The former “breadbasket of the Soviet Union,” Ukraine lies on the north coast of the Black Sea. Politics is divided between pro-Russian sentiments and pro-European nationalism.
Geography: Mainly fertile steppes and forests. Carpathian Mountains in west, Crimean chain in south. Pripet Marshes in northwest.
Climate: Mainly continental climate, with distinct seasons. Southern Crimea has Mediterranean climate.
People and Society: Over 90% of people in the west are Ukrainian, but in cities in the east and south, and in Crimea, Russians form a majority. The government is wary of Crimean separatism. Tatars have been returning there since the Soviet Union’s collapse and now comprise around 12% of the local population. Over five million people in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia live in areas “contaminated” by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster.
The Economy: Minerals: 5% of global reserves. Slow reform of land laws, holding back agriculture. Oil/natural gas transit from Russia and the Caspian to Europe: natural gas price disputes with Russia. Political crisis.
Insight: Ukraine means “on the border,” referring to its position on the edge of the old Russian Empire
Official Name: Ukraine
Date of Formation: 1991
Population: 45.7 million
Total Area: 223,089 sq. miles (603,700 sq. km)
Density: 196 people per sq. mile
Languages: Ukrainian*, Russian, Tatar
Religions: Christian (mainly Orthodox) 95%, other 5%
Ethnic Mix: Ukrainian 78%, Russian 17%, other 5%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Hryvna = 100 kopiykas