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Ukraine - History and Culture

Modern Ukraine has undergone many transformations to become the country it is today. However, many factors have been prevalent since the beginning. The country was founded by the Rus people in the 10th century and the influence of the Orthodox Church has guided the country to where it is today. Modern Ukraine has achieved a high level of democratic freedoms and is looking forward to continued success in the future.

The foundations of Ukraine began in the 10th and 11th centuries with the establishment of Kyivan Rus by the Rus people. This was the first of the Eastern Slavic states and grew to be the most powerful country in Europe. The cultural beginnings of the Ukrainian people lie with Kyivan Rus. The country remained powerful into the 12th century when it was weakened by invasions from Turkic nomads and then destroyed by the Mongols. Kyivan Rus was then absorbed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until the mid 17th century. During Polish rule the Rus turned to the Cossacks for help to revolt against the Poles. The uprising was successful creating the Cossack Hetmanate.

The Cossack Hetmanate was incorporated into Muscovite Russia but maintained autonomy for 100 years. At the end of the 18th century most of Ukraine was absorbed into the Russian Empire. When czarist Russia collapsed in 1917, Ukraine achieved independence for a short period from 1917–1920, when it came under control of the Soviet Union. During the period of Soviet rule Ukraine underwent two famines that killed 8 million people. World War II saw even further losses for the Ukrainian people as Soviet and German forces were responsible for a further 8 million deaths.

Finally, in 1991, Ukraine achieved full independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The post-Soviet era was characterized by state control and endemic corruption until the peaceful Orange Revolution in 2004. 2004 saw presidential election between the Kremlin backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych and reformist Viktor Yushchenko. The vote went to Yanukovych in an obviously rigged election. Yushchenko supporters took to the streets in protest and the Supreme Court annulled the first election. Yuschenko won the subsequent election in what was a major step toward a democratic and corruption free Ukraine.

The primary language of Ukraine is Ukrainian though Russian is widely spoken especially in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country. There is a divide in the country between those who wish to remain under Russian influence versus those who want more freedom and to become part of the European Union. The economy in Ukraine is heavily based on manufacturing especially transportation vehicles and spacecraft. The country has also had high growth in the IT market and the overall economy is expected to continue growing in the coming years.

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