Special Report

32 Things You May Not Know About Ukraine

The history of Ukraine and Russia goes back more than 1,000 years, and Russia’s invasion of its long-time neighbor on Feb. 24, 2022, is just the latest chapter in the long, tragic, and complicated saga of the two nations. 

To gather a list of facts about Ukraine, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the CIA World Factbook page on Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on the Kremlin website last year that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people,” to lay the groundwork for justifying the invasion. Putin is basing his claim on the fact that in the 10th century, Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv was the center of the first Slavic state, Kyivan Rus, and the birthplace of both Ukraine and Russia. The destinies of the two countries have been intertwined ever since. (See how Russia and Ukraine military spending compares to the world.)

With few natural borders to protect it, Ukraine over the centuries has fallen victim to Mongol conquerors from central Asia, Polish and Lithuanian armies from the west and north, and Russian forces from the east. 

The Dnieper River, one of the main geographical features of Ukraine, eventually became the de facto demarcation line between the western section of Ukraine, overseen by Poland and later the Austrian Empire, and the eastern part of Ukraine, controlled by the Russian Empire, which suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture. Ukraine still lives with the legacies of this divide.

Ukraine experienced a very brief period of independence after World War I before it became a Soviet republic in 1922. Under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Ukraine suffered through the forced collectivization of farms, which led to famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s. Little wonder, then, that Ukrainians welcomed invading German armies in 1941 with the traditional greetings of bread and salt.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukrainian governments have alternated between  pro-Western to pro-Russia, reflecting the national divide. (These are Ukraine’s leading trading partners.)

Crimea, given to Ukraine by the Soviet Union in 1954, was annexed by Russia in 2014. A Russian separatist uprising in the eastern Donbas region followed. Earlier this year, the Kremlin recognized the independence of the region’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Click here to see 32 things you may not know about Ukraine

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