Ukraine -- country in eastern Europe, and the second largest country in Europe after Russia. Ukraine is bordered on the west by Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary; on the southwest by Romania and Moldova; on the south by the Black Sea and Sea of Azov; on the east and northeast by Russia; and on the north by Belarus. The Crimean Autonomous Republic is included in Ukraine's borders. The capital and largest city is Kyiv (Kiev).
Much of Ukraine is a fertile plain suited for agriculture. Ukraine is rich in natural resources, and has a developed economy with significant agricultural and industrial sectors. The country has a democratic form of government headed by a president.
From the 9th century AD northern Ukraine was part of Kievan Rus, the first significant East Slavic state, which succumbed to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Ukraine was for centuries thereafter under the rule of a succession of foreign powers, including Poland and the Russian Empire. In 1918 a Bolshevik (Communist) government was established in Ukraine, and in 1922 the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was one of the four founding republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Ukraine's declaration of independence, approved by a popular vote on December 1, 1991, was a major factor in the USSR's collapse later that month.
The total area of Ukraine is 603,700 sq km (233,100 sq mi). The country extends 1,316 km (818 mi) east to west and 893 km (555 mi) north to south. Much of the country is a rolling upland plain, with the highest elevations in the western half of the country and the southeastern Donets'ka region. A lowland region of wooded bogs and swamps, called the Poles'ye (also called the Pripet Marshes), is located in northern Ukraine, although much of this region has been drained and cleared for agriculture. Low-lying plains are found in southern Ukraine in the lower Dnieper (Dnipro) River Basin and the Black Sea coastal region. Ukraine's coastline, including Crimea, extends 2,780 km (1,730 mi). The Carpathian Mountains in the extreme west and the Crimean Mountains in the southern end of Crimea take up about 5 percent of Ukraine's territory. Mount Hoverla in the Carpathians is the country's highest peak at 2,061 m (6,762 ft).
The population of Ukraine was estimated in 1998 at 50,125,108, giving the country a population density of 83 persons per sq km (215 per sq mi). The most notable recent demographic trend has been a decline in population-with an estimated loss of nearly 1.2 million between 1990 and 1997-due to death rates exceeding birth rates. Leading factors in the country's low fertility and high mortality rates are environmental pollution, poor diet, widespread smoking and alcoholism, and deteriorating medical care. Some 71 percent of the population lives in cities and towns. The largest cities in Ukraine are Kyiv, the country's capital and economic, cultural, and educational center; Kharkiv, noted for its engineering expertise, machinery plants, and educational institutions; Dnipropetrovs'k, a center of metallurgical and aerospace industries; and Donets'ka, known for mining and metallurgy. Odesa (Odessa), on the Black Sea coast, is the country's largest seaport.
"Ukraine," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.