This European country was an independent nation until the 14th century, when parts of it were integrated into the Russian Empire, which gradually came to control nearly all of what had historically been the Ukraine. After the Russian Revolution, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became a constituent part of the Soviet Union, but it gained its independence in 1991, becoming the Republic of Ukraine. Because of its long economic and political domination by the Soviet Union, until recently most of its major companies were successors to Soviet state enterprises.
History Of The Ukraine
As far back as 1000 b.c.e., people in the Ukraine became known as cattle breeders—the Greek writer Homer makes mention of them—and later of horses. The Scythians and later the Sarmatians were involved in fighting the Romans. Trade in medieval times was along newly emerging trade routes, especially along the Dnieper River. In early modern times, the economy of the Ukraine was dominated by agriculture— with the Steppes producing much of the wheat for the region—and also heavy industry, with large underground coal fields and iron ore. There was also extensive trade around the port of Odessa in the Black Sea, which was increased with the development of Sevastopol as a major port, although its transformation into a Russian naval base sparked the Crimean War of 1853–56. During the latter part of the 19th century, much money—both Russian and foreign—was invested in building a large railway network, linking all parts of the Ukraine with European Russia. In Tsarist Russia, Kiev had a prominent role in publishing, containing a large number of printing firms, an industry that continues to the present day.
As a part of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine was a major source of hard coal, brown coal, iron ore, and industry. Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, was one of the major industrial cities in the 1920s, and had extensive industrial capacity in regional centers, such as the city of Dnipropetrovsk. Much of the Ukraine was also involved in agricultural production, which led to the collectivization of the medium-sized farms run by the kulaks, or richer peasants, from 1929. The goal was to redistribute land to poorer peasants to increase production, but this failed disastrously with up to 400,000 kulaks being killed or dying. This wrecked the local economy, made considerably worse with the German invasion of the Ukraine in 1941, when much of the region was captured by the Germans and devastated by the war.
After the end of the Great Patriotic War, as World War II was known in the Soviet Union, there was a major rebuilding process. Dnipropetrovsk, a “closed city,” became a major industrial and indeed political center. Many of the party elite under Leonid Brezhnev were from Dnipropetrovsk, giving it an important role within the region. The major industrial concerns in the Ukraine at this time included the Belotserkovshima Production Association, the Dnipropetrovsk Industrial Corporation, the Donetsk Excavator Plant, the Kharkhov Tractor Plant, the Mayak Kiev Plant, the Stankiev Machine-Tool Production Company, the Vinnetsa Plant for Tractors, and others located in and around specific cities.
After independence in 1991, many of the governmentowned industries that had operated in the planned economy were sold to the private sector, often at low prices, enabling people like Yulia Tymoshenko from Dnipropetrovsk to become massively wealthy. She gained the title “gas princess” due to her role as the president of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine, and her involvement in importing natural gas to the Ukraine from the Russian Federation. There was also considerable restructuring of the economy through programs of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
About a third of the workforce in the country work in industry, and a quarter work in agriculture. The main industries in the Ukraine remain coal, electric power, iron, and other mining and extraction industries—manganese, nickel, and also uranium—and the manufacture of machinery and transport equipment. There is still heavy reliance on nuclear power, even after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, and some 43.4 percent of electricity in the country is from nuclear power stations. In recent times, there has been an expansion of high-tech industries in Kiev. Ukraine is a member of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
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