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About Ukraine

General Information -- Geography -- Climate -- Religion -- Language -- Population and Ethnic Composition-- Government -- Administrative Division -- Time Zone -- Currency Exchange and Credit Cards -- Capital City -- Official Holidays -- Airports and Public Transportation -- Traditional Cuisine -- Brief History

General Information

The face of Ukraine can still be spotted with blemishes of Soviet mentality and architecture – but these throwbacks only highlight how much the rest has changed since then.
Frenetic, cosmopolitan Kyiv has gone through major reconstructive surgery, but the city’s classic charm is accentuated by its age, with sparkling onion-dome cathedrals and fascinating monastery.



Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It borders Russia to the northeast, Belarus to the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest and the Black Sea to the south. The historic city of Kiev (Kyiv) is the republic's capital.
The Ukrainian landscape consists mostly of fertile plains, or steppes, and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dnieper, Seversky Donets, Dniester and the Southern Buh as they flow south into the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. To the southwest the delta of the Danube forms the border with Romania. The country's only mountains are the Carpathian Mountains in the west, of which the highest is the Hora Hoverla at 2,061 metres, and those in the Crimean peninsula, in the extreme south along the coast.


Ukraine has a mostly temperate continental climate, though a more Mediterranean climate is found on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it is highest in the west and north and lesser in the east and southeast. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. Summers are warm across the greater part of the country, but generally hot in the south.



The dominant religion in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which is currently split between three Church bodies. The distant second is the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which practices the same liturgical and spiritual tradition as Eastern Orthodoxy, but is in communion with the See of Peter and recognizes the primacy of the Bishop of Rome as head of the Church. There are also smaller Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities.



Ukrainian is the only official state language. Russian, which was a de facto official language in the Soviet Union, is largely used by many people, especially in eastern and southern Ukraine. According to the census, 67.5% of the population declared Ukrainian as their native language and 29.6% declared Russian. It is sometimes difficult to determine the extent of the two languages, since many people use a Surzhyk, a Ukrainian-Russian mix where the mixed vocabulary is often combined with Ukrainian grammar and pronunciation, while claiming in surveys that they speak Russian or Ukrainian (most of them are able to speak both literary languages though). Besides, some ethnic Ukrainians, while calling Ukrainian their "native" language, use Russian more frequently in their daily lives. These details result in a significant difference across different survey results, as even a small restating of a question switches responses of a significant group of people.
Standard literary Ukrainian is mainly spoken in western and central Ukraine. In western Ukraine, Ukrainian is also the dominant language in cities. In central Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian are both equally used in cities with Russian being more common in Kiev, while Ukrainian is the dominant language in rural communities. In eastern and southern Ukraine mainly Russian is used in cities and Surzhyk is used in rural areas.

Population and Ethnic Composition


According to 2001 Ukrainian Census ethnic Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population. The minorities include significant groups of ethnic Russians (17.3%), Belarusians (0.6%), Moldavians (0.5%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), Bulgarians (0.4%), Hungarians (0.3%), Romanians (0.3%), Poles (0.3%), Jews (0.2%), Armenians (0.2%), Greeks (0.2%) and Tatars (0.2%).
The industrial regions in the east and south-east are the most heavily populated, and about 67.2% of the population lives in urban areas.



Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The President of Ukraine is elected by countrywide popular vote and is the head of the executive branch. The Prime Minister is appointed by the 450-seat parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. The parliament also approves the Cabinet of Ministers, proposed by the Prime Minister and the President. The heads of all central agencies and regional and district administrations are appointed by the President.
Laws, acts of the parliament and the Cabinet, presidential edicts, and acts of the Crimean parliament (Autonomous Republic of Crimea) may be nullified by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, when they are found to violate the Constitution of Ukraine. Other normative acts are subject to judicial review. The Supreme Court of Ukraine is the main body in the system of courts of general jurisdiction.

Administrative Division


Ukraine is divided into twenty-four oblasts (provinces) and one autonomous republic (avtonomna respublika), Crimea. Additionally, two cities (misto), Kiev and Sevastopol, have a special legal status. The oblasts are subdivided into 494 raions (districts).

Time Zone


Ukraine is in the Eastern European Time Zone.Eastern European Standard Time (EET) is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2).
Like most states in Europe, Summer (Daylight-Saving) Time is observed in Ukraine, where the time is shifted forward by 1 hour; 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+3).
After the Summer months the time in Ukraine is shifted back by 1 hour to Eastern European Time (EET) or (GMT+2)

Currency Exchange and Credit Cards


The hryvnia (UAH) has been the national currency of Ukraine since September 2, 1996. It replaced the Ukrainian karbovanets at the exchange rate 1 Hryvna = 100,000 Karbovanets. One hryvnia is divided into 100 kopiyok.
ATMs, currency exchanges and Western Unions are easy to find in the cities.

Capital City


Kiev, also written as Kyiv, is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper river. As of 2005, Kiev officially had 2,660,401 inhabitants, although the large number of unregistered migrants would probably raise this figure to about three million. Administratively, Kiev is a national-level subordinated municipality, independent from surrounding Kiev Oblast. Kiev is an important industrial, scientific, educational and cultural center of Eastern Europe. It is home to many high-tech industries, higher education institutions, world-famous historical landmarks. The city has an extensive infrastructure and highly developed system of public transport, including a Kiev Metro system.
Kiev is known as a green city, with two botanical gardens and numerous large and small parks. Notable among these are the World War Two Museum, which offers displays of military history and equipment; the Hidropark, in which an amusement park, swimming beaches, and boat rentals can be found; and Victory Park, a popular destination for strollers, joggers, and cyclists.
Kiev's noteworthy architecture includes government buildings such as the Mariyinsky Palace (designed and constructed from 1745 to 1752, then reconstructed in 1870) and the sweeping Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, several Orthodox churches and church complexes such as the Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves), St. Sophia Cathedral, St. Michael's Cathedral, St. Andrew's, and St. Vladimir's, the recently reconstructed Golden Gate, and others such as a nineteenth-century Lutheran church.

Official Holidays


Airports and Public Transportation


Passenger airlink to Kiev can be made through two of its airports: the Boryspil Airport, which is served by the most major international airlines from all parts of the world, and a smaller Zhulyany Airport mostly serving local flights.
Suburban transportation is provided by buses and short-range trains (elektrichka). There are a few bus stations inside the city providing suburban transportations. Private minibuses (marshrutkas) provide faster and more frequent suburban service, currently winning the competition against large buses.
The publicly owned and operated Kiev Metro system is the fastest, the most convenient and affordable network that covers most, but not all, of the city. The metro is permanently expanding towards the city limits to cover the growing demand, while the other kinds of public transport are not that well maintained. In particular, the public bus service fails to maintain schedule. Public electric trolley bus and tram lines are more reliable but also technically obsolete and underfunded. The trams, once a main and densely-developed kind of transport, are now being gradually phased out in favor of buses and trolleys.

Traditional Cuisine


Ukrainian cuisine has a rich history and offers a wide variety of dishes, partly borrowed from other cuisines like German, Turkish and Polish. The cuisine of Ukraine has influenced the cuisines of neighbouring countries, e.g. Russian cuisine. Meat (especially pork), vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, berries, and herbs play a major part. Since Ukrainians are very hospitable, Ukrainian food is intended to be filling, and should be served in large quantities.

Brief History


The name of Ukraine means ‘borderland’, which accounts for its sort of Wild West history. Before the 13th century, the land was yanked back and forth by nogoodniks such as Huns and Mongols before it settled into the hands of Russian princes.
By the 15th century, groups of fierce, wild fighters calling themselves Cossacks (sort of like punks on horseback) fought anyone who encroaches upon their borders or belief system (Orthodoxy).
The came the Soviet Union. The 1930s saw the evil of Stalin, who engineered a famine in 1932-33, killing millions in Ukraine. In WWII, which left most of the country’s cities in ruin, an estimated six million Ukrainians died.
Both the strong religious sentiments in the western region and the disastrous Chornobyl event (and its cover-up) were catalysts for Ukraine’s declaring of independence from USSR in August 1991. Leonid Kuchma has been the president since the mid-1990s; he is legally not allowed to occupy the presidential role again, so he has been scheming to make constitutional changes that would diminish the power of the next president and boost the power of the parliament, to which his puppet strings are fully attached.