Ukraine has been mentioned in the news a lot lately, but how much do you actually know about it? Where is Ukraine? What is the capital of it? And what all does it have to offer?
Where Is Ukraine?
With an area of 233,062 square miles, Ukraine is the largest country situated entirely within Europe. It is located in Eastern Europe, and is home to roughly 42 million people. The country is bordered by Russia, Romania, Belarus, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. It also borders the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively.
With a landscape known for steep rocks, beautiful waterfalls, and crystal lakes, Ukraine also boasts some of the richest farmland in Europe. The territory has been inhabited for thousands of years, but despite this long history, the country has only achieved independence in more recent times.
Want to learn more? Here are a few other things you might not know about this country.
What Is the Capital of Ukraine? A Brief History
Modern humans have called the territory that is now Ukraine home for a long time. Much of the region’s early history was dominated by nomadic tribes like the Scythians, Goths, Sarmatians, and Cimmerians. These groups primarily occupied central and eastern Ukraine, and would establish trade relationships with the Greeks and Romans. This would lead to the emergence of various city-states around the Black Sea.
Around the 6th century, settlers and traders from Scandinavia would gradually set up small states east of the Baltics. Known as the Rus’ people, they would establish the city-state of Kyivan Rus’ around 880. Kyivan Rus’ would eventually come to include the central, western and northern part of modern Ukraine, Belarus, the far eastern strip of Poland, and the western part of present-day Russia.
During the 10th and 11th centuries, Kyivan Rus’ became one of the largest and most powerful states in Europe, leading to the development of a national identity for Ukrainians and Russians. Kyiv would become the most important city of the Rus’, and today, it remains as the capital of Ukraine.
Kyivan Rus’, however, would begin to decline in the 12th century, and was eventually attacked by Mongol raiders and destroyed in the 13th century.
Fight for Independence
After Kyivan Rus’ was split into fragments, the territory would come to be contested and ruled over by various powers. In the following centuries, Lithuania, Poland, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia would all try to stake their claim over the region.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, a Cossack republic began to emerge out of the steppe region in the sparsely populated mid-south of Ukraine. The Cossacks were primarily Eastern Orthodox, and would establish self-governing, semi-military communities. They were skilled horsemen who knew how to live off the land, and today remain a central part of Ukrainian identity.
The territory of this Cossack republic would eventually be split between Poland and the Russian Empire, before being fully integrated into the latter in 1793. The Ukrainian people fought to keep their rich culture alive despite an oppressive Russian rule.
Though Ukraine had a few flirts with independence, it would largely remain under Russian control, even when the USSR was founded in 1922. Soviet control over Ukraine was marked by struggle. In 1932, Joseph Stalin created an artificial famine to maintain control of the region, a genocide known as Holodomor.
Ukraine would also suffer greatly during World War II, experiencing heavy damage, famine, and drought in the aftermath. Gradually, however, Ukrainian nationalism would reemerge. Ukraine would finally gain their independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Unfortunately, independent Ukraine would continue to have conflicts with Russia, as various territorial disputes began to crop up.
Crimea and Ukraine Today
Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the peninsula of Crimea. Though the Russian Federation annexed Crimea in 2014, Ukraine (along with most of the international community) considers the region to be Ukrainian. Since then, it has been administered as two Russian federal subjects: the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.
Crimea was transferred from Russian control to the Ukrainians following the death of Stalin in 1953. He was replaced as leader of the USSR by Nikita Khrushchev, who wanted to capitalize on the ties between Ukraine and Russia. Khrushchev facilitated the transfer, which took place in 1954 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav.
Today, both Russia and Ukraine continue to claim Crimea, resulting in ongoing geopolitical tension. Only time will tell how this issue gets resolved. While Ukraine has a complicated history, it remains a beautiful country whose people maintain a strong sense of national pride.