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Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It borders Russia to the east, Belarus to the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south. The city of Kiev (Kyiv) is Ukraine's capital.
The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs. From at least the 9th century, the territory of Ukraine was a center of the medieval East Slavic civilization forming the state of Kievan Rus', which disintegrated in the 12th century. From the 14th century on, the territory of Ukraine was divided among a number of regional powers and by the 19th century the largest part of Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire with the rest under Austro-Hungarian control. After a chaotic period of incessant warfare and several attempts at independence (1917–1921) following the Russian Revolution and the Great War, Ukraine emerged in 1922 as one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic's territory was enlarged westward shortly before and after the Second World War, and again in 1954 with the Crimea transfer. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the co-founding members of the United Nations. Ukraine became independent again after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. This began a transition period to a market economy, in which Ukraine was stricken with eight straight years of economic decline. But, since the turn of the century, the economy has been experiencing a stable increase, with real GDP growth averaging about seven percent annually.
Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 24 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic (Crimea), and two cities with special status: Kiev, its capital, and Sevastopol, which houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement. Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches. At the end of 2004, the country underwent an extensive constitutional reform that has changed the balance of power among the parliament, the prime minister, and the cabinet, as well as their relationship with the president.
At 603,700 km² (233,074 sq mi) and with a coastline of 2,782 km (1,729 mi), Ukraine is the world's 44th-largest country (after the Central African Republic, before Madagascar). It is the second largest country in Europe (after the European part of Russia, before metropolitan France).
The Ukrainian landscape consists mostly of fertile plains (or steppes) and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dnieper (Dnipro), Seversky Donets, Dniester and the Southern Buh as they flow south into the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. To the southwest, the delta of the Danube forms the border with Romania. The country's only mountains are the Carpathian Mountains in the west, of which the highest is the Hora Hoverla at 2,061 m (6,762 ft), and those on the Crimean peninsula, in the extreme south along the coast.
Ukraine has a mostly temperate continental climate, although a more Mediterranean climate is found on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it is highest in the west and north and lesser in the east and southeast. Western Ukraine, receives around 1,200 mm of precipitation, annually. While Crimea, receives around 400 mm of precipitation. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. Average annual temperatures range from 5.5–7 °C in the north, to 11–13 °C in the south.
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