|Ukraine , Ukr. Ukraina, republic (2005 est. pop. 47,425,000), 232,046 sq mi (601,000 sq km), E Europe. It borders on Poland in the northwest; on Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova in the southwest; on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the south; on Russia in the east and northeast; and on Belarus in the north. Kiev is the capital and largest city.
The first identifiable groups to populate what is now Ukraine were Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, and Goths, among other nomadic peoples who arrived throughout the first millennium B.C. These people were well known to colonists and traders in the ancient world, including Greeks and Romans, who established trading outposts which eventually became city states. Slavic tribes occupied central and eastern Ukraine in the sixth century A.D. and played an important role in the establishment of Kiev. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kiev quickly prospered as the center of a powerful state of Kievan Rus. In the 11th century, Kievan Rus was, geographically, the largest state in Europe. A Christian missionary, Cyril, converted the Kievan nobility and most of the population in 988. Conflict among the feudal lords led to decline in the 12th century. Kiev was razed by Mongol raiders in the 12th century.
Ukrainian history began with the rumble of hooves - Scythians dominated the steppes north of the Black Sea from the 7th to the 4th centuries BC, initiating centuries of outside political and cultural domination. Traces of Scythian culture can be found in Kiev's Caves Monastery, where the tombs contain superb goldwork depicting highly detailed animal and human forms. Following the Scythians, a series of invaders, including Ostrogoths, Huns and the Turko-Iranian Khazars, ruled areas of present-day Ukraine.
Most of the territory was annexed by Poland and Lithuania in the 14th century, but during that time, the Ukrainian people began to conceive of themselves as a distinct people, a feeling which survived subsequent partitioning by greater powers over the next centuries. In addition, Ukrainian peasants who fled the Polish effort to force them into servitude came to be known as Cossacks and earned a reputation for their fierce martial spirit. In 1667, Ukraine was partitioned between Poland and Russia. In 1793, it was reunited as part of the Russian Empire.
The 19th century found the region largely agricultural, with a few cities and centers of trade and learning. The region was under the control of the Austrians in the extreme west and of the Russians elsewhere. Ukrainian writers and intellectuals were inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring other European peoples existing under other imperial governments and were determined to revive Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions and re-establish a Ukrainian nation-state. The Russians in particular imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate Ukrainian language and culture, even banning its use and study. When World War I and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia shattered the Hapsburg and Russian empires, Ukrainians declared independent statehood. In 1917 and 1918, three separate Ukrainian republics declared independence. However, by 1921, the western part of the traditional territory had been incorporated into Poland, and the larger, central and eastern part became part of the Soviet Union.
The Ukrainian national idea persevered during the interwar years, and Soviet reaction was severe, particularly under Stalin, who imposed terror campaigns, which ravaged the intellectual class. He also created artificial famines as part of his forced collectivization policies, which killed millions of previously independent peasants and others throughout the country. Estimates of deaths from the 1932-33 famine alone range from 3 million to 7 million.
After the German and Soviet invasions of Poland in 1939, the western Ukrainian regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, many Ukrainians, particularly in the west, welcomed them, but this did not last. German brutality was directed principally against Ukraine's Jews (of whom 1 million were killed) but also against many other Ukrainians. Kiev and other parts of the country were heavily damaged. Some Ukrainians began to resist the Germans as well as the Soviets. Resistance against Soviet Government forces continued as late as the 1950s. Little changed for Ukraine over the next decades. During periods of relative liberalization--as under Nikita Khrushchev from 1955 to 1964--Ukrainian communists pursued national objectives. In the years of perestroika, under U.S.S.R. President Mikhail Gorbachev, national goals were again advanced by Ukrainian officials.
The 1986 Chornobyl nuclear meltdown exposed the Soviet Union's negligent environmental record and triggered alarm across the globe. The world's worst nuclear accident created disastrous consequences for the environment, both in Ukraine and in neighboring countries. As a result, Soviet policies that encouraged industrial development at the expense of the environment came under harsh international criticism, and Chornobyl became a rallying cry for environmentalists around the world.
Ethnic tensions in Crimea during 1992 prompted a number of pro-Russian political organizations to advocate secession of Crimea and annexation to Russia. (Crimea was ceded to Ukraine in 1954, as a gift from Khrushchev to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukrainian union with Russia.) In July 1992, the Crimean and Ukrainian parliaments determined that Crimea would remain under Ukrainian jurisdiction while retaining significant cultural and economic autonomy.
Ukraine as simply a part of Russia. But borscht, painted eggs and many of the famous Cossack song and dance traditions originated in Ukraine. Western Ukrainians consider themselves to be 100% Ukrainian and the vanguard of their culture, speaking their language and trumpeting their nationalism. In the east, where over 10 million ethnic Russians live, nationalism is less intense, and most people speak Russian.
Ukrainian, like Russian and Belarusian, is an Eastern Slavic language. It's arguably the closest of the three to the original 9th century Slavonic used in Kiev before the more formal Church Slavonic from Bulgaria was introduced with Christianity in the 10th century. Despite being watered down by Russian and Polish and being banned by Tsar Alexander II in 1876, the Ukrainian language persevered and is becoming more widespread. It was adopted as the country's official language in 1990, though Russian is understood by almost everyone.
Ukrainians make up slightly less than three fourths of the population; Russians constitute around 22%, Jews around 1%, and there are Polish, Belarusian, Moldovan, and Hungarian minorities. More than half the population is urban. The majority of those practicing a religious faith belong to a branch of Orthodox Christianity—either the Ukrainian (formerly Russian) Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Russian patriarch, or a rival independent Orthodox Church that is headed by a Ukrainian patriarch and has attracted many Ukrainian nationalists. Separate from both is the smaller West Ukrainian Catholic Church (also known as the Uniate or Greek Catholic Church), which in 1596 established unity with Roman Catholicism but was forced by the Soviet government in 1946 to sever its ties with Rome; these ties were reestablished in 1991, and the church experienced a revival. The republic's many educational and cultural institutions include seven universities.
Ukraine possesses numerous raw materials and power resources, and its central and E regions form one of the world's densest industrial concentrations. The heavy metallurgical, machine-building, and chemical industries are based on the iron mines of Kryvyy Rih, the manganese ores of Nikopol, and the coking coal and anthracite of the Donets Basin. The Dniprohes dam powers a hydroelectric station and has made the Dnieper navigable for nearly its entire length. The region also produces aluminum, zinc, mercury, titanium, nickel, oil, natural gas, and bauxite.Ukraine's steppe is one of the chief wheat-producing regions of Europe, and the area was long known as the “breadbasket of the Soviet Union.” Other major crops include corn, rye, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, sunflowers, and flax.
Folk traditions are strong all over Ukraine. In the heart of Ukraine, Tania Diakiw O'Neill witnessed a first haircut ceremony and Natalie Kononenko documented traditional wedding rituals. Folk and religious celebrations are pictured on a new series of postage stamps.
NEW An exhibition of folk icons of Ukraine from the 18th and 19th centuries is touring the U.S. and Canada.Well organized information and news about all churches and religions in Ukraine by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, a project of the Ukrainian Catholic University.Photos of synagogues and memorials show signs of Jewish culture in Ukraine.Easter is the most important holiday of the Christian Church in Ukraine. Ukrainian Christmas traditions are also very rich and colorful.
Specialties include borshch (beetroot soup), varenniki (dough containing cheese, meat or fruit) and holubtsi (cabbage rolls). Chicken Kiev exists but is better known in the West. Restaurants still tend to be fairly expensive (around US$40 for a 2- to 3-course meal), but visitors now have a wider choice of cuisines (including French, Indian, Italian, Japanese or Thai), particularly in Kyiv.
Crimean wines are excellent, especially dessert wines such as Krasny Kamen (‘Red Stone’). For those who prefer dry wine, Abrau and Miskhako are excellent brands of cabernet. Also outstanding are Artyomov champagne (bottled in eastern Ukraine) and fortified wines from Massandra, particularly one named ‘Black Doctor’.Borshch is the great Ukrainian soup, renowned world-wide.Vareniky is another quintessential Ukrainian food. Vareniky wit, whimsy, and recipes from Dr. Mryon Hlynka.Ukraine is also noted for its bread. Photo of village woman with home-baked bread. Several dozen authentic recipes Joanne documented when she visited her relatives in Ukraine.Not like mama made: herring a la Kiev, jellied veal roll, and many other authentic recipes direct from Ukraine written both in English and Cyrillic Ukrainian.Christmas Eve recipes. More than a dozen traditional meatless Ukrainian dishes, including borshch, stuffed cabbage, and dumplings.Traditional Easter recipes: meat, cheeses and breads.
Country name: Ukraine
Area: 603,700 sq km
Population: 49.1 million
People: Ukrainian 73%, Russian 22%, Jewish 1%
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian
Religion: Ukrainian Orthodox, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, Protestant, Jewish
Ukraine Currency: Hryvnia (UAH)