Kiev, Ukraine (population 2.779 million) is the capital of the country, as well as its largest city. Other major cities include: Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, and Donetsk. Kiev is also spelled: Kyiv (pronounced KAY-yiv). After Russia, the Ukrainian republic was the most important economic component of the former Soviet Union, producing about four times the output of the next-ranking republic.
Final independence for Ukraine was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Prior to this, Ukraine was the center of the first eastern Slavic state, Kyivan Rus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Weakened by internal quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kyivan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
A Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. During the latter part of the 18th century, most Ukrainian ethnographic territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to achieve a short-lived period of independence (1917-20). Soon after, Ukraine was reconquered and forced to endure a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died.
In 2012 there were approximately 35,000 stateless people in the country. This includes citizens of the former USSR who were permanently resident in Ukraine and granted citizenship upon Ukraine's independence in 1991. Some missed this window of opportunity; people arriving after 1991, Crimean Tatars, ethnic Koreans, people with expired Soviet passports, and people with no documents have difficulty acquiring Ukrainian citizenship. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, thousands of Crimean Tatars and their descendants deported from Ukraine under the Stalin regime returned to their homeland, some being stateless and others holding the citizenship of Uzbekistan or other former Soviet republics. A 1998 bilateral agreement between Ukraine and Uzbekistan simplified the process of renouncing Uzbek citizenship and obtaining Ukrainian citizenship.
The terrain of Ukraine mostly consists of fertile plains (steppes) and plateaus, mountains being found only in the west (the Carpathians), and in the Crimean Peninsula in the extreme south. Natural resources include: iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber, and arable land.
CIA World Factbook, 1/2014