Ukraine has been at the center of a geopolitical storm, but it’s also home to incredible food, culture and history. From borscht to varenyky, there are many reasons to love Ukraine.
Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine achieved short-lived independence before being reconquered by Soviet rule, which engineered two forced famines that killed 7 to 8 million Ukrainians. The legacy of dictatorship, repression and patronage politics stalled economic reform and civil liberties.
The current political system is a semi-presidential republic with a unicameral legislature; an executive branch led by the president, who is head of state and commander in chief; and a Cabinet of Ministers. The country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, which oversees police and other law enforcement personnel, reports to the cabinet; while the Security Service of Ukraine, responsible for state security broadly defined as nonmilitary intelligence, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism matters, reports to the president.
In 2019, voters elected TV star and neophyte politician Volodymyr Zelenskyy to replace Poroshenko, who had served since 2014. Amid a backdrop of fighting with Russian-backed separatists, he pledged to refocus on economic development, fight corruption and graft, and protect the rights of women, children, and minorities.
Although the Ukrainian constitution and law prohibit arbitrary detention, human rights groups criticized the number of cases where this occurred. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) documented at least 53 alleged cases of arbitrary detention in 2019.
The chernozems—which cover about two-thirds of Ukraine’s territory—are among the world’s most fertile soils. They can be divided into three broad zones: in the north a belt of the so-called deep chernozems, which are up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) thick and rich in humus; in central Ukraine a zone of prairie, or ordinary, chernozems that are much thinner, but still have a high yield; and in the south a belt of sand and sandy loam, which are less productive.
With an abundance of natural resources, Ukraine has historically been a major producer and exporter of grain, timber, steel, machine equipment, energy, chemicals, automobiles, and raw materials. Known as one of the traditional breadbaskets of the world, it is today home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also a popular tourist destination, especially for its beautiful landscapes and historical sites. The country’s many rivers and lakes add to the appeal, as do its famous artisanal products such as ceramics and leather goods. The country is also a leader in biotechnology, with significant research in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and medicine. In addition, it has a large and active diaspora in the US, UK, Germany, Israel, Australia, and elsewhere.