Population, society and rights
Among the countries of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine is the second most populous state after Russia. However, compared to 51.5 million in 1990, the population today consists of just over 45 million residents, a demographic reduction due to the worsening of economic and social conditions and therefore to massive emigration.
The World Bank estimated that in 2010 the number of emigrants was approximately 6.5 million (equivalent to 14.4% of the population). The flows were mainly directed to Russia, Poland, the United States, Kazakhstan, Israel, Germany, Moldova, Italy, Belarus and Spain. The migration corridors between Russia and Ukraine and vice versa are respectively the second and third largest in the world, with respectively 3.7 and 3.6 million migrants. For Ukraine society, please check homosociety.com.
In addition to the Romanian, Polish and Hungarian communities, the most important ethnic minority in the country is the Russian one, which represents 18% of the population (corresponding to more than 8 million citizens).
The Russian-speaking and ethnic Russian population is mainly concentrated in the south-eastern regions of Ukraine, on the border with Russia. Many live in Crimea, particularly Sevastopol, where the Russian population is more than 60% of the total. In these regions, relations between Ukrainians and Russians have recently become rather strained. The ethno-linguistic question in Crimea and in the Donbass was used instrumentally by Russia – under pressure from the local populations who did not recognize the government that took office in the aftermath of Yanukovyč’s flight to the Russian-speaking east of the country – to annex the peninsula and rise to protector of the Russian and Russian-speaking populations of the eastern Ukrainian provinces.
Since the Soviet era, Kiev has inherited a relatively solid educational system. Despite the negative impact of the economic recession of the early 1990s, the literacy rate is now 99.7% and primary schooling is 97.4%. In addition, there is a sustained growth in the number of university students.
The independence and efficiency of the judiciary are partly compromised by the influence that politics exerts, by widespread corruption (not surprisingly at the center of the claims of the ‘Maidan’ since the beginning of the anti-government demonstrations in 2013) and by restrictions on press freedom: intimidating and violent attacks on journalists and court cases by political officials against criticism of the press have been frequent in Ukrainian post-Soviet history.
Economy and energy
After Russia, Ukraine was the most important economic region of the former Soviet Union. Rich in fertile soil, it contributed more than a quarter of the total Soviet agricultural production. His farms supplied large quantities of meat, milk, wheat and vegetables to the other republics. In the period of transition from the Soviet planned system to the market economy, Ukraine went through a deep recession. The triggering of an inflationary spiral had compressed real incomes, which were already falling in nominal terms. The GDP per capita it dropped 60% in ten years (from over $ 8,000 in 1989 to less than $ 3,557 in 1998). Despite the start of the recovery and a return to strong economic growth in the early years of the millennium, the average income is now slightly above the levels of 1989. The GDP per capita for 2013 is about 7423 euro.
The Ukrainian economy is still heavily concentrated in the industrial sector, a sector which nevertheless bears historical and structural defects: in particular, widespread corruption and excessive interference by the state. Among the most important resources are the reserves of ferrous metals. Particularly developed is the chemical industry in the production of carbon coke and fertilizers. Manufacturing goods include aircraft, turbines, diesel locomotives and tractors. After a period of strong economic growth, in 2009 the international crisis heavily hit the Ukrainian economy causing a contraction of the GDP15% in one year. To cope with the crisis, President Yanukovyč was forced to adopt some unpopular measures, clashing with strong dissent from public opinion. Since 2010, however, the country has slowly resumed growth until the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, which caused a drop in GDP, which fell by -9% in 2015.
Dependence on energy imports constitutes a traditional burden on the national economy, helping to keep the Ukrainian trade balance in deficit for a value of around 6-9%. Although the Ukrainian subsoil contains large quantities of coal (3.9% of world reserves) and the country produces nuclear energy (3.4% of the world’s nuclear power generation), the weight of hydrocarbons in the energy mix implies the need for supply. from abroad and, in particular, from Russia.
Total dependence on Moscow for energy imports is tempered by the fact that Ukraine is a major transit state for Russian gas bound for Western Europe – about three-quarters of the annual total. In recent years, the interdependence between Kiev and Moscow has created frequent disputes, the so-called ‘gas wars’, linked to Kiev’s indebtedness and the traditional Russian goal of acquiring control of the Ukrainian network.
While Russia has prepared a pipeline project across the Black Sea, the Blue Stream, in order to circumvent the transit bottleneck through Ukraine, at the same time Kiev has launched an ambitious plan to reduce gas imports, and the consequent vulnerability to the Russia. Pillars of the national energy strategy approved in July 2012 – which aims to reduce imports from 40.5 billion cubic meters in 2011 to 5 by 2030 – are the rationalization of domestic consumption, the exploitation of recently identified unconventional gas deposits and the diversification of importers, also thanks to the construction of regasification plants capable of allowing the most flexible import of liquefied gas. Gas imports saw a drastic drop in 2014: not for the government strategy, but for the Ukrainian crisis which led to the closure of factories and heavy industries especially in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian economy suffers a severe recession, with the public debt /GDP of which the MF has forecast an exponential increase by the end of 2015 from 40.7% in 2013 to 94.4%. The blocking of production activities in the eastern regions could have serious consequences. According to one of the ‘relationship A, the damage caused Ukrainian army offensive against the popular republics of Lugans’K Donets’k and in the last months of civil war would amount to about half a billion dollars.
The European Union has already intervened to help Ukraine with an 11 billion euro financial aid package, accompanied by a 17 billion dollar loan program disbursed in successive installments by the International Monetary Fund starting from 30 April 2014 Ukraine and the European Commission signed the Association and Free Trade Agreement on 27 June 2014, and then ratified it in September. The entry into force of the economic part which provides for the introduction of free trade between Ukraine and the EU has been postponed to 1 January 2016, under strong pressure from Russia.