As Ukraine celebrates 27 years of independence, we present an array of facts and trivia you probably did not know about the Eastern European country.
1. It is large
Russia excluded, Ukraine is the continent’s largest county at 603,628 square kilometres, stretching from Russia in the east to Poland in the west, and sandwiched between the Black Sea in the south and fellow former Soviet state Belarus in the north. France is next at 551,695 square kilometres.
2. And boasts seven wonders
Within its large borders, Ukraine has seven World Heritage Sites, including the 11th century Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, the ancient city of Chersonesus, and the primeval beech forests of the Carpathians. Another is the Struve Geodetic Arc, a chain of survey triangulations linking Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea in Ukraine. It “helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping,” according to Unesco. Beyond its World Heritage Sites it has a wealth of majestic Orthodox cathedrals, including St Michael’s in Kiev, pictured below.
3. It likes a drink
Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks Ukraine sixth for alcohol consumption, with 13.9 litres glugged per capita per year. Only Belarus, which tops the chart, Moldova, Lithuania, Russia and Romania consume more.
4. But it’s not just vodka
While we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that Ukrainians do not exclusively drink vodka, as one might assume. The national drink is called horilka, another clear spirit. While vodka means “little water”, horilka means “burning water”, a nod to the fact that drink is often flavoured with chili pepper.
5. It loves Mcdonald’s
Ukraine is not all about booze. The McDonald’s next to the main train station in Kiev, the country’s capital, is claimed to be the third busiest in the world.
6. It is at the heart of Europe
Put your tea down because this one is a gasper. Within Ukraine is the geographical centre of Europe. OK, it’s not quite as simple as that. A number of locations lay claim to the title and it depends on how you measure Europe, but the small town of Rakhiv in western Ukraine is one such place. The country has a second claimant in Transcarpathia, where an obelisk marks the spot.
7. It’s not The Ukraine
The English-speaking world commonly referred to the country as The Ukraine. That is, until independence in 1991 when the West gradually dropped the definite article. In 1993 the Ukranian government requested that the country be called just Ukraine. US ambassador William Taylor, who knew that addition of the “the” was considered insulting by some Ukrainians, said it implied a disregard for the country’s sovereignty.