Total speakers: around 40 million (estimated). Ukrainian is an East Slavic language. It is the official state language of Ukraine and one of the three official languages in the unrecognized state of Transnistria, the other two being Romanian and Russian. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic script.
Ukraine was the center of the first eastern Slavic state, Kyivan Rus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kyivan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The cultural and religious legacy of Kyivan Rus laid the foundation for Ukrainian nationalism through subsequent centuries.
A new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. Despite continuous Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate managed to remain autonomous for well over 100 years. During the latter part of the 18th century, most Ukrainian ethnographic territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to achieve a short-lived period of independence (1917-20), but was reconquered and forced to endure a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died. In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 to 8 million more deaths. Although final independence for Ukraine was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, democracy and prosperity remained elusive as the legacy of state control and endemic corruption stalled efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil liberties. A peaceful mass protest “Orange Revolution” in the closing months of 2004 forced the authorities to overturn a rigged presidential election and to allow a new internationally monitored vote that swept into power a reformist slate under Viktor YUSHCHENKO. Subsequent internal squabbles in the YUSHCHENKO camp allowed his rival Viktor YANUKOVYCH to stage a comeback in parliamentary (Rada) elections and to become prime minister in August of 2006, and to be elected president in February 2010. In October 2012, Ukraine held Rada elections, widely criticized by Western observers as flawed due to use of government resources to favor ruling party candidates, interference with media access, and harassment of opposition candidates. President YANUKOVYCH’s backtracking on a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU in November 2013—in favor of closer economic ties with Russia—led to a three-month protest occupation of Kyiv’s central square. The government’s eventual use of force to break up the protest camp in February 2014 led to all out pitched battles, scores of deaths, international condemnation, and the president’s abrupt departure to Russia. An interim government under Acting President Oleksandr TURCHYNOV has scheduled new presidential elections for 25 May 2014. On 1 March 2014, one week after the overthrow in Kyiv, Russian President PUTIN ordered the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula claiming the action was to protect ethnic Russians living there. On 16 March 2014, a “referendum” was held regarding the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation. The “referendum” was condemned as illegitimate by the Ukrainian Government, the EU, the US, and the UN General Assembly. Russian forces now occupy Crimea and Russian authorities claim it as Russian territory. The Ukrainian Government asserts that Crimea remains part of Ukraine.
After Russia, the Ukrainian republic was the most important economic component of the former Soviet Union, producing about four times the output of the next-ranking republic. Its fertile black soil generated more than one-fourth of Soviet agricultural output, and its farms provided substantial quantities of meat, milk, grain, and vegetables to other republics. Likewise, its diversified heavy industry supplied the unique equipment (for example, large diameter pipes) and raw materials to industrial and mining sites (vertical drilling apparatus) in other regions of the former USSR. Shortly after independence in August 1991, the Ukrainian Government liberalized most prices and erected a legal framework for privatization, but widespread resistance to reform within the government and the legislature soon stalled reform efforts and led to some backtracking. Output by 1999 had fallen to less than 40% of the 1991 level.
With the formation of an interim government in late February 2014, the international community began efforts to stabilize the Ukrainian economy, including a 27 March 2014 IMF assistance package of $14-18 billion.
1997 boundary delimitation treaty with Belarus remains unratified due to unresolved financial claims, stalling demarcation and reducing border security; delimitation of land boundary with Russia is complete with preparations for demarcation underway; the dispute over the boundary between Russia and Ukraine through the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov remains unresolved despite a December 2003 framework agreement and ongoing expert-level discussions; Moldova and Ukraine operate joint customs posts to monitor transit of people and commodities through Moldova’s break-away Transnistria Region, which remains under the auspices of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-mandated peacekeeping mission comprised of Moldovan, Transnistrian, Russian, and Ukrainian troops; the ICJ ruled largely in favor of Romania in its dispute submitted in 2004 over Ukrainian-administered Zmiyinyy/Serpilor (Snake) Island and Black Sea maritime boundary delimitation; Romania opposes Ukraine’s reopening of a navigation canal from the Danube border through Ukraine to the Black Sea.
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
Stateless persons: 35,000 (2012); note—citizens of the former USSR who were permanently resident in Ukraine were granted citizenship upon Ukraine’s independence in 1991, but some missed this window of opportunity; people arriving after 1991, Crimean Tatars, ethnic Koreans, people with expired Soviet passports, and people with no documents have difficulty acquiring Ukrainian citizenship; following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, thousands of Crimean Tatars and their descendants deported from Ukraine under the STALIN regime returned to their homeland, some being stateless and others holding the citizenship of Uzbekistan or other former Soviet republics; a 1998 bilateral agreement between Ukraine and Uzbekistan simplified the process of renouncing Uzbek citizenship and obtaining Ukrainian citizenship
Trafficking in persons:
Current situation: Ukraine is a source, transit, and, increasingly, destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Ukrainian victims are sex trafficked within Ukraine as well as in Russia, Poland, Iraq, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus, Seychelles, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Montenegro, UK, and Tunisia; foreigners from Moldova, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Azerbaijan are victims of labor trafficking in Ukraine; Ukrainian recruiters most often target Ukrainians from rural areas with limited job prospects by using fraud, coercion, and debt bondage.
Tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List—Ukraine does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government reduced its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2012; as a result of the dismantling of the specialized anti-trafficking police unit in 2011, the number of trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions have decreased; fewer victims are identified and the national referral mechanism does not function effectively in many regions, resulting in few victims being granted victim status by the government; the government did not fund any anti-trafficking protection activities in 2012 and continues to rely on international donors to assist victims (2013)
Limited cultivation of cannabis and opium poppy, mostly for CIS consumption; some synthetic drug production for export to the West; limited government eradication program; used as transshipment point for opiates and other illicit drugs from Africa, Latin America, and Turkey to Europe and Russia; Ukraine has improved anti-money-laundering controls, resulting in its removal from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF’s) Noncooperative Countries and Territories List in February 2004; Ukraine’s anti-money-laundering regime continues to be monitored by FATF.
(End of text/excerpt from the CIA World FactBook. You can download the book via a post on our frontpage.)
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