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|Print version. Published on site Rusnet.NL 8 December 2003
Republic of Ukraine (population 51,867,000; 601,000 sq km), is situated in Eastern Europe and borders on Poland in the northwest; on Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova in the southwest; on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the south; on Russia in the east and northeast; and on Belarus in the north. Kiev is the capital and largest city.
Land and people
Drained by the Dnepr, the Dnestr, the Buh, and the Donets rivers, Ukraine consists largely of fertile steppes, extending from the Carpathians and the Volhynian-Podolian uplands in the west to the Donets Ridge in the southeast. The Dnepr divides the republic into right-bank and left-bank Ukraine. In the north and northwest of the country is the wooded area of the Pripyat Marshes; wooded steppes extend across central Ukraine; and a fertile, treeless, grassy, black-earth steppe covers the south. The continental climate of the republic is greatly modified by proximity to the Black Sea.
Administratively, Ukraine is divided into 24 regions, two municipalities with region status (KievSevastopol), and one autonomous republic (Crimea).
Ukrainians make up slightly less than three fourths of the population; Russians constitute around 22%, Jews around 1%, and there are Polish, Belarussian, Moldavian, and Hungarian minorities.
More than half the population is urban. The majority of those practicing a religious faith belong to a branch of Orthodox Christianity either the Ukrainian (formerly Russian) Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Russian patriarch, or a rival independent Orthodox Church that is headed by a Ukrainian patriarch and has attracted many Ukrainian nationalists.
Separate from both is the smaller West Ukrainian Catholic Church (also known as the Uniate or Greek Catholic Church), which in 1596 established unity with Roman Catholicism but was forced by the Soviet government in 1946 to sever its ties with Rome; these ties were re-established in 1991, and the church experienced a revival.
The republic's many educational and cultural institutions include seven universities.
Ukraine's steppe is one of the chief wheat-producing regions of Europe, and the area was long known as the "breadbasket of the Soviet Union." Other major crops include corn, rye, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, sunflowers, and flax.
Ukraine possesses numerous raw materials and power resources, and its central and Eastern regions form one of the world's densest industrial concentrations. The heavy metallurgical, machine-building, and chemical industries are based on the iron mines of Krivoi Rog, the manganese ores of Nikopol , and the coking coal and anthracite of the Donets Basin.
The Dneprohes dam powers a hydroelectric station and has made the Dnepr navigable for nearly its entire length. The region also produces aluminium, zinc, mercury, titanium, nickel, oil, natural gas, and bauxite.
Ukraine's main industrial centres are Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zaporozhye, Makeevka, Mariupol, and Lugansk. Odessa is the principal Ukrainian port on the Black Sea.
The Western Ukraine, although mainly agricultural, has significant petroleum centres at Drohobych and Boryslav, natural gas at Dashava, coal industries at Novovolynsk, and rich salt deposits. Lvov (Lviv) is the cultural centre and the main industrial city in Western Ukraine. Zhytomir and Vinnitsa are the main agricultural centres.
The republic's leading industrial products include machinery, steel, rolled metals, tractors, cement and other building materials, mineral fertilizers, chemicals, and consumer goods. Food processing, notably the refining of sugar, is also a major industry. In spite of its many resources, Ukraine must import large quantities of natural gas and oil. The main trading partners are Russia, Turkmenistan, Belarus, and China.
Ukraine is governed under the constitution of 1996. The head of state is a popularly elected president (Leonid Kuchma at present) who serves a five-year term.
Ukraine has a 450-seat parliament whose members serve four-year terms. In an April, 2000, referendum voters approved reducing the number of seats in parliament to 300 and splitting the unicameral body into two chambers, one elected and the other appointed by the president.