Ukraine’s been getting some bad press lately, with the unstable government and military situation in its east, the political drama at its capital, and the tumultuous state of its economy, currency, and other such things.
Nonetheless, Ukraine is not only quite safe, but also quite agreeable, if I do say so myself. Whether you’re interested in visiting or simply a trivia junkie, here are some of our interesting Ukraine facts.
1. Ukraine Flag Facts
The Ukrainian flag is quite noticeable for its simple-yet-stylish design – a bi-color flag split in half horizontally, with blue on top over yellow beneath. Historically, this flag had been used as far back as the 1848 Revolutions, where in Ukraine a petition was underway to better-recognize the Ukrainian language. It was adopted several times by different Ukrainian-centered groups, such as the West Ukrainian People’s Republic; it was also outlawed during much of the Soviet Union, where displaying it could earn one a criminal prosecution!
Source: Ukrainian Flag on Wikipedia
2. What’s With the Blue & Yellow?
The colors, as set forth by the Ukrainian constitution, only seem to call for “blue” and “yellow.” However, groups within Ukraine and Europe have standardized it to some color standards, such as the RAL Colour Standard, from the old German Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung (State Commission for Delivery Terms and Quality Assurance). According to RAL, the Ukrainian flag is #5019 Capri blue and #1023 Traffic yellow; this is 0, 91, 187 and 255, 213, 0 in RGB, or #005bbb and #ffd500 in HEX, respectively.
Most Ukrainians, when asked what blue and yellow represent, will most likely answer with something along the lines of, “blue is for the blue skies, and yellow is for fields of wheat.” Others have said that the colors come from a former Silesian knight who hailed from Opole, in southwest Poland; the city had a flag with the same colors.
Source: Constitution of Ukraine, Article 20
From 1932 through 1933, a mass, man-made famine was introduced to areas in Ukraine, and somewhere between 7 million and 10 million people died of starvation. This famine, called Holodomor, is considered by the Ukrainian government to be a genocide on the part of the former Soviet Union, but scholars disagree as to whether it can technically be considered as such. Holodomor literally translates to “death by hunger” or “to starve to death.”
4. World Heritage
Ukraine has seven UNESCO World Heritage sites designated by the United Nations so far; of those seven sites, six of them are cultural:
- Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora
- Kiev: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra
- L’viv – the Ensemble of the Historic Centre
- Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans
- Struve Geodetic Arc
- Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region
… and one of them is natural:
- Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians
5. The Ukrainian Language
The Ukrainian language (українська мова, ukrayinska mova) is the official language of Ukraine. It has an extended and modified Cyrillic script, with additional letters in its alphabet, compared to Russian, for example. For over a century, from 1804 until the Russian Revolution, the Ukrainian language was banned from most of Ukraine. “Russification” is the term used when a country gives up its language or culture, voluntarily or not, in favor of Russian language and culture, and Ukraine has been subjected to Russification for centuries, in some form or another, until quite recently when Ukrainian was promoted at schools and the Russian language demoted.
6. World’s First Constitution?
No. Some people claim the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk to be the world’s first, as do various people of other countries. However, constitutions of state can be traced back long before that. Still, the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk from 1710 is considered one of the first state constitutions in Europe.
7. Ukraine Depopulation
Unfortunately, due to border issues and a brain-drain of younger Ukrainians searching for better work and living opportunities abroad, Ukraine is at the forefront of population decline in the world. It is the fastest declining population in Europe, and the United Nations has projected that the population of Ukraine will fall 22% by 2050. Considering that the population is over 40 million, this would be an exodus larger than many countries in Europe.
8. Ukraine Geography
Ukraine is actually the largest country in completely within Europe by area, when you consider that most of Russia’s mass is located in the Asian part of the continent. At 603,628 sq. km (233,062 sq. mi), it is the 46th largest country in the world.
Source: Ukraine on Wikipedia
9. Notable People & Products from Ukraine
Janet Sobel was a Ukrainian artist who immigrated to New York City a century ago and is said to have originated drip painting, which artists such as Jackson Pollock are thought to have been inspired from. Selman Waksman was born in what is now Ukraine, and he received a Nobel Prize in 1952 “for his discovery of ‘streptomycin,’ the first antibiotic active against tuberculosis.” Yuri Kondratyuk developed the first known Lunar Orbit Rendezvous which was a key concept for landing and returning lunar flights. Lyudmila Rudenko was a chess world champion in the 1950’s, and the first woman to be awarded the “International Master” title. Marta Litinskaya-Shul was awarded the chess FIDE titles of Woman International Master in 1972 and Woman Grandmaster in 1976, and in 2002, she won the Women’s World Senior Championship.
10. The Educated Class
We listed a few of the chess champions in our “Notable People & Products,” but Ukrainians are masters in chess, if you were to look at the historical data. It may seem strange, if you consider that the economy in Ukraine is currently in a state of volatility, but here are other facts about Ukraine may allow you to better grasp just how this came to be.
For example, Ukraine is consistently one of the most literate countries in the world, depending on the study you use. And the unstoppable boxing siblings and world heavyweight champions, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, both hold doctorate degrees!
11. Heavy Drinkers
Ukraine has the dubious honor of coming in at #6 according to the list of alcohol consumption put together by the World Health Organization (WHO), averaging 13.9 liters per year. The five countries which rank higher also happen to be Ukraine’s neighbors: Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Lithuania, and Romania. Another thing to ponder might be the alcoholic percentage (proof) of their drinks compared to the beers and wines in Western Europe, for example. (Btw, wanna learn how to say cheers in Ukrainian?)
What do you think of these facts? Got any more to add to this list? If you do, leave a comment below, and if it checks out, we’ll gladly add it to the list! If you’re interested in further learning about Ukraine, check out its destination page on our site for stories, photos, Ukrainian key information, and more facts.