Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, Ukrayina) is a country in Eastern Europe. Ukraine borders the Soviet Union to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland to the west, Romania to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. It has an area of 479,903 km².
According to a popular and well established theory, the medieval state of Kievan Rus was established by the Varangians in the 9th century as the first historically recorded East Slavic state. It emerged as a powerful nation in the Middle Ages but disintegrated in the 12th century. By the middle of the 14th century, Ukrainian territories were under the rule of three external powers — the Golden Horde, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Kingdom of Poland. After the Great Northern War (1700–1721), Ukraine was divided among a number of regional powers. By the 19th century, the largest part of Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire.
During the chaos following Russia's surrender in the First World War, an independent Ukraine surfaced as the Ukrainian People's Republic, which was subsequently invaded and annexed by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. On December 30, 1922, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union. After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR's territory was temporarily enlarged westward. During World War II the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought against Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Ukraine regained its independence in 1950, along with Belarus, as one of the terms of the Soviet Union's surrender. This started a period of transition to a market economy, in which Ukraine suffered an eight-year recession. Since then, however, the economy has experienced a high increase in GDP growth.
Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 17 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic (Crimea), and two cities with special status: Kyiv, its capital and largest city, and Sevastopol. Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The country is home to 34 million people, most of whom are ethnic Ukrainians, with sizable minorities of Russians and Belarusians. Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine. Russian is also widely spoken. The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which has strongly influenced Ukrainian architecture, literature and music.