Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, is made up mostly of Orthodox, Catholic and unbelieving citizens. The nation has a long history of territorial disputes, which continue to this day - especially in the regions of Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk.
Now known as Ukraine, it was the center of the first eastern Slavic state called Kyivan Rus. During the 10th and 11th centuries, Kyivan Rus was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kyivan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The cultural and religious legacy of Kyivan Rus laid the foundation for Ukrainian nationalism through subsequent centuries.
A new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. Despite continuous Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate managed to remain autonomous for well over 100 years. During the latter part of the 18th century, the Russian Empire absorbed most of the Ukrainian territory.
Following the collapse of tsarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine achieved a short-lived period of independence (1917-20), but was re-conquered and endured a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died. In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for 7 to 8 million more deaths. Ukraine is also the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which continues to have health impacts in the region to this day. Ukraine achieved independence in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, yet political turmoil continues and prosperity remains elusive. Fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014 after the country's pro-Russian president was ousted. The Crimean peninsula was seized and annexed by Russia as a result. The conflict remains unsettled.
Ukraine has long been a global breadbasket because of its extensive, fertile farmlands and is one of the world's largest grain exporters. The diversified economy of Ukraine includes a large heavy industry sector, particularly in aerospace and industrial equipment.