endowed in natural resources, Ukraine has been fought over and subjugated
for centuries; its 20th-century struggle for liberty is not yet complete.
A short-lived independence from Russia (1917-1920) was followed by
brutal Soviet rule that engineered two artificial famines (1921-22
and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died, and World War II, in which
German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 million more
deaths. Although independence was attained in 1991 with the dissolution
of the USSR, true freedom remains elusive as many of the former Soviet
elite remain entrenched, stalling efforts at economic reform, privatization,
and civic liberties.
map of the Ukraine
temperate continental; Mediterranean only on the southern Crimean
coast; precipitation disproportionately distributed, highest in west
and north, lesser in east and southeast; winters vary from cool along
the Black Sea to cold farther inland; summers are warm across the
greater part of the country, hot in the south
M ost of Ukraine 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
48,760,474 (July 2001 est.)
After Russia, the Ukrainian republic was far and away the most important
economic component of the former Soviet Union, producing about four
times the output of the next-ranking republic. Its fertile black soil
generated more than one-fourth of Soviet agricultural output, and
its farms provided substantial quantities of meat, milk, grain, and
vegetables to other republics. Likewise, its diversified heavy industry
supplied the unique equipment (for example, large diameter pipes)
and raw materials to industrial and mining sites (vertical drilling
apparatus) in other regions of the former USSR. Ukraine depends on
imports of energy, especially natural gas, to meet some 85% of its
annual energy requirements.
Shortly after independence in late 1991, the Ukrainian Government
liberalized most prices and erected a legal framework for privatization,
but widespread resistance to reform within the government and the
legislature soon stalled reform efforts and led to some backtracking.
Output in 1992-99 fell to less than 40% the 1991 level. Loose monetary
policies pushed inflation to hyperinflationary levels in late 1993.
Ukraines dependence on Russia for energy supplies and the lack
of significant structural reform have made the Ukrainian economy vulnerable
to external shocks.
Now in his second term, President Kuchma has pledged to reduce the
number of government agencies and streamline the regulation process,
create a legal environment to encourage entrepreneurs and protect
ownership rights, and enact a comprehensive tax overhaul. Reforms
in the more politically sensitive areas of structural reform and land
privatization are still lagging. Outside institutionsparticularly
the IMFhave encouraged Ukraine to quicken the pace and scope
of reforms and have threatened to withdraw financial support. GDP
in 2000 showed strong export-based growth of 6%the first growth
since independenceand industrial production grew 12.9%. As the
capacity for further export-based economic expansion diminishes, GDP
growth in 2001 is likely to decline to around 3%.
Information courtesy of the CIA
World Factbook 2001