Ukraine - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion
INTRODUCTION OF UKRAINE
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 (see Mongol Empire). 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.
LAND AND RESOURCES OF UKRAINE
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—encompassing the Crimean Peninsula, or Crimea, in the south—is included in Ukraine’s borders.
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’k 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 2,782 km (1,729 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).
Rivers and Lakes in Ukraine
The Dnieper, Europe’s third largest river, flows through central Ukraine and forms the country’s main river network. More than half of the country’s rivers belong to this system. The Dnieper is Ukraine’s longest river, measuring about 980 km (about 610 mi) in length within the country’s borders. Other major rivers are the Dniester (known as the Dnister in Ukraine), the Bug (Buh), and the Southern Bug (Pivdennyy Buh) in the west, and the Donets in the east. The Danube (Dunay) forms part of Ukraine’s border with Romania in the extreme southwest. Except for the Bug, which flows northward into the Wisła (Vistula) in Poland, all of Ukraine’s major rivers flow southward and empty into the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov. Ukraine has more than 3,000 small lakes that cover about 3 percent of its territory.
Plant and Animal Life in Ukraine
Ukraine’s four major zones of plant life, from north to south, are forest, forest-steppe, steppe, and Mediterranean. In the forest zone, beech trees are widespread in the west; linden, oak, and pine are found in the swamps and meadows in the north and northwest; and spruce is prevalent in the northeast. In the central forest-steppe zone, grasslands are interspersed with numerous trees, mainly oak. The steppe zone, which covers the lower third of Ukraine, features grassy plains. In the extreme south, the steppe is dry with thin-leaved grass. The Mediterranean zone, which encompasses a narrow strip along the southern Crimean coast, contains a mix of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and grasses.
Wildlife in Ukraine includes moose (known as elk in Europe), deer, wild boars, brown bears, and wolves. Species such as bison and wild horses have long been extinct. Others, such as mouflon (wild sheep), spotted deer, and muskrats, have been successfully reintroduced. A network of 10 nature reserves and more than 100 wildlife refuges has been established to protect wildlife, especially beavers, lynx, moose, and muskrats. Birds include the Eurasian black vulture, steppe eagle, and gray heron. Ukraine has more than 200 species of fish, including pike, carp, and sturgeon.
Natural Resources of Ukraine
Ukraine possesses rich and conveniently located natural resources. About half of its territory, especially the central and southern regions, consists of the exceptionally fertile black chernozem, a type of soil that is ideal for agriculture. Forests cover 16 percent of Ukraine’s territory. The Donets Basin in the southeast is especially well endowed with large deposits of coal, while the east central Kryvyy Rih area is rich in iron ore. Ukraine has some of the world’s largest manganese deposits, located in south central Ukraine at Nikopol’ (Nykopil). There are also considerable deposits of oil and natural gas in the Carpathian foothills, the Donets Basin, and along the Crimean coast.
Climate of Ukraine
Most of Ukraine has four distinct seasons and a moderate, continental climate, with cold winters and warm summers. The Crimean coast, however, has a Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. In eastern Ukraine, air masses from the steppes of Central Asia often make summers warmer and winters colder. The average temperature in Kyiv is -6°C (21°F) in January and 20°C (69°F) in July. Precipitation in Ukraine averages 500 mm (20 in) per year, with considerable regional variation; levels are highest in the Carpathians and lowest on the Black Sea coast. For most of the country, rainfall tends to be most frequent in the summer months. Ukraine’s climate is generally favorable for agriculture and tourism, especially in Crimea.
Environmental Issues of Ukraine
Soviet policies of raising industrial and agricultural productivity with little regard to ecological considerations have had a devastating effect on the environment. Air pollution is especially severe in such industrial centers as Zaporizhzhya, Luhans’k, and Donets’k. Industrial and agricultural pollutants have contaminated soil in the south and drinking water throughout the country. Ukraine lacks funds for recycling and conservation programs, and pollution controls remain at a minimum.
The April 1986 explosion and core meltdown of a reactor at the Chernobyl’ nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine had an enormous impact on the region’s environment (see Chernobyl’ Accident). Northern Ukraine and especially southern Belarus were the most severely contaminated areas from the radioactive plume that was released in the explosion. Radioactive materials from the accident seeped into the ground, contaminating farmland and the water supply. The long-term impact on human health and the environment is still being assessed. The four Chernobyl’ reactors, only one of which was still in operation from 1996 through 2000, continue to be a major hazard, especially to Ukraine’s water supply. The Chernobyl’ complex was finally shut down completely in December 2000, with the financial assistance of Western nations. The funds were to pay for the completion of two other nuclear power plants that would produce enough power to make up for the loss of the power supply from the Chernobyl’ plant.
PEOPLE OF UKRAINE
The population of Ukraine was estimated in 2009 at 45,700,395, giving the country a population density of 76 persons per sq km (196 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 67 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’k, known for mining and metallurgy. Odesa (Odessa), on the Black Sea coast, is the country’s largest seaport.
Ethnic Groups and Languages in Ukraine
Ethnic Ukrainians make up 73 percent of the population of Ukraine. Russians are the largest minority group at 22 percent. Jews (considered both an ethnic and a religious group in Ukraine) and Belarusians each account for about 1 percent of the total. Other numerically significant groups are Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, and Romanians. Since the end of World War II in 1945, the proportion of Russians nearly doubled, while the Jewish population declined by about half as a result of emigration. Ethnic clashes are rare, although some tension exists in Crimea between Crimean Tatars and ethnic Russians. The Crimean Tatars, who were forcibly deported to Central Asia in 1944, are being allowed to resettle in Crimea. Of the 250,000 who have returned, about 100,000 still have inadequate housing and 70,000 have not yet received Ukrainian citizenship.
The official language of the country is Ukrainian, which forms with Russian and Belarusian the eastern branch of the Slavic language subfamily of Indo-European languages. Russian also is widely used, especially in the cities.
Religion in Ukraine
During most of the Soviet period, the state imposed severe restrictions on religious activity, banned many churches, and persecuted religious leaders. Many believers, forced underground, continued to adhere to their faiths, however. Religious activity remained relatively strong in Ukraine, and it has greatly expanded since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. A majority of the population adheres to Eastern Orthodoxy through the Ukrainian Orthodox Church or the Ukrainian Autocephalous (independent) Orthodox Church. Until 1990 all of the country’s Orthodox churches were part of the Ukrainian exarchate, which was subsidiary to the patriarchate (jurisdiction of the patriarch, or head) of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1992 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church split into two rival denominations when the Kyivan patriarchate was formed, separating itself from the Moscow patriarchate. The autocephalous church, which was banned by the Soviet government in 1930, regained legal status in 1990. About 10 percent of the population, based almost exclusively in western Ukraine, belongs to the Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate) Church, a church of the Byzantine rite (see Eastern Rite Churches); banned in 1946, this church was officially revived in 1991. Other denominations include Roman Catholics of the Latin rite, Jews, Muslims, and Baptists.
Education in Ukraine
Literacy is almost universal in Ukraine, and education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 17. Ukraine’s institutions of higher learning include ten universities and a large number of specialized academies. The most prestigious is the University of Kyiv (founded in 1834), located in the capital. L’viv State University (1784), located in L’viv, is the country’s oldest university. In recent years private schools and universities have appeared, most notably the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (1992), located in Kyiv.
Way of Life in Ukraine
Ukraine’s society was traditionally agrarian and village-based. With Soviet rule came rapid modernization and urbanization. By the 1960s, most inhabitants lived in cities. Important regional differences developed in Ukraine; today the west tends to be more agrarian, traditionalist, religious, and Ukrainian-speaking, while the east is industrialized, urbanized, and more often Russian-speaking. The highly regimented lifestyle of the Soviet period is slowly being supplanted by a consumer society. However, the transition to a market-based economy is difficult, and most people have been engaged in a desperate struggle to make ends meet.
A series of exploitative regimes kept living standards low during the Soviet period, although the government provided employment and other provisions such as housing. Apartments built during the Soviet period are small and cramped, and most of the buildings are now dilapidated. An average family has only about one-seventh the living space of an average family in the United States. People in Ukraine spend more than half of their income on food, and many families depend on garden plots to meet their food needs. Due to economic constraints, families are small and getting smaller. Divorce rates are high. Despite formal equality, women are especially hard-pressed. Although they form the majority of the labor force, even in sectors demanding physical labor such as farming, few women have positions of influence in politics, business, or government. Vacations, once lengthy, have become less frequent for most people. New developments since the end of Soviet rule are freedom of expression and the growth of private property, especially in the form of dwellings.
The Ukrainian diet depends heavily on rye bread, potatoes, and borscht (beet soup). Pork and pork products, especially sausage and salo (a type of smoked bacon), are favored meats. Alcohol consumption, especially of the potent horilka, a wheat-based whiskey, is high, and smoking is widespread. Consumer goods are now more available than in the Soviet period, but few people can afford them. City residents usually have appliances such as refrigerators, telephones, and televisions; these amenities are much less common in the villages. Soccer is the most popular spectator sport in Ukraine. The main leisure activity is watching television. Cultural activities such as concerts, opera, and ballet are becoming less accessible for most people because of the cost.
Social Issues in Ukraine
The transition from the Soviet period has brought serious new problems. Much of the old elite (nomenklatura) have weathered the transition well. Many Soviet-era managers and factory directors retained their positions and profited from privatization. Highly placed members of the Communist Party hierarchy and security apparatus moved into business, often of a dubious kind. A thin stratum of new rich has begun to appear.
For the vast majority of the population, however, the transition has meant a catastrophic decline in living standards. Since 1991 the average standard of living has declined by 80 percent. An estimated 20 percent of the population, especially the elderly, now lives below the poverty level. Unemployment is growing, and health care is deteriorating. Life expectancy at birth for males dropped to 62.4 years by 2009. Ecological disasters, poor diet, and other factors have lowered resistance to diseases. Epidemics of diphtheria, cholera, and hepatitis have been frequent in recent years. A tragic consequence of the Chernobyl’ explosion has been a large increase in thyroid cancer in children.
Crime is rampant, especially corruption, with much economic activity controlled by “mafia” clans based in industrial centers such as Donets’k, Dnipropetrovs’k, and the cities of Crimea. The influence of organized crime often reaches into the highest levels of government.
CULTURE OF UKRAINE
Ukraine’s geographical location between Europe and Asia meant that much of its early culture was a synthesis of Eastern and Western influences. When a developed culture emerged in the medieval, or Kievan, period, the influence of the Byzantine Empire was paramount. In early modern times, major European currents such as the Renaissance reached Ukraine via Poland. A cultural dichotomy today exists within Ukraine, with western regions reflecting European, especially Polish, influence, while in the eastern regions the impact of Russian culture is evident.
The well-developed and colorful folklore of Ukraine has helped Ukrainians retain a cultural distinctiveness in the face of strong assimilatory pressures from neighboring lands. During the Soviet period the government extensively subsidized cultural activity, but culture was expected to serve as a vehicle for Communist propaganda. In the late 1920s and especially in the early 1930s, the Soviet regime began enforcing socialist realism as the only acceptable artistic style. Socialist realism mandated that all artists and writers glorify the Soviet regime and its goal of attaining communism. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought new freedoms for Ukrainian artists, but it also meant a sudden drop in government subsidies. Today government support is minimal and a funding crisis exists. The Westernization of cultural activity is moving ahead rapidly, with commercialized and previously taboo activities such as pop concerts and production of pornography becoming commonplace.
Literature in Ukraine
The literature that emerged between the 11th and 13th centuries was primarily religious and based on Byzantine and Balkan models. It was written in Old Church Slavonic, which diverged from the spoken language, and dealt with gospels, psalms, sermons, and lives of saints. Historical and other secular topics were treated in chronicles, notably the Primary Chronicle. The works of this period, produced in the East Slavic state of Kievan Rus, are also the literary heritage of Belarus and Russia.
The second, or Cossack, literary period began in the 16th century, when the epic songs (dumy) of the Ukrainian Cossacks, who developed an independent society along Ukraine’s southern steppe frontier, marked a high point of Ukrainian oral literature. The Cossack chronicles describe the tumultuous history of the 17th and 18th centuries. Meanwhile, the rich polemical literature of this period reflects Polish influence. It is concerned with the religious controversies of the time, and sermons are a favorite topic.
The 19th century ushered in the third, or vernacular, period. Reflecting the influence of Western romanticism, it is characterized by the use of spoken language for literary purposes, a development pioneered by the classicist poet-playwright Ivan Kotliarevsky, and by depictions of peasant and Cossack life. In the mid-19th century, Ukraine’s most renowned cultural figure, romanticist poet-painter Taras Shevchenko, wrote Kobzar (The Bard, 1840), a collection of poems demonstrating that the Ukrainian language could be used to express a full range of emotion and profound thought. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, realist and modernist trends set in. From 1863 prohibitions imposed on the use of the Ukrainian language by Russia’s imperial regime greatly impeded literary development. In western Ukraine, which was then part of the Austrian Empire, writers Ivan Franko and Vasyl Stefanyk, among others, continued to develop all literary genres.
The most dynamic era in Ukrainian literary history came in the 1920s, when a brief period of Soviet cultural leniency allowed for the appearance of dozens of prominent writers and a great variety of literary trends. Pavlo Tychyna emerged as the most renowned Ukrainian poet of the period. Soviet rule under Joseph Stalin brought this literary renaissance to an abrupt and brutal end when his regime imposed the doctrine of socialist realism. In the 1960s the so-called shestydesiatnyky (sixtiers), including poets Lina Kostenko and Vasyl Symonenko, rejected socialist realism and managed to revitalize Ukrainian literature. However, renewed political pressures in the 1970s forced most authors either to accept Communist Party controls or suffer repression. Only in recent years has literature obtained the opportunity to evolve freely.
Art and Architecture of Ukraine
Although prehistoric and Greek paintings have been discovered in Ukraine, the first major style to develop was the religious iconography of the Kievan period. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, long-standing Byzantine traditions gave way to European influences during the Renaissance and the baroque period, when secular, non-religious themes were introduced. Portraits were especially popular. When eastern Ukraine lost its autonomy under Russian rule in the late 18th century, many Ukrainian painters, such as Dmytro Levytsky, moved to Russia in search of training and wider markets.
Renowned for his poetry, Taras Shevchenko is also considered the father of modern Ukrainian painting. Historical themes and landscapes were a popular genre through much of the 19th century. Realist tendencies appeared in the final decades, represented most notably by Ilya Repin. Meanwhile, Oleksander Murashko and the versatile Vasyl Krychevsky adopted impressionism. In the early 20th century, Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin were leading representatives of the avant-garde, while Mykhailo Boichuk and his followers sought to provide art for the masses by combining Ukrainian traditions with European models. After the cultural renaissance of the 1920s, the state-imposed dogma of socialist realism limited artistic freedom and experimentation. The collapse of the Soviet Union gave the artists of Ukraine a chance to join the international artistic mainstream.
Ukrainian folk art is especially rich, particularly in the Carpathian regions of western Ukraine. Outstanding examples of folk art are the famous intricately designed Ukrainian Easter eggs, called pysanky, and embroidery.
Among the earliest sculptures are the numerous stone babas, life-size female figures that Turkic nomads erected in the steppe between the 11th century and 13th century. Sculpture was not well developed in the Kievan and early modern periods. In the 19th century sculpture in parks, squares, and other public places became popular, such as the statues of Saint Volodymyr (Vladimir) and the Cossack leader Bohdan Khmel’nyts’kyy in Kyiv. Ukraine’s most famous sculptor, Aleksandr Archipenko, was a pioneer of the cubist style. He emigrated early in his career, eventually settling in the United States in 1923.
Architecture in Ukraine has a rich history beginning with structures built by Greek colonists in the Crimea in the 6th century BC. The importance of Kyiv as a political and economic center from the 10th century AD encouraged the building of major Byzantine-style structures there, most notably the Cathedral of Saint Sophia in the 11th century. The impact of the Renaissance was especially strong in western Ukraine, reflected in structures such as the Dormition Church in L’viv. A synthesis of Ukrainian, Byzantine, and European styles, called Cossack Baroque, produced a series of unique churches in the 18th century. Ukraine also was influenced by the lavish rococo style that originated in France; examples include the Church of Saint Andrew in Kyiv and the Cathedral of Saint George in L’viv. Ukraine’s ornate wooden churches are especially renowned in world architecture. During the Soviet period, functionalist and constructivist tendencies predominated, resulting in new structures such as the Derzhprom office complex in Kharkiv.
Music and Dance in Ukraine
Ukrainians possess a remarkable repertoire of folk songs, and singing is an important part of their culture. In the 17th century they developed an innovative form of choral singing a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment). Important composers of church music in the late 18th century included Maksym Berezovsky, Dmytro Bortniansky, and Artem Vedel. In the 19th century, Semen Hulak-Artemovsky wrote a popular comic opera based on folk themes, Zaporozhets za Dunayem (Zaporozhian Beyond the Danube, 1863). A high point in musical creativity came in the early 20th century when Mykola Lysenko established a school of music that drew heavily on folk songs for inspiration.
Many of the dynamic and colorful folk dances of Ukraine reflect a rural or Cossack lifestyle. The oldest dances are the khorovody, agricultural dance games associated with the cult of the Sun. Originally, folk dances were either accompanied by songs or by instruments. They were also exclusively female, such as the metylytsia, or exclusively male, such as the arkan or the famous hopak; today both males and females participate in the same dances. Numerous Ukrainian dance troupes cultivate the traditional folk dances.
Introduced in the late 18th century, classical ballet developed under Russian and European influence and attained high standards. Ukraine has six theaters for opera and ballet performances.
Theater and Film in Ukraine
In early modern times, the vertep (puppet theater) was widespread and popular. Mykhailo Starytsky, Ivan Karpenko-Kary, and Marko Kropyvnytsky laid the foundation of modern Ukrainian theater in the late 19th century. Despite repression under Russian rule, it continued to develop. The high point was reached in the early 1920s when the avant-garde Berezil Theater in Kharkiv, under Les Kurbas, staged such plays as Mykola Kulish’s Narodnii Malakhii, Myna Mazailo, and Patetychna Sonata. Stalinist repression cut this revival short, and socialist realism stifled further innovation. Only in recent years have innovation and experimentation been possible.
Filmmaker Oleksander Dovzhenko, often called “the first poet of cinema,” gained international recognition for his silent motion pictures Zvenyhora (1928) and Arsenal (1929). His Zemlya (The Earth, 1930) is considered one of the best silent films ever produced. Stalinist repression and socialist realism had a devastating effect on Ukrainian filmmaking. Not until the 1960s did signs of a revival begin to appear, demonstrated by the film Tini zabutykh predkiv (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, 1964), which won numerous international awards for the outstanding work of Armenian director Sergei Paradzhanov and Ukrainian cameraman Iurii Illienko. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought an end to government subsidies, and filmmaking was practically paralyzed by lack of funding.
Libraries and Museums in Ukraine
The largest library in Ukraine is the Central Library of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (founded in 1918) in Kyiv. The academy’s scientific library in L’viv (1940) is the country’s second largest library. Other prominent libraries are the Scientific and Technical Library of Ukraine (1935) and the State Public Library (1866), both in Kyiv, as well as numerous university libraries.
The Historical Museum of Ukraine (1899) in Kyiv is the country’s largest museum. Its branch, the Museum of Historical Treasures (1969), is noted for its collection of ancient Scythian artifacts. The Museum of Ukrainian Art (1936) in Kyiv contains the largest collection of Ukrainian art, including medieval paintings and wood carvings. Exhibits of architecture and artifacts dating from the 11th century can be found in Kyiv in the museums affiliated with the Saint Sophia National Preserve, as well as the Caves Monastery Museum. Ukraine also has a number of open-air museums that preserve native architecture.
ECONOMY OF UKRAINE
Ukraine was the second-ranking Soviet republic in industrial and agricultural production, after Russia. Long known as the “breadbasket of Europe,” Ukraine traditionally had a highly developed agricultural sector because of its vast, fertile lands. It generated more than one-fourth of the total agricultural output of the Soviet Union. Industrial development was a high priority of the Soviet government. In the 1930s Ukraine experienced a rapid and extensive industrial upsurge, mainly in the mineral-rich Donets’k and Kryvyy Rih regions. Because of Soviet development, which emphasized heavy industry, Ukraine possesses one of the most industrialized economies of Europe. However, its industries are highly inefficient and in pressing need of modernization.
The collapse of the Soviet Union brought a dramatic rise in energy costs and a reduction in demand for Ukraine’s products, causing a catastrophic decline in production. The problems were compounded by high rates of inflation and sluggish reforms to increase private ownership of enterprise. In 1995 and 1996, however, inflation was significantly reduced and reforms toward a system based on free enterprise were accelerated. In addition, the United States as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international organizations provided large grants and loans. Ukraine was adversely affected by a financial crisis in Russia in 1998. However, in 2000 it registered positive growth in gross domestic product (GDP) for the first time since the Soviet period.
The value of Ukraine’s GDP in 2007 was $141.2 billion. Agriculture, which includes forestry and fishing, accounted for 8 percent of GDP; industry, which includes mining, manufacturing, and construction, accounted for 37 percent; and trade and other services accounted for 55 percent.
Labor in Ukraine
The country’s labor force totaled 23.3 million people in 2007. Some 24 percent of workers are employed in industry, 56 percent in the service sector, and 19 percent in agriculture. Trade union membership is strong; the miners’ unions are especially active.
Agriculture of Ukraine
The primary crops are wheat, corn, and sugar beets. Small private plots account for much of the vegetables and fruits that are grown. Livestock raising is widespread and involves cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats. Agricultural output in 2006 was 117 percent of the level in 1990. Collective cooperatives and state-owned farms, holdovers from the Soviet period, continue to outnumber privately owned farms; private ownership is allowed, but lack of capital, social attitudes, and the high cost of fuel have discouraged it. The major agricultural regions are located in central and southern Ukraine, where the fertile chernozem soil is found.
Forestry and Fishing in Ukraine
Forestry is based in the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine. This sector has been in decline for decades because of excessive timber harvesting in the 1950s and 1960s. Consequently, Ukraine imports much of its lumber and paper. In 2005 only 16 percent of the total land area was forested. The fishing industry, once relatively well developed, experienced a sharp drop in productivity in the early 1990s and never recovered.
Mining in Ukraine
Ukraine ranks among the world’s largest producers of manganese and iron ores. Reserves of these minerals are located primarily in the south central Kryvyy Rih area. Ukraine is also among the world’s largest producers of bituminous coal (soft coal), which is concentrated in the Donets Basin of the southeastern Donets’k region. In the post-Soviet period, outdated equipment and inefficiency hampered the productivity of the mining sector, and the government shut down some coal mines.
Manufacturing in Ukraine
Ukraine has a large ferrous metallurgical industry. Heavy industries such as metalworking, mechanical engineering, and machinery and chemicals manufacturing also dominate the industrial sector. Light industries producing consumer goods such as household appliances are underdeveloped by Western standards. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s industrial sector was cut off from its traditional markets, and supplies from former republics were no longer easily accessible. Products of relatively poor quality and stiff international competition obstructed entry into the global market, while the increasing cost of the energy needed to power industry made many items too expensive to produce. Other products, especially those of the large defense sector, were no longer in demand.
Services in Ukraine
Many of the enterprises included in the service sector are poorly developed, especially in rural areas. The tourism industry, for example, is hindered by a shortage of hotels and inadequate transportation.
Energy of Ukraine
Ukraine is heavily dependent on imports of natural gas and oil to supply its energy needs. In 2006 imported fuels accounted for 28 of the country’s total imports. Steam-driven power plants that burn coal, oil, or natural gas supply 46 percent (2006) of Ukraine’s electricity. Nuclear power plants generate 46 percent (2006). Hydroelectric power plants supply only 7 percent of the country’s electricity. The Dniprohes hydroelectric station on the Dnieper near Zaporizhzhya ranks as one of Europe’s largest. See also World Energy Supply.
Transportation and Communications in Ukraine
Ukraine has an extensive state-owned and centrally planned transportation system of uneven quality. There are 169,447 km (105,289 mi) of roads and highways and 21,891 km (13,602 mi) of railroad track. The Dnieper and the Danube rivers are major waterways for international freight. Major airports are in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Donets’k, and L’viv. Air Ukraine is the national airline. The largest seaports, located on the Black Sea coast, are in Odesa, Illchinsk, and Mykolayiv. Major cities have subway systems, but automobiles are the fastest growing mode of transportation.
In 2004 Ukraine had 55 daily newspapers. Many newspapers face rising production costs and plummeting readership. Television is the preferred media outlet of consumers. Some networks are government-owned, but commercial networks predominate. Although the blatant censorship of the Soviet regime has come to an end, the government still has indirect means of influencing the media.
Foreign Trade in Ukraine
In 2007 Ukraine imported $60.7 billion of goods and exported $49.2 billion. The major imports are oil and gas from Russia and Turkmenistan and technology from Western nations. Exports, which are minimal for a developed country, consist mainly of raw materials and agricultural goods. Ukraine has experienced great difficulty breaking into the global market. However, Ukraine joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2008, following 14 years of negotiations on the terms of its accession. With WTO membership Ukraine receives a reduction in export trade barriers, boosting economic prospects.
Ukraine has been a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) since 1992. The country is also affiliated with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Ukraine is an associate member of the trade and economic union of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the loosely organized alliance of 12 former Soviet republics.
Currency and Banking of Ukraine
In September 1996 Ukraine introduced its new currency, the hryvnia (5.10 hryvni equal U.S.$1, 2007 average). The currency of the Soviet period, the ruble, ceased to be legal tender in 1992 when it was replaced with a temporary coupon currency, the karbovanets. In 1993 already high inflation reached hyperinflationary levels, with an average annual rate of 4,735 percent; however, a strict monetary policy introduced in late 1994 significantly reduced inflation in subsequent years. The country’s bank of issue is the National Bank of Ukraine, founded in 1991 and located in Kyiv.
GOVERNMENT OF UKRAINE
Although the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought Ukraine independence, the rigidly centralized Soviet structure of government remained. The first five years were a tumultuous time of trying to establish democratic institutions and traditions. Ukraine’s first direct presidential election was held in 1991. In 1994 an early presidential election took place, as well as elections to the legislature. Ukraine was the last of the former Soviet republics to adopt a new constitution. The delay was caused by a struggle in the legislature between reformers, who wanted to introduce a new, democratic system of government, and conservatives, who wanted to preserve the structures of the former Soviet state. The reformers finally triumphed on June 28, 1996, when the legislature adopted a new constitution that stipulated a parliamentary democracy. All citizens aged 18 and over are eligible to vote.
Under the 1996 constitution, the president is head of state. The president is elected by direct, majority vote for a term of five years and may serve no more than two consecutive terms. The president appoints the prime minister and, under the advice of the prime minister, also appoints the Cabinet of Ministers. These appointments are subject to confirmation by the legislature. The prime minister is head of government and is responsible for carrying out its policies.
The legislature of Ukraine is the single-chamber Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council). It has 450 members, half of whom are directly elected in single-member constituencies. The remaining seats are allocated on a proportional basis to parties that gain at least 3 percent of the national vote. All members serve four-year terms. Among its prerogatives, the Verkhovna Rada has the right to amend the constitution, pass laws, confirm the budget, and impeach the president.
The highest court is the Constitutional Court, which is charged with protecting and interpreting the constitution. The president, the legislature, and a conference of judges each appoint six of the court’s 18 members. The Supreme Court is the highest appeals court for nonconstitutional issues. A Supreme Judiciary Council, consisting of 20 members, recommends judiciary appointments and deals with the removal of judges.
Although Ukraine is a unitary state, its constitution allows for a considerable degree of decentralization. The country is divided into 24 oblasts (regions) and one autonomous republic, Crimea. The cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol’ have special status; their governments, which operate independently of oblast authority, are responsible only to the central government in Kyiv. Local councils and executive bodies, elected every four years, are responsible for their jurisdiction’s taxes, budgets, schools, roads, utilities, and public health. The Crimean Autonomous Republic enjoys far-ranging autonomy within Ukraine, including its own constitution, legislature, and Cabinet of Ministers. The latter controls Crimea’s government and economy, but is restricted from implementing policies that would contradict the constitution of Ukraine.
The first non-Communist political groups appeared in the late 1980s, when the Communist Party began to lose influence. However, the Communist Party was Ukraine’s only legal party until its constitutional monopoly was abolished in 1990. The party was banned from 1991 to 1993, but by 1994 it had rebounded to become Ukraine’s largest party. It won the most seats of any single party in the 1998 legislative elections but then lost its dominant position in 2002.
Ukraine has more than 100 registered parties, but very few gain representation in the Supreme Council. Multiparty alliances known as blocs are commonly formed to strengthen the position of like-minded parties in elections. Major parties and blocs include Our Ukraine, a reformist and pro-European Union (EU) party that supports President Viktor Yushchenko; the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, which includes the nationalist Fatherland Party; the Party of Regions, a pro-Russia party led by former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych; the Communist Party of Ukraine; the Socialist Party of Ukraine; and the centrist Lytvyn Bloc, comprising the Ukrainian People’s Party and the Labor Party.
Ukraine has retained much of the Soviet-style system of social welfare and free medical care, financed by the government. The country’s economic difficulties have had a catastrophic impact on these services, however. Pensions are barely enough to assure survival. Hospitals are deteriorating, doctors are poorly paid, and medicine and equipment are in short supply.
Ukraine’s armed forces are the second largest in Europe, after those of Russia, with an estimated strength of 187,600 in 2006. In addition to central staff, nuclear forces, and paramilitary troops, about 125,000 are in the ground forces, about 49,100 are in the air force, and about 13,500 are in the navy (excluding the Black Sea Fleet). Military service is compulsory for all males 18 and older; those with higher education serve 12 months, and those without it serve 18 months.
In November 1994 Ukraine signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which brought it under the terms of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). This required Ukraine to liquidate its large nuclear arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), a project that was completed in 1995. See also Arms Control; Nuclear Weapons Proliferation.
International Organizations in Ukraine
In 1945 Ukraine became a member of the United Nations (UN). In December 1991 it was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and in November 1995 it became a full member of the Council of Europe. It is also a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
HISTORY OF UKRAINE
Ukraine’s geographic location between Europe and Asia was an important factor in its early history. The steppes were the domain of Asiatic nomads, the Black Sea coast was inhabited by Greek colonists, and the forests in the northwest were the homeland of the agrarian East Slavic tribes from whom, eventually, the Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian nations evolved. As the East Slavs expanded, they accepted, in the 9th century, a Varangian (Viking) elite that led them to establish a vast domain, centered in Kyiv (Kiev) and called Kievan Rus. It became one of the largest, richest, and most powerful lands in medieval Europe. In 988 Saint Volodymyr (Vladimir), grand prince of Kyiv, accepted Orthodox Christianity, and in this way brought Kievan Rus under the cultural influence of the Byzantine Empire. Inter-princely feuds, shifting trade routes, and recurrent nomadic attacks weakened Kievan Rus, however, and in 1240 it fell to the invading hordes of the Mongol Empire. The western principality of Galicia-Volhynia managed to retain its autonomy for about a century thereafter.
In the mid-14th century the grand duchy of Lithuania gained control of most Ukrainian lands, while the Polish kingdom ruled the western region of Galicia. In 1569 most of Ukraine was annexed into Poland when the Union of Lublin joined the Lithuanian duchy and the Polish kingdom—already linked dynastically since the late 14th century—in a constitutional union, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita).
The colonization of the vast steppes gave rise to the Cossacks, frontier settlers who, in time, became defenders of Ukrainian interests against Polish overlords. In 1648 Bohdan Khmel’nyt’skyy, the Cossack hetman, or leader, led a massive uprising against the Poles. Seeking foreign support, he accepted the overlordship of the Russian tsar in 1654 in the Treaty of Pereyaslav. This initiated steady Russian expansion into Ukraine. Hetman Ivan Mazepa attempted to throw off Russian rule in 1708 and 1709 but failed. By 1793, as a result of the first two partitions of Poland (1772 and 1793), all of the Ukrainian lands east of the Dnieper River had come under Russian rule. In 1774 the Crimean Peninsula was annexed by the Russian Empire. Meanwhile, the western regions of Galicia, Bukovina, and Transcarpathia were incorporated into the Austrian Empire beginning in 1772. As a result of these foreign conquests, about 80 percent of Ukrainians lived under the rule of Russia, while the remaining 20 percent lived under the rule of Austria (known as Austria-Hungary from 1867 to 1918).
Catherine the Great, empress of Russia, introduced serfdom in Russian-ruled Ukraine in 1795 and encouraged the colonization of the south, which soon became the leading agricultural region of the empire. As Russian imperial rule became more encompassing, the Ukrainian elite and the cities became Russified. The villages, however, remained distinctly Ukrainian. In the late 19th century, rapid and large-scale industrialization of the Donets’k and Kryvyy Rih regions began, bringing an influx of Russian workers. Sparked by Western ideas and the poetry of Taras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian national movement developed among the intelligentsia. But imperial repression, including bans on the Ukrainian language, kept it weak. In 1848 a widespread revolution in the lands ruled by the Austrian Empire, including Ukraine’s western regions, resulted in the emancipation of the serfs and a new constitution; this allowed for the growth of a strong Ukrainian national movement, which was fiercely opposed by the Poles in Galicia. In social and economic terms, however, change in the village-based society was limited and slow.
The Soviet Period
The Russian monarchy was overthrown during the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Russian Empire ceased to exist. The Bolsheviks (Communists) seized power and established a new Soviet government in Russia (see Bolshevism). Ukraine, represented by the Central Rada led by Mykhailo Hrushevsky, declared independence in early 1918. However, the first modern Ukrainian government collapsed following invasions by the Soviet Red Army and German intervention. Subsequent Ukrainian governments, led by Pavlo Skoropadsky and Symon Petlyura, also failed to withstand Red Army invasions, and a Bolshevik-affiliated government was established in most of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) was a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922. With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I in 1918, an independent west Ukrainian republic was formed in Galicia. It entered into federation with the briefly independent east Ukrainian state. However, the west Ukrainians lost a bitter struggle with the Poles and were incorporated into Poland in 1923. Czechoslovakia and Romania absorbed Transcarpathia and Bukovina, respectively.
In the 1920s the USSR’s New Economic Policy (NEP), designed to rehabilitate the postwar economy, helped rejuvenate agriculture in Ukraine. Anxious to attract popular support, the Soviet regime also introduced Ukrainization, a policy that encouraged the use of Ukrainian language and the development of national culture. Beginning in the late 1920s, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin brutally reversed both trends. Peasant landholdings were forcibly collectivized and crops were extorted to support industrialization. The result was a terrible famine in 1932 and 1933 in which an estimated 5 million to 7 million Ukrainians perished. At this catastrophic cost, industrial production was pushed to record-breaking levels; in 1940 it was more than seven times as high as in 1913. In the mid-1930s Stalin initiated mass arrests and executions of his opponents, both real and imagined, resulting in the devastation of Ukraine’s intelligentsia by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, in Galicia an extreme form of nationalism, embodied in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), developed and called for independence at any cost.
During the first stage of World War II, from 1939 to 1941, western Ukraine was occupied by Soviet forces, which proceeded to impose totalitarian rule, including arrests, mass deportations, and executions. In the second stage, from 1941 to 1943, Nazi German troops occupied the entire country, and the policies of German leader Adolf Hitler to exploit Ukraine to the fullest were implemented with exceptional brutality. In the third stage, from 1943 to 1944, the Germans retreated, destroying everything possible in their wake, and the Soviet Union reimposed its control. Ukrainian nationalists, who briefly cooperated with Nazi Germany in hopes of obtaining independence, were quickly disillusioned and forced into a suicidal battle with both the German and the Soviet armies. The human and material losses in Ukraine were among the highest in Europe during the war. As a result of the Soviet victory, ethnically Ukrainian lands in the west were incorporated into the Ukrainian republic. Poland ceded the regions of Galicia and Volhynia, while Czechoslovakia ceded Transcarpathia. The southern and northern parts of Bessarabia, as well as northern Bukovina, all ceded by Romania, also were incorporated. In 1954 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ceremoniously transferred the Crimean Peninsula from Russia to Ukraine, marking the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav.
During postwar reconstruction, Ukraine became even more industrialized and urbanized. The immigration of Russians, encouraged by Moscow, grew markedly. Because of Ukraine’s economic and political importance in the USSR, Soviet control was particularly severe and recurrent dissent was repressed quickly, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. Economic stagnation set in by the 1980s. After USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced political and economic reforms in the mid-1980s, Ukraine was slow to reform, largely because of the reactionary policies of Vladimir Shcherbitsky, head of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the 1986 Chernobyl’ nuclear disaster roused popular discontent, in part because it highlighted certain failings of the Soviet system. The popular-front movement, known as Rukh, capitalized on this and raised the cry for independence.
Confused and demoralized by the failure of the abortive coup of August 1991, in which Communist hard-liners tried to take over the central government in Moscow, the Communists of Ukraine gave in and joined the nationalists in proclaiming Ukraine’s independence on August 24. The legislature’s declaration was confirmed by more than 90 percent of the electorate in a nationwide referendum in December. At the same time, Leonid Kravchuk was elected as the country’s first president.
Ukraine Since Independence
The euphoria over independence soon faded in the face of mounting problems. In foreign policy, the most serious problem was Ukraine’s relations with Russia. The Russian legislature raised questions about the inclusion of Crimea—where ethnic Russians are in the majority and where the Black Sea Fleet was stationed—in the new Ukrainian state. An active, vocal pro-Russian separatist movement in Crimea added to the tensions. The autonomous government there voted in February 1992 to create an independent Crimean republic, but rescinded the declaration of independence two weeks later. The United States, for its part, was uneasy about Ukraine retaining possession of the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, which it had inherited when the Soviet Union dissolved. Internally, tensions arose between the more nationalistic west and the pro-Russian east. Above all else, the rapid deterioration of the economy was the most pressing concern. The collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated the decline of an already seriously faltering economy. President Kravchuk was slow in launching market-oriented reforms, and the growing confrontation between the opposing political parties in the legislature further complicated the situation.
Despite the deteriorating economy, there were some political successes. The presidential elections of 1994 were conducted calmly and fairly, leading to a peaceful transfer of power to the new president, Leonid Kuchma, whose priority was economic reform. But parliamentary infighting and the lack of a post-Soviet constitution delineating the powers of the executive and legislative branches produced a political stalemate.
In January 1994 Ukraine became one of the first countries in the world to begin unilaterally eliminating its nuclear arsenal, thereby greatly improving its relationship with the United States. It also entered NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, formed in 1993 to offer former Warsaw Pact members limited associations with NATO. In October 1995 it was accepted into the Council of Europe, an advisory council that works to coordinate the activities of European nations.
Internal Power Struggles
Ukraine was the last of the former Soviet republics to adopt a new constitution. The delay was caused by a struggle in the legislature between reformers, who wanted to introduce a new, democratic system of government, and conservatives, who wanted to preserve the structures of the former Soviet state. In 1996 the reformers finally triumphed when the legislature adopted a new constitution that stipulated a parliamentary democracy. Ukraine adopted the new constitution on June 28, 1996. This achievement was buttressed by the smooth introduction, in August, of a new unit of currency, the hryvnia. Meanwhile, Kuchma succeeded in persuading most of the political leaders in Crimea to accept the idea of autonomy within Ukraine.
Nevertheless, political problems abounded. In May 1996 Kuchma replaced his prime minister, Evhen Marchuk, with Pavlo Lazarenko, a rich, influential businessman from Dnipropetrovs’k, a region from where the new president himself and many top government officials came. In July an attempt was made to assassinate the new prime minister. Many viewed it as a reflection of the power struggles between powerful clans of politicians and businessmen from Dnipropetrovs’k and those from Donets’k. Such regional loyalties and conflicts, accompanied by extensive corruption, began to play an increasing role in the politics of Ukraine.
Black Sea Fleet Dispute
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, complications arose in the highly sensitive dispute between Ukraine and Russia over the unresolved issue of the Black Sea Fleet, stationed in the Crimean port of Sevastopol’. Originally the conflict was how to divide the fleet’s roughly 800 poorly maintained ships. Although Russia and Ukraine tentatively agreed to divide the fleet, negotiations then focused on who should control Sevastopol’. Russia wanted control indefinitely, while Ukraine was willing to offer a long-term lease. In December 1996 the Russian Council of the Federation, the upper house of the Russian legislature, declared that Sevastopol’ was a Russian city and that it should belong to Russia. This was a territorial demand that challenged the integrity of Ukraine’s borders. Although the Russian government, including the foreign ministry, did not formally support the statement, the Ukrainian legislature responded by calling for the removal of all foreign, or Russian, troops from Ukrainian territory.
In late May 1997 the prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement to settle the dispute. According to the terms of the accord, Russia purchased 80 percent of the fleet from Ukraine and is guaranteed a 20-year lease for its use of the port at Sevastopol’. The two countries are to keep their separate navies at different bays in the port. Shortly after the accord was reached, the two governments signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. The treaty formally established Ukraine’s sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula. Russia’s legislature finally ratified the treaty in 1999.
In 1997 President Kuchma dismissed Prime Minister Lazarenko, who had drawn widespread criticism for the slow pace of economic reform, and appointed Valery Pustovoitenko to succeed him. In the 1998 legislative elections, the Communists won the largest percentage of the vote; however, they still held less than 25 percent of the seats in a legislature dominated by independents. In September 1998, less than a month after Russia’s economic collapse, Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, fell significantly in value, and the country’s economy continued to slump through 1999. The government put limits on the money supply so that Ukraine could receive loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU).
In November 1999 Kuchma was elected to a second term as president. He appointed Viktor Yushchenko, the longtime chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, as the new prime minister in December. Yushchenko became immensely popular with the public for his economic reforms and anticorruption efforts; however, the left-leaning legislature ousted his government with a vote of no-confidence in April 2001. Kuchma named a more conservative politician, Anatoli Kinakh, to replace Yushchenko. In the 2002 legislative elections, the Communist Party lost its dominance of the legislature, with more seats going to Yushchenko’s new reformist bloc, Our Ukraine, than any other party or bloc. However, the United Ukraine bloc, which supported Kuchma, gained the support of enough independents to form the largest parliamentary faction. Kuchma named the United Ukraine nominee, Viktor Yanukovych, as prime minister.
2004 Presidential Elections
Yushchenko emerged as the leading opposition candidate in the 2004 presidential race, running against Prime Minister Yanukovych. Kuchma, who chose not to run for reelection, endorsed Yanukovych. Throughout the election campaign Russian president Vladimir Putin publicly endorsed Yanukovych, who favored stronger ties with Russia and found his base of support in eastern Ukraine. Yushchenko advocated stronger ties with the West and drew his support mostly from western Ukraine.
The election in late October gave a small lead of 0.5 percent to Yushchenko, triggering a second-round ballot in November. Yanukovych was officially declared the winner of the runoff election, but Yushchenko rejected the result amid claims of widespread vote-rigging. Tens of thousands of his supporters staged daily protests in Kiev’s Independence Square, blockading government buildings and demanding a new runoff election. Their protests became known as the Orange Revolution, for the prominent display of Yushchenko’s campaign color in flags, banners, and clothing.
In early December the Supreme Court ruled that the November election had been fraudulent and annulled the results, paving the way for a new runoff election on December 26. Yushchenko won the election with 52 percent of the vote. Yanukovych, who took 44 percent of the vote, resigned as prime minister at the end of December. He appealed the result with the Supreme Court, but it upheld Yushchenko’s election victory in January 2005.
To fill the vacated post of prime minister, Yushchenko immediately appointed Yuliya Tymoshenko, a close political ally during the Orange Revolution. However, political infighting and a series of resignations weakened her government, and Yushchenko dismissed her in September. In her place he appointed another ally, Yuriy Yekhanurov, who formed a new government.
The legislative elections of March 2006 brought unexpected defeat for Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine Bloc, which gained only 81 of the 450 seats in the Supreme Council. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions won 186 seats, more than any other party but still short of a majority. A long period of negotiations followed between various parties in an attempt to create a coalition government. Eventually, the Socialist and Communist parties decided to join with the Party of Regions in a ruling coalition, and Yanukovych returned as prime minister in August.
In April 2007 Yushchenko dissolved the legislature, claiming that the ruling coalition was accepting defectors from the opposition to boost its power. The move plunged the country into a political crisis, as a two-month power struggle ensued between Yushchenko and Yanukovych. Finally, the two leaders agreed that early parliamentary elections would be held in September to end the deadlock. Yanukovych’s party won the largest share of the vote, but pro-Yushchenko parties formed a ruling coalition with a razor-thin majority in the Supreme Council. In December the legislature elected Tymoshenko as prime minister, with the opposition boycotting the vote. Yushchenko supported the nomination to make her prime minister a second time.
During 2008 Ukraine was badly affected by the financial crisis that affected banking institutions around the world. Ukraine sought a $16.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help it meet the emergency.
Ukraine’s relations with Russia worsened during the year, especially after Yushchenko supported the proposal for Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and after he backed Georgia over the conflict with South Ossetia in August. Russia opposed Ukraine’s membership in NATO, suspecting the Western military alliance of attempting to encircle Russia.
In September 2008 the fragile coalition government in Ukraine again broke down when Tymoshenko joined with Yanukovych to pass a bill that curbed the president’s authority. Yushchenko threatened to dissolve the legislature and call new parliamentary elections. For several months the two sides quarreled over how to proceed. In December 2008 Tymoshenko announced that she had fashioned a new coalition with allies of Yushchenko and a small third party, averting the need for new elections.