a map of the Ukraine
Richly 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.

Climate
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

Terrain
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

Population
48,760,474 (July 2001 est.)

Economy
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. Ukraine’s 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 institutions—particularly the IMF—have 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 independence—and 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



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