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Ukraine, the largest state in Europe, appeared on the map of the world in 1991. It was quickly recognized by the international community and more then 100 countries have established diplomatic relations with Ukraine. Total area: 603.700 sq.km. Population: 48 million. Density: 90 people per sq.km. Capital of Ukraine: Kiev. The largest cities: Kiev, Odessa, Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Lviv, Nickolayev. Urban population: 66%. Religion: the largest denomination is Christianity (Orthodox and Greek-Catolicism). Main resorts: Odessa, Crimea.

 

Although Ukraine has only been independent for 14 years, it has an ancient history. The ancestors of Ukrainians began settling in the region during the Trypilian period several thousand years ago. In ancient times, present-day Ukraine was inhabited by the Anteans and the Ros', the ancestors of the Eastern Slavs.

 

 

   
                         
 

And it was here, in Ukraine, that one of the most powerful states of medieval Europe was founded in the 9th century. This was Kievan Rus, which included the cities of Kiev, Novgorod, Chernihiv (Chernigov), Halych, Polotsk, Smolensk, Rostov, Suzdal and later Moscow, which was founded by the Kyivites -- a huge expanse of territory from the Baltic to the Black Sea and the Kuban River, and from Transcarpathia to the Volga. The famous Dnepr River trade route "from the Varangians to the Greeks" ran through Kiev, and the Zalizny route led to the Sea of Azov as well.

This was a period of great power and glory. In 988 Prince Volodymyr introduced Christianity as the official state religion. The christening of Kievan Rus took place in Kiev on the banks of the Dnepr River.In the 11th century, two monks settled in the hills to the south of the city of Kiev, and eventually a cave monastery was established in the area. Today this monastery is renowned as the Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves). At the time of Kievan Rus, Kiev was one of the richest and most developed cities of Europe. The refined skills of Kiev’s medieval craftsmen has been repeatedly demonstrated by the vast number of buried treasures found within the territory of the ancient city, and by its many architectural monuments which still grace its skyline: St. Sofia Cathedral, the Golden Gate of Kiev, Kiev Pechersk Lavra, and many others.

However, in 1240, the Tatar-Mongols captured Kiev. Thousands of people were killed and much of the city was razed. Kiev fell into a prolonged period of decline. The Tatar-Mongols ruled for almost three centuries. The Kievan Rus state disintegrated and some of its territory came under the rule of Moscow and Belarus.

The next time the world heard about Ukraine was during the period of the Cossack Republic - centered in the famed "Zaporizka Sich" Fortress - at the end of the 15th century. The long road to independence by the Ukrainian people began with Cossack military campaigns. In 1648-1654 Cossack armies, headed by Hetman (Ukrainian for Cossack leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky waged several wars to liberate Ukraine. Confronted by the armies of Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords, Bohdan Khmelnytsky sought the protection of the Russian Tsar in the Treaty of Pereyaslav. Unfortunately, as a result, Ukraine was plunged into a long period of domination by the Russian Empire.

Despite such repression and severe Tsarist autocratic rule, Ukraine in the 17th and 18th centuries nonetheless managed to preserve and enjoy some of the richness of its political, economic, cultural, and religious development. The Kiev Mohyla Academy, founded by Metropolitan Petro Mohyla in the 17th century, became the first university in Eastern Europe. In that period, the Ukrainian people were among the most educated in the world and almost all were literate. Books were printed, philosophy was studied; music, literature and painting flourished.

The first Constitution appeared in Ukraine during the Cossack period (1711). In January 1918 when the Russian Empire fell, the independence of Ukraine was proclaimed and the Ukrainian National Republic was established. Mikhail Hrushevsky became the first President of Ukraine. But at that time Ukrainian statehood was not adequately defended. It is only recently that this became possible. Ukraine is a very large country. Its territory is 603,7 thousand sq. km. The geographic center of Europe is located near the little Ukrainian town of Rakhiv.

Neighboring Ukraine are the countries of Belarus, the Russian Federation, Moldova, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. The population of our country is 52 million, consisting of a diversity of nationalities. Ukrainians, Russians, Belorussians, Jews, Moldavians, Tatars, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, and Greeks are the predominant groups.

There are 71 thousand rivers and streams in Ukraine, with a total length of 248 thousand km. The most significant are the Dnepr, the Dnister, the Southern Bug, the Prypyat, and the Desna. The Dnepr River is the major river in the country and the third longest in Europe. Its total length is 2285 km., with 1205 km flowing through the territory of Ukraine. The capital of Ukraine - Kiev, Zaporizhya, Dnipropetrovsk, Cherkasy, and Kherson are situated on the banks of these rivers. The Danube River links Ukraine with 7 European countries. The Black Sea and the Sea of Azov form Ukraine's southern coastline.

Ukraine is a land of spectacular nature, much of which has been virtually untouched since ancient times. Fields, meadows, hills dotted with green forests, mountains and valleys full of beautiful flowers create the unique landscape of our country. The real Ukraine is a land of natural beauty, still untouched by the modern world. The climate in Ukraine is quite pleasant. It is continental apart from the Crimea where it is subtropical and Mediterranean-like. Spring comes early. Summer is sunny and green. Autumn is ablaze with colors. Winter is mild and white.

The Carpathian and Crimean mountains are very picturesque. Dozens of tourist routes pass through them. Hoverla (2061 m) is the highest peak of the Ukrainian Carpathians and a visit there is particularly interesting. Anyone who loves hiking dreams of a trip in the Carpathians to admire its dense forests and to listen to the soft sounds of its waterfalls. The fauna of Ukrainian forests is extremely diverse, and includes a variety of deer, elks, and pheasants. Ukraine not only boasts of it spectacular nature.

The magical voices of Ukrainian singers, ballet artists, the works of our painters and sculptors are renown throughout the world. Ukraine is extremely rich in natural resources and has enormous scientific potential. But, perhaps, the greatest treasure of Ukraine is its people who are benevolent, light-hearted, hospitable, and generous.

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