On the edge of greater Russia
Among the new states that arose from the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine is one of those with the greatest potential, due to the richness of natural products and the diffusion of industries and infrastructures. But he is also among those who have suffered most from the separation and is facing a difficult transition. For Ukraine 2018, please check ethnicityology.com.
The country of the black earth
An undulating plain makes up the territory of Ukraine. To the west, a short stretch of the Carpathians is just over 2,000 m; between the course of the Dnestr and that of the Dnepr, Podolia and Volhynia are occupied by low plateaus. In the north there are forests, while steppe is the spontaneous vegetation in the southern areas.
The climate is continental and not very rainy, but the very fertile soil (called black earth) allows considerable production of cereals and potatoes, vegetables and fruit on the Black Sea coasts. However, Ukraine is above all a country of mines (coal, iron and other metals) and industries (engineering, chemicals), now in the process of reconversion.
By language and culture, the Ukrainians, also known as little Russians, are similar to the Russians with whom they have lived together for centuries. After 1990, the Russians in Ukraine decreased, except in Crimea and some eastern cities, such as Kharkiv (Kharkiv) and Donetsk. Besides the capital Kiev, Dnipropetrovs´k, Odessa and Lviv (L´viv) are important. Living conditions, which worsened considerably after 1990, are slowly improving.
A strong national sentiment and a difficult independence
The territory of today’s Ukraine was populated in ancient times by Cimmerians, Scythians and Sarmatians. From the 3rd century AD it was invaded by Goths, Huns and Avars, only to be incorporated, in the 7th century, into the vast empire that the Chazari had created between the Dnieper and the Volga. In the 9th-10th century Ukraine became the nucleus of the political organization of Rus´ centered in Kiev (Russia, history of) and was Christianized according to the Orthodox rite.
Conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century, it later passed under the dominion of Lithuania and Poland, united under the Iagelloni dynasty from 1386 and then unified into a single state in 1569. In the second half of the seventeenth century it was divided between Poland and the Tsarist Russia and towards the end of the eighteenth century, with the dissolution of the Polish state, between Russia itself and, to a lesser extent, the Habsburg Empire.
During the nineteenth century a strong national sentiment developed in the country, stimulated above all by the oppressive politics of the tsars. However, the conditions for independence matured only in the years of the First World War (1914-18), when the Russian Empire was overwhelmed by the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the Hapsburg Empire by defeat in the war. Having achieved independence between 1918 and 1919, in 1922 Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union, to whose fate it remained tied – with the interlude of the brutal Nazi occupation during the Second World War – until the early nineties, still once in a picture of heavy oppression.
The scene of the very serious Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, Ukraine proclaimed independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, in the more general context of the fall of the Communist regimes. Since then, the country has faced complex negotiations with Russia and the United States to dismantle its huge Soviet-era nuclear arsenal, as well as start a difficult transition to democracy and a market economy.