The Republic of Ukraine, often referred to as the “Breadbasket of Europe” because of its fertile earth, declared its independence on August 24, 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The area of Ukraine is 233,089 square miles, making it the second-largest land mass in Europe. The population was an estimated 44.85 million in July 2012, with more than 70 percent being ethnic Ukrainians. Ukraine's gross domestic product was an estimated $327.4 billion in 2011, with an annual growth rate of 4.7 percent. Also in 2011, the United Nations ranked Ukraine at number 76 of 187 countries on the Human Development Index.

Social and Historical Overview

A divided Ukraine was not known by that name until the 19th century, with the western portion along the ...

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