belongs to the Moscow Patriarchy[?]; however, following Ukrainian independence a separate Kiev Patriarchy[?] also was established, which declared independence from Moscow. In addition to these, there also is a Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church[?], as well as smaller Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities.