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Україна (Ukrainian)
Anthem: Державний Гімн України
Derzhavnyi Himn Ukrainy
Europe-Ukraine (и не контролируемые).png
and largest city
49°N 32°E / 49°N 32°E / 49; 32Coordinates: 49°N 32°E / 49°N 32°E / 49; 32
Official language
and national language
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary semi-presidential republic
• President
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Denys Shmyhal
Ruslan Stefanchuk
LegislatureVerkhovna Rada
18 August 1649
10 June 1917
22 January 1918
1 November 1918
22 January 1919
24 August 1991
1 December 1991
28 June 1996
18–23 February 2014
• Total
603,628[5] km2 (233,062 sq mi) (45th)
• Water (%)
• January 2022 estimate
Decrease 41,167,336[7]
(excluding Crimea) (36th)
• 2001 census
• Density
73.8/km2 (191.1/sq mi) (115th)
GDP (PPP)2021 estimate
• Total
Increase $584 billion[8] (48th)
• Per capita
Increase $14,150[8] (108th)
GDP (nominal)2021 estimate
• Total
Increase $181 billion[8] (55th)
• Per capita
Increase $4,380[8] (119th)
Gini (2020)Positive decrease 25.6[9]
HDI (2019)Increase 0.779[10]
high · 74th
CurrencyHryvnia (₴) (UAH)
Time zoneUTC+2[11] (EET)
• Summer (DST)
Driving sideright
Calling code+380
ISO 3166 codeUA
Internet TLD

Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, romanizedUkraïna, pronounced [ʊkrɐˈjinɐ] (listen)) is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the second-largest European country,[12] covering approximately 600,000 square kilometres (230,000 sq mi),[a] and has a population of around 40 million people.[13][14][b] It is bordered by Russia to the east and northeast;[c] by Belarus to the north; by Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; and by Romania and Moldova[d] to the southwest; with a coastline along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. Kyiv is Ukraine's capital as well as its largest city. The country's language is Ukrainian, and many people are also fluent in Russian.[15]

During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture under the state of Kievan Rus', which emerged in the 9th century and was destroyed by a Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Over the next 600 years, the area was contested, divided, and ruled by a variety of external powers, including the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Austrian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Tsardom of Russia. The Cossack Hetmanate emerged in central Ukraine in the 17th century, but was partitioned between Russia and Poland, and ultimately completely into the Russian Empire. Ukrainian nationalism grew in the 19th century, particularly in Galicia, a kingdom within Austria-Hungary. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, a Ukrainian national movement re-emerged, and formed the Ukrainian People's Republic in 1917. This short-lived state was forcibly reconstituted by the Bolsheviks into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which became a founding member of the Soviet Union in 1922. In the 1930s, millions of Ukrainians were killed by the Holodomor, a man-made famine of the Stalinist era. In 1939, with the secret agreement of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union invaded and annexed lands with predominant Ukrainian population from Poland to western Ukraine.[16] Between 1922 and 1991, Ukraine was the most populous and industrialized Soviet republic after Russia.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine regained its independence, and has since been governed as a unitary republic under a semi-presidential system. Shortly after becoming one of the post-Soviet states it declared itself neutral;[17] forming a limited military partnership with Russia and the rest of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States, while also joining the Partnership for Peace with NATO in 1994. In 2013, a series of mass protests and demonstrations known as the Euromaidan erupted across Ukraine, eventually escalating into the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, which led to the establishment of a new government amidst a notable outbreak of pro-Russia unrest across Ukraine. During this period, unmarked Russian troops invaded the Crimean Peninsula, which was later annexed by Russia; and pro-Russia unrest in Ukraine's Donbas culminated in Russia-backed separatists seizing territory throughout the region, sparking the War in Donbas. This series of events marked the beginning of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, and in a major escalation of the conflict in February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since the outbreak of war with Russia in 2014, Ukraine has continued to seek closer economic, political, and military ties with the Western world, including the European Union and NATO.[18]

Ukraine is a developing country and a middle power, ranking high in the Human Development Index. In 2021, it had the world's 55th largest economy by nominal GDP. Despite having a rapidly growing free-market economy, Ukraine remains among the poorest countries in Europe by nominal GDP per capita,[19] which some journalists have attributed to high corruption.[20][21] However, due to its extensive fertile land, pre-war Ukraine was one of the largest grain exporters in the world.[22][23] It is a founding member of the United Nations, as well as a member of the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the OSCE, and is currently in the process of joining the European Union.

Etymology and orthography

There are different hypotheses as to the etymological origins of the name of Ukraine. The most widespread hypothesis theorizes that it comes from the old Slavic term for "borderland",[24] as does the word krajina.

During most of the 20th century, Ukraine (whether independent or not) was referred to in the English-speaking world prefaced with the definite article, i.e., "the Ukraine".[25] This is because the word ukraina means "borderland"[26] and so an article would be natural in the English language; this is similar to "Nederlanden", which means "low lands" and is rendered in English as "the Netherlands".[27] However, since Ukraine's declaration of independence in 1991, the use of the definite article in the name has become politicised and is now rarer, and style guides advise against its use.[28][29] According to US ambassador William Taylor, as of the 2010s using "the Ukraine" implies disregard for Ukrainian sovereignty.[30] The official Ukrainian position is that "the Ukraine" is incorrect, both grammatically and politically.[31]


Early history

A gold Scythian neckpiece, from a royal kurgan in Pokrov
(4th century BC).

Settlement by modern humans in Ukraine and its vicinity dates back to 32,000 BC, with evidence of the Gravettian culture in the Crimean Mountains.[32][33] By 4,500 BC, the Neolithic Cucuteni–Trypillia culture was flourishing in wide areas of modern Ukraine, including Trypillia and the entire Dnieper-Dniester region. Ukraine is also considered to be the likely location of the first domestication of the horse.[34][35][36][37] During the Iron Age, the land was inhabited by Cimmerians, Scythians, and Sarmatians.[38] Between 700 BC and 200 BC it was part of the Scythian kingdom.[39]

From the 6th century BC, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine colonies were established on the north-eastern shore of the Black Sea, such as at Tyras, Olbia, and Chersonesus. These thrived into the 6th century AD. The Goths stayed in the area, but came under the sway of the Huns from the 370s. In the 7th century, the territory that is now eastern Ukraine was the centre of Old Great Bulgaria. At the end of the century, the majority of Bulgar tribes migrated in different directions, and the Khazars took over much of the land.[40]

In the 5th and 6th centuries, the Early Slavic, Antes people lived in Ukraine. The Antes were the ancestors of Ukrainians: White Croats, Severians, Eastern Polans, Drevlyans, Dulebes, Ulichians, and Tiverians. Migrations from the territories of present-day Ukraine throughout the Balkans established many South Slavic nations. Northern migrations, reaching almost to Lake Ilmen, led to the emergence of the Ilmen Slavs, Krivichs, and Radimichs, the groups ancestral to the Russians. Following an Avar raid in 602 and the collapse of the Antes Union, most of these peoples survived as separate tribes until the beginning of the second millennium.[41][need quotation to verify]

Golden Age of Kyiv

The furthest extent of Kievan Rus'
, 1054–1132.

The establishment of the Kievan Rus' remains obscure and uncertain; there are at least three versions depending on interpretations of the chronicles.[42] In general, the state included much of present-day Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.[43] According to the Primary Chronicle the Rus' elite and rulers initially consisted of Varangians from Scandinavia.[44] In 882, the pagan Prince Oleg (Oleh) conquered Kyiv from Askold and Dir and proclaimed it as the capital of the Rus'.[45] However, it also believed that the East Slavic tribes along the southern parts of the Dnieper River were already in the process of forming a state independently.[46]

During the 10th and 11th centuries, Kievan Rus' became the largest and most powerful state in Europe.[47] The Varangians later assimilated into the Slavic population and became part of the first Rus' dynasty, the Rurik dynasty.[43] Kievan Rus' was composed of several principalities ruled by the interrelated Rurikid kniazes ("princes"), who often fought each other for possession of Kyiv.[48]

The Golden Age of Kievan Rus' began with the reign of Vladimir the Great (980–1015), who turned Rus' toward Byzantine Christianity. During the reign of his son, Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054), Kievan Rus' reached the zenith of its cultural development and military power.[43] The state soon fragmented as the relative importance of regional powers rose again. After a final resurgence under the rule of Vladimir II Monomakh (1113–1125) and his son Mstislav (1125–1132), Kievan Rus' finally disintegrated into separate principalities following Mstislav's death.[49]

The 13th-century Mongol invasion devastated Kievan Rus' and Kyiv was completely destroyed in 1240.[50] On today's Ukrainian territory, the principalities of Halych and Volodymyr-Volynskyi arose, and were merged into the state of Galicia–Volhynia.[51] Daniel of Galicia, son of Roman the Great, re-united much of south-western Rus', including Volhynia, Galicia and the ancient capital of Kyiv. He was subsequently crowned by the papal archbishop as the first king of the newly created Kingdom of Ruthenia in 1253.[52]

Foreign domination

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth at its maximum extent in 1619. Poland and the Polish Crown exercised power over much of Ukraine since 1569
and rejected the Ukrainian call for autonomy.

In 1349, Ruthenia ceased to exist as an independent entity in the aftermath of the Galicia–Volhynia Wars, with its lands partitioned between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[53] From the mid-13th century to the late 1400s the Republic of Genoa founded numerous colonies in the Black Sea region of modern Ukraine and transformed these into large commercial centers headed by the consul, a representative of the Republic.[54] In 1430, the region of Podolia was incorporated into Poland and Ukraine became increasingly settled by Polish colonisers.[55] In 1441, Genghisid prince Haci I Giray founded the Crimean Khanate on the Crimean Peninsula and the surrounding steppes;[56] the Khanate orchestrated Tatar slave raids and took an estimated two million Ruthenian slaves.[57][58]

In 1569 the Union of Lublin established the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and most of the former Ruthenian lands were transferred from Lithuania to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, becoming de jure Polish territory. Under the pressures of Polonisation, many landed gentry of Ruthenia converted to Catholicism and joined the circles of the Polish nobility.[59]

Deprived of native protectors among Rus nobility, the peasants and townspeople began turning for protection to the emerging Zaporozhian Cossacks. In the mid-17th century, a Cossack military quasi-state, the Zaporozhian Host, was formed by Dnieper Cossacks and Ruthenian peasants.[60] Poland exercised little real control over this population, but found the Cossacks to be useful against the Turks and Tatars,[61] and at times the two were allies in military campaigns.[62] However, the continued harsh enserfment of Ruthenian peasantry by Polish overlords and the suppression of the Orthodox Church alienated the Cossacks.[61] The Cossacks did not shy from taking up arms against those they perceived as enemies and occupiers, including the Polish Catholic state with its local representatives.[63]

Cossack Hetmanate

In 1648, Bohdan Khmelnytsky led the largest of the Cossack uprisings against the Commonwealth and the Polish king.[64] After Khmelnytsky made an entry into Kyiv in 1648, where he was hailed liberator of the people from Polish captivity, he founded the Cossack Hetmanate, which existed until 1764 (some sources claim until 1782).[65] After Khmelnytsky suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Berestechko in 1651, he turned to the Russian tsar for help. In 1654, Khmelnytsky was subject to the Pereyaslav Council, forming a military and political alliance with Russia that acknowledged loyalty to the Russian monarch.

In the period 1657–1686 came "The Ruin", a devastating 30-year war amongst Russia, Poland, the Crimean Khanate, the Ottoman Empire, and Cossacks for control of the Cossack Hetmanate. The wars escalated in intensity with hundreds of thousands of deaths. The "Treaty of Perpetual Peace" between Russia and Poland in 1686 divided the lands of the Cossack Hetmanate between them, reducing the portion over which Poland had claimed sovereignty. In 1686, the Metropolitanate of Kyiv was annexed by the Moscow Patriarchate through a synodal letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Dionysius IV, thus placing the Metropolitanate of Kyiv under the authority of Moscow.

In 1709, Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1639–1709) defected to Sweden against Russia in the Great Northern War (1700–1721).[66] Eventually Tsar Peter recognized that to consolidate and modernize Russia's political and economic power it was necessary to do away with the Cossack Hetmanate as well as the Ukrainian and Cossack aspirations to autonomy.[66] Mazepa died in exile after fleeing from the Battle of Poltava (1709), in which the Swedes and their Cossack allies suffered a catastrophic defeat.[66]

Russia's victory over Charles XII of Sweden and his ally Ivan Mazepa at the Battle of Poltava (1709) destroyed Cossack

In 1768, the Cossacks led yet another anti-Polish uprising, called Koliivshchyna, killing tens of thousands of Poles and Jews who settled Ukraine in the previous centuries.[67] Religious warfare also broke out between two Ukrainian groups. Increasing conflict between the Ruthenian Uniate Church and Orthodox parishes along the newly reinforced Polish-Russian border on the Dnieper eventually led to the uprising. Faith also reflected the opposing Polish (Western Catholic) and Russian (Eastern Orthodox) political allegiances.[68]

In the years 1764-1781, Catherine the Great incorporated much of Central Ukraine into the Russian Empire when the Cossack Hetmanate and the Zaporozhian Sich were abolished. After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 1783, the newly acquired lands, now called Novorossiya were opened up to settlement by Russians.[69] The tsarist autocracy established a policy of Russification, suppressing the use of the Ukrainian language and curtailing the Ukrainian national identity.[70] The western part of present-day Ukraine was subsequently split between Russia and Habsburg-ruled Austria after the fall of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795.

19th and early 20th century

Beginning in the 19th century, there was migration from Ukraine to distant areas of the Russian Empire. According to the 1897 census, there were 223,000 ethnic Ukrainians in Siberia and 102,000 in Central Asia.[71] An additional 1.6 million emigrated to the east in the ten years after the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1906.[72] Far Eastern areas with an ethnic Ukrainian population became known as Green Ukraine.[73]

The 19th century saw the rise of Ukrainian nationalism, particularly in Austrian Galicia under the relatively lenient rule of the Habsburgs.[74] With growing urbanization and modernization, and a cultural trend toward romantic nationalism, a Ukrainian intelligentsia committed to national rebirth and social justice emerged. The serf-turned-national-poet Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861) and the political theorist Mykhailo Drahomanov (1841–1895) led the growing nationalist movement.[75][76]

Ukrainians entered World War I on the side of both the Central Powers, under Austria, and the Triple Entente, under Russia. Around 3.5 million Ukrainians fought with the Imperial Russian Army, while 250,000 fought for the Austro-Hungarian Army.[77] During the Russian Revolution and War of Independence, the short-lived Ukrainian People's Republic was proclaimed on 23 June 1917. The Bolshevik Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (or Soviet Ukraine) successively established territories in the former Russian Empire; while the West Ukrainian People's Republic and the Hutsul Republic emerged briefly in the Ukrainian lands of former Austro-Hungarian territory.[78]

Inter-war Ukraine

A starved man on the streets of Kharkiv, 1933. Collectivization of crops and their confiscation by Soviet authorities led to a major famine in Soviet Ukraine known as the Holodomor

Following the Polish–Ukrainian War and the Polish–Soviet War, western Ukraine was incorporated into Poland and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was formed in lands annexed by the Bolsheviks (1921 Peace of Riga). Modern-day Bukovina was occupied by Romania and Carpathian Ruthenia was admitted to Czechoslovakia as an autonomy.[79]

In Poland, the Polish government openly propagated anti-Ukrainian sentiment and restricted rights of people who declared Ukrainian nationality and belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church.[80][81] In consequence, an underground Ukrainian nationalist and militant movement arose in the 1920s and 1930s, which gradually transformed into the Ukrainian Military Organization and later the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

The Russian Civil War devastated the whole Russian Empire including eastern and central Ukraine. It left over 1.5 million people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the former Russian Empire territory. Soviet Ukraine also faced the Russian famine of 1921 (primarily affecting the Russian Volga-Ural region).[82][83] During the 1920s,[84] under the Ukrainisation policy pursued by the national Communist leadership of Mykola Skrypnyk, Soviet leadership encouraged a national renaissance in Ukrainian culture and language. Ukrainisation was part of the Soviet-wide policy of Korenisation (literally indigenisation). Starting from the late 1920s with a centrally planned economy, Soviet Ukraine took part in an industrialisation scheme which quadrupled its industrial output during the 1930s.

During the early Soviet period, the Ukrainian peasantry suffered from the programme of collectivization of agricultural crops. Collectivization was part of the first five-year plan and was enforced by regular troops and the secret police known as Cheka. Those who resisted were arrested and deported to gulags and work camps. As members of the collective farms were sometimes not allowed to receive any grain until unrealistic quotas were met, millions starved to death in a famine known as the Holodomor or the "Great Famine", which was recognized by some countries as an act of genocide perpetrated by Joseph Stalin and other Soviet notables.[85] Largely the same groups were responsible for the mass killing operations during the civil war, collectivization, and the Great Terror.[86]

World War II

The territorial evolution of the Ukrainian SSR
, 1922–1954

Following the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, German and Soviet troops divided the territory of Poland. Thus, Eastern Galicia and Volhynia with their Ukrainian population became part of Ukraine. For the first time in history, the nation was united.[87][88]

In 1940, the Soviets annexed Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. The Ukrainian SSR incorporated the northern and southern districts of Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and the Hertsa region. But it ceded the western part of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to the newly created Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. These territorial gains of the USSR were internationally recognized by the Paris peace treaties of 1947.[citation needed]

Marshal Timoshenko (born in the Budjak region) commanded numerous fronts throughout the war, including the Southwestern Front
east of Kyiv in 1941.

German armies invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, initiating nearly four years of total war. The Axis initially advanced against desperate but unsuccessful efforts of the Red Army. In the encirclement battle of Kyiv, the city was acclaimed as a "Hero City", because of its fierce resistance. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers (or one-quarter of the Soviet Western Front) were killed or taken captive there, with many suffering severe mistreatment.[89][90]

Although the majority of Ukrainians fought in or alongside the Red Army and Soviet resistance,[91] in Western Ukraine an independent Ukrainian Insurgent Army movement arose (UPA, 1942). It was created as the armed forces of the underground Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).[92][93]

Both organizations, the OUN and the UPA, supported the goal of an independent Ukrainian state on the territory with a Ukrainian ethnic majority. Although this brought conflict with Nazi Germany, at times the Melnyk wing of the OUN allied with the Nazi forces. From mid-1943 until the end of the war the UPA carried out massacres of ethnic Poles in the Volhynia and Eastern Galicia regions, killing around 100,000 Polish civilians,[94] which brought reprisals.[95]

These organized massacres were an attempt by the OUN to create a homogeneous Ukrainian state without a Polish minority living within its borders, and to prevent the post-war Polish state from asserting its sovereignty over areas that had been part of pre-war Poland.[96] After the war, the UPA continued to fight the USSR until the 1950s.[97][98] At the same time, the Ukrainian Liberation Army, another nationalist movement, fought alongside the Nazis.[99]

Kyiv suffered significant damage during World War II, and was occupied by the Germans
from 19 September 1941 until 6 November 1943.

In total, the number of ethnic Ukrainians who fought in the ranks of the Soviet Army is estimated from 4.5 million[91] to 7 million.[100][c] The pro-Soviet partisan guerrilla resistance in Ukraine is estimated at 47,800 from the start of occupation to 500,000 at its peak in 1944, with about 50% being ethnic Ukrainians.[101] Generally, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army's figures are unreliable, with figures ranging anywhere from 15,000 to as many as 100,000 fighters.[102][103]

Most of the Ukrainian SSR was organised within the Reichskommissariat Ukraine, with the intention of exploiting its resources and eventual German settlement. Some western Ukrainians, who had only joined the Soviet Union in 1939, hailed the Germans as liberators. Brutal German rule eventually turned their supporters against the Nazi administrators, who made little attempt to exploit dissatisfaction with Stalinist policies.[104] Instead, the Nazis preserved the collective-farm system, carried out genocidal policies against Jews, deported millions of people to work in Germany, and began a depopulation program to prepare for German colonisation.[104] They blockaded the transport of food on the Kyiv River.[105]

The vast majority of the fighting in World War II took place on the Eastern Front.[106] By some estimates, 93% of all German casualties took place there.[107] The total losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian population during the war are estimated at 6 million,[108][109] including an estimated one and a half million Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen,[110] sometimes with the help of local collaborators. Of the estimated 8.6 million Soviet troop losses,[111][112][113] 1.4 million were ethnic Ukrainians.[111][113][c][d] Victory Day is celebrated as one of ten Ukrainian national holidays.[114] The losses of the Ukrainian people in the war amounted to 40–44% of the total losses of the USSR.[115]

Post–World War II

Two future leaders of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev (left, pre-war CPSU chief in Ukraine) and Leonid Brezhnev (an engineer from Kamianske

The republic was heavily damaged by the war, and it required significant efforts to recover. More than 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages were destroyed.[116] The situation was worsened by a famine in 1946–1947, which was caused by a drought and the wartime destruction of infrastructure. The death toll of this famine varies, with even the lowest estimate in the tens of thousands.[109] In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the founding members of the United Nations organization,[117] part of a special agreement at the Yalta Conference.[118]

Post-war ethnic cleansing occurred in the newly expanded Soviet Union. As of 1 January 1953, Ukrainians were second only to Russians among adult "special deportees", comprising 20% of the total.[119] In addition, over 450,000 ethnic Germans from Ukraine and more than 200,000 Crimean Tatars were victims of forced deportations.[119]

Following the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the new leader of the USSR. Having served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukrainian SSR in 1938–1949, Khrushchev was intimately familiar with the republic; after taking power union-wide, he began to emphasize "the friendship" between the Ukrainian and Russian nations. In 1954, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav was widely celebrated. Crimea was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.[120]

By 1950, the republic had fully surpassed pre-war levels of industry and production.[121] Soviet Ukraine soon became a European leader in industrial production[122] and an important centre of the Soviet arms industry and high-tech research. Such an important role resulted in a major influence of the local elite. Many members of the Soviet leadership came from Ukraine, most notably Leonid Brezhnev. He later ousted Khrushchev and became the Soviet leader from 1964 to 1982.

On 26 April 1986, a reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history.[123] At the time of the accident, 7 million people lived in the contaminated territories, including 2.2 million in Ukraine.[124]

After the accident, the new city of Slavutych was built outside the exclusion zone to house and support the employees of the plant, which was decommissioned in 2000. A report prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency and World Health Organization attributed 56 direct deaths to the accident and estimated that there may have been 4,000 extra cancer deaths.[125]


On 21 January 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians[126] organised a human chain for Ukrainian independence between Kyiv and Lviv, in memory of the 1919 unification of the Ukrainian People's Republic and the West Ukrainian National Republic. Citizens came out to the streets and highways, forming live chains by holding hands in support of unity.

On 16 July 1990, the new parliament adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine.[127] This established the principles of the self-determination, democracy, independence, and the priority of Ukrainian law over Soviet law. A month earlier, a similar declaration was adopted by the parliament of the Russian SFSR. This started a period of confrontation with the central Soviet authorities. On 2–17 October 1990, the Revolution on Granite took place in Ukraine, the main purpose of the action being to prevent the signing of a new union treaty of the USSR. The demands of the students were satisfied by signing a resolution of the Verkhovna Rada, which guaranteed their implementation.[128]

In August 1991, a faction among the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union

Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin signed the Belavezha Accords, dissolving the Soviet Union
, on 8 December 1991.

A referendum and the first presidential elections took place on 1 December 1991. More than 92%[130] of the electorate expressed their support for the Act of Independence, and they elected the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk, as the first president of Ukraine. At the meeting in Brest, Belarus on 8 December, followed by the Alma Ata meeting on 21 December, the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).[131] On 26 December 1991 the Council of Republics of the USSR Supreme Council adopted the declaration "In regards to creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States" which de jure dissolved the Soviet Union, and the Soviet flag was lowered over the Kremlin.[132] The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine did not ratify the accession, so Ukraine has never been a member of the CIS.[133]

Ukraine was initially viewed as having favourable economic conditions in comparison to the other regions of the Soviet Union.[134] However, the country experienced deeper economic slowdown than some of the other former Soviet Republics. During the recession, between 1991 and 1999, Ukraine lost 60% of its GDP[135][136] and suffered five-digit inflation rates.[137] Dissatisfied with the economic conditions, as well as the amounts of crime and corruption in Ukraine, Ukrainians protested and organized strikes.[138]

The Ukrainian economy stabilized by the end of the 1990s. A new currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in 1996. After 2000, the country enjoyed steady real economic growth averaging about seven percent annually.[139][140] A new Constitution of Ukraine, under the second President Leonid Kuchma in 1996, turned Ukraine into a semi-presidential republic and established a stable political system. Kuchma was, however, criticised by opponents for corruption, electoral fraud, discouraging free speech and concentrating too much power in his office.[141] Ukraine also pursued full nuclear disarmament, giving up the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world and dismantling or removing all strategic bombers on its territory in exchange for various assurances (main article: Nuclear weapons and Ukraine).[142]

Orange Revolution

Protesters at Independence Square on the first day of the Orange Revolution

In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, then prime minister, was declared the winner of the presidential elections, which the Supreme Court of Ukraine later ruled had been largely rigged.[143] The results caused a public outcry in support of the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who challenged the outcome. During the tumultuous months of the revolution, candidate Yushchenko suddenly became gravely ill, and was soon found by multiple independent physician groups to have been poisoned by TCDD dioxin.[144][145] Yushchenko strongly suspected Russian involvement in his poisoning.[146] All of this eventually resulted in the peaceful Orange Revolution, which brought Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to power, while casting Yanukovych in opposition.[147]

Yanukovych returned to power in 2006 as prime minister in the Alliance of National Unity,[148] until snap elections in September 2007 made Tymoshenko prime minister again.[149] Amid the 2008–09 Ukrainian financial crisis the Ukrainian economy shrank by 15%.[150] Disputes with Russia briefly stopped all gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006 and again in 2009, leading to gas shortages in other countries.[151][152] Yanukovych was elected President in 2010 with 48% of the vote.[153]

Euromaidan and the Revolution of Dignity

Pro-EU demonstration in Kyiv, 27 November 2013, during the Euromaidan

The Euromaidan (Ukrainian: Євромайдан, literally "Eurosquare") protests started in November 2013 after the president, Viktor Yanukovych, began moving away from an association agreement that had been in the works with the European Union and instead chose to establish closer ties with the Russian Federation.[154][155][156] Some Ukrainians took to the streets to show their support for closer ties with Europe.[157]

Meanwhile, in the predominantly Russian-speaking east, a large portion of the population opposed the Euromaidan protests, instead supporting the Yanukovych government.[158] Over time, Euromaidan came to describe a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine,[159] the scope of which evolved to include calls for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government.[160]

Violence escalated after 16 January 2014 when the government accepted new Anti-Protest Laws. Violent anti-government demonstrators occupied buildings in the centre of Kyiv, including the Justice Ministry building, and riots from 18 to 20 February left 98 dead, with approximately fifteen thousand injured and 100 missing.[161][162][163][164][165][166] On 21 February, President Yanukovych signed a compromise deal with opposition leaders that promised constitutional changes to restore certain powers to Parliament and called for early elections to be held by December.[167]

However, Members of Parliament voted on 22 February to remove the president and set an election for 25 May to select his replacement, a move described by Russia and US academic John Mearsheimer as a coup.[168][169][170][171] The ousting[172] of Yanukovych prompted Vladimir Putin to begin preparations to annex Crimea on 23 February 2014.[173][174] Petro Poroshenko, running on a pro-European Union platform, won with over fifty percent of the vote, therefore not requiring a run-off election.[175][176][177] Upon his election, Poroshenko announced that his immediate priorities would be to take action on the civil unrest in Eastern Ukraine and mend ties with the Russian Federation.[175][176][177] In October 2014 Parliament elections, the party Petro Poroshenko Bloc won 132 of the 423 contested seats.[178]

2014 Russian armed interventions and invasion

Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, is shown in pink. Pink in the Donbas area represents areas held by the DPR/LPR
separatists in September 2014 (cities in red).

Using the Russian naval base at Sevastopol as cover, Putin directed Russian troops and intelligence agents to disarm Ukrainian forces and take control of Crimea.[179][180][181][182] After the troops entered Crimea,[183] a controversial referendum was held on 16 March 2014 and the official result was that 97 percent wished to join with Russia.[184]

On 18 March 2014, Russia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea signed a treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian Federation. The UN General Assembly immediately responded by passing resolution 68/262 declaring that the referendum was invalid and supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine; only Russia voted against the resolution. However, it was not enforceable.[185][186][187][188] Attempts to pass enforceable resolutions in the U.N. Security Council were blocked by Russian vetoes.[187][188][189]

Separately, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, armed men declaring themselves as local militia and supported by pro-Russian protesters[190] seized government buildings, police and special[clarification needed] police stations in several cities and held unrecognised status referendums.[191] The insurgency was led by Russian emissaries Igor Girkin[192] and Alexander Borodai[193] as well as militants from Russia, such as Arseny Pavlov.[194] They proclaimed the self styled Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic which have controlled about 13 of the oblasts since then.[195]

Talks in Geneva between the EU, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States yielded a Joint Diplomatic Statement referred to as the 2014 Geneva Pact[196] in which the parties requested that all unlawful militias lay down their arms and vacate seized government buildings, and also establish a political dialogue that could lead to more autonomy for Ukraine's regions. When Petro Poroshenko won the presidential election held on 25 May 2014, he vowed to continue the military operations by the Ukrainian government forces to end the armed insurgency.[197]

In August 2014, a bilateral commission of leading scholars from the United States and Russia issued the Boisto Agenda outlining a 24-step plan to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.[198] The Boisto Agenda was organized into five imperative categories for addressing the crisis requiring stabilization identified as: (1) Elements of an Enduring, Verifiable Ceasefire; (2) Economic Relations; (3) Social and Cultural Issues; (4) Crimea; and, (5) International Status of Ukraine.[198] In late 2014, Ukraine ratified the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, which Poroshenko described as Ukraine's "first but most decisive step" towards EU membership.[199] Poroshenko also set 2020 as the target for EU membership application.[200]

In February 2015, after a summit hosted in Minsk, Belarus, Poroshenko negotiated a ceasefire with the separatist troops. The resulting agreements, known as the Minsk Protocol, included conditions such as the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the front line and decentralisation of rebel regions by the end of 2015.[201] They also included conditions such as Ukrainian control of the border with Russia in 2015 and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Ukrainian territory. The ceasefire began on 15 February 2015. Participants in this ceasefire also agreed to attend regular meetings to ensure that the agreement was respected.[202]

On 1 January 2016, Ukraine joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union,[18] which aims to modernize and develop Ukraine's economy, governance and rule of law to EU standards and gradually increase integration with the EU Internal market.[203] In 2017 the European Union approved visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens: entitling Ukrainians to travel to the Schengen area for tourism, family visits and business reasons, with the only document required being a valid biometric passport.[204]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine with the annexed Crimea at bottom and two self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donbas
at right

In the spring of 2021, Russia began building up troop strengths along its border with Ukraine.[205][206] On 22 February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered military forces to enter the breakaway Ukrainian republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, calling the act a "peacekeeping mission". Putin also officially recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as sovereign states, fully independent from the Ukrainian government.[207][208]

In the early hours of 24 February 2022, Putin announced what he called a "special military operation" to "demilitarise and denazify" Ukraine, launching a large-scale invasion of the country.[209] Later in the day, the Ukrainian government announced that Russia had taken control of Chernobyl.[210] On 28 February 2022, Ukraine asked for immediate admission to the European Union in response to the invasion.[211] Initially Russian troops were told that the “special military operation” of the invasion of Ukraine would last for only four or five days. [212]

One month later it appeared that early Russian predictions for a quick victory in Ukraine had been based on faulty Russian intelligence.[213] At this point in time after the first thirty days of fighting of the war, Russia had not yet achieved either of its two primary initial objectives, the capture of Ukraine's two largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, with Ukrainian counter-offensives pushing back Russian front lines around Kyiv.[214][unreliable source?] Meanwhile, several newspapers were reporting a woefully under-trained Russian army and of a lack of adequate Russian equipment, food, and weaponry.[215][216]

In late March Ukrainian forces began to reclaim territory in the Kyiv region which had previously been taken and held by Russian troops. Eventually the Kyiv regional Ukrainian forces pushed the Russian front lines in the Kyiv vicinity all of the way back to the Ukrainian border. Meanwhile Russia declared that the Russian “retreat” in the Kyiv region had been a part of its plan all along, and that Russia would merely be repositioning its troops in the Ukrainian east, placing them there to enable a new Donbas area offensive.[217]

On April 14, Ukrainian forces sank the Russian flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva with a missile strike.[218] By the end of April, one month into Russia's new “Donbas Offensive,” Russian forces had not yet managed to advance significantly in the Donbas region, not yet having fully taken a single major metropolitan area in the region since announcing its new “Donbas Offensive." Military analysts continue to refer to the progress of the war as devolving into a "stalemate situation".[219][220]


Simplified depiction of the biomes lying north of the Black Sea. The bright green belt girdling the Black Sea's southern coast, extending westwards, denotes a region of subtropics

Ukraine is the second-largest European country, after Russia. Lying between latitudes 44° and 53° N, and longitudes 22° and 41° E., it is mostly in the East European Plain. Ukraine covers an area of 603,628 square kilometres (233,062 sq mi), with a coastline of 2,782 kilometres (1,729 mi).[47]

The landscape of Ukraine consists mostly of fertile plains (or steppes) and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dnieper (Dnipro), Seversky Donets, Dniester and the Southern Bug 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. Ukraine's various regions have diverse geographic features ranging from the highlands to the lowlands. The country's only mountains are the Carpathian Mountains in the west, of which the highest is Hoverla at 2,061 metres (6,762 ft), and the Crimean Mountains, in the extreme south along the coast.[221]

Ukraine also has a number of highland regions such as the Volyn-Podillia Upland (in the west) and the Near-Dnipro Upland (on the right bank of Dnieper). To the east there are the south-western spurs of the Central Russian Upland over which runs the border with the Russian Federation. Near the Sea of Azov can be found the Donets Ridge and the Near Azov Upland. The snow melt from the mountains feeds the rivers and their waterfalls.

Significant natural resources in Ukraine include lithium,[222] natural gas,[223] kaolin,[223] timber[224] and an abundance of arable land.[225] Ukraine has many environmental issues.[226][227] Some regions lack adequate supplies of potable water.[228] Air and water pollution affects the country, as well as deforestation, and radiation contamination in the northeast stemming from the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.[229]


Ukraine has a mostly temperate climate, except for the southern coast of Crimea which has a subtropical climate.[230] The climate is influenced by moderately warm, humid air from the Atlantic Ocean.[231] Average annual temperatures range from 5.5–7 °C (41.9–44.6 °F) in the north, to 11–13 °C (51.8–55.4 °F) in the south.[231] Precipitation is highest in the west and north and lowest in the east and southeast.[231] Western Ukraine, particularly in the Carpathian Mountains, receives around 120 centimetres (47.2 in) of precipitation annually, while Crimea and the coastal areas of the Black Sea receive around 40 centimetres (15.7 in).[231]

Water availability from the major river basins is expected to decrease due to climate change, especially in summer. This poses risks to the agricultural sector.[232] The negative impacts of climate change on agriculture are mostly felt in the south of the country, which has a steppe climate. In the north, some crops may be able to benefit from a longer growing season.[233] The World Bank has stated that Ukraine is highly vulnerable to climate change.[234]


Ukraine contains six terrestrial ecoregions: Central European mixed forests, Crimean Submediterranean forest complex, East European forest steppe, Pannonian mixed forests, Carpathian montane conifer forests, and Pontic steppe.[235] There is somewhat more coniferous than deciduous forest.[236] The most densely forested area is Polisia in the northwest, with pine, oak, and birch.[236] There are 45,000 species of animal,[237] with approximately 385 endangered species listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine.[238] Internationally important wetlands cover over 7,000 square kilometres (2,700 sq mi), with the Danube Delta being important for conservation.[239][240]

Urban areas

Ukraine has 457 cities, of which 176 are designated as oblast-class, 279 as smaller raion-class cities, and two as special legal status cities. There are also 886 urban-type settlements and 28,552 villages.[241]

Largest cities or towns in Ukraine
2021 [2]
Rank Name Region Pop. Rank Name Region Pop.
1 Kyiv Kyiv (city) 2,962,180 11 Luhansk Luhansk 399,559 Odessa
2 Kharkiv Kharkiv 1,433,886 12 Vinnytsia Vinnytsia 370,601
3 Odessa Odessa 1,015,826 13 Makiivka Donetsk 340,337
4 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 980,948 14 Sevastopol Sevastopol (city) 340,297
5 Donetsk Donetsk 905,364 15 Simferopol Crimea 336,330
6 Zaporizhzhia Zaporizhzhia 722,713 16 Chernihiv Chernihiv 285,234
7 Lviv Lviv 721,510 17 Kherson Kherson 283,649
8 Kryvyi Rih Dnipropetrovsk 612,750 18 Poltava Poltava 283,402
9 Mykolaiv Mykolaiv 476,101 19 Khmelnytskyi Khmelnytskyi 274,582
10 Mariupol Donetsk 431,859 20 Cherkasy Cherkasy 272,651


Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches.[242]


The Constitution of Ukraine was adopted and ratified at the 5th session of the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament of Ukraine, on 28 June 1996.[243] The constitution was passed with 315 ayes out of 450 votes possible (300 ayes minimum).[243] All other laws and other normative[clarification needed] legal acts of Ukraine must conform to the constitution. The right to amend the constitution through a special legislative procedure is vested exclusively in the parliament. The only body that may interpret the constitution and determine whether legislation conforms to it is the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. Since 1996, the public holiday Constitution Day is celebrated on 28 June.[244][245] On 7 February 2019, the Verkhovna Rada voted to amend the constitution to state Ukraine's strategic objectives as joining the European Union and NATO.[246]

President, parliament and government

Volodymyr Zelensky Official portrait.jpg
Денис Шмигаль 2020 3 (cropped).jpg
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Denys Shmyhal
Prime Minister

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is the formal head of state.[247] Ukraine's legislative branch includes the 450-seat unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.[248] The parliament is primarily responsible for the formation of the executive branch and the Cabinet of Ministers, headed by the prime minister.[249] The president retains the authority to nominate the ministers of foreign affairs and of defence for parliamentary approval, as well as the power to appoint the prosecutor general and the head of the Security Service.[250]

Laws, acts of the parliament and the cabinet, presidential decrees, and acts of the Crimean parliament may be abrogated by the Constitutional Court, should they be found to violate the constitution. Other normative acts are subject to judicial review. The Supreme Court 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. The heads of regional and district administrations are appointed by the president in accordance with the proposals of the prime minister.[251]

Courts and law enforcement

Martial law was declared immediately upon the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,[252] and is currently ongoing.[253][254]

The courts enjoy legal, financial and constitutional freedom guaranteed by Ukrainian law since 2002. Judges are largely well protected from dismissal (except in the instance of gross misconduct). Court justices are appointed by presidential decree for an initial period of five years, after which Ukraine's Supreme Council confirms their positions for life. Although there are still problems, the system is considered to have been much improved since Ukraine's independence in 1991. The Supreme Court is regarded as an independent and impartial body, and has on several occasions ruled against the Ukrainian government. The World Justice Project ranks Ukraine 66 out of 99 countries surveyed in its annual Rule of Law Index.[255]

Prosecutors in Ukraine have greater powers than in most European countries, and according to the European Commission for Democracy through Law 'the role and functions of the Prosecutor's Office is not in accordance with Council of Europe standards".[256] The criminal judicial system maintains an average conviction rate of over 99%,[257] equal to the conviction rate of the Soviet Union, with[258] suspects often being incarcerated for long periods before trial.[259]

On 24 March 2010, President Yanukovych formed an expert group to make recommendations on how to "clean up the current mess and adopt a law on court organization".[259] One day later, he stated "We can no longer disgrace our country with such a court system."[259] The criminal judicial system and the prison system of Ukraine remain quite punitive.[260]

Since 1 January 2010 it has been permissible to hold court proceedings in Russian by mutual consent of the parties. Citizens unable to speak Ukrainian or Russian may use their native language or the services of a translator.[261][262] Previously all court proceedings had to be held in Ukrainian.[260]

Law enforcement agencies in Ukraine are organised under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They consist primarily of the national police force and various specialised units and agencies such as the State Border Guard and the Coast Guard services. Law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, faced criticism for their heavy handling of the 2004 Orange Revolution. Many thousands of police officers were stationed throughout the capital, primarily to dissuade protesters from challenging the state's authority but also to provide a quick reaction force in case of need; most officers were armed.[263]

Foreign relations

President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, President of Moldova Maia Sandu, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and European Council President Charles Michel during the 2021 International Conference in Batumi. In 2014, the EU signed association agreements with all three countries.

From 1999 to 2001, Ukraine served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Historically, Soviet Ukraine joined the United Nations in 1945 as one of the original members following a Western compromise with the Soviet Union.[264] Ukraine has consistently supported peaceful, negotiated settlements to disputes. It has participated in the quadripartite talks on the conflict in Moldova and promoted a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the post-Soviet state of Georgia. Ukraine also has made contributions to UN peacekeeping operations since 1992.[265]

Ukraine considers Euro-Atlantic integration its primary foreign policy objective,[266] but in practice it has always balanced its relationship with the European Union and the United States with strong ties to Russia. The European Union's Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Ukraine went into force in 1998. The European Union (EU) has encouraged Ukraine to implement the PCA fully before discussions begin on an association agreement, issued at the EU Summit in December 1999 in Helsinki, recognizes Ukraine's long-term aspirations but does not discuss association.[266]

In 1992, Ukraine joined the then-Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)), and also became a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Ukraine–NATO relations are close and the country has declared interest in eventual membership.[266]

Ukraine is the most active member of the Partnership for Peace (PfP). All major political parties in Ukraine support full eventual integration into the European Union.[267] The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union was signed in 2014.[268]

Ukraine long had close ties with all its neighbours, but

In January 2016, Ukraine joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (green) with the EU (blue), established by the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, opening its path towards European integration.

The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which entered into force in January 2016 following the ratification of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, formally integrates Ukraine into the European Single Market and the European Economic Area.[269][270] Ukraine receives further support and assistance for its EU-accession aspirations from the International Visegrád Fund of the Visegrád Group that consists of Central European EU members the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.[271]