Discover Ukraine

Ukraine is still a treasure - trove waiting to be truly discovered by the big world. This magazine is published with specifically this goal in mind: help people around the world discover Ukraine. Where is it? This question is still asked in many countries of the world when someone hears mention of a country called «Ukraine».
Ukraine is situated right in the heart of Europe, right in the centre between the Urals. separating Europe from Asia, and the Atlantic Ocean, a great divide between Europe and America.

Cyril and Methodius creators of the Cyrillic alphabet.
The monument was originally built in 1911, sculptor Ivan Kavaleridze;
it was destroyed in 1919-1923 and was recreated in 1995-1996.

Is it a new country, a fragment of the Soviet Union that disintegrated in 1991? Yes, and no. Yes, it is a «new» country in the sense that it gained full independence five and a half years ago. No, if we look back into history. In fact there are just a few countries in Western Europe whose statchood dates to the 9th century A. D. And it's a big country loo - Ukraine's territory and population arc comparable to those of France.
Ukraine is a land of exciting diversity, of city, field, plain, river and mountain, of complex ethnic make-up, of warm generosity and welcoming hospitality. Despite the grave business of developing new society, we are a free and vital people. We can recite the litany of our problems, from that of energy to that of Chernobyl but it is only proper here to count our blessings, one of which has always been the magnificent land of Ukraine itself. The unifying theme for this issue as well as for the whole country, is the realization that the system, somehow, works, that great things are possible, if we try hard, of course, - they are possible because we are free and determined.
A philosopher once said that the true test of civilization was not the cities and crops it produced but the kind of man it turned out. We can take a large measure of pride in the fact that we are willing to labour for an ideal - that of making our land rich and prosperous, of preserving our national heritage for our children and for many generations to come. For all the conflicting opinions about the state of things in Ukraine - economical, political, social, cultural - one thing is clear: our system works. True, it's not self-operating yet, but we are lucky as we have the potential and. hopefully, the means to make it operate better. When we complain and grumble, as we sometimes do, we're doing it because we want things to get better. And they will.


A lot of things about Ukraine seem to be controversial, even its name continues to be a subject of philological debate. Putting philological fine points aside. it seems to be safe to say that the root of the word UKRAINE means «land».
Ukraine is a vast land indeed. It stretches for 1300 km (about 870 miles) from west to east, and for 900 km (about 600 miles) from north to south. Ukraine is bounded on the north by Russia, on the north-west by Byelorus', on the west by Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Rumania, on the south-west by Moldova, and on the south it is washed by the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. About ninety percent of its territory is taken up by wide rolling plains. But Ukraine is not without its mountains: the Car-pathians in the west and the Crimean Range in the south. Neither are very high but gorgeously picturesque. Three mighty rivers and innumerable smaller ones cross the great plain: the Dnipro, the Southern Buh and the Dniester, the Dnipro being the longest (2285 km or 1520 miles, which is the third longest in Europe). Ukraine has enough forests to give shade, pleasure to the eye, timber and paper; there are enough mineral resources to meet the needs of a highly-developed economy. A large part of Ukrainian territory is covered with a layer of exceptionally fertile soil (chernozem - "black soil") which? if properly handled, can provide excellent crops.
Ukraine has an enormous potential but for a good number of reasons this potential has not been realized yet but there are all indications that it will be.

Genoese Fortress in the town of Sudak.


A brief look into history of Ukraine may help the reader understand why Ukraine has not become one of the leading nations of the world, being blessed with all this potential as it is, and is only struggling to achieve a higher status than the one it has at the moment.
In the first millennium B. C. fierce horse-riding nomads roamed the plains of Ukraine. The Scythian tribes are among the better known ones. The Scythians came into contact with the ancient Greeks who had colonized the shores of the Crimean Peninsula. Later, the beauty and fertility of the lands now known as UKRAINE attracted the Goths, Huns and Vikings. Ukraine is situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, between west and east not only in the geographical but also in cultural sense. It has been influenced by many cultures, and it has also been many times the object of aggression.
If one looked still deeper into the mists of history one might discover amazing things! One of the recent theories suggests that the Indo-European tribes had once inhabited the territory of the present-day Ukraine and it is from there that they gradually migrated to different parts of Western Europe, Asia Minor, Persia and India. This theory is very well substantiated and a growing number of scholars accept it as quite plausible.

Archaeological, historical and linguistic evidence makes it possible to state with a high degree of accuracy that by the end of the 9th century A. D. the first state of the eastern Slavs with Kyiv as its capital had been established and was rapidly growing. There is no firmly established date of the foundation of Kyiv but archaeological finds show that Kyiv is about fifteen hundred years old - a little town, advantageously situated, later became the centre of a mighty state. This state of the Eastern Slavs, progenitors of the Ukrainians, is usually referred to as KYIVAN-RUS -UKRAINE.
By the early 11th century Kyivan-Rus-Ukraine expanded over a vast territory stretching from the Baltic Sea down to the lower reaches of the Dnipro. Under Prince Yaroslav, nicknamed the Wise for his wisdom and learning, Kyivan Rus-Ukraine gained enormously in prestige and many a European monarch sought to marry a daughter of Prince Yaroslav. He brought splendor to his capital city Kyiv and even now, thousand years after, despite all the ravages of the many wars, two magnificent creations of his time remain standing: the Golden Gate and Hagia Sophia Cathedral.
But soon after Yaroslav's death began a period of feudal strife, internal dissension and political fragmentation which was accompanied by erosion of military strength and catastrophic decentralization. The once formidable state broke up into parts which became an easy prey to the devastating Mongol invasion of the 13th century. On the heels of the Mongols came the Lithuanians and then the Polish, and Ukraine re-emerged from the dark centuries of her history to claim her independence only in the 17th century.

"Let go!" Painting by M.K. Pymonenko, 1863-1912.


In the late 16th-early 17th centuries there appeared in Ukraine a social group ofUkrainain population usually referred to as COSSACKS. The Cossacks were mostly descendants of serfs who had run away from their masters and settled down at the unoccupied and unclaimed lands. With the passage of time their numbers grew so significantly that they formed what amounted to an independent state with self-government bodies and an elected head called Hetman. The Cossacks were fiercely independent by nature and fought hard to preserve their free ways from the Tartars of Crimea, Ottoman Turks and Poles. Constant fighting made excellent foot soldiers and cavalrymen out of them. In the middle of the 17th century, headed by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, an astute statesman and daring general, the Cossacks fought a war of independence against Poland.

It was the time of growing national identity but Bohdan Kmelnytsky realized too well that he did not have enough forces to overpower all the enemies on all the fronts and he was forced to bring Ukraine under the protection of the Russian Czar.
Unfortunately, the insatiable appetites of the imperial Russia were such that Ukraine was gobbled up whole and by the end of the 18th century was turned into a backwater province. Even the Ukrainian language came under danger of extinction, but thanks to the efforts of prominent Ukrainian literati with the national revival on their minds - among whom Taras Shevchenko stands as the most distinguished figure - the Ukreinian language and literature did nit die and continued their development despite the hard pressure aimed at their suppression.


The bigger part of Ukraine was under Russian domination and the smaller western part was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Unbearable economic hardships caused mass emigration of Ukrainians to foreign lands. There were several waves of emigration from Ukraine, the last one right after WW II. Now, hundreds of thousands of people of Ukrainian descent reside in Canada, USA, Argentina, Australia and in a number of other countries.


In February 1917, the Russian monarchy tottered and fell and Ukraine immediately seized the opportunity to proclaim independence. Alas, there was no agreement among the forces battling for freedom and Ukrainian independence of 1918-1919 was so short-lived -it was crushed by the superior Bolshevik forces, whose task of doing away with Ukrainian independence was made easier by internal strife and German occupation. Besides, Ukraine had been bled dry by the First World War in which on the Russian side there had fought three and a half million Ukrainians, and on the Austro-Hungarian side - two hundred fifty thousand. In those tragic years Ukrainians were forced to kill brother Ukrainians, fighting for the imperial interests totally alien to them.
During the years of the Civil War chaos reigned supreme in Ukraine and the first post-war years of the Bolshevik regime could be even looked upon as the time of respite from social strife and movement towards reconstruction and building up of the ruined economy. But the horrors that followed later were unprecedented not only in the history of Ukraine but in human history in general. Ukrainian intellectuals were netted, thrown into concentration camps, shot by firing squads. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian peasants, robbed of everything, died of hunger or were deported to Siberia. The Nazi occupation during WW II took its own toll of Ukrainian lives. And yet, in spite of all these inconceivable horrors and hardships, Ukraine lived on and Ukrainian spirit and striving for independence had not been suppressed.


It was only in 1991, that Ukraine regained its independence. Because of her past it is not easy for Ukraine to stride confidently into prosperous future. Awareness of national identity is growing, wounds are healing. Perseverance is a trait of the national character and more and more smiles have begun to brighten up people's faces.
Smiling faces are much more natural for the Ukrainians than grim ones, for Ukrainians are cheerful people and love merriment. Ukrainian melodic songs, vigorous dances, sparkling humour attest to the Ukrainain cheerful and merry disposition.

The Ukrainian national character has been influenced and inspired, no doubt, by the beauty of nature. Dale and mount, forest and meadow, lake and river enchanted the Ukrainian eye.
Even though the advance of industries and the ubiquitous car have done their damage, there is still abounding wild life and enough of arboreal shade in Ukraine. The climate of Ukraine is pleasantly, charmingly mild, without extremes of cold and heat, although in some areas temperatures may fall below zero in winter and shoot up to sizzling points in summer. A guide book describes the climate of Ukraine as «mildly continental', with the exception of the Crimea where the climate is «Mediter-ranean», or even «subtropical».
Spring in Ukraine usually comes early, summer is full of sunshine and lusciously green: fall is bedecked in goi-geous autumnal colours and winter is usually white but rarely severe. Deer and elk freely roam dense forests, rivers and lakes almost swarm with fish and a great multitude of birds fill the land with their merry songs. It is a sheer joy to travel through Ukraine, looking at the peaccilil cultivated fields, flower-strewn meadows, grassy undulating hills. A traveller is sure to find a welcoming reception everywhere in Ukraine. Those who appreciate creature comforts will find good accommodation at the renovated hotels. The visiting businessmen will find a lot of business contacts and a desire to do business on the part of the Ukrainian businessmen.
The people of Ukraine are very hospitable, cheerful and warm-hearted, always ready to welcome guests.


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