Hello dear readers,
If you're interested in Peace Corps Ukraine, please check out our remodeled version of the PC Ukraine website: http://pcukraine.org/
FACTS ABOUT UKRAINE*:
*Please note that some of these facts I've learned while living here. Others I found off the internet in an attempt to answer questions my Grandpa thinks of "what is the land mass of Ukraine in comparison to the US? Uhh... (The answer is slightly smaller than Texas) Enjoy! :-)
The national flower is the SUNFLOWER. It represents hope in Ukraine and can literally be found everywhere. The sunflower fields in the summer are breathtaking.
The colors on the Ukrainian flag are sky blue and sun yellow. Sky blue to represent the sky (obviously) and yellow to represent the wheat fields (which I've never seen).
They drive on the right side of the road, which is a blessing. But their driving can be terrifying. My trick? Just ignore what's going on.
They wear their wedding ring on the ring finger of their right hand instead of their left hand.
No shoes in the house! Slippers are a must. In fact, Ukrainians have spare slippers for guests. I've come to enjoy this tradition. Less vacuuming.
On the train the toilet dumps on the tracks. Kind of weird to flush the toilet and see the ground below. Also means you can't use the toilet when the train has stopped at a station. Gotta learn how to squat while the train is roaring down the tracks.
They speak both Ukrainian and Russian. Language is a very political subject here and can often lead to a fight if you care about that stuff.
Whistling inside a building is considered bad luck.
When you forget something and have to go back to your home for it, you must look in the mirror and sit down for a minute or two, otherwise you'll have a terrible day.
Christians are forbidden from playing cards, it's considered gambling.
Private schools have uniforms, however, they look like naughty maid costumes that you would see at Halloween.
You have to pay to use the restroom in public places, but at least there is toilet paper, unlike the Philippines.
Bread, salt and mayonnaise are consumed at about every meal.
Commas are used as decimal points instead of periods.
You have to pay for plastic bags at the grocery store.
People don't smile at you or say Hello when you pass them on the street; they keep a very straight face.
Location: Eastern Europe*;
Neighbors are Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Russia, and Belarus
*Ukraine is part of former Soviet Union or USSR, one of the NIS states ("Newly Independent States"), and member of CIS ("Commonwealth of Independent States", a subdivision of the NIS)
Population: 48 million (down from peak of 51 million in 1980s)
Area: 603,000 km2 (slightly larger than France and slightly smaller than Texas)
Capital: Kyiv (or Kiev)*
*Kyiv is derived from Ukrainian and Kiev from Russian (Kiev is considered the birthplace of Russian and East Slavic culture and statehood). While Kyiv is now considered politically correct, Kiev appears in Google seven times more frequently.
Major cities: official populations
Kyiv - 2,635,300 (realistically approaching 4 million)
Kharkiv - 1,575,900
Dnipropetrovsk - 1,161,200
Donetsk - 1,101,800
Odesa - 1,059,500
Zaporizhya - 887,400
Lviv - 805,900
Kryvyy Rih - 703,000
Mykolayiv - 519,000
Mariupol - 490,000
Luhansk - 493,300
Languages: Ukrainian and Russian*
*Ukrainian is Ukraine's single official government language;
In everyday use the languages are about equally popular across Ukraine, though proportion of usage differs widely by region. However, the vast majority of the population is functionally bilingual.
More about language in Ukraine >>
Ethno-lingual makeup: by respondents' self-definition
Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians: 38%
Russian-speaking Ukrainians: 30%
Russian-speaking Russians: 17%
not sure: 10%
other ethnicity: 5%
Geography: 95% of Ukraine is flat or nearly flat, with small rolling hills.
In the west the Carpathians rise to 2061 m (Hoverla), and in the south the Crimean Mountains reach 1545 m.
Date of independence: August 24, 1991
Ukrainian Orthodoxy, Moscow Patriarchate
Ukrainian Orthodoxy, Kyiv Patriarchate
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodoxy
Ukrainian Catholicism (Uniate)
Protestantism, Jewish Orthodoxy, Greek Catholicism
GDP: $49.9 billion (2004), GDP per capita: $1023 (official*)
*In actuality, about 50% of Ukraine's economic production is "in the shadows," and actual earnings are greater. In addition, the hryvnia has been fixed to the dollar for years and is now quite undervalued. Using "purchasing power parity" the following numbers come closer to the truth: GDP: $260.4 billion, GDP per capita: $5400, GDP real growth rate: 9.4%
In 2004 Ukraine was Europe's fastest growing economy, but has yet to reach pre-1991 levels of economic production.
Currency: Hryvnia (or grivna, if transliterated from Russian), abbreviation = UAH (sometimes "hr"). Exchange rate since spring 2005 hovers around 5 UAH to 1 USD.
See current exchange rates (Dollar, Euro, and Ruble) in left column here
Handling money in Ukraine >>
Government structure: Republic
Powerful executive branch with five-year presidential term and Cabinet of Ministers with a Prime Minister appointed by the President. Legislative branch consists of unicameral 450-seat Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council). People's deputies serve four-year terms. Judicial branch: Supreme Court, Constitutional Court. Ukraine's government structure is still in a developmental stage. During President Kuchma's terms (1994-2004) the executive branch became the only real center of power, but this is likely to be changed in 2005-2006 by a series of administrative and constitutional reforms. Ukraine consists of 27 administrative regions: 24 oblasts, the Crimea Autonomous Republic, and the cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol.
More on Ukraine's political system from Ukrainian Embassy in Canada
Links to Ukraine's principal governing bodies from Ukraine State Tax Administration
January 1 - New Year's Day
January 7 - Christmas (Orthodox calendar)
March 8 - International Women's Day
May 1 and 2 - International Workers' Solidarity Day
May 9 - Victory Day
June 28 - Constitution Day
August 24 - Independence Day
Principal exports are metals, minerals, electronics, chemicals, and vegetables.
2004 Report on Ukraine's economy, investment climate, and economic freedom from The Heritage Foundation
Gradually aging population. The birth rate plummeted in the 1990s but is slowly recovering as the economic situation improves. One of the highest women-to-men ratios in the world.
Life expectancy: men - 62 years, women - 73 years