Ukrainian cultural and natural richness awaits

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Ukraine is Eastern Europe, and it borders the Black Sea, between Poland, Romania, and Moldova in the west and Russia in the east. The Ukrainian population has a total area of 603,550 sq km, most of which is land, and around 24,220 sq km is water.

As mentioned before, Ukraine shares borders with several countries. Those are Belarus 1111 km, Hungary 128 km, Moldova 1202 km, Poland 498 km, Romania 601 km, Russia 1944 km,  and Slovakia 97 km.

Ukraine map
Ukraine map

Their terrain is mostly fertile plains (steppes) and plateaus, the country also has mountains in the west. Among the most important natural resources they have; we can find iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, and sulfur. Ukraine also has graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber.

PEOPLE DISTRIBUTION, LANGUAGE, AND ETHNICITY

According to 2021 estimations, Ukraine has a total population of 43,745,640. They have a wide range of ethnicity. For example, Ukrainian 77.8%, Russian 17.3%, Belarusian 0.6%, Moldovan 0.5%, Crimean Tatar 0.5%.

The densest population settlement in Ukraine is in the eastern (Donbas) and western regions. Moreover, there are concentrations in and around major urban areas of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donets’k, Dnipropetrovs’k, and Odesa.

Ukrainian women
Ukrainian women

Around 3.010 million live in Kyiv, which is the capital of the country, and approximately 1.423 million people live in Kharkiv. Regarding their other big cities, we can find that 1.008 million live in Odesa, 952,000 in Dnipropetrovsk, and 893,000 in Donetsk.

Furthermore, there are also 0.4% from Bulgary, Hungarian 0.3%, Romanian 0.3%, Polish 0.3%, Jewish 0.2%, other 1.8%. That means that Ukrainian is the official language with a total percentage of 67.5, in second place there is Russian as regional with 29.6%. Around 2.9% of the population speaks other languages besides those two.

Ukrainian women in traditional clothing
Ukrainian women in traditional clothing
RELIGION AND AGE PYRAMID DISTRIBUTION 

Regarding religion, first, we have in Ukraine, the Orthodox Church, two-thirds of the population identified as Orthodox. This religion includes the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC); and the Ukrainian Orthodox – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP).

Orthodox Church of Ukraine
Orthodox Church of Ukraine

Ukraine has also other religions present throughout its territory, like Ukrainian Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, and finally Jewish. Ukraine’s population is overwhelmingly Christian, then the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church accounts for 8-10%, and the UAOC accounts for 1-2%; Muslim and Jewish adherents each compose less than 1% of the population.

Then the age pyramid distribution, the first we can see is that around 43.66% of the population has 25-54 years; the next one is the range of 65 and over, with 17.03%. Furthermore, the third biggest is 0-14 years with 16.16%, then it’s the 55-64 years with 13.87%, and the last one is 15-24 years with 9.28%.

BIRTH AND DEATH RATES 

It is important to mention that Ukraine has a higher death rate than births because there is are 13.9 deaths/1,000 population; over the 9.23 births/1,000 population. This means that Ukraine has the 4th position in the world ranking of deaths. Then the Ukrainian fertility rate is that the country has 1.56 children born/ per woman.

EDUCATION EXPENDITURE, LITERACY RATE, AND UNEMPLOYMENT 

In 2019, Ukraine used 5.4% of its GDP for the education system, and regarding literacy around 99.8% of the population of age 15 and over can read and write. The literacy rate in 2015 stated that 99.8% of the male population of that range could read and write, and 99.

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7% of the women could do so as well.

Ukraine has a high literacy rate
Ukraine has a high literacy rate

Finally, the unemployment rate remarks how much percentage of the workforce of a country currently has a job. In 2020, the Ukrainian unemployment rate positioned at a total of 19.3% of the population.

Out of it, 19.8% of the Ukrainian male workforce did not have a job, and around 18.5% of the female workforce of the country did not have a job either.

CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES 

Like many other countries, Ukraine has several environmental issues. Some examples are air and water pollution; land degradation; solid waste management; biodiversity loss; deforestation; radiation contamination due to Chernobyl.

GOVERNMENT 

Ukraine has a semi-presidential republic and the government established Kyiv as the capital. The country divided itself into 24 provinces, 1 autonomous republic, and 2 municipalities.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy President of Ukraine
Volodymyr Zelenskyy President of Ukraine

Ukraine was one of the Soviet Socialist Republics, but officially declared independence from the Union on 24 August 1991. The country previously declared itself independent from Soviet Russia in 1918.

Independence Day passed to be a national holiday for the Ukrainians, and the 1918 day was also a national holiday. Ukraine has had several constitutions, being the latest one that the Government ratified on 28 June 1996.

The current president and chief of state is Volodymyr Zelenskyy since 2019. Also, the head of the government and Prime Minister is Denys Shmyhal since 2020. The election of a president needs an absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term.

A President can also run for a second term in office and the Verkhovna Rada elects the Prime Minister.

CONSTITUTION AMENDMENTS REQUIREMENTS

The Government can amend the constitution in two ways, the first one is when the President proposes it; and the second one when at least one-third of the Supreme Council members request it.

To adopt those amendments requires a simple majority vote by the Council and at least two-thirds majority vote in its next regular session. Later to adopt proposals relating to general constitutional principles, elections, and amendment procedures it has different requirements.

Those requirements are two-thirds majority vote by the Council and approval in a referendum. Furthermore, Ukraine has a civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts.

LEGISLATIVE SYSTEM 

Ukraine has the unicameral Supreme Council or Verkhovna Rada with 450 seats. Members of the Council can serve a term of five years and can arrive at the post either by simple majority vote (225 seats); or directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by closed, party-list proportional representation vote.

President enacting a law on referendum in Ukraine
President enacting a law on a referendum in the country
JUDICIAL BRANCH OF UKRAINE 

The highest court in Ukraine is the Supreme Court of Ukraine or SCU. This court has around 100 judges organized into civil, criminal, commercial, and administrative chambers and a grand chamber.

The other high courts are Constitutional Court and finally the Corruption Court. Ukraine also has subordinate courts like the Courts of Appeal; district courts. The country abolished specialized courts with the judicial reform program.

NATIONAL HERITAGE 

Ukraine currently has 7 World Heritage Sites, 6 of which are cultural and 1 natural. Those are Kyiv: Saint Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, then Lviv Historic Center; Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans, and Chernivtsi.

Ukraine also has the Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese, Sevastopol; Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region; Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians; Struve Geodetic Arc.

UKRAINIAN ECONOMY 

The fertile black soil of Ukraine accounted for more than one-fourth of Soviet agricultural output, and its farms provided several products. Those were meat, milk, grain, and vegetables. Ukraine had and has a diversified heavy industry supplied equipment like large diameter pipes and vertical drilling apparatus and raw material.

After the independence from the Soviet Union but the Government liberalized most prices and erected a legal framework for privatization. By 1999, the output fell to less than 40% of the 1991 level. The IMF encouraged Ukraine to quicken the pace and scope of reforms to foster economic growth.

Despite the obstacles, Ukraine's economy is diverse
Despite the obstacles, Ukraine’s economy is diverse

To do that, the Government eliminated most tax and customs privileges in a March 2005 budget law, bringing more economic activity out of Ukraine’s large shadow economy. In 2009, Ukraine’s economy contracted nearly 15% which was one of the worst economic performances in the world.

Later in 2010, Ukraine negotiated a price discount on Russian gas imports in exchange for extending Russia’s lease on its naval base in Crimea. Despite its growth, Ukraine remained behind other countries in the region and among Europe’s poorest.

GDP AND OTHER IMPORTANT ASPECTS 

The estimations of the GDP in 2018, stated that Ukraine’s GDP was 521.52 billion. In 2019, the GDP was 538.33 billion. Finally, in 2020, the GDP was 516.68 billion. In 2019, Ukraine registered a growth in its GDP of 3.24%.

Regarding the GDP per capita, in 2020, Ukraine had it at $12,400. Ukraine registered a decline in inflation in 2019, from 11% to 7.9%. They have several agricultural products like maize, wheat, potatoes, sunflower seed, sugar beet, milk, barley, soybeans, rapeseed, tomatoes.

Ukraine's agriculture sector offers a wide range of products which represent part of its GDP
Ukraine’s agriculture sector offers a wide range of products that represent part of its GDP

As mentioned before, Ukraine has a diverse industry, like coal, electric power, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food processing. Most of the labor workforce is employed in the service sector, that being 67.8%.

Regarding the unemployment rate, in 2019, Ukraine had a rate of 8.

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89%, which registered a slight decrease from the 9.42% in 2018. The unemployment of the youth population from 15-24 years in Ukraine is 19.3%.

EXPORTS AND IMPORTS

Ukraine had a total of 60.67 billion in 2020. Then to mention the main export partners of Ukraine, we can find Russia 9%, China 8%, Germany 6%, Poland 6%, Italy 5%, Turkey 5%.

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The country exports several important products like corn, sunflower seed oils, iron and iron products, wheat, insulated wiring, rapeseed.

Flags of China and Ukraine
Flags of China and Ukraine

Regarding imports, in 2020, Ukraine imported a total amount of 62.46 billion. This means that Ukraine had more imports than exports. Among Ukraine’s import partners we can find China 13%, Russia 12%, Germany 10%, Poland 9%, Belarus 7%.

Among the imports of Ukraine, we can find refined petroleum, cars, packaged medicines, coal, and natural gas.

MOBILE SUBSCRIPTIONS, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND TV  

Ukraine has 53,977,690 total mobile subscriptions, and 3,314,263 total subscriptions of fixed lines. Ukraine’s media landscape is dominated by oligarch-owned news outlets, which are often politically motivated.

TRK Ukraine media
TRK Ukraine media

Social media is a crucial component of information dissemination in Ukraine; almost all Ukrainian politicians and opinion leaders communicate with the public via social media. Ukraine television serves as the principal source of news; the largest national networks are controlled by oligarchs like TRK.

CURRENT CONFLICTS 

Due to the Ukrainian desire to join NATO and the reluctance of Russia to allow the country to join; Russia started a formal military operation and invaded Ukraine after several attempts to reach peace failed. The reason was that both sides couldn’t achieve exactly what they wanted

Ukraine right now faces the presence of the Russian army in their territory due to the invasion after months of threats, pressure, and negotiations with Russia. This happened after Moscow recognized the independence of two Ukrainian regions that have the presence of Ukrainian citizens that according to them preferred Russia.

NATO and Ukraine
Flags of Ukraine and NATO, one main player in the current conflict against Russia

Several countries of the world already announced a package of sanctions to Russia for the military operation. The reason was to give Russia sufficient motivation to stop their troops, regardless of the political responsibilities that lie for each side in the conflict, there is only one truth. The truth is those innocent people, which are the citizens will be the ones that lose the most, maybe even their lives.

NATIONAL HOLIDAYS 

New Year’s Day: It is a day off for the general population, during this day, every school and businesses close. The Ukrainians celebrate it similarly to Christmas in many countries. On this day, many Ukrainians decorate their Christmas tree and buy presents to give to one another.

The children receive gifts from Ded Moroz, which is a version of Santa Claus or the baby God in many American countries. Ded Moroz also receives the name of Father Frost and is described to have a long coat embroidered with silver stars and crosses. Before midnight between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, a presidential speech is broadcast nationally.

People organize dinners and parties to celebrate the New Year. The Ukrainians raise a toast to celebrate the arrival of the New Year and fireworks are also lit to celebrate January 1.

ORTHODOX CELEBRATIONS 

Orthodox Christmas Day: Starts on January 6 which is Christmas Eve on the Julian Calendar, and it lasts until the Feast of Epiphany on January 19. More and more Ukrainians celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian Calendar.

Christmas Eve (Holy Eve) is marked by traditional family gatherings in the evening in Ukraine, also known as Sviata Vecheria (‘Holy Dinner’). When the first star appears, the festivities start, but the preparations start from dawn.

The table has 12 meatless dishes that represent the 12 apostles, and the Kutia is the main dish. The Kutia is boiled wheat mixed with poppy seeds and honey. The main house decoration is the didukh (a sheaf of wheat stalks) that symbolizes the ancestors’ spirits.

This is because the Ukrainians believe that during those days their deceased relatives return. That’s why they leave some Kutia and other dishes as a treat for them. Boys and girls prepare songs to sing from house to house.

They have a belief that the more carolers come to the home, the more fortune and wealth will be brought to the family during the following year. During these days, Ukraine also celebrates Malanka which is a traditional Ukrainian celebration of the ‘Old New Year’ and it has ancient roots.

ORTHODOX EASTER SUNDAY:
People will attend special Easter services and people will get together with family and friends to eat lamb, walnut pound cake, and painted eggs that were prepared earlier. This is a national holiday with government and business offices closed.

First, Ukraine celebrates Palm Sunday, where they had the custom (Boze Rany) for Ukrainians exiting church to gently tap each other with the blessed pussy willow branches. Then it’s the Holy Thursday, known as Velykyi Chetver or Strasty Khrysta, which is a day to commemorate Christ’s passion. In doing this, everything must be washed or cleaned, and all food should be cooked or baked.

Moreover, Good Friday is a solemn time that commemorates the day our Lord was crucified.  This day is observed as a strict fast, so no meat or dairy products are consumed. No manual labor is allowed.

All conversation is done quietly.  Part of the services of that day includes the ancient custom of the Veneration of the Holy Shroud (“Plaschenytsia”).  The Holy Shroud is a representation of the sheet that Christ was buried in following his death on the cross.

Furthermore, Ukraine has the Holy Saturday, and then the Easter Food Basket during the Great Fast (Lent). The Easter basket foods have several symbols, for example, Paska which symbolizes Christ, Our Bread of Life; Eggs which symbolizes New Life and the Resurrection of Christ, and Horseradish which symbolizes The Passion of Christ.

Other foods include Bacon which symbolizes God’s Mercy, Cheese which symbolizes the moderation that Christians should show in all things; salt which symbolizes the duty of Christians to others, also Ham as the great Joy and abundance of Easter, Butter as the Goodness of Christ, and finally, Kielbasa as God’s Favor and Generosity.

Orthodox Pentecost: Orthodox Pentecost has been celebrated as a major Christian holiday for hundreds of years, and it continues to be kept with fervor today. Many churches in Ukraine will hold special services on Orthodox Pentecost, but there are many traditions and events outside of the church as well.

For example, people will sometimes decorate their houses with the calamus herb, grasses, garlands, and green branches, which is why Pentecost is also called “Green Sunday” in Ukraine. Many will visit the graves of deceased loved ones on Pentecost as well, leaving food items at the gravesites.

Victory Day: Victory Day over Nazism in the Second World War has been a public holiday in Ukraine since Soviet Days. Victory Day remembers the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union at the close of World War II. It was instituted throughout the Soviet Union immediately after the war.

Many Ukrainians celebrate Victory Day in several ways. For example, by paying respects to alive Ukrainian war veterans, having a “moment of silence” for deceased war heroes, attending patriotic music concerts, listening to the presidential Victory Day speech, and attending fireworks displays. People gift flowers to lay at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Kyiv.

Constitution Day: On this day Ukraine celebrates the moment when its Constitution came into force, five years after its independence. It is a special day because Ukrainians believe that this was the day that their country truly became independent.

Most cities hold parades on Constitution Day. The capital of Ukraine holds the largest parades that have the presence of Heads of State. There are traditional performances, bands, and many different floats representing the diverse culture of Ukraine. These parades have afterwards large fireworks displays in the evening.

The National Anthem, or what is often called the Hymn of Ukraine, is present on the radios and television throughout the day and the people often break out singing this hymn during the parades or their celebrations.

INDEPENDENCE DAY AND DEFENDERS DAY

Independence Day: Independence Day in Ukraine takes place every 24 August to remember the day in 1991 when the Ukrainian parliament declared the country to be fully independent of the Soviet Union.

The reason for Independence Day is the day to remember the heroes of Ukraine’s past and honor those who fought and died to secure their long-desired independence.

Defenders Day: Ukraine established this day by decree of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and soon afterward ratified by parliament.

WHAT TO SEE IN UKRAINE

Ukraine has an extensive list of tourist destinations for those that have enough passion to discover their natural and cultural richness.

One example is the exquisite architecture of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia or the Monastery of the Kyiv Caves. Other examples are the Slavut·sʹkyy Istorychnyy Muzey, the Cathedral of Saint Andrews; Khreschatyk Street, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, Motherland Statue, and Independence Square.

More examples for tourists to give a chance to are the tunnel of love, Bukovel, Goverla, Andriivskiy Uzviz, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, Potemkin Stairs, Sinevir Lake, Lychakiv Cemetery, Derybasivska Street, and Mariyinsky Palace. 

Finally, as a tourist, you can visit the following attractions, the Lviv Opera and Ballet Theater, Pyrohiv, Arboretum Sofiyivka, Khotyn Fortress, Mezhyhirya, and the Bilhorod-Dnister fortress.

These are just some examples of Ukraine’s cultural, and natural richness reflected through architecture, history, nature, that can be found throughout its territory, making Ukraine another valuable tourist destination for all.