Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It borders Russia to the east, Belarus to the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south. The city of Kiev is Ukraine's capital.
Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 24 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic (Crimea), and two cities with special status: Kiev, its capital, and Sevastopol, which houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement. Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. At the end of 2004, the country underwent an extensive constitutional reform that has changed the balance of power among the parliament, the prime minister, and the cabinet, as well as their relationship with the president.
The country is slow in implementing structural reforms. Following independence, the government formed a legal framework for privatization. However, widespread resistance to reforms within the government and from a significant part of the population soon stalled the reform efforts. A large number of government-owned enterprises were exempt from the privatization process. In the meantime, by 1999, the output had fallen to less than 40 percent of the 1991 level, but recovered to slightly above the 100 percent mark by the end of 2006.
Ukraine's 2007 GDP (PPP), as calculated by the IMF, is ranked 29th in the world and estimated at $399.866 billion. Nominal GDP (in U.S. dollars, calculated at market exchange rate) was $131.2 billion, ranked 41st in the world.
The World Bank classifies Ukraine as a middle-income state. Significant issues include underdeveloped infrastructure and transportation, corruption and bureaucracy. But the rapidly growing Ukrainian economy has a very interesting emerging market with a relatively big population, and large profits associated with the high risks. The Ukrainian stock market recorded 130% growth in 2007, for second highest in the world. According to the CIA, in 2006 the market capitalization of the Ukrainian stock market was $42.87 billion. Growing sectors of the Ukrainian economy include the IT Outsourcing market, which was expected to grow over 25 percent in 2007.
By December 2007 the average nominal salary in Ukraine reached 1,675 hryvnias per month. Despite remaining lower than in neighboring central European countries, the annual growth of average salary income in real terms is about 20 percent for several years (2001-2006) in a row.
Ukraine produces nearly all types of transportation vehicles and spacecraft. Antonov airplanes and KrAZ trucks are exported to many countries. The majority of Ukrainian exports are marketed to the European Union and CIS.
The country imports most energy supplies, especially oil and natural gas, and to a large extent depends on Russia as an energy supplier. While 25 percent of the natural gas in Ukraine comes from internal sources, about 35 percent comes from Russia and the remaining 40 percent from Central Asia through transit routes that Russia controls. At the same time, 85 percent of the Russian gas is delivered to Western Europe through Ukraine.
After 15 years of negotiations, Ukraine was invited to join the World Trade Organization on February 5, 2008. Ukraine ratified the agreements on April 10, 2008, and will become a WTO member 30 days after the ratification.
Ukrainian salary map
Ukrainian customs are heavily influenced by Christianity, which is the dominant religion in the country. The culture of Ukraine has been also influenced by its eastern and western neighbors, which is reflected in its architecture, music and art.
Communist rule had quite a strong effect on the art and writing of Ukraine. In 1932, Stalin made socialist realism state policy in the Soviet Union when he promulgated the decree "On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations". This greatly stifled creativity. During the 1980s glasnost (openness) was introduced and Soviet artists and writers again became free to express themselves as they wanted.
The tradition of the Easter egg, known as pysanka, has long roots in Ukraine. These eggs were drawn on with wax to create a pattern; then, the dye was applied to give the eggs their pleasant colours, the dye did not affect the previously wax-coated parts of the egg. After the entire egg was dyed, the wax was removed leaving only the colourful pattern. This tradition is thousands of years old, and precedes the arrival of Christianity to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian diet includes chicken, pork, beef, fish and mushrooms. Ukrainians eat a lot of potatoes, grains, fresh and pickled vegetables, different kinds of bread. Popular traditional dishes include varenyky (boiled dumplings with mushrooms, potatoes, sauerkraut, cottage cheese or cherries), borsch (soup made of beets, cabbage and mushrooms or meat) and holubtsy (stuffed cabbage rolls filled with rice, carrots and meat). Ukrainian specialties also include Chicken Kiev and Kiev Cake. Ukrainians drink stewed fruit, juices, milk, buttermilk (they make cottage cheese from this), mineral water, tea and coffee, beer, wine and horilka.
In Ukraine, gender roles tend to be more traditional, and grandparents play a greater role in raising children than in the West.
According to the Ukrainian constitution, the access to free education is granted to all citizens. Complete general secondary education is compulsory in the state schools which constitute the overwhelming majority. Free higher education in state and communal educational establishments is provided on a competitive basis. There is also a small number of accredited private secondary and higher education institutions.
Due to the state supported free education, the literacy rate is an estimated 99.4%. Since 2005, an eleven-year school program has been replaced with a twelve-year one: primary education takes four years to complete (starting at age six), middle education (secondary) takes five years to complete. There are then three years of upper secondary school. In the 12th grade, students take the Government Tests or school-leaving exams. The Government tests act as both school-leaving exams and university admission tests.
The Ukrainian higher education system comprises higher educational establishments, scientific and methodological facilities under federal, municipal and self-governing bodies in charge of education. The organization of higher education in Ukraine is built up in accordance with the structure of education of the world's higher developed countries, as is defined by UNESCO and the UN.