UKRAINE

OFFICIAL NAME - Ukraine

GEOGRAPHY

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

PEOPLE

Population : 56 million.
Nationality: Ukrainian. 
Ethnic groups: Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Jews, Poles, Crimean Tatars, and other groups.
Religions: Ukrainian Orthodoxy, Ukrainian Greek Catholicism, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, others.
Languages: Ukrainian (official), Russian, others.
Education: Literacy--99.7%.
The population of Ukraine is about 46.3 million. Ethnic Ukrainians make up about 73% of the total; ethnic Russians number about 22%, ethnic Belarusians number about 5%.

The industrial regions in the east and southeast are the most heavily populated, and the population is about 67% urban. Ukrainian and Russian are the principal languages. Although Russian is very widely spoken, in the 1989 census (the latest official figures) 88% of the population identified Ukrainian as their native language. There are also small Tatar and Hellenic minorities centered mainly in Crimea.

In addition to these, there are also the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. About 70% of adult Ukrainians have a secondary or higher education. Ukraine has about 150 colleges and universities, of which the most important are in Kyiv, Lviv, and Kharkiv. There are about 70,000 scholars in 80 research institutes.

HISTORY

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

Most of the territory of what is modern Ukraine was annexed by Poland and Lithuania in the 14th century, but during that time, Ukrainians began to conceive of themselves as a distinct people, a feeling that survived subsequent partitioning by greater powers over the next centuries. Ukrainian peasants who fled the Polish effort to force them into servitude came to be known as Cossacks and earned a reputation for their fierce martial spirit and love of freedom. In 1667, Ukraine was partitioned between Poland and Russia. In 1793, when Poland was partitioned, much of modern-day Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire.The 19th century found the region largely agricultural, with a few cities and centers of trade and learning.

The region was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the extreme west and the Russian Empire elsewhere. Ukrainian writers and intellectuals were inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring other European peoples existing under other imperial governments and were determined to revive Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions and reestablish a Ukrainian state. Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), national hero of Ukraine, presented the intellectual maturity of the Ukrainian language and culture through his work as a poet and artist. Imperial Russia, however, imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate Ukrainian culture, even banning the use and study of the Ukrainian language.When World War I and the Russian revolution shattered the Habsburg and Russian empires, Ukrainians declared independent statehood. In 1917 the Central Rada proclaimed Ukrainian autonomy and in 1918, following the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd, the Ukrainian National Republic declared independence under President Mykhaylo Hrushevsky. After three years of conflict and civil war, however, the western part of Ukrainian territory was incorporated into Poland, while the larger, central and eastern regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922 as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The Ukrainian national idea persevered during the twenties, but with Stalin's rise to power and the campaign of forced collectivization, the Soviet leadership imposed a campaign of terror that ravaged the intellectual class. The Soviet government under Stalin also created an artificial famine (called the Holodomor in Ukrainian) as part of his forced collectivization policies, which killed millions of previously independent peasants and others throughout the country. Estimates of deaths from the 1932-33 famine alone range from 3 million to 7 million.When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, some Ukrainians, particularly in the west, welcomed what they saw as liberation from Communist rule, but this did not last as they quickly came to understand the nature of Nazi rule. Nazi brutality was directed principally against Ukraine's Jews (of whom an estimated 1 million were killed), but also against many other Ukrainians. Babyn Yar in Kyiv was the site of one of the most horrific Nazi massacres of Ukrainian Jews, ethnic Ukrainians, and many others. Kyiv and other parts of the country were heavily damaged.After the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland in 1939, the western Ukrainian regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Armed resistance against Soviet authority continued as late as the 1950s.

During periods of relative liberalization--as under Nikita Khrushchev from 1955 to 1964 and during the period of "perestroika" under Mikhail Gorbachev--Ukrainian communists pursued nationalist objectives. The 1986 explosion at the Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian) nuclear power plant, located in the Ukrainian SSR, and the Soviet Government's initial efforts to conceal the extent of the catastrophe from its own people and the world, was a watershed for many Ukrainians in exposing the severe problems of the Soviet system. Ukraine became an independent state on August 24, 1991, and was a co-founder of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, although it has not officially joined the organization.

GOVERNMENT

Type: Parliamentary-presidential.
Independence: August 24, 1991.
Constitution: First post-Soviet constitution adopted June 28, 1996, amended January 1, 2006.
Administrative subdivisions: 24 provinces (oblasts), Crimean autonomous republic, and two cities with special status--Kyiv and Sevastopol 

CURRENCY OF UKRAINE

The Hryvnia, also spelled sometimes as Hryvna or Grivna (UHR) was introduced September 2, 1996 by the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). Starting from September 1, 1997 the new design of 2, 5, 10 and 20 Hryvnia bills was released to increase their protection from falsification. New bills slowly replaced old ones while those were still be valid. Hryvnia can be freely converted to hard currency in any authorized bank or exchange point. The average exchange rate is 7.6 UHR for 1 USD(MAY 2009). During the last period it proved to be a stable and reliable currency.

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