Cultural Overview

In some interpretations, the literal meaning of Ukraine is "borderland," a term that describes well the nature of the historic geopolitical positioning of Ukrainian lands. Historically, Ukraine has been a frontier between east and west and north and south. The area's strategic position has made it susceptible to conquest by competing groups. Areas of Ukraine have been claimed variously by Greeks, Ottomans, Tatars, Poles, Lithuanians, and Russians.

Ukraine became an independent country when it seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991. Like people in each of the 14 non-Russian Soviet republics, under Soviet rule people in Ukraine were subjected to a program of "russification." Today, the citizens of Ukraine face the task of nation building and they are struggling to forge a national identity (see Wanner, 1998; Wilson, 2000). This poses special challenges in a country that is home to persons identified as "Russian" (their Soviet passport designation was Russian and they speak Russian as a first language), those identified as "Ukrainian" (they are of Ukrainian origin and speak Ukrainian as their primary language), and those who are placed into a hybrid third category of "russified Ukrainians." It has been suggested that at least one-third of Ukrainians are "russified" (Motyl, 1993).

Today, the country's population is between 48 and 49 million. The ethnic make-up of the permanent inhabitants of Ukraine includes mainly those who consider themselves Ukrainian (73%) and those who consider themselves Russian (22%) (Motyl, 1993); 0.9% of the population identify as Jewish, 0.9% as Belorussian, and 0.6% as Moldovan. Other groups represented in Ukraine include Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Greeks, Roma (Gypsies), Crimean Tatars, and Armenians, together representing 0.5% or less of the population.

The country is divided into 24 oblasts (provinces), plus the autonomous republic of the Crimea. The major industrial centers are all located in the eastern part of the country, and include Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovs'k, Donets'k, Luhans'k, Zaporizhzhia, and Kryvyi Rih. Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Odesa are port cities; Sevastopol' is the home of the Black Sea Fleet; and formerly Hapsburg L'viv is Ukraine's westernmost city. The capital city is Kiev, with a population of around 3 million.

Ukraine has a republican form of government made up of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The executive branch consists of the President, the First and Deputy Prime Ministers, and the Cabinet of Ministers, which is appointed by the President and approved by the Supreme Council (Verkhovna Rada). The legislative branch includes the Verkhovna Rada, which is made up of 450 elected representatives (deputies): 225 seats are allocated on a proportional basis to political parties that gain 4% or more of the national electoral vote; the other 225 members are elected by popular vote in singlemandate constituencies. Deputies serve 4-year terms. The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.

Since gaining independence, people in Ukraine have been challenged to undertake economic and political reforms and refashion state institutions. The post-independence economy has been in a constant state of crisis, but in 2001 it showed signs of growth. Major industries include coal, electric power, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, and food processing. Industry comprises approximately 32% of the economy, and agriculture represents 24%. The main agricultural and animal products produced in Ukraine are grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, vegetables, beef, and milk.

The national currency is the hryvnia (UAH). In September 2002, the average monthly salary in Ukraine was between 400 and 600 UAH, or $75-$115 (Syrovatka, 2002). In the face of economic crisis, the pooling of resources among family members is an important survival strategy for many. Owing to a shortage of housing and lack of financial resources, Ukrainian households frequently include from two to four generations of kin. In many instances, each family member contributes his or her earnings or services to the family resource pool. Sixty-seven percent of the population lives in urban areas, and 33% in rural areas.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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