About Ukraine

Information about Ukraine

GENERAL INFORMATION

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Official language: Ukrainian
Capital and the largest city: Kyiv
Independence date: August, 24, 1991
Area: 603 700 km2
Climate: moderately continental; in Southern regions – subtropical, of the Mediterranean type.
Average winter temperature:  from -8° to -12°C. In the Southern regions average winter temperature is 0°C.
Average summer temperature: from +18° to +25°C, although maximum temperature can be more than +35°C.
Population: approximately 43.000.000 people
Population density80 p/km2
Currency: hryvnia
Time zone: GMT+2 (UTC+2)
Internet top-level domain: ua
International phone code: 380

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HISTORY

Ukraine is a large picturesque country in the Eastern Europe. It has a mostly temperate climate, with the exception of the Crimea with its subtropical climate. The Black Sea and Sea of Azov border its territory from the south and southeast, from the north and west it is surrounded by forests, western part is the Carpathian mountains and the eastern part of Ukraine is the agrarian and industrial regions with many fields and coal mines. Ukraine bordered by Russia, Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova and has an area of 603,628 km2 making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.

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The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Kievan Rus was founded in the city of Kyiv around 880 AD. Kievan Rus included the central, western and northern part of modern Ukraine, Belarus, far eastern strip of Poland and the western part of present-day Russia. According to the Primary Chronicle the Rus elite initially consisted of Varangians from Scandinavia. During the 10th and 11th centuries, it became the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Kyiv, the capital of modern Ukraine, became the most important city of the Rus’. The Varangians later assimilated into the Slavic population and became part of the first Rus dynasty, the Rurik Dynasty.

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The Golden Age of Kievan Rus began with the reign of Vladimir the Great (980–1015), who turned Rus toward Byzantine Christianity. During the reign of his son, Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054), Kievan Rus reached the zenith of its cultural development and military power. The state soon fragmented as the relative importance of regional powers rose again. After a final resurgence under the rule of Vladimir II Monomakh (1113–1125) and his son Mstislav (1125–1132), Kievan Rus finally disintegrated into separate principalities following Mstislav’s death. The 13th century Mongol invasion devastated Kievan Rus and its the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.

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During the 17th and 18th centuries the Cossack republic emerged and prospered. In 1648, Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Petro Doroshenko led the largest of the Cossack uprisings against the Commonwealth and the Polish king John II Casimir. After Khmelnytsky made an entry into Kyiv in 1648, where he was hailed liberator of the people from Polish captivity, he founded the Cossack Hetmanate which existed until 1764. Khmelnytsky, deserted by his Tatar allies, suffered a crushing defeat at Berestechko in 1651, and turned to the Russian tsar for help. In 1654, Khmelnytsky signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav, forming a military and political alliance with Russia that acknowledged loyalty to the Russian tsar.

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In 1657–1686 came “The Ruin“, a devastating 30-year war amongst Russia, Poland, Turks and Cossacks for control of Ukraine, which occurred at about the same time as the Deluge of Poland. Defeat came in 1686 as the “Eternal Peace” between Russia and Poland divided the Ukrainian lands between them. In 1709, Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1639–1709) defected to Sweden against Russia in the Great Northern War (1700–1721). Mazepa died in exile after fleeing from the Battle of Poltava (1709), where the Swedes and their Cossack allies suffered a catastrophic defeat.

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The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk or Pacts and Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Host was a 1710 constitutional document written by Hetman Pylyp Orlyk, a Cossack of Ukraine, then within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Constitution was unique for its historic period, and was one of the first state constitutions in Europe.

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The Hetmanate was abolished in 1764; the Zaporizhska Sich abolished in 1775, as Russia centralised control over its lands. As part of the partitioning of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795, the Ukrainian lands west of the Dnieper were divided between Russia and Austria. From 1737 to 1834, expansion into the northern Black Sea littoral and the eastern Danube valley was a cornerstone of Russian foreign policy. Despite promises in the Treaty of Pereyaslav, the Ukrainian elite and the Cossacks never received the freedoms and the autonomy they were expecting. At a later period, tsarists established a policy of Russification, suppressing the use of the Ukrainian language in print and in public.

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In the 19th century with growing urbanization and modernization, and a cultural trend toward romantic nationalism, a Ukrainian intelligentsia committed to national rebirth and social justice emerged. The serf-turned-national-poet Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861) and the political theorist Mykhailo Drahomanov (1841–1895) led the growing nationalist movement. Beginning in the 19th century, there was migration from Ukraine to distant areas of the Russian Empire. According to the 1897 census, there were 223.000 ethnic Ukrainians in Siberia and 102.000 in Central Asia. 

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Ukrainians entered World War I on the side of both the Central Powers, under Austria, and the Triple Entente, under Russia. 3.5 million Ukrainians fought with the Imperial Russian Army, while 250.000 fought for the Austro-Hungarian Army. Austro-Hungarian authorities established the Ukrainian Legion to fight against the Russian Empire. This became the Ukrainian Galician Army that fought against the Bolsheviks and Poles in the post-World War I period (1919–23). World War I destroyed both empires. The Russian Revolution of 1917 led to the founding of the Soviet Union under the Bolsheviks, and subsequent civil war in Russia.

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A Ukrainian national movement for self-determination reemerged, with heavy Communist and Socialist influence. Several Ukrainian states briefly emerged: the internationally recognized Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR, the predecessor of modern Ukraine), the Hetmanate, the Directorate and the pro-Bolshevik Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic successively established territories in the former Russian Empire; while the West Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Hutsul Republic emerged briefly in the Ukrainian lands of former Austro-Hungarian territory. Unification Act was an agreement signed on January 22, 1919 by the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic on the St. Sophia Square in Kyiv. This led to civil war, and an anarchist movement called the Black Army or later The Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine developed in Southern Ukraine under the command of the anarchist Nestor Makhno during the Russian Civil War.

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Poland defeated Western Ukraine in the Polish-Ukrainian War, but failed against the Bolsheviks in an offensive against Kyiv. According to the Peace of Riga, western Ukraine was incorporated into Poland, which in turn recognised the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in March 1919. With establishment of the Soviet power, Ukraine lost half of its territory to Poland, Belarus and Russia, while on the left bank of Dniester River was created Moldavian autonomy. Ukraine became a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in December 1922.

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The Russian Civil War devastated the whole Russian Empire including Ukraine. It left over 1.5 million people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the former Russian Empire territory. During the 1920s, under the Ukrainisation policy Soviet leadership encouraged a national renaissance in the Ukrainian culture and language. Most of these policies were sharply reversed by the early 1930s after Joseph Stalin became the de-facto communist party leader. The peasantry suffered from the programme of collectivisation of agriculture which began during the first five-year plan and was enforced by regular troops and secret police. Those who resisted were arrested and deported and agricultural productivity greatly declined, millions starved to death in a famine known as the Holodomor or the “Great Famine”. Ukrainian Parliament and the governments of other countries have acknowledged it as the genocide of Ukrainian people by soviet authorities. Kyiv Appellate Court posthumously found Stalin, Kaganovich and other Soviet Communist Party functionaries guilty of genocide against Ukrainians during the Holodomor famine.

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Following the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, German and Soviet troops divided the territory of Poland. Thus, Eastern Galicia and Volhynia with their Ukrainian population became part of Ukraine.  In 1940, the Soviets annexed Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. On 22 June, 1941, German Nazi armies invaded the Soviet Union, initiating nearly four years of total war. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers (or one-quarter of the Soviet Western Front) were killed or taken captive in Kyiv, with many suffering severe mistreatment. In Western Ukraine an independent Ukrainian Insurgent Army movement arose (UPA, 1942). Created as forces of the Ukrainian Government in exile, it fell under the influence of the underground (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN) which had developed in interwar Poland as a radical reaction to Polish policies towards the Ukrainian minority. Both supported the goal of an independent Ukrainian state on the territory with a Ukrainian ethnic majority. Although this brought conflict with Nazi Germany, at times the Melnyk wing of the OUN allied with the Nazi forces. After the war, the UPA continued to fight the USSR until the 1950s. In total, the number of ethnic Ukrainians who fought in the ranks of the Soviet Army is estimated from 4.5 million to 7 million. Most of the Ukrainian SSR was organised within the Reichskommissariat Ukraine, with the intention of exploiting its resources and eventual German settlement. The Nazis preserved the collective-farm system, carried out genocidal policies against Jews, deported millions of people to work in Germany, and began a depopulation programme to prepare for German colonisation. The vast majority of the fighting in World War II took place on the Eastern Front. The total losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian population during the war are estimated at between 5 and 8 million, including an estimated one and a half million Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen. Of the estimated 8.7 million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, 1.4 million were ethnic Ukrainians. Victory Day is celebrated as one of ten Ukrainian national holidays.

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The republic was heavily damaged by the war, and it required significant efforts to recover. More than 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages were destroyed. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the founding members of the United Nations organization, part of a special agreement at the Yalta Conference. Post-war ethnic cleansing occurred in the newly expanded Soviet Union. Over 450,000 ethnic Germans from Ukraine and more than 200,000 Crimean Tatars were victims of forced deportations. Following the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the new leader of the USSR. By 1950, the republic had fully surpassed pre-war levels of industry and production. Soviet Ukraine soon became a European leader in industrial production, and an important centre of the Soviet arms industry and high-tech research. Such an important role resulted in a major influence of the local elite. Sergey Korolyov, a native of Zhytomyr, who graduated from Kyiv Polytechnic Institute was the head Soviet rocket engineer and designer during the Space Race, the Father of Soviet cosmonautic science.

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On 26 April 1986, a reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history. At the time of the accident, 7 million people lived in the contaminated territories, including 2.2 million in Ukraine. After the accident, the new city of Slavutych was built outside the exclusion zone to house and support the employees of the plant, which was decommissioned in 2000. A report prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency and World Health Organization attributed 56 direct deaths to the accident and estimated that there may have been 4,000 extra cancer deaths.

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On 24 August 1991 the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence. A referendum and the first presidential elections took place on 1 December 1991. More than 90% of the electorate expressed their support for the Act of Independence, and they elected the chairman of the parliament, Leonid Kravchuk as the first President of Ukraine. At the meeting in Brest, Belarus on 8 December, followed by the Alma Ata meeting on 21 December, the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Ukraine was initially viewed as having favourable economic conditions in comparison to the other regions of the Soviet Union. However, the country experienced deeper economic slowdown, which stabilized only by the end of the 1990s. A new currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in 1996. After 2000, the country enjoyed steady real economic growth averaging about seven percent annually. A new Constitution of Ukraine was adopted under second President Leonid Kuchma in 1996. Ukraine also pursued full nuclear disarmament, giving up the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world and dismantling or removing all strategic bombers on its territory in exchange for various assurances.

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In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, then Prime Minister, was declared the winner of the presidential elections, which had been largely rigged, as the Supreme Court of Ukraine later ruled. The results caused a public outcry in support of the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who challenged the outcome, what has turned into peaceful Orange Revolution. During the months of the revolution, candidate Yushchenko suddenly became gravely ill, and was soon found by multiple independent physician groups, to have been poisoned by TCDD dioxin. All of this eventually resulted in bringing Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to power, while casting Viktor Yanukovych in opposition.

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Viktor Yanukovych was elected President in 2010 with 48% of votes. In November 2013, the Euromaidan protests started after the president Viktor Yanukovych began moving away from an association agreement with the European Union and instead chose to establish closer ties with the Russian Federation. Ukrainians took to the streets to show their support for closer ties with Europe. Over time, Euromaidan came to describe a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, including calls for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government. Violence escalated after 16 January 2014 when the government accepted new Anti-Protest Laws. Violent anti-government demonstrators occupied buildings in the centre of Kyiv, including the Justice Ministry building, and riots left 98 dead with approximately fifteen thousand injured and 100 considered missing from 18 to 20 February. On 21 February, President Yanukovych signed a compromise deal with opposition leaders that promised constitutional changes. But some days later President Yanukovich left the country in hurry. In May, 2014 Petro Poroshenko, running on a pro-European Union platform, won with over fifty percent of the vote, therefore not requiring a run-off election.

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CULTURE

Ukrainian customs are heavily influenced by Orthodox Christianity, the dominant religion in the country. Gender roles also tend to be more traditional, and grandparents play a greater role in bringing up children, than in the West. The culture of Ukraine has also been influenced by its eastern and western neighbours, reflected in its architecture, music and art. The Communist era had quite a strong effect on the art and writing of Ukraine. In 1932, Stalin made socialist realism state policy in the Soviet Union when he promulgated the decree “On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organisations”. This greatly stifled creativity. During the 1980s glasnost (openness) was introduced and Soviet artists and writers again became free to express themselves as they wanted. The tradition of the Easter egg, known as pysanky, has long roots in Ukraine. These eggs were drawn on with wax to create a pattern; then, the dye was applied to give the eggs their pleasant colours, the dye did not affect the previously wax-coated parts of the egg. After the entire egg was dyed, the wax was removed leaving only the colourful pattern. This tradition is thousands of years old, and precedes the arrival of Christianity to Ukraine. In the city of Kolomyia near the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in 2000 was built the museum of Pysanka which won a nomination as the monument of modern Ukraine in 2007, part of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine action.

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Artisan textile arts play an important role in Ukrainian culture, especially in Ukrainian wedding traditions. Ukrainian embroidery, weaving and lace-making are used in traditional folk dress and in traditional celebrations. Ukrainian embroidery varies depending on the region of origin and the designs have a long history of motifs, compositions, choice of colours and types of stitches.

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LITERATURE


The history of Ukrainian literature dates back to the 11th century, following the Christianisation of the Kievan Rus. The writings of the time were mainly liturgical and were written in Old Church Slavonic. Historical accounts of the time were referred to as chronicles, the most significant of which was the Primary Chronicle. Literary activity faced a sudden decline during the Mongol invasion of Rus. Ukrainian literature again began to develop in the 14th century, and was advanced significantly in the 16th century with the introduction of print and with the beginning of the Cossack era. The Cossacks established an independent society and popularized a new kind of epic poems, which marked a high point of Ukrainian oral literature. These advances were then set back in the 17th and early 18th centuries, when publishing in the Ukrainian language was outlawed and prohibited. Nonetheless, by the late 18th century modern literary Ukrainian finally emerged. The 19th century initiated a vernacular period in Ukraine, led by Ivan Kotliarevsky’s work “Eneyida”, the first publication written in modern Ukrainian. By the 1830s, Ukrainian romanticism began to develop, and the nation’s most renowned cultural figure, romanticist poet-painter Taras Shevchenko emerged. Where Ivan Kotliarevsky is considered to be the father of literature in the Ukrainian vernacular; Shevchenko is the father of a national revival. Then, in 1863, use of the Ukrainian language in print was effectively prohibited by the Russian Empire. Ukrainian literature continued to flourish in the early Soviet years, when nearly all literary trends were approved. These policies faced a steep decline in the 1930s, when prominent representatives as well as many others were killed by NKVD as part of the Great Purge. In general around 223 writers were repressed by what was known as the Executed Renaissance. These repressions were part of Stalin’s implemented policy of socialist realism. In post-Stalinist times literary activities continued to be somewhat limited under the Communist Party. Literary freedom appeared in late 1980s with the process of collapse of the USSR and reestablishing of Ukrainian independence in 1991.

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ARCHITECTURE


Ukrainian architecture
includes the motifs and styles that are found in structures built in modern Ukraine, and by Ukrainians worldwide. These include initial roots which were established in the Eastern Slavic state of Kievan Rus. Since the Christianization of Kievan Rus for several ages Ukrainian architecture was influenced by the Byzantine architecture. During the epoch of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, a new style unique to Ukraine was developed under the western influences. After the union with the Tsardom of Russia, many structures in the larger eastern area were built in the styles of Russian architecture of that period, whilst the western Galicia was developed under Austro-Hungarian architectural influences. Ukrainian national motifs would finally be used during the period of the Soviet Union and in modern independent Ukraine. The great churches of the Rus, built after the adoption of Christianity in 988, were the first examples of monumental architecture in the East Slavic lands. The architectural style of the Kievan state was strongly influenced by the Byzantine. Early Eastern Orthodox churches were mainly made of wood, with the simplest form of church becoming known as a cell church. Several examples of these churches survive; however, during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, many were externally rebuilt in the Ukrainian Baroque style. Examples include the grand St. Sophia of Kyiv – the year 1017 is the earliest record of foundation laid, Church of the Saviour at Berestove – built from 1113 to 1125 and St. Cyril’s Church, circa 12th-century. All can still be found in the Ukrainian capital. As Ukraine became increasingly integrated into the Russian Empire, Russian architects had the opportunity to realise their projects in the picturesque landscape that many Ukrainian cities and regions offered. St. Andrew’s Church of Kyiv, built by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, is a notable example of Baroque architecture, and its location on top of the Kievan mountain made it a recognisable monument of the city. An equally notable contribution of Rastrelli was the Mariinsky Palace, which was built to be a summer residence to Russian Empress Elizabeth. In 1934, the capital of Soviet Ukraine moved from Kharkiv to Kyiv. The first examples of Stalinist architecture were already showing, and a new city was to be built on top of the old one. This meant that much-admired examples such as the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery were destroyed. Even the St. Sophia Cathedral was under threat. Also, the Second World War contributed to the wreckage. After the war, a new project for the reconstruction of central Kyiv transformed Khreshchatyk street into a notable example of Stalinism in Architecture. However, by 1955, the new politics of architecture once again stopped the project from fully being realised.

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MUSIC

Music is a major part of Ukrainian culture, with a long history and many influences. From traditional folk music, to classical and modern rock, Ukraine has produced several internationally recognised musicians including Okean Elzy and Ruslana. Elements from traditional Ukrainian folk music made their way into Western music and even into modern jazz. Mykola Lysenko is widely considered to be the father of Ukrainian classical music. Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych wrote the world-wide famous composition called “Shchedryk” which became the traditional American Christmas song “Carol of the Bells“. The most striking general characteristic of authentic ethnic Ukrainian folk music is the wide use of minor modes. Ukrainian Cossack leaders being accomplished players of traditional instruments called kobza, bandura or torban. Since the mid-1960s, Western-influenced pop music has been growing in popularity in Ukraine. Ukrainian pop and folk music arose with the international popularity of groups and performers. Modern musical culture of Ukraine is presented both with academic and entertainment music. Ukraine has 5 conservatories, 6 opera houses, 5 houses of Chamber Music, Philharmony in all regional centers. Ukraine hosted the Eurovision Song Contest 2005 and the Eurovision Song Contest 2017.

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SPORT

Ukraine greatly benefited from the Soviet emphasis on physical education. Such policies left Ukraine with hundreds of stadia, swimming pools, gymnasia and many other athletic facilities. The most popular sport is football. Many Ukrainians also played for the Soviet national football team, most notably Ihor Belanov and Oleh Blokhin, winners of the prestigious Golden Ball Award. This award was only presented to one Ukrainian after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Andriy Shevchenko. The national team made its debut in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and reached the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champions, Italy. Ukrainians also fared well in boxing, where the brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have held world heavyweight championships. Sergey Bubka held the record in the Pole vault – with great strength, speed and gymnastic abilities, he was voted the world’s best athlete on several occasions. Chess is a popular sport in Ukraine – Ruslan Ponomariov is the former world champion. Ukraine made its Olympic debut at the 1994 Winter Olympics. So far, Ukraine at the Olympics has been much more successful in Summer Olympics (115 medals in five appearances) than in the Winter Olympics. Ukraine is currently ranked 35th by number of gold medals won in the All-time Olympic Games medal count.

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CUISINE

The traditional Ukrainian cuisine includes chicken, pork, beef, fish and mushrooms. Ukrainians also tend to eat a lot of potatoes, grains, fresh, boiled or pickled vegetables. Popular traditional dishes include varenyky (boiled dumplings with mushrooms, potatoes, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, cherries or berries), nalysnyky (pancakes with cottage cheese, poppy seeds, mushrooms, caviar or meat), kapusnyak (soup made with meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, millet, tomato paste, spices and fresh herbs), borscht (soup made of beets, cabbage and mushrooms or meat), holubtsy (stuffed cabbage rolls filled with rice, carrots, onion and minced meat). Ukrainian specialties also include Chicken Kiev and Kiev cake. Ukrainians drink stewed fruit, juices, milk, buttermilk (they make cottage cheese from this), mineral water, tea and coffee, beer, wine and horilka.

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INTERESTING FACTS

  1. Ukraine is the biggest country within Europe.
  2. Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych wrote the world-wide famous composition called “Shchedryk” which became the traditional American Christmas song “Carol of the Bells”.
  3. One of the supposed geographical centres of Europe is located in Western-Ukrainian town of Rakhiv.
  4. The longest cave in Eurasia is called Optimistic and located in Ternopil region of Ukraine.
  5. The biggest cargo airplane in the world is Ukrainian AN-225 “Mriya” (“The Dream”) – this plane beat 124 world records during one flight in 2001.
  6. Ukraine signed the agreement about nuclear disarmament in 1994. At that time, Ukraine had third biggest nuclear arsenal in the world after USA and Russia.
  7. Ukraine annualy produces more than 65000 tones of honey – the fifth position in the world.
  8. The first helicopter in the world was constructed by Ukrainian and American engineer Igor Sikorsky who was KPI alumni.
  9. The longest trolleybus route in the world is in the Ukrainian Crimea – 95 kilometers between towns of Yalta and Simferopol.
  10. Oleshki Sands – one of the biggest deserts in Europe. It is located in Kherson Region in Southern Ukraine.

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USEFUL INFORMATION AND LINKS

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

  • Rescue service (general) 112
  • Fire guard101
  • Police102
  • Ambulance103
  • Gas emergency service104
  • Dispatcher of Ministry of Extraordinary Situations128
  • Information service109

LINKS

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