50 Fascinating Facts about Ukraine

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the 46th largest country in the world, and the largest completely in Europe. It has land borders with seven other countries and sits on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to the south. It has a population of 42.5 million spread over a land mass of 603,628 square kilometres, making it quite sparsely populated by area. Much of its population live in its large towns and cities, including Kiev, its capital and largest city. Ukraine's economy is based on its enormous natural resources. Its official language is Ukrainian, although many other languages are spoken in the country. Its people are mainly Eastern Orthodox Christians. The Ukrainian national flag consists of two horizontal bands, blue to the top and yellow to the bottom.

Ukraine Facts

Ukraine is a Slavic nation. It formed around a federated state of East Slavic tribes known as Kievan Rus, beginning in the 9th Century. Slavic peoples inhabited vast stretches of land between central Europe and northern Asia.
Kiev is at least 1,400 years old. It gets its Ukrainian name, Kyiv, from the eldest brother of the family who founded the original settlement. His name was Kyi.
Ukraine has often been called a breadbasket country, due to its ability to produce enormous amounts of wheat. Much of the country's soil is chomozem, one of the world's most fertile. In large parts of the country, it is five feet thick.
Until 1990, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. After Russia, it was the second largest country in the Union.
Ethnic Russians make up about one fifth of the Ukrainian population, with Russian spoken by almost 30% of people as their first language.
The Crimean Peninsula, on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, has been occupied by Russia since 2014. This was part of Ukraine and is still claimed by the country. This is a source of continuing international tension.
Ukraine produces its own oil and natural gas, but still relies heavily on Russia for natural gas. This is either produced in Russia itself or in Central Asia but gets to Ukraine through Russian controlled pipelines. Russia exports much of its natural gas to Western Europe through Ukrainian pipelines.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 occurred at a reactor in the Ukrainian town of Pripyat, about 100 kilometres north of Kiev.
Heavily involved in the Soviet space programme, Ukraine today has its own space agency. The National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU) constructs and launches satellites, mainly for scientific research purposes.
Although independent today, Ukraine has been variously ruled by seven different empires and other political federations.
Ukrainian cuisine is as varied as the country is large. It is influenced by Eastern European borscht type soups, and there are a huge range of breads baked for religious occasions. Meat, onions and cabbage feature heavily across the different cultural traditions.
Ukrainian folk music is famous for its distinctive use of minor keys. It is influenced by Cossack traditions which were incorporated during earlier phases of the country's history.
Ukrainian national dress is extremely colourful. It is part of the country's traditions of weaving, which uses bright colours and elaborate patterns. Weaving is a part of the Ukrainian arts and crafts culture which is central to national identity.
Ethnic Ukrainian folklore is distinctive among other such traditions, including Russian. Some elements and celebrations are older than other Slavic folk themes, making Ukraine home to particularly valuable cultural practices and beliefs.
Ukraine has hundreds of sporting venues, both for spectating and participating. These were built during the Soviet era, whose governments believed in high levels of physical fitness and activity. This sporting tradition persists, with four Ukrainian sports societies and two government committees dedicated to sport.
The country's most popular sport is football. Prior to 1990, Ukrainian footballers played for the Soviet Union's national team. Ukraine played its first match in 1992. It reached the quarter finals of the 2006 World Cup.
Ukraine produced two of the world's most famous and successful heavyweight boxers of recent years; Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. Between them, they held all versions of the heavyweight world title for more than two years simultaneously.
Vitali Klitschko is now a politician. He is Mayor of Kiev and was a member of the Ukrainian Parliament.
Ukraine's national alcoholic drink is Horilka. This is a Ukrainian term for any strong drink but is usually used to refer to vodka. It is mainly distilled from wheat or rye, and the name translates from Ukrainian as “burning.” Some types of the drink today include the addition of chillies.
Ukraine experienced a revolution in 2014. This grew out of tensions between pro and anti Russian politicians and their supporters in the country. While the revolution led to the annexation of the Crimea by Russia, it also led to the country's government pushing for closer ties with the European Union.
The Carpathian Mountains lie at the Western boundary of Ukraine. The highest peak within the country is Hova Hoverla, at 2,016 metres above sea level.
The River Dnieper, which flows through Ukraine to the Black Sea, and on which the country's capital Kiev stands, is the fourth longest river in Europe.
Orthodox Christianity is very important to the majority of Ukrainians and plays a central part in national life. This is reliant on the use of icons, which worshippers kiss as part of the prayer ritual.
Saint Sophia, or Hagia Sofia, Cathedral in Kiev is a world heritage landmark. It dates back to the 11th Century and was built by Ukraine's original Kievan Rus founders.
Taras Shevchenko is widely thought of as the Father of Ukraine. He was a poet and politician, who was imprisoned for writing in the Ukrainian language as opposed to the predominant Russian of the time.
Written Ukrainian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It has characters not present in the Russian version of Cyrillic, and vice versa. Many of the characters of the two alphabets are pronounced differently.
Iron and steel production are the major heavy industries in Ukraine. Another reminder of the Soviet era, Ukraine is the eighth largest producer and third largest exporter of iron and steel. This has had major impacts on local environments.
Ukraine's natural environment consists of a number of different biological zones. These in turn host a huge variety of animal and plant life. The five zones, or regions, are classified as the Mediterranean, steppe, forest, Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain and Crimean Mountain regions.
Under an act which came into force in 1991, Ukraine has 33 Ramsar Convention wetland sites. These are wetlands which are considered to have international importance, and are concentrated around the Black and Azov seas, and the Dnieper delta.
As well as the continuing contamination from the area around Chernobyl, Ukraine has other environmental issues. It suffers from a lack of clean drinking water, as well as deforestation in places, and air and water pollution from cities and heavy industry.
Ukraine has a flourishing IT sector, which is playing a growing part in the country's economy. It is now the third most important industry, after agriculture and metal production.
Ukraine is almost completely literate, unlike many former Soviet countries. A high proportion of young people speak English, which is helping boost the country's IT service sector.
Ukraine is a very popular tourist destination. It has natural attractions, as well as a rich cultural and architectural heritage. Tourism figures have dipped dramatically since the Russian annexation of the Crimea, which has many tourist sites.
Ukrainian identity is often described as being divided by those who associate themselves with Russia and those who wish to have closer ties with Western Europe.
Ukrainian cinema has had an influence on the industry which is not often known in the West. This is largely because directors such as Alexander Dovzhenko worked during the Soviet era.
Olga Kurylenko is Ukraine's most famous actress and model. She appeared in Quantum of Solace, Oblivion and The Water Diviner among other blockbuster movies.
Ukraine's national day is 24th August. This was the date in 1991 when the country issued its Declaration of Independence. Since 2004, 23rd August has been celebrated as National Flag Day.
Andriy Shevchenko is Ukraine's most famous footballer. He played for Dynamo Kiev, AC Milan and Chelsea. He is Milan's top goalscorer of all time. He became the national team's head coach in 2016.
A scheme to improve border security between Ukraine and neighbours Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia was abandoned when Ukraine was unable to make changes required by the European Union.
The world's largest aeroplane, the Antonov An-225 Mriya, was built in Kiev during the Soviet era. It has a wingspan of 88.4 metres. There was only one ever built.
Kiev is dominated by the statue of Mother Motherland. It is 62 metres high, and is a woman holding a sword and shield aloft. It is protected as part of a World War II museum project which takes up much of the city centre.
Ukraine has 11 officially recognized languages other than Ukrainian, including Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian and Yiddish.
Ukraine suffered catastrophic famines in the1930s, caused by the imposition of five year agricultural production plans by Stalin. This was followed by World War II. The result of both of these was a life expectancy at birth of less than ten years old.
Ukraine once had the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. This was given to Russia by 1996.
Almost half of Ukraine's domestic energy is supplied by nuclear power.
Ukraine has five ski resorts in the Carpathian Mountains. Its most well known is Bukovel, which has 55 kilometres of slopes and 15 ski lifts.
Chicken Kiev’s did not originate in the city. It was created in France in the 19th Century but introduced to the Ukrainian capital by Russian aristocrats.
Ukraine has seven World Heritage Sites. As well as the Saint Sophia Cathedral, there are other architectural sites; but there is also the natural phenomenon of Carpathian ancient beech forests.
Orthodox Christianity within Ukraine is separated into three different churches. Only two of these are officially recognized.
The ancient Ukrainian national symbol is the trident, or Tryzub. This dates back to the country's Slavic founders.

Ukraine is an enormous country right at the edge of Europe. It is so huge it has many biospheres, adventure opportunities and an almost limitless list of tourist attractions. Its history is thousands of years old, and it spans cultures and traditions which will surprise many visitors. It is a nation of great contrasts, and friendly people who are used to taking things in their stride.


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