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Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, romanizedUkrayina, pronounced [ʊkrɐˈjinɐ] (About this soundlisten)), sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodoxy. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.

The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus' forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Russia. A Cossack republic emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but its territory was eventually split between Poland and the Russian Empire, and finally merged fully into the Russian-dominated Soviet Union in the late 1940s as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1991, Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in the aftermath of its dissolution at the end of the Cold War. Before its independence, Ukraine was typically referred to in English as "The Ukraine", but most sources have since moved to drop "the" from the name of Ukraine in all uses.

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The Caspian expeditions of the Rus were military raids undertaken by the Rus between 864 and 1041 on the Caspian Sea shores. Initially, the Rus appeared in Saerkland in the 9th century traveling as merchants along the Volga trade route, selling furs, honey, and slaves. The first small-scale raids took place in the late 9th and early 10th century. The Rus undertook the first large-scale expedition in 913; having arrived on 500 ships, they pillaged Gorgan, the territory of present day Azerbaijan, and the adjacent areas, taking slaves and goods. On their return, the northern raiders were attacked and defeated by Khazar Muslims in the Volga Delta, and those who escaped were killed by the local tribes on the middle Volga.

During their next expedition in 943, the Rus captured Barda, the capital of Arran, in the modern-day Azerbaijan. The Rus stayed there for several months, killing many inhabitants of the city and amassing substantial plunder. It was only an outbreak of dysentery among the Rus that forced them to depart with their spoils. Sviatoslav, prince of Kiev, commanded the next attack, which destroyed the Khazar state in 965. Sviatoslav's campaign established the Rus's hold on the north-south trade routes, helping to alter the demographics of the region. Raids continued through the time period with the last Scandinavian attempt to reestablish the route to the Caspian Sea taking place in 1041 by Ingvar the Far-Travelled.

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Zbarazh Castle.

Zbarazh (Ukrainian: Збараж, Polish: Zbaraż, Yiddish: Zbarj) is a small city in the Ternopil Oblast (province) of western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Zbarazh Raion (district), and is located in the historic region of Galicia. The major attraction of the city is the Zbarazh Castle that played a key role during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, the heroic defense of which eventually led to change of momentum and extinguishing the Cossack revolt.


Photo credit: plf16

Did you know...

Featured at Did you know section at the Wikipedia's Main Page

Mykola Leontovych
Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle
  • ...that during the Shuliavka worker's uprising of 1905, groups of 150 armed men patrolled the streets of the Shuliavka neighborhood in Kiev to clean the area of any resistors to their movement?
  • ...that Vasyl Krychevsky, a Ukrainian artist, designed the state emblem of the Ukrainian National Republic at the request of Mykhailo Hrushevskyi?
  • ...that the Emperor of Russia, Alexander III bought the art of Ukrainian realist painter Vladimir Orlovsky?
  • ...that Swedish-Ukrainian relations have long traditions and that the Swedish king Charles XII was named protector of Ukraine in the first Ukrainian constitution of 1710 and that Hetman Pylyp Orlyk lived in Sweden 1716–1720?
  • ...that the Russian composers Peter Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Serge Rachmaninoff used Ukrainian folk melodies in their works?
  • ...that Polish-Ukrainian relations have been steadily improving since the fall of communism, and both countries now have a strong strategic relationship?
  • ...that the Ukrainian Baroque architecture is distinct from Western European Baroque in that its designs were more constructivist, had more moderate ornamentation, and were simpler in form?
  • ...that according to Ukrainian folklore, the girl who finds Chervona Ruta, "Red Rue" in Ukrainian, on the Ivan Kupala Day, will be happy in love?
  • ...that the 11th century Duke Yaropolk Izyaslavich is an Eastern Orthodox saint?
  • ...that in 1956, the Pidhirtsi Castle in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine. burned for three weeks costing US$12 million in damages?
  • ...that the Holy Trinity Church was the oldest church in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine, until it was destroyed by the Soviets in 1935?
  • Selected painting

    Konstiantyn Trutovsky. By the water well.

    By the water well Konstiantyn Trutovsky

    Konstiantyn Trutovsky was a Ukrainian realist painter and graphic artist. His artistic heritage includes numerous genre screens on Ukrainian themes. Trutovsky was interested in ethnography and depicted colorful Ukrainian folk customs, not shying away from "a dash of good humour".

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