1 Ukraine is home to the first constitution in the modern world.
In 1710, Ukrainian Cossack leader Pylyp Orlyk authored a constitution establishing three branches of government and legally underscored the importance of equality and human rights for citizens under Cossack rule, including a guarantee for free elections. Orlyk’s government predates the United States Constitution by 77 years.
2 Ukraine is the largest country in Europe.
At 233,013 square miles, Ukraine is 2,000 square miles larger than mainland France, 50,000 square miles larger than Spain, and 200,000 square miles larger than Germany. Ukraine is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texas, and the separatist-occupied territory is smaller than the state of New Jersey. To bring it a little closer to home, the entire state of Illinois can fit inside the territory of Ukraine more than four times.
3 Ukraine’s ties to Western Europe span more than a 1,000 years.
The daughter of Grand Prince Yaroslav, Anna, became the Queen Consort of France in 1051. Anna was highly educated and introduced Eastern culture to the Franks, paving the way for relationships between medieval Ukraine and Western Europe for centuries.
4 Ukrainian civilizations date back to 4800 B.C.
The Trypillian and Scythian civilizations thrived in the land where Ukraine is today. At their peak in the 7th century B.C., the Scythians actively traded with civilizations in lands as far away as China, Persia, Egypt, and Greece.
5 Ukrainian leaders shielded thousands of Jews during WWII.
Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church for 45 years, was honored by the Anti-Defamation League in 2013 for saving thousands of Jews during WWII. He and other civic and Church leaders hid Jews in their homes and monasteries during the Nazi invasion. A common criticism of Ukrainians is anti-Semitism, but figures like Metropolitan Sheptytsky, dispel such accusations.
6 Ukrainians were subject to one of the worst genocides in history.
As many as ten million Ukrainians were killed when they were denied food between 1932-1933. The act, which is widely considered to be genocide on the part of the Soviet Union, is known as the Holodomor. Entire villages where Ukrainians had died were repopulated by ethnic Russians in order to create ethnic homogeny in the Soviet Union.
7 Most Ukrainians want to join the European Union.
According to the most recent public opinion poll by Deutsche Welle, 73% of Ukrainians want to join the European Union, and the Gorshenin Institute showed that 53% of Ukrainians want to join NATO.
8 The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian.
In most countries, the official language is that of the predominant ethnicity – for which many countries are named. Although many ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian and do business in the Russian language, Article 10 of Ukraine’s constitution requires all official activity of the central government to be conducted in Ukrainian. However, the constitution guarantees protections for minority languages, including Russian. Some local governments have adopted Russian, Moldovan, Romanian, and Hungarian as secondary official languages, and are encouraged to use those languages to govern locally, though not nationally.
9 Ukraine has paid off $14 billion USD of its debts in recent months.
As Ukraine teeters on the edge of a national default, recent months have proven that it can still live up to its word and pay its international debts. Since Chicagoan Natalie Jaresko took over as Finance Minister in December, Ukraine has paid international creditors $14 billion USD.
10 Ukraine is home to 45.49 million people.
According to the World Bank, Ukraine was home to 45.49 million people in 2013 – that’s just short of the population of the entire American West Coast at the last federal census. Ukraine fell victim to massive population loss after independence in 1991, as more than 7 million Ukrainians left their homeland to find work in the United States, Western Europe, and the Middle East.