Ukraine is Europe’s second largest country, spanning 600,000 square kilometres. It borders Russia to the northeast, Belarus to the east, Poland to the south, and Romania to the west. While Russia considers Western Ukraine to be a threat, Kiev is seeking closer integration with Western Europe. The two countries share a history of tense relations.
Prior to its independence from the Soviet Union, Ukraine was a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union occupied two-thirds of the country, annexing western regions. In 1991, Ukraine became an independent nation.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, several million people have been internally displaced. Some tens of millions more have travelled to other nations. Moreover, the Ukrainian economy has suffered from economic stagnation. This has led to a rise in the popularity of Western institutions. Many of these institutions have attempted to revive the country’s culture. However, the business elite has a history of directing the country’s politics.
In the early medieval era, a group of East Slavic tribes, including Crimean Tatars, Cossacks, and Mongols, inhabited the area. Kievan Rus rulers eventually adopted the tribes.
Ukrainians are predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christians. They have a significant Russian-speaking minority. Most Ukrainians speak Ukrainian as a native language. But Russian is spoken in cities, and a substantial percentage of the population speaks the Russian language as their first language.
In the early 13th century, the Mongols began an assault on Kyivan Rus. The resulting war resulted in the destruction of most of the city, as well as the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. By the mid-19th century, the majority of the people were farmers on land that they did not own.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, tensions between Moscow and Kiev rose. In addition, Russia began supporting armed separatists in the Donbas region. These forces are attempting to break away from the government in Kiev.
Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union from 1921 until 1991. It was later named the Ukrainian Republic and its first president was Leonid Kravchuk. Although he was removed from office in 2014, he was returned in 2018. He sought closer ties with Russia, and was elected as president twice.
Ukraine is a member of the United Nations, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe. The European Union has taken an interest in the country.
Despite the instability, the country exhibits Eastern European culture. For centuries, Christianity had a strong presence. During the Renaissance, Ukraine was influenced by European art. Today, the borscht, or cabbage soup, is considered a national dish. There is a national tourist attraction at Chernobyl, a nuclear reactor that was exploded in 1986.
Since the Orange Revolution, the country’s political environment has been rocky. However, a presidential election is scheduled for February and March of this year. Viktor Yanukovych, a former mayor of Kiev, is expected to be elected. However, there are reports of violent protests in different parts of the country.