Polovtsi idol (nomad tribes) from the early Ukrainian history.
There are almost two hundred member states of the United Nations. Ukraine is one of them. In fact Ukraine has been a UN member since 1945, that is from the year of the UN foundation. But Ukraine regained her independence as late as in 1991. You may be surprised to know it is the biggest country in Europe (with the exception of Russia), bigger than France in territory, and is among the biggest in population. It is very richly endowed by nature with mineral resources, with hundreds of rivers and thousands of lakes, with shady forests and rolling plains, with extremely fertile soil (chernozem— black soil), with enchantingly picturesque mountains in the west and in the south; two seas wash the southern shores of Ukraine. Its exceptionally turbulent history spans a millennium, and its vibrant living culture is that of age-long traditions. Given all this Ukraine should have reached the heights of economic and social development and should be ranked among the world’s most developed nations. But it is not. There are many reasons it has not become a mighty state. Yet it has a tremendous economic potential which, if handled in the right way, will turn Ukraine into a country of developed economy and advanced culture. A land of plenty, a land worth visiting and doing business in.

Ukraine covers an area of 603,700 sq. km (about 230,000 sq. miles) and borders on Russia, Belorus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova (total land
boundaries stretch for 4,558 km). The coastline is almost 2,800 km long, with the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov washing the Ukrainian shores. Ukraine’s climate can be described as temperate continental, and the southern Crimean coast can be easily called subtropical. Summers are usually very warm and winters mild, though in the east of the country temperatures may drop way below the freezing point in the dead of winter. Mountains are to be found in the east (the Carpathians) and in the south, in the Crimea. The rest of Ukraine is mostly plains with numerous rivers cutting through them. The biggest river of Ukraine is Dnipro which divides Ukraine into two roughly equal parts, often referred to as the Left Bank Ukraine and the Right Bank Ukraine. Among the natural resources which the land of Ukraine possesses, one could name great deposits of coal, iron ore, manganese, magnesium, nickel, timber. But the full list is a very long one indeed.
The capital city of Ukraine is Kyiv with a population of about 2,6 million people. The cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa all have populations in excess of one million people. Ukraine’s population is over fifty million people. Kyiv happens to be the oldest town in Eastern Europe being at least fifteen hundred years old. The female population of Ukraine is larger than the male population by as much as eight percent. The ethnic make-up of the population: Ukrainians constitute 73%, Russians — 22%, Jewish — 1%, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, Romanians and others account for the remaining four percent. The literacy rate in Ukraine is almost one hundred percent. Christianity in its several Orthodox denominations is the religion of the majority but there are quite a few Roman Catholics (particularly in the west of the country), Judaists and Muslims with a sprinkling of believers of other religions. According to the Ukrainian Constitution, State is separated from Church.

Ukraine is a Republic. The Ukrainian Constitution defines it as a «sovereign, independent, democratic.» The territory of Ukraine is administratively divided into 24 Oblast’s, in most cases with the seat of each Oblast’ giving it its name (Kharkiv — Kharkiv Oblast’). The Autonomous Republic of Crimea has its own parliament and government.
State power in Ukraine is exercised through its legislative, executive and judicial branches. The highest legislative power in Ukraine is Verkhovna Rada («Supreme Council») which is in fact one-chamber parliament of over four hundred Deputies (Members of Parliament). Deputies are elected for a term of four years. The Cabinet of Ministers is invested with the highest executive power. The Supreme Court acts as the highest judicial power.Ukraine has her own president who is, in the words of the constitution, is «the Chief Executive...the head of state and speaks on behalf of it.» The President is elected «by citizens for a term of five years on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot» and not more than for two successive terms. The Cabinet of Ministers is appointed by, and is responsible to the President of Ukraine, and accountable to the Verkhovna Rada. The Cabinet is headed by a prime minister.
The Verkhovna Rada - Ukrainian Parliament.
There are several dozens of political parties in Ukraine only a handful of which are represented in the Verkhovna Rada. These parties make up the entire political spectrum, from the extreme left to the extreme right. On the left wing one finds the communists and socialists plus a few other, much smaller parties; the political centre is constituted by the National Democratic Party, Social Democrats (of many names), Hromada, and the right wing comprises the Narodny Rukh («National Movement») and several other nationalist parties. The communists and their allies are still going rather strong seven years after the collapse of the Soviet Union but it has become evident that they are supported mostly by the elderly. Many political analysts regard them as being a major obstacle in the way of economic reforms.

Zlatnyks, coins of Kyivan-Rus - Ukraine,
11th century

Reforms are slow to take hold in Ukraine though the government is making some progress in implementing them. Many political and economic observers believe that Ukraine with its great potential could have made much better progress towards market economy if not for wide-spread corruption in high places, and inefficient legislation. The system of taxation needs considerable improvement if private enterprise and foreign investments are to be encouraged.
There are about two hundred banks in Ukraine, the majority of which are joint-stock enterprises. The National Bank of Ukraine has been trying hard to maintain the stability of the national Ukrainian currency hryvnya and curb inflation, and has gained a certain measure of success in this.
Agriculture is still badly affected by the inefficient system imposed upon it by the Soviets. It is extremely difficult to get rid of the collective farming (kolhospy) and go over to private ownership of land though many sober-minded politicians and economists realize the necessity of urgent reforms to be introduced if the country is to prosper. There is still very much to be done in the privatisation effort in all the spheres of economy to make it possible for Ukraine to climb out of the continuing economic crisis it finds itself in. But there are some indications that a turn to the better may be not too far away and economic forecasts are moderately optimistic.
Ukraine has been receiving a considerable amount of investments from the West, with the US being one of the bigger investors. For the past few years Ukraine has received substantial loans from the USA which made it the third largest recipient of American aid. Lately, both political and economic relations with Russia, Ukraine’s biggest economic partner, have considerably improved and new channels of co-operation are opening not only with Russia but with other states which once were republics of the former Soviet Union.
It may be said that from the viewpoint of foreign investors Ukraine has some advantages over other countries of Eastern Europe: large capacity of internal market (Ukrainian population is, as has been mentioned already, over fifty million people) for almost all categories of consumer goods; good market for equipment to renovate and upgrade production; a vast scientific and technological potential; excellent geographic location with access to the sea; rich natural resources; competitive, relatively inexpensive labour force; fertile soil and wide expanses of arable land. One should not forget growing entrepreneurial activity either as it is becoming a major factor in making the economic and administrative reforms take root and become irreversible.

Ukraine is a land blessed with good climate, fertile soil and excellent geographic situation. For many centuries though it was a blessing in disguise and «blessed» could be easily substituted by «cursed.»
Archaeology provides evidence that Ukraine was inhabited by early people hundreds of thousands years ago. The first state (Kyivan Rus-Ukraine) in the territory of the present-day Ukraine sprang up in the 9th century and soon stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. At the end of the tenth century Kyivan Rus-Ukraine was converted to Christianity by Prince Volodymyr the Great who adopted it in its Orthodox form from Byzantium. In the first half of the 11th century Kyivan Rus-Ukraine prospered under Prince Yaroslav the Wise and won a measure of international recognition. Yaroslav the Wise married his children to kings and queens of Western Europe. But in the second half of the 11th century the disintegration processes began which eventually led to the formation of several states independent of Kyiv. In the 13th century the country was invaded by the Mongols under Batu-Khan who inflicted a crippling blow on the civilisation of Kyivan Rus. Later in the 13th century and early in the 14th century a slow revival of political and economic life began in the areas which were not under direct Mongol domination but peaceful life was every so often disrupted by Lithuanians, Polish and Turkish incursions into the lands of Ukraine. It was only at the end of the 16th century that enough forces had been accumulated to start liberation wars which were led by the Cossacks of Ukraine, free and freedom loving descendants of serfs who established their own state. In the 17th century war of independence was fought by Hetman (Ruler) Bohdan Khmelnytsky against Poland. The Ukrainians were winning the war but the strain was too great and Khmelnytsky sought assistance from Russia. Ukraine came under protection of Russia but when Russia turned into an empire freedom was completely taken away from

An old fortress in the town of Khotyn,
12-16th centuries.

Church at the Cossack Grave. Berestechko.
Built 1910-1914.

Ukraine. It was divided between Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. For some time even the Ukrainian language was under the threat of extinction. The national-revival movement of the 19th century prevented Ukrainian culture from total absorption in the Imperial facelessness. In 1917, after the Revolution in Russia which brought about the downfall of the Romanov dynasty Ukraine made a lunge for independence but it was short lived. The power in Russia was seized by the Bolsheviks who got the upper hand in the civil war. The bigger part of Ukraine was swallowed by the Soviet Union and western parts were annexed by Poland, Hungary and Romania. The Soviet rule brought to Ukraine political suppression. Mismanagement caused famines which took a heavy toll in human lives. Thousands of Ukrainian intellectuals ended their lives before the firing squads and in concentration camps. When Nazi Germany unleashed war and invaded the Soviet Union a great many patriotic Ukrainians took to arms fighting both the Nazis and the Soviets. Germany was defeated with the Soviet Union emerging a winner. The national liberation movement was once again brutally suppressed. But the seeds that once had been sown began to give out shoots and in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union Ukraine regained its independence. A search for national identity has begun.
Ukraine is a country of ancient cultural traditions many of which have roots in the pre-Christian times. There have been many attempts to conquer Ukrainian lands, suppress Ukrainian culture, to uproot traditions, to do away with the Ukrainian language. All these attempts have failed. Ukraine has its own national music, architecture whose most distinguished landmarks have come down to us from the 11th and later centuries, the arts which have produced masterpieces proudly exhibited at museums. And the indomitable Ukrainian spirit has lived through all the trials and tribulations preserving its most essential characteristics: friendliness, love of merry songs and laughter, perseverance, hospitality.

Ukraine is a marvellously beautiful land. It has resorts in the mountains whose air and water are known for their medicinal qualities. The southern shores of Ukraine are washed by the warm waves of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and many towns situated along the coast welcome hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tourist every year. Ancient monuments, architectural landmarks dating to early and late mediaeval times, museums, concert halls provide an inexhaustible source of attraction to those who seek culture.