Ukraine

About Ukraine

Geography
History
Economy
Culture
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Guide
History
Geography
Economy
Culture
Political system, law and government
National Institutions
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Ukraine -- Geography --

Official Name: Ukraine
Capital City: Kiev
Languages: Ukrainian is the only official state language. Russian, which was the official language in the Soviet Union, is still used by many people, especially in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian is considered to be a native language by 67.5% of the population and Russian by 29.6% (according to the 2001 census). It is sometimes difficult to determine the extent of the two language, since many people use a mixed language (Surzhyk) containing elements of both, while thinking they speak Russian or Ukrainian. Standard literary Ukrainian is mainly spoken in western and central Ukraine. In western Ukraine, Ukrainian is also the dominant language in cities (e.g. Lviv). In central Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian are both equally used in cities (including Kiev), while Ukrainian is the dominant language in rural communities. In eastern Ukraine mainly Russian and Surzhyk are used. In the Autonomous Republic of Crimea practically all of the population speaks Russian and Ukrainain is virtually unused. Both languages are official within the autonomous republic.
Religions: The dominant religion in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is currently split between three Church bodies. The distant second is the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which practices similar Liturgical rite to Eastern Orthodoxy, but is in communion with the Catholic see and recognizes the primacy of the Roman Pope as head of the Church. There are also smaller Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities.
Population: 49,506,000.
Ethnic Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population. The minorities include significant groups of ethnic Russians (17.3%), Belarusians (0.6%), Moldavians (0.5%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), Bulgarians (0.4%), Hungarians (0.3%), Romanians (0.3%), Poles (0.3%), Jews (0.2%), Armenians (0.2%), Greeks (0.2%) and Tatars (0.2%).
Land Area: 603,700 sq km - the second-largest country in Europe.
Landforms:The Ukrainian landscape consists mostly of fertile plains, or steppes, and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dnieper, Seversky Donets, Dniester and the Southern Buh as they flow south into the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. To the southwest the delta of the Danube forms the border with Romania. The country's only mountains are the Carpathian Mountains in the west, of which the highest is the Hora Hoverla at 2,061 m, and those in the Crimean peninsula, in the extreme south along the coast.
Climate: Ukraine has a mostly temperate continental climate, though a more mediterranean climate is found on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it is 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.
Land Divisions: 24 oblasti, 2 municipalities and 1 autonomous republic.

Beginning***Europe


Ukraine -- History --

Human settlement in the territory of Ukraine has been documented into distant prehistory. The late neolithic Trypillian culture flourished from ca. 4500 BC to 3000 BC.In antiquity, the southern and eastern parts of modern Ukraine were populated by Iranian nomads called Scythians. The Scythian Kingdom existed in Ukraine between 700 BC and 200 BC. In the third century, the Goths arrived, calling their country Oium, and formed the Chernyakhov culture before moving on and defeating the Roman empire. In the 7th century Ukraine was the core of the state of the Bulgars (often referred to as Great Bulgaria) who had their capital in the city of Phanagoria.The majority of the Bulgar tribes migrated in several directions at the end of the seventh century and the remains of their state was swept by the Khazars, a Turkic semi-nomadic people from Central Asia which later adopted Judaism. The Khazars founded the independent Khazar kingdom in the southeastern part of today's Europe, near the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. In addition to western Kazakhstan, the Khazar kingdom also included territory in what is now eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, southern Russia, and Crimea.During the tenth and eleventh centuries the territory of Ukraine became the center of important state in Europe Kievan Rus laying the foundation for national identity of Ukrainians, as well as other East Slavic nations, through subsequent centuries. Its capital was Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine, ruled by Askold and Dir in the late 800s. According to the Primary Chronicle the Kievan Rus' elite initially consisted of Varangians, or Vikings, from present-day Scandinavia. The Varangians later became assimilated into the local population of Rus' and gave the Rus' its first powerful dynasty, the Rurik Dynasty. The territory of present-day Ukraine was a key centre of East Slavic culture in the Middle Ages, before being divided between a variety of powers, notably Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Austrian Empire, Romania and the Ottoman Empire. A brief period of independence (1917-1921) following the Russian Revolution of 1917 was ended by Ukraine's absorption into the Soviet Union in 1922 and the republic's present borders were only established in 1954. It became independent once more following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ukraine -- Economy --

Ukraine has many of the components of a major European economy -- rich farmlands, a well-developed industrial base, highly trained labour, and a good education system. At present, however, the economy remains in poor condition. While Ukraine registered positive economic growth starting from 2000, this came on the heels of 8 straight years of sharp economic decline. As a result, the standard of living for most citizens has declined more than 50% since the early 1990s, leading to widespread poverty. The macro economy is stable, with the hyperinflation of earlier in the decade having been tamed. Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia (1 Hryvnia (UAH) = 100 kopiykas), was introduced in September 1996, and has remained fairly stable. The economy started growing in 2000, and growth has continued. 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 of 4.6% in 2002 was more moderate, in part a reflection of faltering growth in the developed world. In general, growth has been undergirded by strong domestic demand, low inflation, and solid consumer and investor confidence. Growth was a sturdy 9.3% in 2003 and a remarkable 12% in 2004, despite a loss of momentum in needed economic reforms. Most Ukrainian trade is still with countries of the former Soviet Union, principally Russia. An overcrowded world steel market threatens prospects for Ukraine's principal exports of non-agricultural goods such as ferrous metals and other steel products. Although exports of machinery and machine tools are on the rise, it is not clear if the rate of increase is large enough to make up for probable declines in steel exports, which today account for 46% of the country's overall exports. Ukraine imports 90% of its oil and most of its natural gas. Russia ranks as Ukraine's principal supplier of oil, and Russian firms now own and/or operate the majority of Ukraine's refining capacity. Natural gas imports come from Russia--which delivers natural gas as a barter payment for Ukraine's role in transporting Russian gas to western Europe-- and Turkmenistan, from which Ukraine purchases natural gas for a combination of cash and barter. Although Ukraine's long-running dispute with Russia over about $1.4 billion in arrears on past gas sales appeared to have been solved through a complex repayment agreement involving Eurobonds to be issued by Ukraine's national oil and gas monopoly (NaftoHaz Ukrainy) to Russia's Gazprom, Russia has not yet accepted the bonds, so the issue remains open. Reform of the inefficient and opaque energy sector is a major objective of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank programs with Ukraine. A gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine started in March of 2005, when Russia took steps to radically change the prices for natural gas sold to Ukraine. The two countries were unable to reach an agreement to resolve the dispute, and Russia cut gas exports to Ukraine on 1 January 2006 at 10:00. The conflict was ended on January 4, when a mutually satisfiable agreement was settled. The IMF approved a $2.2 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with Ukraine in September 1998. In July 1999, the 3-year program was increased to $2.6 billion. Ukraine's failure to meet monetary targets and/or structural reform commitments caused the EFF to either be suspended or disbursements delayed on several occasions. The last EFF disbursement was made in September 2001. Ukraine met most monetary targets for the EFF disbursement due in early 2002; however, the tranche was not disbursed due to the accumulation of a large amount of VAT refund arrears to Ukrainian exporters which amounted to a hidden budget deficit. The EFF expired in September 2002, and the Ukrainian Government and IMF began discussions in October 2002 on the possibility and form of future programs. In 1992, Ukraine became a member of the IMF and the World Bank. It is a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development but not a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (WTO). While Ukraine applied for WTO membership, its accession process was stalled for several years. In 2001, the government took steps to reinvigorate the process; however, there was less concrete progress in 2002. The WTO Working Party on Ukraine met in June 2002. The government's stated goal is to accede to the WTO by the end of 2004.


Ukraine -- Culture --

Ukrainian folk music, long known for its unique melancholy, became internationally popular in the 18th century, and many Ukrainian musicians went to serve royal courts of Poland and Russia (see Bilohradsky(Belogradsky), Lyubystok, Nyzhevych, Berezovsky, Bortnyansky).The most distinctive musical instrument unique to Ukraine is now the bandura, a 19th century invention used in folk and semi-classical music, and bandura's predecessors: torban, and kobza, both previously facing extinction, but now being revived. Starting in the 15th century, traveling musicians (kobzars) used the kobza for epic folk tales (dumy). Many (but not all) of them were blind. They were orginized in a professional guild, known as Kobzars'kyj Tsekh. During Soviet era kobzari were persecuted, and many perished during Stalin's "purges". The Kobzar Guild has been revived in recent years, under the leadership of such fine singer-musicians as Kushpet, Kompanichenko, Drach, Cheremsky, Koval', Khaj and others Ukrainian folk music, long known for its unique melancholy, became internationally popular in the 18th century, and many Ukrainian musicians went to serve royal courts of Poland and Russia (Bilohradsky(Belogradsky), Lyubystok, Nyzhevych, Berezovsky, Bortnyansky).The most distinctive musical instrument unique to Ukraine is now the bandura, a 19th century invention used in folk and semi-classical music, and bandura's predecessors: torban, and kobza, both previously facing extinction, but now being revived. Starting in the 15th century, traveling musicians (kobzars) used the kobza for epic folk tales (dumy). Many (but not all) of them were blind. They were orginized in a professional guild, known as Kobzars'kyj Tsekh. During Soviet era kobzari were persecuted, and many perished during Stalin's "purges". The Kobzar Guild has been revived in recent years, under the leadership of such fine singer-musicians as Kushpet, Kompanichenko, Drach, Cheremsky, Koval', Khaj and others. The Eurovision Song Contest 2005 was won by Elena Paparizou for Greece with My Number One. It was the 50th Eurovision competition and was held in Kiev, Ukraine on May 21, 2005. The semi-finals took place on May 19, 2005. 10 out of 25 countries with the highest scores in the semi-final joined 14 already pre-qualified countries in the final. Both events were televised across Europe. The event took place at the Palace of Sports in downtown Kiev in front of over 6000 spectators. Organisers hope that this event will boost Ukraine's image abroad and increase tourism, while the country's new government hopes it will also give a modest boost to the long-term goal of acquiring European Union membership. Bulgaria and Moldova took part for the first time while Hungary returned after a hiatus since 1998. Lebanon was also expected to make a debut appearance but was forced to withdraw after announcing they would show commercials over the Israeli entry. The hosts for the event were television presenter Maria "Masha" Efrosinina and DJ Pavlo "Pasha" Shylko, along with the previous winner Ruslana and the famous Ukrainian boxers Vitali Klitschko & Wladimir Klitschko. A special trophy was presented to the winner by Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko.The winner was Greece's My Number One performed by popular singer Elena Paparizou, who scored 230 points. Malta's Angel performed by Chiara was the runner up with 192 points. Romania, Israel and Latvia rounded out the top 5. The host Ukraine along with the so-called 'big 4' (Spain, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) propped up the bottom of the table. Wild Dances (Ukrainian: ) is the name of the song (and the album)) by Ukrainian pop-star Ruslana Lyzhichko (Ruslana). Ruslana performed the song at the Eurovision Song Contest 2004 in Turkey. After qualifing from the semi-final, in which it had in fact been narrowly outscored by Serbia and Montenegro's entry "Lane moje", the song turned the tables in the final, and the 280 points it received were sufficient to claim a famous Eurovision victory for Ukraine.With a mixture of English and Ukrainian lyrics, "Dyki tantsi" had the distinction of becoming the first Eurovision winner to be sung at least partly in a language other than English since the rule-change of 1999, when countries were freed from the restriction of having to sing in one of their own official languages.The song was remembered for an energetic performance, which Ruslana gave in a leather outfit, inspired by ethnic tradition of Ukraine. Ukrainian rock bands include Braty Hadiukiny, Komu Vnyz, Pikardiyska Tertsiya, Plach Yeremiyi, Taras Petrynenko, Viy, Vopli Vidoplyasova and others. Okean Elzy, featuring Slava Vakarchuk has long been among the most popular bands of Ukrainian pop-rock, and has had some success abroad. The band Mandry is known for fusing traditional Ukrainian music with rock, blues, reggae and chansons. The pop-singer Ruslana also uses some elements of rock in her work.The Chervona Ruta was a very important Ukrainian rock music festival. : For decades, the Western world perceived 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. The origins of Ukraine's national literature go back to medieval Slavic chronicles such as the 12th century Slovo o polku Ihrevim (The Tale of Ihor's Armament). The beginnings of modern Ukrainian literature stem from mid-18th century wandering philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda, the Ukrainian Socrates. Skovoroda wrote poems and philosophical tracts in Ukrainian, aimed at the common person rather than the elite. Taras Shevchenko, an ardent nationalist who was born a serf in 1814 and became a national hero, was the first major writer in Ukrainian. His work launched a golden age of Ukrainian literature. The most talented and prolific writer of the early 20th century was Ivan Franko, whose work spanned fiction, poetry, drama, philosophy and children's stories. Many writers made the Soviet occupation their subject, and many suffered for it. Vasyl Stus' Winter Trees (1968) and Candle in the Mirror (1977) set the agony of dissidence to poetry; Stus eventually was killed in a Soviet labour camp. The Union of Ukrainian Writers in Kiev was instrumental in bringing about independence from the USSR in 1991. Christianity came to Ukraine late in the 10th century. The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054, and Orthodoxy itself later split into three main branches, each one with a different relationship to Moscow-controlled Russian Orthodoxy and to Roman Catholicism. Church buildings dominate Ukrainian architecture. One unique genre is the wooden church, featuring gables and wooden-shingled onion domes and cupolas - all held together by complex joinery without nails. As part of their campaign to crush Ukrainian identity and nationalism, the Soviets demolished hundreds of sacred buildings in the 1930s, including four 12th century cathedrals. Painting also has its roots in religious themes. Until the 17th century, the key expression was the icon - a small image of Christ, the Virgin, angels or saints, painted on a limewood panel and attributed with healing and spiritual powers. Church murals, mosaics, frescoes and illuminated manuscripts developed at the same time as the icon. The rise of the Cossacks in the 17th century stimulated new schools of secular painting with nationalist themes. After the deadening chill of decades of Soviet Realism, stylistic experimentation and nationalist themes are once again rampant. Almost until the 19th c. in Ukrainian art aesthetic consciousness was not peeled off the spiritual (Christian) attitude to the world. One finds the dimensions of the God's Absolute in icon painting, in popular picture, and in ornaments. In such art any human being feels he to be not only a part of earthly measures, but eternal and heavenly one as well. His consciousness is open to universal existence. However, there is an enormous gap between this profound tradition and present state of art. The tradition of Ukrainian icon-painting and mystic religious theme in started to decline already in the 19th c. and then was broken by seventy years of "de-Christianization" of Ukraine. One if the Ukrainian most famous icon-painters from the nearly past is Sviatoslav Hordynsky. Sviatoslev Hordynsky was the most prominent figure in the church art of Ukrainian Diaspora of the second half of the 20th c. His typical trait consists in combination of Byzantine and Renaissance style. Byzantinesque Paleolog style of Sviatoslev Hordynsky is of later origin with expressed pre-Renaissance feeling, which he fills with authentic humanism and harmony. Turning to mosaic, he also stays on of Byzantine and Renaissance style border as is typical of the monumental art of Byzantine and Kiyiv Rus-Ukraine. In the interior mosaics of the Ukrainian St. Sofia Cathedral in Rome, Hordynsky worked out a mosaics system, which is identical to the basic composition knots in the St. Sofia Cathedral in Kiyiv and added some new Biblical subjects and scenes from the history of early Ukrainian Church. The uniqueness of the temple as such, which is covered with mosaics (today there is no other cathedral of this kind anywhere) is stressed by high artistic quality of mosaics. Important Ukrainian sights acknowledged by UNESCO are Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, L'viv the Ensemble of the Historic Centre, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi. Designed to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, Kiev's Saint-Sophia Cathedral symbolizes the 'new Constantinople', capital of the Christian principality of Kiev, which was created in the 11th century in a region evangelized after the baptism of St Vladimir in 988. The spiritual and intellectual influence of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra contributed to the spread of Orthodox thought and the Orthodox faith in the Russian world from the 17th to the 19th century. The city of L'viv, founded in the late Middle Ages, was a flourishing administrative, religious and commercial centre for several centuries. The medieval urban topography has been preserved virtually intact (in particular, there is evidence of the different ethnic communities who lived there), along with many fine Baroque and later buildings. In its urban fabric and its architecture, Lviv is an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany. The political and commercial role of Lviv attracted to it a number of ethnic groups with different cultural and religious traditions, who established separate yet interdependent communities within the city, evidence for which is still discernible in the modern townscape. The Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi constitute a site embracing almost 30 ha of hillside within Kampala district. Most of the site is agricultural, farmed by traditional methods. At its core on the hilltop is the former palace of the Kabakas of Buganda, built in 1882 and converted into the royal burial ground in 1884. Four royal tombs now lie within the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, the main building, which is circular and surmounted by a dome. It is a major example of an architectural achievement in organic materials, principally wood, thatch, reed, wattle and daub. The site's main significance lies, however, in its intangible values of belief, spirituality, continuity and identity.


Ukraine -- Political system, law and government --

Ukraine is a democracy under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The President of Ukraine (elected by popular vote) nominates the Prime Minister, who must be confirmed by the 450-seat parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. The President (on advice and consent of the Prime Minister) appoints members of the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as heads of all central agencies and regional and district administrations.Laws, acts of the parliament and the Cabinet, presidential edicts, and acts of the Crimean parliament (Autonomous Republic of Crimea) may be nullified by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, when they are found to violate the Constitution of Ukraine. Other normative acts are subject to judicial review. The Supreme Court of Ukraine is the main body in the system of courts of general jurisdiction.Local self-government is officially guaranteed. Local councils and city mayors are popularly elected and exercise control over local budgets. In practice, the scope of local self-government is limited.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. The list of parties in approximate order of parliamentary membership representation is as follows: People's Union Our Ukraine ( "Honorary head" of the party Viktor Yushchenko), Communist Party of Ukraine(Petro Symonenko, first secretary), Party of Regions of Ukraine (Viktor Yanukovych, chairman), Socialist Party of Ukraine or SPU (Oleksandr Moroz, chairman), People's Agrarian Party of Ukraine (Volodymyr Lytvyn, chairman), United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (Viktor Medvedchuk, chairman), Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (Yuliya Tymoshenko, chairperson), People's Democratic Party (Valeriy Pustovoytenko, chairman), Working Ukraine (Ihor Sharov, chairman), People's Movement of Ukraine (Rukh) (Borys Tarasyuk, chairman), Reforms and Order Party (Viktor Pynzenyk, chairman), Sobor Party (Anatoliy Matviyenko, chairman), Ukrainian Popular Party (Yuriy Kostenko, chairman). Ukraine is subdivided into twenty-four oblasts (provinces) and one autonomous republic (Crimea). Additionally, two cities have a special legal status. The oblasts are: Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Chernivtsi, Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, Kirovohrad, City of Kiev, Kiev Oblast, Luhansk, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Poltava, Rivne, City of Sevastopol, Sumy, Ternopil, Vinnytsia, Volyn, Zakarpattia, Zaporizhia, Zhytomyr.

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