Europe

Ukraine country profile

  • 13 January 2016
  • From the section Europe
MAp of Ukraine

Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since veered between seeking closer integration with Western Europe and being drawn into the orbit of Russia, which sees its interests as threatened by a Western-leaning Ukraine.

Europe's second largest country, Ukraine is a land of wide, fertile agricultural plains, with large pockets of heavy industry in the east.

While Ukraine and Russia share common historical origins, the west of the country has closer ties with its European neighbours, particularly Poland, and nationalist sentiment is strongest there.

A significant minority of the population uses Russian as its first language, particularly in the industrialised east. In Crimea, an autonomous republic on the Black Sea that was part of Russia until 1954, ethnic Russians make up about 60% of the population.

Russia once again seized and annexed Crimea in March 2014, amid the chaos following the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych, plunging European into its worst diplomatic crisis since the Cold War.

FACTS

Ukraine

Capital: Kiev

  • Population 44.9 million

  • Area 603,700 sq km (233,090 sq miles)

  • Major languages Ukrainian (official), Russian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 64 years (men), 75 years (women)

  • Currency hryvnya

Getty Images

LEADERS

President: Petro Poroshenko

Image copyright Getty Images

Petro Poroshenko won the presidential election of May 2014 at a time of crisis which saw the ouster of his predecessor, the loss of the region of Crimea to Russia and a Russian-backed separatist rebellion in the east of the country.

A billionaire chocolate factory owner, Mr Poroshenko won an unprecedented first round victory in the elections which were held three months after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was chased from office by crowds following months of street protests.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

National media have adopted a united patriotic agenda following the Russian annexation of Crimea and armed conflict in the east. Ukraine has banned cable relays of leading Russian TVs; in turn, areas under Russian or separatist control have seen pro-Kiev outlets silenced.

Television dominates the media scene, and private commercial channels are the most watched outlets.

Powerful business groups are influential in the market. Half a dozen major networks, including Inter TV and 1+1, attract the biggest audiences.

As part of reforms, Ukraine launched a public service TV broadcaster in 2015.

Many newspapers publish Ukrainian and Russian-language editions. The press is diverse in terms of formats and political affiliation.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Ukraine's history:

1917 - Central Rada (Council) set up in Kiev following collapse of Russian Empire.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

1918 - Ukraine declares independence: Ukrainian People's Republic set up. Numerous rival governments vie for control for some or all of Ukraine during ensuing civil war.

1921 - Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic established as Russian Red Army conquers two-thirds of Ukraine.

1932 - Approximately 7 million peasants perish in man-made famine during Stalin's collectivisation campaign.

1941 - Ukraine suffers terrible wartime devastation as Nazis occupy the country until 1944.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A crowd gathered in Kiev's Independence Square

1945 - Allied victory in Second World War leads to conclusive Soviet annexation of western Ukrainian lands.

1986 - A reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station explodes, sending a radioactive plume across Europe.

1991 - As the Soviet Union heads towards dissolution, Ukraine declares independence.

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