Ukraine (i/jukre?n/; Ukrainian: ?, transliterated: Ukrayina, [ukrjin?]) is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe. Ukraine borders Russia to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. The territory of Ukraine has been inhabited for at least 44,000 years, and is the prime candidate site for the domestication of the horse and for the origins of the Indo-European language family.
Ukraine... According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Hercules founded this land. Ukraine means “the land that borders.” Ukrainian shares its borders with Belarus to the north, Russia to the east, with Moldova, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west, and in the south with the beaches of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Once upon a time, Ukraine was the land of the Trypilians, the Cimmerians, the Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Antae, and Roxolanians. The territory of Ukraine is mostly a level, treeless plain, calls "steppe". Mixed forests of pine and fir-trees, beeches, limes, oaks and elms cover the mountains, but the thickest woods can still be found in the northern part of the republic, in Volyn. Kiev and Cherkassy lie in the midst of Ukrainian southernmost pine forest. The Ukrainian river Dnieper is one of the longest European rivers and one of the republic's main source of hydroelectric power.
The climate of the country is moderate. Winter is rather mild, with regular snowfalls everywhere except the south. The average winter temperature varies -20 Centigrade in the north to -3-5 in the south. The rivers and lakes freeze in winter. Summers are usually hot and dry, with occasional showers and thunderstorms. The fertile black soil is well watered in spring and autumn and gets plenty of sunshine in summer...
Golden monastery (Ternopil region, Ukraine), Image by Olduser via Flickr
Kyiv is the capital city. Other major cities are Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lviv and Odessa, one of the largest ports in the Black Sea. The Crimea is an Autonomous Republic within Ukraine.
The Ukrainian terrain consists mainly of steppes (plains) and plateaux; the Carpathian Mountains are in the west and there are mountains in the Crimean Peninsula. The Dnieper is the main river in Ukraine. Summers are warm and winters can be cold. The southern Crimean coast enjoys Mediterranean weather.
Environment Ukraine has a number of National Parks and Natural Reserves.
The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians is a World Heritage site shared between Ukraine and Slovakia.
The Carpathian Biosphere Reserve was established in 1992. Other Biosphere Reserves are Askania Nova Biosphere Reserve, the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve and the Dunaiski Biosphere Reserve.
Over thirty regions in Ukraine are listed by Ramsar as Wetlands of International Importance. These include the Desna River Floodplains, the Dniester-Turunchuk Crossrivers Area, Kartal Lake, Lake Synevyr and Perebrody Peatlands.
Wildlife in Ukraine includes deer, brown bears, wild boars, wolves, vultures and steppe eagles.
Architecture Most cities in Ukraine have some architectural legacy of their past. The best example of Kyiv's early architecture is the eleventh century Cathedral of Saint-Sophia. In 2005 Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, was added to the World Heritage List.
An excellent example of medieval architecture can be found in the old city of Lviv, a commercial and religious centre. Chernihiv is another city with its historic centre and religious buildings of note.
As well as the old styles of architecture Ukrainian cities have modern high-rise residential buildings and office blocks. This is particularly so in the cities with high populations: Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa.