HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
The population which was 48,457,102 residents at the 2001 census it is decreasing due to the negative natural and migratory balance (respectively – 5.6 ‰ and – 0.4 ‰ in 2006). The 77.8 % of the population is made up of the Ukrainian and 17.3 % Russian; small minorities of Belarusians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Poles and others follow. In 2006 the capital, Kyjiv (Kiev), reached 2,655,750 residents, and only three other cities exceeded one million: Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovśk and Odessa. At the beginning of the 2000s, the Ukrainian economy experienced a strong development, with a very marked growth in GDP in 2003 (+ 9.6 %) and in 2004 (+ 12.1 %), which decreased in the following two years (+ 2.5 % per annum) due to the increase in inflation (13.5 % in 2005 against 5.2 % in 2003) occurred despite the temporary freeze on the prices of many goods. This growth was mainly determined by the strong increase in exports, which made the trade balance surplus, and by domestic demand. In particular, the Chinese economic boom has stimulated exports of steel, while machinery and agri-food products are mainly directed towards Russia. However, the socio-economic situation remains uncertain and is also characterized by widespread corruption and a high unemployment rate. Some privatizations carried out during the government of L. Kučma have been canceled because they are illegal or unfair, and for many companies the procedures for a new privatization have been started on the basis of more transparent criteria. For Ukraine 2017, please check mathgeneral.com.
As far as production activities are concerned, agriculture maintains an important role: over half of the land area is devoted to arable land and the Ukraine continues to be a major producer of cereals (wheat, barley, maize, rye, oats, millet), potatoes, sugar beets and vegetables. According to estimates by the World Bank, in 2004 the primary sector contributed 13.7 % to the formation of GDP, employing about one fifth of the workforce. The country has vast deposits of coal and iron ores, as well as reserves of natural gas and oil. Since coal production, between 1989 and 1995, had contracted by 53%, the government has decided on a reorganization of this extractive sector including the closure of less profitable plants. Heavy industry is highly developed, in particular the steel sector (38.6 million tonnes of steel in 2005, the seventh world producer and third exporting country), followed by the metallurgical and chemical sectors; but these traditional sectors have been joined by other more innovative ones such as electronics, which has assumed a considerable weight in foreign trade (3.7 billion dollars in profits in 2004). Services are developing: in particular, in 2004 trade recorded an increase of 20%, while transport went up by 10 %. Russia is the main partner for both imports (32 % of the total) and exports (41 %). The territory is crossed by a dense network of oil and gas pipelines (respectively 8533 km the first and over 20,000 km the second in 2002), which represent a strong element of pressure from the Ukrainian government towards Russia, which uses of this network to supply the countries of Western Europe with energy products.
At the beginning of 2000 the Ukraine had not yet been able to give satisfactory answers to the enormous problems that independence, achieved after the break-up of the Soviet Union (1991), had created, and which had been amplified, compared to other Eastern European countries, by the size of the new State, the variety of both ethnic and linguistic groups that made it up as well as the importance of historical and cultural ties with Russia.
A climate of political instability still reigned in the country, caused by the unresolved conflict between President L. Kučma – in office since 1994 and whose administration had taken on increasingly authoritarian and oligarchic characteristics over the years – and the Parliament (Verchovna Rada, Supreme Council), whose powers in April 2000 were reduced by a popular referendum promoted by the president. The contrast was part of a scarcely dynamic economic context and marked by the increase in unemployment, the worsening of the phenomena of organized crime and corruption, which has become a real system of power.
Despite being re-elected in November 1999 with a large majority (57 %), Kučma experienced a sharp decline in popularity starting in November 2000, when he found himself at the center of two very serious scandals: suspicions of his direct involvement in the killing. by H. Gongadze, a well-known journalist who had repeatedly taken critical positions against him; the revelations, transmitted by a collaborator of Kučma to one of the leaders of the opposition, the president of the Parliament O. Moroz, on the unscrupulous use of his position as head of state to influence, through intimidation and threats, the result of the 1999 elections.
During 2001, protests against the president grew in the country, which also saw numerous street demonstrations, and there was a reorganization of the forces in the field, with the resignation from their offices and the passage to the opposition of leading exponents of the government, in particular Y. Tymošenko and V. Juščenko, respectively the head of the energy sector and the prime minister since 1999, who soon became the main promoters of a vast popular mobilization aimed at obtaining the resignation of Kučma. In view of the legislative elections (scheduled for March 2002), new political coalitions were formed around these two leaders, both composed of various parties with a liberal and nationalist tendency: Yushchenko gave birth to Nostra Ukraine, in which also the main nationalist formation of the Ukraine, the Ukrainian People’s Movement (called commonly Ruch , Movement); Tymošenko instead established the National Salvation Forum (later called the Julja Tymošenko Bloc). In addition to these, the main opposition forces were the Communist Party, which in the previous elections had obtained over a third of the seats, the Socialist and the Social Democratic ones. The pro-presidential coalition presented itself with the name For a united Ukraine, and was joined, among others, by the Party of Regions, the agrarian party and that of industrialists and entrepreneurs.
Despite the illicit pressures of Kučma, strong among other things by a heavy control of the media , the consultations sanctioned the victory of the opposition: Our Ukraine obtained 23.6 % and 112 seats out of 450, the Communist Party 20 % and 66 seats, the Tymoshenko Bloc 7.3 % and 22 seats, the Socialist Party 6.9 % and 23 seats, the Social Democratic Party 6.3 % and 24 seats. For a united Ukraine it got only 11.7 % but, due to the complex electoral system, 101seats; moreover, agreements with smaller parties and with independent deputies allowed it to form the strongest parliamentary group (165 seats) and therefore to direct the new executive, at the head of which A. Kinach was initially reconfirmed (prime minister since May 2001), replaced in November by V. Janukovyč. Furthermore, the change of sides of many opposition deputies allowed the government to count on an absolute majority of seats in Parliament in December.
The installation of the new prime minister, an expression of the oligarchic groups of the eastern provinces, more industrialized and pro-Russian (as they are mostly inhabited by Russian-speaking populations), radicalized the conflict, which increasingly assumed the character of a regional opposition: for supporting the opposition were in fact mainly the western provinces (inhabited mostly by Ukrainian-speaking polations), which aimed to see the strategic role of the country increase, as opposed to Russia and in a pro-European and pro-Atlantic perspective.
In 2003 and also in 2004 the situation remained tense: the mobilization of the opposition against Kučma continued, while, despite the sharp increase in GDP, the economic and social conditions of the population suffered a drastic worsening, also due to cuts in financial aid by of the International Monetary Fund, which believed it had disregarded its indications of reducing the internal deficit, and of the United States, which accused the Ukrainian government of having sold military technology to Iraq.
In view of the presidential elections of October-November 2004, the main challenger of Janukovyč, candidate of the side in favor of Kučma (which the Constitution forbade to reappear), became Juščenko, candidate of Our Ukraine, but also supported by the Tymošenko Bloc. The vote, which took place in a climate of strong tension and, in the opinion of both the opposition and international observers, even of poor legality, sanctioned the victory in the second round (21 Nov.) of Janukovyč, who established himself, according to the official results, with the 49.5 %, against 46.6% of Juščenko. However, denouncing the many frauds that occurred in the attribution of votes, he mobilized the squares again, and the streets of the capital were peacefully invaded for days by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators demanding the holding of new elections. The ‘orange revolution’ (from the color adopted by the opposition as a symbol of protest) spread to other cities, and eventually led the government, also pressured by Western public opinion, to come to terms with Yushchenko. L ‘ 8 December was thus signed an agreement which provided for a series of constitutional reforms (aimed among other things to reduce presidential powers in favor of Parliament) and new elections. The latter (26 Dec.) Sanctioned the victory of Juščenko,%, against 44.1 % of Janukovyč. The formation of a new government followed, led by Tymoshenko (February 2005). Among the priorities of the new executive were indicated the fight against corruption and organized crime, economic reforms, a rapprochement with the EU and NATO, and the review of the privatizations of state companies that took place in previous years, to verify their regularity. In reality, despite the expectations of the electorate, the new administration left the existing balance of power unchanged and in a short time strong contrasts began to emerge within it. The clash reached its climax in September 2005,when Tymoshenko, who came into conflict with the president and accused of corruption, was forced to resign and went to the opposition; his post was taken by J. Echanurov, exponent of Our Ukraine. In the following months the political situation remained uncertain, and the government recorded a progressive loss of consensus, which was accentuated in early 2006, following the agreement signed with Moscow on the price of gas supplies. The agreement, which provided for an increase in the cost of fuel (until then sold by Russia to the Ukraine on favorable terms), was harshly attacked by the opposition and rejected by Parliament, which considered it penalizing the country’s economy.. Increasingly isolated, the government suffered a bitter defeat in March in the legislative elections which saw the affirmation of the Party of the Yanukovyč Regions (32.1 % and 186 seats) and the Tymošenko Bloc (22.3 % and 129 seats), while Our Ukraine was heavily downsized (13.9 % and 81 seats), as did the Communist parties (3.7% and 21 seats) and Social Democrat (1 % and no seats); the Socialist Party remained essentially stable (5.7 % and 33 seats). After long negotiations, a new ‘anti-crisis’ executive was launched in August, led by Yanukovyč and supported by Our Ukraine and the Socialist and Communist parties.
As far as foreign policy is concerned, after an initial rapprochement with Western states, following the defeat of Kučma, there was a realignment on the positions of Moscow, which remained the main and indispensable supplier of energy to the country.