Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, Ukrayina) is a former Soviet state, declaring independence in 1991. Before that, it was under Russian and, even earlier, Polish rule, and most famous for its hard-to-pronounce Cossack Host, the Zaporozhians. It was also a divided land for a long time: the Western part of the modern Ukraine was ruled by Poland and then Austria and saw little or no Russian rule before the USSR; the eastern part was Russian territory and saw a lot of Russian cultural influence. The differences between the two parts are still very visible; it's the Western Ukrainians who are the most nationalistic and pro-European, they even speak a different dialect and follow a different religion (Greek Catholicism). It was them who played the most major role in the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. Many Ukrainians (nearly all Western Ukrainians) will object if you call them Russians. The Soviet government was responsible for millions of deaths in the Ukrainian SSR, including a Holodomor ("death by hunger"), the 1932-33 famine in the country, caused by Soviet crop seizures and taking the lives of many millions of people. Similar seizures took place in Belarus and on the Volga, but consider the fact Ukraine was a heavily agrarian country back then. By comparison, pre-revolution Belarus made Ukraine look positively cosmopolitan—the poorer region fared better in the forced crop seizures due to transfer of resources to rather than from as in Ukraine, since it was no breadbasket. It's also important to note that there was no Holodomor in Western Ukraine, since this part of the land was not yet under Soviet rule at that time. However, it's the Western Ukrainians who are the most vocal about that page in history. This was a major factor in the Western Ukrainian population initially welcoming the Nazis, before realising that they weren't really distinguishing between Slavic groups. They then fought against them, with 16% of Soviet deaths in the Great Patriotic War being Ukrainian. The Ukrainian part in World War II is, in fact, a major Broken Base. What can be taken as hard fact is that the Eastern Ukrainians were more or less hardcore anti-Nazis. Of the Western part of this people, sources vary. Some claim that all Ukrainian nationalist organizations of World War II were Les Collaborateurs. Some claim that the Western Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera opposed both the USSR and Nazi Germany. And some claim that the sources of disagreement between Nazis and Bandera's followers were the Nazis being horrified at the atrocities of Bandera's organization and putting the man to the camps as a common brigand kingpin. A notable recent event was the 2004 Orange Revolution, where peaceful demonstrations forced the re-run of a questionable election and changed the government from pro-Russian to pro-Western (later elections changed it back, but were more peaceful). Another event of note was Ukraine holding the Euro-2012 football championship, along with Poland, and preparations for the event were painstakingly made. The most notable event in Ukraine of the 2010s so far has been the semi-violentnote revolution of 2014 which overthrew the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych; this episode is called the Euromaidan, i.e. "Europe Square" (because the triggering event was Yanukovych rejecting a deal with the European Union to take a deal with the Russians). In response, Russia annexed Crimea and started stirring up trouble in Eastern Ukraine; The Other Wiki has dubbed this the Crimean Crisis. For its part, Crimea seems indifferent or possibly happy to be part of Russia (except for the Crimean Tatars), while most surveys say that Eastern Ukraine is indifferent or possibly happy to remain a (prickly) part of Ukraine (protesters aside). Ukraine is also known as the location of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, near its northern borders. It is home to the former V.I. Lenin Memorial Nuclear Power Station and the surrounding Zone of Alienation, most of that being in neighbouring Belarus. During Soviet times, Soviet planners wanted to prevent any one region from establishing totally independent arms production, and a lot of defence and aerospace plants (such as Antonov and Yangel) ended up in Ukraine. When the USSR collapsed, the Russian Federation found itself in the unenviable position of having the vendors of many of its equipment and weapons systems in a foreign country and often they weren't very cooperative. Ukraine is sitting on top of a lot of old Soviet industrial bases, needless to say. Also for a while they inherited all the nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles the Soviets had stationed in Ukraine, but they decided to give them up, as did Belarus and Kazakhstan, which had found themselves in similar positions. We mentioned earlier that most Ukrainians object to being called Russians. While only Russian nationalists and ignorant people try and claim that the Ukrainian nation isn't real, a big number of Ukrainians in the east and south of the country, especially the Crimea peninsula, are in fact Russian-speaking, Russophile, and many of them are, in short, Russian (the rest is happy to identify themselves as Eastern Ukrainians, pretty much the opposite of the aforemented Western guys in all respects). Well, Crimea was only transferred under the administration of the USSR (Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic, not the Soviet Union itself) in 1961, and as such remained part of Ukraine, even though it's an autonomous republic nowadays. Russian naval bases are still there, in Sevastopol, which for decades invoked much controversy and general hate. Somewhat ironic is that foreign troops and ships participating in joint military exercises in Crimea (notably the U.S. ones) come into dock at Sevastopol. Cue pro-Russian, anti-NATO demonstrations. Also cue a major Broken Base, especially in the 2006/2010 elections, and especially in the 2014 revolution. Ukraine has a law that prohibits its own citizens being extradited from the country to elsewhere- a fact that was used in a Trial And Retribution two-parter. Like other countries that do this (like France), however, this means that Ukrainian law applies to its citizens abroad. In 2005, Ukraine loosened its border controls so that tourists from The European Union and Switzerland could visit the country without a visa. This was partly to make life easier for foreigners visiting Kiev (or Kyiv, as the locals spell it) for the Eurovision Song Contest that year, but is part of a general trend towards closer relations with the west. Recently, this got turned upside down, because of governmental wishes for tighter bonds to Russia. More recently still, the question of whether Ukraine should be closer to the west or Russia helped trigger a massive political shakeup, resulting in the President literally up and leaving in the dead of night, and then the aforementioned Russian invasion. And despite what anyone might tell you, the best vodka does not come from Russia. It comes from Ukraine. But Ukrainian vodka is properly called horilka, not vodka. There's also the Polish wódka, which is pronounced vootka. It's like "whisky" (Scotch and Canadian) vs "whiskey" (Irish and American). The area of Ukraine south of Lviv (part of Ukrainian Galicia) was transferred from Austria to Russia in the late 19th century, which prompted the emigration of well over 80% of the rural population of the area to North America. Most emigrants settled in Western Canada, particularly Alberta and Saskatchewan (where by and large they became farmers), and eastern Pennsylvania, particularly the "coal country" (where by and large they became miners). To this day anything vaguely Central or Eastern European will be assumed in Canada to be Ukrainian. People tend to get the flag upside-down. An easy way to remember the correct orientation is that the blue represents the sky and the yellow represents rich fields of grain.
Famous Ukrainians include:
the Ukrainian flag
The simple blue and yellow colors symbolize an allegorical landscape of grain fields underneath the clear sky, befitting Ukraine's reputation as the breadbasket of Europe.