Ukraine Country Facts

аїна – Ukraine
Capital city Kyiv
Surface 603.628 km²
Population 42,418,000
Road network length 169,477 km
Length of highway network 195 km
First highway 1972
Motorway name Avtoshljach
Traffic drives Right
License plate code UAA

Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, Ukrayina) is a large country in Eastern Europe. The capital is Kyiv (Kiev) and the country has 42.4 million inhabitants. Its area is 603,628 square kilometers, making it the second largest country in Europe after Russia. The country is 14 times the size of the Netherlands.


Ukraine is the largest country located entirely in Europe. It is located on the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov and borders Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. The country measures a maximum of 1,320 kilometers from west to east and 900 kilometers from north to south. Most of Ukraine consists of flat cultivated steppe. The northwest is low-lying and densely forested, the southwest is dominated by the Carpathians, a mountain range with the Hoverla at 2,061 meters as the highest point. To the south, the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russiainto the Black Sea. The south of Crimea is also mountainous, with the 1545 meter high Roman-Kosh being the highest point.

Several major rivers flow through Ukraine. The Dnieper is the most important of these and is largely dammed with large reservoirs. The largest reservoirs are those of Kremenchuk and Khakovsk. The second river is the Dniester, which flows partly through Moldova. In southwestern Ukraine, the border with Romania is formed by the Danube. In the east flows the Siverskyi Donets.

Ukraine has a predominantly continental climate, with quite warm summers and cold winters. In Kiev, the average maximum temperature in summer is 26 °C and the average minimum temperature is -6 °C in winter. The south, especially Crimea, has a subtropical climate. There are ski areas in the Carpathians. Precipitation in Ukraine decreases to the east, ranging from 1200 mm in the Carpathians to 400 mm in the east.


At the time of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian economy was the second largest in the country. In 1991 the country abruptly switched to a market economy, after which a large part of the population fell into poverty. The transition was more difficult and the recovery more lengthy than the communist countries in Central Europe. In 1999, GDP was only 40% of that in 1991. The country has yet to recover from the free fall of the economy in the 1990s. Ukraine’s economy is plagued by widespread corruption and political instability.

Eastern Ukraine is highly industrialized, focusing in particular on mining and heavy industry in the Donbass region, especially around Donetsk, Luhansk and Mariupol, but also the Kryvbas around the city of Kryvyi Rih, which is the main center of the steel industry in Europe. However, heavy industry in Ukraine is seriously outdated and polluting. Western Ukraine is more dependent on agriculture and less developed economically. The capital Kyiv is better developed. The economy is based on heavy industry and manufacturing. Agriculture is also an important sector, Ukraine is one of the world’s most important producers of grain. In Ukraine one pays with the hryvnia (UAH).


City Cyrillic Population
Kyiv иїв 2,951,000
Kharkiv арків 1,446,000
Odessa еса 1,013,000
Dnipro о 998,000
Donetsk онецьк 913,000
Zaporizhia апоріжжя 739,000
L’vivo Л catches 724,000
Kryvyi Riha ивий 625,000

Ukraine is a country of diverse ethnicities. About 78% of the inhabitants are Ukrainian and 17% are Russian. Other groups make up less than 1% each. The official language of the country is Ukrainian, which is written in Cyrillic. Russian is widely spoken in the east and south of the country. The proportion of Russian speakers is almost twice as high as the proportion of Russians in Ukraine, a result of Russification during the Soviet Union. The population has declined sharply since independence in 1991. The country shrank from 52 million inhabitants in 1993 to 42 million in 2018.

Ukraine has many large cities. The capital Kyiv is clearly the largest, but there are still 3 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants; Kharkiv, Odessa and Dnipro. In total there are 16 cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants. In 2016, many place names have been named that have a communist background, the biggest adaptation was the city of Dnipropetrovsk which was renamed after Dnipro. Originally Ukrainian cities had even more communist names, for example Donetsk was known as Stalino before 1961. A number of cities have changed names three or more times.

The Ukrainian government is trying to promote the Ukrainian language in order to reverse the country’s Russification under the Soviet Union. There are therefore several spelling variants for many place names, with Russian and Ukrainian also slightly differing in Cyrillic in terms of spelling. Ukrainian is often somewhat simplified in the romanization, for example by omitting the apostrophe (ь) and double letters in place names. For example, Запоріжжя is often simplified to Zaporizhia instead of Zaporizhzhia.


Ukraine’s origins date back to the Middle Ages, when the Kievan Rus’ Federation came into being. This was a vast empire that eventually extended from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. In the 10th and 11th centuries this was the most powerful area in Europe. From the 14th century, most of modern Ukraine came under the influence of the Lithuanian Principality and from the 16th century under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The south of Ukraine was dominated by the Crimean Khanate and the southwest by the Ottomans. In the 18th century this area was conquered by the Russian Empire, eventually the entire region came under Russian rule. Ukrainians migrated in great numbers to other parts of the Russian Empire at the time, including Siberia and Central Asia.

After the end of the First World War, the Russian Civil War broke out, after which several short-lived Ukrainian states arose in the period 1917-1920. The west of modern Ukraine belonged to Poland after World War I, the rest to the Soviet Union from 1922. Ukraine was in ruins at the time because of the Russian civil war and the war with Poland. A famine followed in 1921. After that, Ukraine became a more liberal area and Ukrainian identity became stronger until Stalin put an end to it. He created a famine in the early 1930s that killed millions of people. This is called a genocide, an estimated 10 million Ukrainians died in 1932-1933.

In 1939, the Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland, after which Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Ukraine suffered greatly during World War II, with its economy and infrastructure almost completely destroyed. Between 5 and 8 million Ukrainians died during that war. After 1945, Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union again, it also included the territories that belonged to Poland before that, including western modern Ukraine. The extreme east of Czechoslovakia was also annexed by the Soviet Union and annexed to Ukraine. Shortly after the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of Germans and Tatars were deported from Ukraine.

In the post-war period, the Soviet Union invested heavily in rebuilding Ukraine, especially in industry and agriculture. As early as 1950, pre-war levels were reached. At the time, almost 20% of the Soviet Union’s budget was spent on rebuilding Ukraine. The country became important as the center of the arms industry in the Soviet Union. In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster took place, which had an impact on the Ukrainian and Belarusian economies for a long time.

Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. It became the largest country entirely in Europe. The country did not recover as well economically as its western neighbours, the economy was dominated by oligarchs and widespread corruption. Politics is not very stable, with revolutions in 2005 and 2014. In 2014 Crimea separatedbroke away from Ukraine and was subsequently annexed by Russia. Also, from 2014, there was a pro-Russian uprising in the far east of the country, mainly in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In 2022, this culminated in a large-scale Russian invasion of northern, eastern and southern Ukraine. On September 30, 2022, Russia annexed four oblasts of Ukraine, namely Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk, although at that time these oblasts were only partly under Russian control.


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