Wikijunior Europe: Ukraine
Ukraine is the largest all-European country and the 44th largest country in the world. It's located in Eastern Europe and shares borders with Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Belarus. The name Ukraine means border land in Ukrainian and Russian. The capital city is Kiev. Other big cities are L'viv, Kharkiv and Odessa. Ukraine is not part of the European Union. The currency of Ukraine is the hryvnia.
Although people have lived in Ukraine since 32,000 BCE, the country Ukraine is a fairly recent country. In the centuries before the 20th century, Ukraine was controlled by the Polish, Prussians and other groups of people. Like the majority of nations in Eastern Europe, Ukraine used to be part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (between 1921 and 1991), or Soviet Union. Before that, Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire.
Soviet Union — This was a massive country consisting of Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and many other countries. It was a super power until it ended in 1991
As many as 10 million people died in a famine in Ukraine and other parts of the USSR in the 1930s and over 1 million were killed during World War 2. In 1986 Ukraine (and Belarus) suffered the world's worst nuclear accident when a reactor at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded. Since the disaster over 4,000 people have developed cancer because of the radiation from the explosion.
Ukraine became an independent country in 1991. In 2004, after protests against corrupt elections there was a revolution, known as the Orange Revolution which brought in a democratically elected government. In 2012 Ukraine and Poland will host the Euro 2012 football competition. Large protests against the government took place from November 2013 which resulted in another revolution in February 2014. This caused Russia to invade Crimea in the south of Ukraine and local people to vote to leave Ukraine and join Russia. Russia now treats Crimea as part of Russia but the vast majority of countries continue to recognise it as an integral part of Ukraine. Since the 2014 revolution parts of eastern Ukraine have been involved in a violent war against the government in Kiev with more than 10,000 people killed. Parts of eastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula are no longer under the control of the Ukrainian government.
Ukraine is the largest country by area that is located entirely in Europe. Though Russia and Kazakhstan are larger, they aren't entirely in Europe. The total area of Ukraine is 603,700 km2 (233,100 sq mi).
Most of Ukraine has 4 very distinct seasons with warm summers and cold winters. Rainfall occurs more often in the summer months. Ukraine has a very wide variety of animals that live throughout the country.
Most of the country is flat but there are mountains in the west. The highest mountain in Ukraine is Hora Hoverla at 2016 metres.
The population of Ukraine is around 46,300,000. Ukrainians make up 73 percent of the population and Russians make up 22 percent of the population. The official language of the country is Ukrainian. Russian is also used within the country, especially in cities and the east.
Most of the people in Ukraine are literate. Education is required for the ages 6 to 14. Most people in Ukraine are Christians - mainly Ukrainian Orthodox. There are small numbers of other Christians, Muslims and Jews living in the country.
Because of historical cities, a coastline on the Black Sea and its close location to Russia, Poland and Germany, Ukraine is a popular holiday destination. 20 million tourists visit Ukraine every year. It is the 8th most visited country in Europe and has become more popular in recent years because EU citizens, Canadians, Americans (USA), Japanese and South Korean tourists no longer require visas to enter the country.
The capital city of Kiev is popular for its churches, landscapes and Soviet architecture. L'viv, in the west, is popular because of its architecture, its Polish and Jewish history and its nightlife. Odessa, on the Black Sea coast, is also popular because of its diverse culture and location.
There are 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ukraine. These include Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and the historic centre of L'viv.
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