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A map of Ukraine, including disputed regions A map of Ukraine, including disputed regions Ukraine is the largest country situated entirely in Europe. Around three-quarters of its land is flat, rolling plains, or steppes—natural grassland. With their fertile, dark soils, the steppes are some of Europe’s most productive farmland. At Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast, the climate is Mediterranean, while inland areas experience a continental climate with high rainfall, cold winters and warm summers. Once part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has a tense relationship with its neighbour, Russia. In 2014, this tension erupted in bloodshed when war broke out between pro-Russian rebels and government forces in the east of the country.

A map of UkraineA map of Ukraine
Anti-government demonstrators in Kiev, November 2013Anti-government demonstrators in Kiev, November 2013


Three-quarters of the population is Ukrainian, descended from East Slavic people who settled in the region in the 9th century. Their language, Ukrainian, is an East Slavic language which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It is closely related to Belarusian and Russian. Russians make up around 20% of Ukraine’s population, and Russian is widely spoken, especially in southern and eastern regions. There are long-standing tensions between Ukrainians and the country’s ethnic Russians.

Kamenets-Podolsky CastleKamenets-Podolsky Castle

Since the 1990s, Ukraine’s population has been shrinking, due to its high death rate and low birth rate. The life expectancy in Ukraine is 70 years old.

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